Il faut. This phrase is often used in France. It means ‘you must’. I think that in the UK we are less legalistic and give advice with ‘you should’, ‘you can’, ‘you could’. Even when we want to state something quite strongly, we still use ‘you ought to’ which gives people a choice as to whether to follow the wise council. I think I could write another book on the bizarre occasions that the phrase ‘Il faut’ has been used. For example, our toilet flush button was sticking. We called in a plumber to fix it. He said that the cable was sticking and needed oiling. ‘Il faut huiler le cable chaque année’ – ‘You must oil the cable each year.’ As we had never oiled a toilet flush cable in our entire lives, this heaped a lot of negligence onto our shoulders!  Another example; we decided to have a ‘free’ heat exchanger fitted after receiving many phone calls about how efficient they were. After its installation, we found we were using more electricity than before and that it turned out to be far more expensive than we could afford. It fact we had been conned. I told people about our experience, but the reaction was, ‘You must never agree to anything via telephone sales’. There was no sympathy for our situation. The fault was entirely ours!

When in 1914 Britain’s Lloyd George asked France’s famous General Castelnau if France could expel the German forces his reply was, ‘Il le faut’ – we must do it! Churchill used, ‘We shall fight them on the beaches’ in 1940. It would be interesting to do a compare and contrast essay on the nuances of the respective expressions.

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