"State-of-the-art" means the current state of development in some discipline. It is common to perform a study of the state-of-the-art in some technology, to assess the state-of-the-art of some type of medical procedures, etc. AFAIK, it is, uncommon (and probably wrong) to say "to make a state-of-the-art". In Spanish, it's the same: "hacer un estudio del estado del arte" and not "hacer un estado del arte", even if the expression is not recommended, but instead "state o current situation, latest advances or the state of the issue" (https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estado_del_arte).

But in France, I've heard the weird and inconsistent expression "faire l'état de l'art", "faire un état de l'art" meaning to prepare a study of the state-of-the-art of a specific technology. Today I've addressed the subject in a meeting, and all French-speaking people said it's correct to say "faire un état de l'art" in spite it seems grammatically wrong. I can't believe them. Moreover, it has no sense at all.

Wikipedia applies the expression "dresser un état de l'art", which is perfect and adequate: "Dresser un état de l'art dans un domaine consiste à rechercher toutes les informations existantes concernant ce domaine et à en faire une synthèse.".

Is it correct to use "faire l'état de l'art"?

Update 2019/09/01: The question is NOT what does it mean. I know it:

  • A: the current state of some discipline/domain,
  • B: an examination of the literature about some discipline/domain (not necessarily ends in a written document),
  • C: the latest achievements in some discipline/domain.

The question is if the expression is correct. "Faire l'idiot" is an accepted expression (http://dictionnaire.sensagent.leparisien.fr/faire%20l%27idiot/fr-fr/), but I'm getting more and more tips suggesting that "Faire l'état de l'art" is not (http://dictionnaire.sensagent.leparisien.fr/%C3%A9tat%20de%20l%27art/fr-fr/); it is not even acceptable.

The expression is not even well-known, except among young graduates using it as they refer to when making homework ("I have to make the state of the art and I will later make the chemical test results"). Such fact doesn't justify that "make the test results" would be acceptable.

This is a case where bad language is taken as correct because it's popular (fallacy name: argumentum ad populum). Consequently, it is to expect a majority to agree with such incorrect expression.

  • 4
    Why do think faire makes no sense? Faire is a passe-partout word that can take a lot of meanings. On a similar line in French we can say either faire un état des lieux or dresser un état des lieux, both being correct.
    – None
    Aug 28, 2019 at 18:38
  • 1
    I don't see any difference between faire l'état and dresser l'état, except in register. However the "confusion" might come from the fact that in French, "Faire état" can mean "acknowledge, take into account", which is already pretty close to the meaning of the phrase. "Faire l'état de l'état des lieux", although correct and closer to "assess the state-of-the-art" sounds redundant so maybe one of the état was skipped. The "shortened" phrase still makes sense for a French speaker (for me at least), maybe because of faire état. Aug 29, 2019 at 13:44
  • 1
    You say that your French colleagues said that "faire un état de l'art" is correct (& you say that Wikipedia's "dresser un état de l'art" is "perfect & adequate"). In your question's title & final sentence, however, you inexplicably ask about the correctness of "Faire l' état de l'art," which is not what your French colleagues said was correct. This definite vs indefinite article distinction could be important, imo, for perhaps "un état de l'art" is simply short for "un/e [rapport/étude sur l'] état de l'art," just as "a due diligence"="a due diligence review" in English.
    – Papa Poule
    Aug 29, 2019 at 21:49
  • 3
    You link to a page where it is written Faire l'état de l'art consiste à rechercher toutes les informations, publications formelles ou informelles, découvertes, nouveautés et inventions sur toutes les dernières avancées scientifiques, techniques, économiques ainsi que sur les travaux antérieurs ayant un lien avec le domaine sur lequel on s'apprête à travailler.Cette démarche est préliminaire à tout travail de recherche ou d'application. saying that suggests that "Faire l'état de l'art" is not not even acceptable." I just do not understand what you mean at all.
    – None
    Sep 1, 2019 at 6:01
  • 2
    [continued] The page you point to uses faire l'état de l'art and never says it is not acceptable. Besides you allude to bad language, do you mean language that's not been blessed by some sort of Académie Française? The Académie Française - among which there is not a single linguist - is an antiquated body not popular among the French learned population. Language is a living thing and if a majority of people use a phrase then it is received language, even if minority say it is not correct to their own standards.
    – None
    Sep 1, 2019 at 6:29

5 Answers 5


Your concern seems about the meaning of the words état and faire together.

In l'état de l'art, état does not mean "condition" or "position", it is a written statement that describes the state of things. If you look at the definition of état in the wiktionaire it is definition n° 3 (mémoire, inventaire), which I could translate into English as a memorandum, a list, an inventory.

Faire is a passe-partout word that can be used in lots of situations. Here it means it means "to draft".

As I said in my comment we also have the expression état des lieux and we can use both verbs with it dresser or faire.

See also @StéphaneGimenez's answer in which he provides multiple examples that are all correct, from various ages and various fields.

  • 1
    @RodolfoAP And that's not at all what I'm saying. I'm explaining what the word état means in the phrase état de l'art. What "State-of-the-art" means is not under discussion on FL. And I am not saying either that un état is any form of written document. It is a form of document.
    – None
    Aug 29, 2019 at 7:30
  • 1
    It is a grammar question too. I think the source of the OP's confision is that they can only see one way to parse this expression, which is “faire (l'état de l'art)”, whereas in French, in such a sentence you'd parse it “(faire l'état) de l'art”. The preposition is attached to the verbal locution “faire l'état”, and is not part of the nominal group it contains. It explains why we can say “en faire l'état”. Aug 29, 2019 at 10:07
  • 1
    @RodolfoAP: It seems you are biased by the recent evolution of the meaning of “state-of-the-art” in English, especially that of its adjectival use. Either you use the verbal form “faire l'état de quelque chose”, or the nominal form “l'état de quelque chose”, but there is only one “status”. In science/technology (or formerly “arts”), although “faire l'état de l'art” appears to have been in use recently (probably under the influence of English usages), the phrase “l'état de l'art” understood as the status of current practices was already in use in 18th century literature (and likely earlier). Aug 29, 2019 at 17:05
  • 1
    @RodolfoAP: In French it is correct. Just as correct as “faire l'état des lieux”. Aug 29, 2019 at 17:35
  • 1
    @StéphaneGimenez: “faire l’état de quelque chose” has no meaning in French. You can’t say “faire l’état du travail en cours”, “faire l’état du bâtiment”, etc. “Faire l’état des lieux” is correct because “état des lieux” is a locution; but “faire l’état” isn’t one (which is why you won’t find it in dictionaries). Aug 29, 2019 at 18:10

“Faire l'état de” is a standard phrase in French that belongs to a formal register. Here are occurrences in the literature, starting from older ones:

More recent ones:

Its meaning is at crossroads with to list, count, report, portray, inquire on the state/status, etc. There are also many similar occurrences of the phrase that use the indefinite article (faire un état de).

  • I had to type all the excerpts by hand. Please fix any mistake you find. Sep 1, 2019 at 10:29
  • +1 Excelent answer! That's perhaps the reason the anglicism would be accepted in french, whereas in english can't be.
    – RodolfoAP
    Sep 1, 2019 at 16:36

“Faire l’état de l’art” is getting used more and more often, with the meaning of “décrire l’état de l’art”.

It is not grammatically incorrect—it is the same construction as in, for instance, “faire le résumé de l’article”. However, its semantic correctness can be debated.

“L’état de l’art” is the current state of knowledge in a given domain (I couldn’t find the locution—perhaps because its meaning is actually pretty much what it says—in any dictionaries I have at hand, but you can infer its meaning from its early occurrences, some of which you’ll find below).

“Faire” has very diverse meanings, which makes it difficult to assert that “faire l’état de l’art” is not correct. However, most imply that the object is the result of a process in which the subject takes part (“faire in gâteau”, “faire pitié”), or that the object is related to the subject in some way (“faire l’idiot”, “la route fait un virage”), which cannot be true, in most cases, with “l’état de l’art”: just as one wouldn’t say “faire les connaissances actuelles”, one wouldn’t say “faire l’état de l’art”…

…unless you think of “l’état de l’art” as some kind of document, the product of “faire l’état de l’art”, the same way “l’état des lieux” is the product of “faire l’état des lieux”. This not being the proper meaning, some will object. However, research papers frequently dedicate a section to “l’état de l’art”, of which the title would naturally be “État de l’art”. Here is a random example taken from the Web: enter image description here Writing this part would thus be called “faire l’état de l’art”, as “faire” can be used for “écrire”: “voilà pourquoi j’ai fait Les Misérables” (Hugo). Obviously, misunderstandings will appear (as shown in other answers) when the original meaning gets forgotten.

Early occurrences of “état de l’art”

Dujardin. Histoire de la chirurgie depuis son origine jusqu’à nos jours, 1780. Dujardin. Histoire de la chirurgie depuis son origine jusqu’à nos jours, 1780.

Silvestre. Essai sur les moyens de perfectionner les arts économiques en France. 1800. Silvestre. Essai sur les moyens de perfectionner les arts économiques en France. 1800.

