In a documentary-style show1, whose setting is a nursing home at the time that Covid vaccines were just starting to become available, a nurse explains that typical vaccines (such as flu vaccines) are simple to prepare and administer; but that the new Covid vaccines require more care:

D'habitude, on vaccine, on prend la fiole, on la tourne de bord, on entre l'aiguille, on retire le liquide qui est le vaccin, on vaccine puis that's it, c'est fait.

My guess of the bolded sentence was nonsense: "We turn it of side". So I went to DeepL, which gave me the following options (among others):

  • you turn it on edge
  • you turn it on its side

This surprised me. I don't think I've seen "de" to indicate direction, other than perhaps "from ... to .." (ie "de.. à..") constructions (such as "I moved from Ontario to Québec").

(One reason "de bord" might be confusing me, is also because it seems very different than any English translation of it. If I were to translate English "on its side", I would have guessed that "vers" or "à" or "sur" might be used -- but not "de"!)

Main question:

  • Can you give me other examples of "de ___" that work in a similar way as "de bord" is working here?

Optional questions:

  • Can "de bord" work with verbs other than "tourner"?
  • Can "de bord" even work with nouns (as in, perhaps, "Look at that wine bottle on its side. I think it's leaking fluid!")?
  • Is there a way I can understand "de bord" as related to the usual English meanings that "de" has (ie, "of", "with", ownership, etc?)

1. From "CHSLD au front", episode 1.

  • Good question. I think I would understand this de similarly to changer de peau or mourir de faim : it qualifies the verb by linking this attribute to it, says what type of turn or change or death takes place.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jun 19, 2022 at 2:29
  • vaccines comes in vials. This means: you turn the vial upside down. The bord refers to the top and bottom of the vial. It is not the best word in French for that but this is just everyday connected speech not technical lingo and just the way this person expresses herself. vials don't have edges, they have ends. Like I have said before, MT won't understand this speech.
    – Lambie
    Jun 20, 2022 at 15:51
  • Connected speech: Usually, we vaccinate. We take the vial, turn it upside down, stick the needle in, draw out the vaccine liquid, inject the vaccine, then, that's it, it's done.
    – Lambie
    Jun 20, 2022 at 15:57
  • 1
    changer de bord means: to change or switch a political position
    – Lambie
    Jun 20, 2022 at 16:27

2 Answers 2


It's clearly a Québecism for retourner (i.e. turn over).

Here is a post in a forum showing this very same expression:

Avant de couper une planche pour partir le premier rang, il est important d'aligner les planches tout le long de la pièce (ou bien de mesurer). En faisant ça on évite de se retrouver avec un ptit bout de 3 pouces de large rendu au bout. On peut alors repartir la différence des 2 côtés.

Un bon truc pour couper le bout de la planche pour que la rainure soit du bon côté. On fait faire un 180 degrés à la planche et on la tourne de bord. En plus ça chip moins si on la coupe par en dessous. Toujours prévoir l'espace entre le plancher et le mur pour laisser s'échapper l'humidité.

Si on installe dans un sous-sol, ne pas oublier le pare-vapeur. Le meilleur est le tapis bleu, il coûte des bidous mais je crois que ça vaut la peine.

And here is a quote from a document about teaching geometry to 5th grade students

Chercheur-enseignant : Mais là, comment tu sais que chacun de tes deux triangles, c’est vraiment la moitié d’un des rectangles? Que le triangle hachuré de gauche, c’est vraiment la moitié du rectangle de gauche?
Amélie : Ben, parce que la partie qui est hachurée à gauche, tu la tournes de bord jusqu’à temps que ce soit la même forme.
Ch.-ens. : Qu’est-ce que tu veux dire par « tourne de bord » ? Tu la retourne comment?
Amélie : Ben… ben pas vraiment… mais… le pointu est vers le haut, mais il faut qu’il pointe vers le bas

  • is it just an opaque idiom that "tourner de bord" means to turn over? or, instead, would someone outside of Québec be able to guess its meaning, just from "de" and "bord" (or, perhaps, from other idioms that look like "___ de bord")? i'm still curious about why "de" is used, instead of some other preposition.
    – silph
    Jun 20, 2022 at 22:39
  • @Silph It is understandable by non Québecois as long as there is a context. As already stated, we commonly say virer de bord: "to tack" (sailing). We also say changer de bord "to switch sides". I don't see other verbal expressions with de bord though outside revirer de bord.
    – jlliagre
    Jun 20, 2022 at 23:02

"Tourner de bord" sounds unfamiliar to my Parisian ears but the documentary takes place in Montreal (the expression appears e.g. in this text book about popular French Canadian published in 1909 or this one in 1993, and in this book about Louisiana French published in 2010).

"Changer de coté" (i.e. to turn over, in a bed), "changer d'épaule" (when you are tired of carrying a bag on a given shoulder) are examples that works similarly to "tourner de bord".

"De bord" works with other verbs such as "virer de bord" (sailing).

Now, I can't find any examples with NOUN + "de bord".

Some other French expressions uses "de" while English uses "of" (but this is not related to space as "de bord"), such as (ref):

De nous deux, c'est toi qui a raison.

Of the two of us, you are the one who is right

  • does the Wikisource website say anything about "tourner de bord"? i see you linked to the "V" webpage on that site, but i'm not sure what i'm supposed to look at on that webpage!
    – silph
    Jun 20, 2022 at 18:49
  • @silph As I've never heard "tourner de bord", I look for it on the internet and I found this webpage which lists expressions from popular Canadian French fr.wikisource.org/wiki/…. You can do a search with "Tourner de bord" (CTR+F if you are on a computer) and it will pop up.
    – Noil
    Jun 20, 2022 at 19:03
  • However, I've just realized from fr.wikisource.org/wiki/… (showing the book source) that "tourner de bord" is a possible definition of popular French Canadian use of "virer", so this reference does not actually say that "tourner de bord" is from French Canadian... Thanks, then I've just rephrased this sentence in my response.
    – Noil
    Jun 20, 2022 at 19:03
  • Je répète. Un fiole de vaccin n'a pas de bord. Il y a, formellement, deux extremités, inférieure et supérieure. Dans le langage courant: les bouts. For sailboats, the expression is virer de bord, to come around. For politics, it's switch parties or positions, aka tourner de bord.
    – Lambie
    Jun 20, 2022 at 20:46
  • 1
    Ouais, bien Dionne est du Québec et il dit que l'emploi de virer au Canada-français peut signifier tourner de bord et il donne un exemple virer des crêpes. Ça montre que dans ce contexte-là pour lui tourner de bord c'est essentiellement retourner. Jun 20, 2022 at 23:52

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