Elle n’est pas visible.

Elle n’est pas visible.

ell nay pah vee-ZEE-bluh.  Click below to hear this pronounced. 

You can’t see her.

Wait, does she have superpowers? I want that one, how can I get it?

Cool it. No superpowers here. This sentence is used by the secretary when the boss is in a meeting, by the husband to a visitor when his wife has the flu, when the manager you needed to see has slipped out to the bathroom (it’s not polite to tell people where she went!).

It makes sense, if you think about it. Visible simply means able to be seen, which is what she isn’t if the “gatekeepers” won’t let you in to see her. If she actually did have the power to render herself invisible, you would probably say Elle est invisible. Which admittedly means the same thing, except…it doesn’t necessarily.

Elle est invisible can also mean that no one has seen her for a while (gossip: is she sick? depressed? on a vacation? antisocial?), or it can mean that she can do magic. The difference is that in one case, someone else is making a rule that someone is pas visible. You could see her, but someone is barring your way.

In the other case, you could think of it as the physical inability to see someone because that person is somehow absent from the present physical world–however this superpower might be exercised. Maybe by scattering your atoms so that they don’t assemble into your shape?

But Elle n’est pas visible usually implies a temporary state. The boss’s meeting will end and she will observe her usual office hours. The wife will get better and be happy to have visitors again. The manager will soon be back from the bathroom and helping customers.

And then they are all visible once again.

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2 responses to “Elle n’est pas visible.

  1. I totally disagree. A secretary would say: “Elle n’est pas disponible” instead.

  2. Never heard of this phrase! But I like it! It’s discreet and makes sense!

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