Journal des arts, des sciences, et de littérature. 1801. Journal des arts, des sciences, et de littérature. 1801.

Le Cabinet de l’amateur et de l’antiquaire. 1844. Le Cabinet de l’amateur et de l’antiquaire. 1844.

Larousse. Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXe siècle, 1877. Larousse. Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXe siècle, 1877.

Recent occurrences of “état de l’art”

Vie sociale. 2000. Vie sociale. 2000.

Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine. 2000. Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine. 2000.

  • 1
    The only answer that goes some way in explaining why "faire l'état de l'art" makes some people uncomfortable, which is what the various comments are all about, gets a downvote. That's really beyond me.
    – user21018
    Aug 30, 2019 at 6:09
  • I added some early examples of the locution, which demonstrate its original meaning. Aug 31, 2019 at 13:00
  • Merci de ces ajouts, il semble évident qu'état dans "état de l'art" ne se réfère pas à un document comme c'est le cas par exemple dans "les états financiers" d'une comptabilité ou d'un budget. Les exemples que tu donnes montrent aussi que l'expression s'utlisait dans le domaine des arts, la médecine étant entendu traditionnellement comme un art elle aussi, et non pas dans celui de la technique. Toutes raisons qui à mes yeux font de "faire l'état de l'art" une manière de dire fautive.
    – user21018
    Aug 31, 2019 at 13:12
  • J’ai retiré deux exemples qui avaient le désavantage d’être tirés d’une traduction, et j’en ai ajouté d’autres. Aug 31, 2019 at 13:48
  • From your own text: “L’état de l’art” is the current state of knowledge in a given domain". So, for you, saying "I will make the current state of knowledge in a given domain" is correct? I don't agree at all: the term has other meanings, too. Which one would you refer to? The only one you've googled for? In addition, your text features "décrire l'etat de l'art", "prendre une idée de l'etat de l'art", "songer à l'etat de l'art", "exposer l'etat de l'art", etc. but not "faire l'etat de l'art". You're not answering the question. Thanks for your elaborated response, though. :)
    – RodolfoAP
    Sep 1, 2019 at 3:36

No, it is not a common expression in french.

The one you're looking for is 'à la pointe [de la technologie]' (you can add [de la technologie], or not, it's still understandable)' which litteraly means 'on the edge [of tech]'

Actually, it can sometimes be used as is in professional environnement, the field, of course. Based on experience, i know it can be use in web/dev or marketing, or (my guess) any line of work where you already have to actually use english terms.

Hope it helps!


If you can say "dresser" you can most often say "faire" and so, there is no great difference;

  • faire une liste des X/dresser une liste des X
  • faire un inventaire de X/dresser un inventaire de X
  • faire une synthèse de X/dresser une synthèse de X

The more or less subtle error that I notice, as if I see none in the choice of the verb there happens to be one anyway, lies in the understanding of the word « état ». The expression is grossly flawed because of that; those that coined it lumped into one two acceptations of the word "état", that of the Eglish word "statement" ("état" as meaning "written statement") and that of the English word "state" ("état" as meaning "condition of sth").

A literal translation gives this : « dresser un état de l'état de l'art »; this is necessarily true since the expression "l'état de l'art" will be used as a translation of "the state of the art". The outcome of this state of affairs is that "l'état de l'art" is "l'art", in other words all art leading to the state of the art does not exist. This imprecision, which one might live with and not suffer from excessively, has nevertheless an irritating effect on the mind of whomever gives a second's thought to the relations involved, and would be better eliminated. Of course, one would want to do away with that slightly awkward repetition. There is nothing easier it seems; the basic translation that follows puts things back where they belong;

  • dresser/rédiger un rapport de/sur l'état de l'art (« sur » est plus explicite)
  • That's not the question. You are referring to an object, and "faire"+object is fine. But state-of-the-art can be an adjective or a noun which does not admit "faire". In this case, state=situation, and you CANNOT SAY "make the situation of retinal surgery" == "faire la situation de la chirurgie rétinienne" == "faire l'état de l'art de la chirurgie rétinienne".
    – RodolfoAP
    Aug 29, 2019 at 16:00
  • @Fólkvangr Yes, nothing to it, it's just a remark on the logical side of things, mainly aiming at drivig home the idea there is a flaw. The art is made up of two components: what is state of the art in it and what is not, that is all the rest, of inferior quality and also what is old and obsolete and all this remaining lot is what the state of the art rests upon, its foundation; the plain consequence of identifying the art as the state of the art is that all the art is state of the art, everything is conceptually rated as top achievement for the present day; that must be wrong, obviously.
    – LPH
    Sep 2, 2019 at 11:06

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