Faire le pont. Oh, you’ll hear this French expression all the time! But if you haven’t made the connection between your work schedule and this popular idiom, here’s a comprehensive guide to help you. Learn what faire le pont means, how to use it, and how to distinguish it from similar expressions!
To make the bridge.
To extend one’s weekend by taking time off in between the weekend and a holiday falling in the middle of the week (typically a Tuesday or Thursday).
Prolonger son week-end en prenant un ou plusieurs jours de congé situés entre un jour férié et le week-end.
The Story Behind It
Who doesn’t love a long weekend? In some countries, we look forward to three-day weekends with marked enthusiasm. But in France, there’s a different breed of “long weekend” and this has inspired the very popular French expression, faire le pont, or “to make the bridge.” (Why a bridge? Simply because bridges connect things.)
So, how does this work? First, it’s important to understand the cultural aspect behind this idiom. Unlike in other countries, where efforts are made to minimize disruptions to the work week or to compensate for holidays falling on a weekend, French jours fériés (public holidays / bank holidays) are NOT moved around for such reasons. This leaves possibilities for three-day weekends, but largely limits their occurrence. In response, the French created the practice of connecting a mid-week holiday to the weekend by taking the day(s) in between off from work. This creates a four-day weekend, or longer, depending on the holiday’s position in the week.
Let’s look at an example. If May 8, or la Fête de la Victoire (VE Day), falls on a Thursday, so be it. A fixed holiday, it will not move to the Friday for practicality’s sake. But rather than working that Friday, many French will “make the bridge” and take the day off (prendre un jour de congé), thereby extending their weekend. Accordingly, the connecting Friday would be called le pont, or “the bridge.” And the long weekend would be le pont du 8 mai, or “the May 8 Bridge,” getting its name from the holiday.
It’s an activity that we frequently see in the news, especially at the beginning of the year, with headlines declaring if it’s an auspicious year for bridge-builders! It’s also sometimes criticized for being detrimental to productivity. However, it’s mostly accepted as a common, national practice; hence, the importance of this expression!
Avoiding Confusion with Other Ideas and Expressions
- Faire le pont
This can also mean “to do a backbend,” a pose done in gymnastics, yoga, and elsewhere.
- Faire le pont + entre
With the preposition entre, it can also mean “to link” or “to bridge the gap between” two things or ideas in general.
Examples: faire le pont entre la science et la société / entre deux cultures / entre la théorie et la pratique…
its NearLY Identical TwiN, Faire le point
- Faire le point + sur
Do not confuse bridge-building and vacation-going with faire le point (with an I). The latter means to review or assess something, often as a prelude to a decision. It’s used with the preposition sur, literally translating as “to make the point on (something).”
Examples: faire le point sur la situation / sur l’initiative / sur ce sujet / sur cette stratégie…
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