On s’est expliqués entre quat’z-yeux.

On s’est expliqués entre quat’z-yeux.

aw say tex-plee-KAY AH-truh KAT zYUH. Click below to hear this!  

We had it out privately.

More literally: We explained ourselves to each other among four eyes.

Yes, that’s mighty strange English! So let’s dissect the phrase. On: means one, a person, someone, “they”, but is also used to mean we.

S’expliquer means to explain oneself, or to have it out (by discussing the matter). The s’ is the reflexive pronoun that means that the action is being done to the person who is the subject of the verb–in this case, on, or we. When you use a reflexive verb in the past tense, it has to be conjugated with être (to be), not avoir (to have). And the past participle has to agree with the subject. Since the subject (the person doing the action) is on, we, the past participle has to have a plural ending, expliqués (the s makes it plural).

We don’t know who we are, however, so we stick with the masculine ending. Even if there’s only one male in the crowd, the French requires uses the use of the masculine!

Entre quat’z-yeux: Oh, this is the fun part. Entre can mean either between or among, so we don’t have to worry about how many people took part in this discussion. Quat’z-yeux is popular speech for quatre yeux. But that sounds strange when you try to say it, mainly because it feels as if something is missing. And that’s where the z comes in.

Since yeux is always plural (the singular is oeil; see the post at this link), people are used to hearing les yeux, des yeux, deux yeux, and so on–always with the z sound that the s or x at the end of the preceding word makes. So they wedge a z into the expression, even though it’s not needed and not correct. They’re not trying to be funny–the expression just sort of comes out that way.

And of course, anything that happens entre quat’z-yeux is private, since there are only four eyes present: one pair per person.


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