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I asked a native French speaker today how to say 'in the zone' in French and he had never heard the English idiom and as far as he knew the phrase 'dans la zone' did not mean what it does in English which is to say: 'very focused or able to work to the best of your ability'. In reverso 'in the zone' is simply translated as 'dans la zone' but it could be the case that the translators didn't realize it was an idiom. Note that on the linked to website very few instances 'in the zone' in English employ the idiomatic use. So in the sentence: "You're in the zone on your favorite puzzle game," represents the idiomatic use but "You're in the zone of military control" does not. So, how would you say 'in the zone' in French, since, to my mind, 'tres concentré' does not capture the full meaning of the word and 'pouvoir travailler au mieux du votre capacité' is too long.

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  • I've never heard as "dans la zone" as an idiom in French, and my first thought when hearing it is that it must be a basketball metaphor. I certainly wouldn't have guessed that it was meant as "very focused or able to work to the best of your ability". The word "zone" is also not particularly well-connoted in French; when it is followed by a qualifying adjective, it has the same vague meaning of "area" as in English, but when on its own, especially as "la zone" rather than "une zone", it often means "the area on the borders of a city, characterised by its poverty".
    – Stef
    Feb 23, 2023 at 13:35
  • Au Québec on utilise « dans la zone », surtout quand on parle d'un joueur de hockey (ou d'un autre sport), mais aussi pour dire qu'on est très concentré (sur un puzzle par example). Je pense que c'est un anglicisme, mais aussi je suis certain que tout le monde au Québec a entendu cette phrase.
    – SFSH
    Feb 23, 2023 at 14:43

2 Answers 2

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I've heard “dans la zone” from French people, but they're people who work in tech and use more English than French in their professional life. I don't think the average French person would understand. Out of context, the average French person would probably understand “je suis dans la zone” as meaning they are, or live, in a bad part of town — similar to “I'm in the projects” in the US.

Je suis concentré” is a good translation of “I'm in the zone”. It doesn't need a superlative. Unlike the English “concentrated”, the French “concentrated” relates most often to mental concentration, and only evokes chemistry if the context calls for chemistry. “Chut, je me concentre !” is equivalent to “Shhh, don't get me out of the zone.”. Getting out of the zone is “perdre sa concentration”. Getting back into the zone is “retrouver sa concentration”.

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    Mais l'origine c'est carrément l'univers parallèle, d'accord que l'origine ne dicte pas la force ni le sens usuel de l'expression mais dans le contexte initial du tennis c'était quand même plus que juste concentré il me semble. Feb 23, 2023 at 23:06
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Pas facile. Wordreference donne simplement « concentré » (j'ajouterais hyper/super à ça ou au summum de la concentration) mais aussi un des sens de « être dans un état second » comme c'est parfois négatif (hébété, affolé) ; néanmoins dans une phrase comme « Golf only goes well if you are in the zone », je trouve « être dans un état second » adéquat. Dans leur forum on trouve quelques suggestions habiles d'un utilisateur (Plume d'ange) : « en état de grâce », ou la référence à la transe (être en, être en état de). D'autres disent « être focalisé » etc. Pour le sens de « able to work to the best of your ability », Collins donne « être au top de sa forme ». Dans mon monde j'ai l'impression d'avoir déjà entendu chez des sportifs « être au bon endroit mentalement » et ça ressemble à « to be in the right frame of mind » et cette tournure-là est parfois associée à la performance etc. même si ce n'est pas exactement le même sens que « (to be) in the zone ». Peut-être que l'analogie « (être) parfaitement en phase avec (la réussite, l'objectif, l'exception(nel)...?) peut aussi être utile.

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  • Utile à la réflexion : english.stackexchange.com/a/603766/471602 Feb 23, 2023 at 7:19
  • It definitely seems to me that 'dans un état second' corresponds to 'to be in a daze' which is always similar to how you feel when you're on a drug such as marijuana or LSD or perhaps you're experiencing some religious epiphany à la Dante in the final pages of the Divine Comedy (for those not in the know, 'à la' is a bonafide English expression, not me being funny)
    – bobsmith76
    Feb 23, 2023 at 7:34
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    Je suis à fond dans mon puzzle.
    – jlliagre
    Feb 23, 2023 at 10:15
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    Un peu tout ça; à fond peut-être à fond sur le champignon mais avec un puzzle, ce serait plus : entièrement plongé dans l'activité à l'exclusion de toute autre.
    – jlliagre
    Feb 23, 2023 at 21:57
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    @ crissy, i should have been more clear. is there a similar instance in French of a word that originally referred to a group of men, but now refers to a group of people. however, if 'gars' now refers to people rather than just a plurality of men then that answers my question.
    – bobsmith76
    Feb 24, 2023 at 11:41

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