I constantly heard en fait when I was in France, but I am still unsure what it means or how to use it.

Can somebody shed some light on this please?

I am fully aware it may be spelt totally wrong.

  • What's the context? With only approximate pronunciation and no context, it's hard to guess. Commented Jul 6, 2013 at 20:46
  • Correct answer below, thanks for attempting to help though.
    – Martin
    Commented Jul 7, 2013 at 17:52

2 Answers 2


I think you heard en fait, which means basically in fact or actually. This short expression is used a lot nowadays in France (maybe too much?) at the end of a sentence to state that there might be a difference between what has been expressed previously and the statement preceding the en fait. It can also start a sentence to express clearly in that case the divergence.

  • 1
    I'm on board with this. There are speakers that do merge the nasal vowels of en/an and on, which account for the other half of the confusion.
    – Circeus
    Commented Jul 7, 2013 at 5:43
  • 5
    Not to mix up with "Au fait", which means "by the way". And not to mix with "amphet'", which is a drug.
    – Impair
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 12:28
  • 1
    What's the difference between en fait and en effet?
    – citizen
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 22:26

I have noticed that over the past decade or so, "en fait" is being greatly over-used in France. It seems to be very popular among teenage girls who can be heard on TV using it every three or four words, as a sort of filler between otherwise disjointed phrases. It also conveys a sense of sophistication, because it infers that the speaker is able to distinguish a "real fact" when he sees one. Although the kids seem to have got the "en fait" epidemic started, it is now being used by well-educated adults as well, who seem to do it unconsciously, without thinking if it adds anything to the meaning of their speech. The rule of thumb seems to be, when you need a pause to think what to say next, fill it up by saying, as archly as possible, "en fait". In English "hopefully" played, and to some extent still plays, a similar role, giving an intellectual veneer to the tritest utterance. If French people were to replace "en fait" with a similar expression like "en réalité" they would see how superfluous "en fait" is, in much of its current usage.

  • Really! Totally so! ;-)
    – Drew
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 2:25

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