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Pas mal

French expressions analyzed and explained


Expression: Pas mal

Pronunciation: [pah mahl]

Meaning: not bad, nice job; quite a bit

Literal translation: not bad

Register: normal

Notes: You undoubtedly learned the French expression pas mal, meaning "not bad," as a possible response to the questions ça va ? and comment allez-vous ? But pas mal ! can also be used as an exclamation of approval, along the lines of "nice job, way to go!"

There's also another, completely different way to use pas mal: in reference to a "fair amount/number" or "quite a bit" of something. It can be used with nouns, in which case it must be followed by de, as well as with verbs. Note that there is no ne to go with the pas, and that de follows the rules of other adverbs of quantity, meaning that even in front of plural nouns it's usually de not des.


   Tu l'as fait en dix minutes ? Pas mal !
   You did it in 10 minutes? Not bad / Way to go!

   Il gagne pas mal d'argent.
   He earns quite a bit of money.

   J'ai pas mal de questions.
   I have quite a few / a fair number of questions.

   Nous avons discuté pas mal d'idées.
   We discussed quite a few ideas.

   Elle a pas mal voyagé.
   She has traveled quite a bit.

   Vous allez voir pas mal là-bas.
   You're going to see quite a bit over there.

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