À vos marques! Prêts? Partez!
ah voh maark! Pray? Paar-TAY! Click below to hear this.*
On your marks, get set, go!
Regardless of what the phonetic respelling looks like, this is not an invocation to pray and then party wildly!
In honor of my cousin who is watching a Belgian bicycle race, my niece who is watching a Daytona race, and all of us who are making a dash for the best sofa cushion to watch the Oscars, this is what you say before the starter gun is fired.
There are several versions in English. My childhood version was Ready, set, go! Others say Get ready, get set, go! or Ready, steady, go! It’s interesting (in a useless sort of way) to note that the middle term never appears to be a question in the English versions, whereas in the French it is normally punctuated as a question. There is no deep psychological or cultural explanation for this. It just is.
There are only two ways in which this expression may change. The first is if all the racers are female. In that case, you would have to ask Prêtes?, using the feminine form of the adjective. Pronounce it /prett/.
The second is if there is only one racer, say a runner on a training run. Then you would say À votre marque! Prêt(e)? Partez!, which sounds a little odd. You can never say à tes marques, because that would presuppose one racer taking several marks. And you don’t say sur vos marques, either, just because à is the correct preposition for this usage.
And may the best TV snacks win!
*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file: