On n’est vraiment bien que chez soi.

On n’est vraiment bien que chez soi.

aw nay vray-mah beeYAA kuh shay SWAH.

There’s no place like home.

Literally: One is truly comfortable only in one’s home.

Did you know there’s no single word that expresses the concept of home in French? Curious, to say the least. You can say I’m at home (Je suis à la maison, zhuh swee ah lah may-ZAW), or It’s close to my home (C’est près de chez moi, say pray duh shay MWAH), or My home is in Chicago (J’habite à Chicago, zhah-BEE tah shee-kah-GO). A wide variety of ways in French to say home, but no real way to say Home, sweet home.

The French word chez comes from an Old French word chiese, which in turn comes from the Latin casa, house. Most often, the French expressions for home center around the building, the house, whereas the English word home conveys that and something more: a feeling of being anchored somewhere, perhaps among beloved people in a place where you feel comfortable–not necessarily in a specific house. The French word that comes closest to expressing this sentiment is probably le foyer (luh fwah-YAY, hearth), the center of a house where everyone gathers, the source of warmth, even of sustenance (harking back to the days when cooking was done on the hearth).

Note the ne…que negative. It means only, or not…except. The pronoun that goes with on is soi: one’s home. Note also that chez stands alone, without a preposition to introduce it: It includes the at or to required in English (at my house, to his house). In fact, chez is a preposition just like at and to in English. But you do need to say to whose house or home you are referring; hence the pronoun (moi, toi, lui, elle, etc.) that follows it.


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