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C'est pas de la tarte

French expressions analyzed and explained

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Faire une tarte, c'est pas de la tarte !
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Expression: C'est pas de la tarte

Pronunciation: [say pa d(eu) la tart]

Meaning: It's not easy

Literal translation: It's not pie

Register: informal/familiar

Notes: The French expression c'est pas* de la tarte is equivalent to "it's not easy, it's tough, it's hard work." What's really interesting is to compare this to the English expression "It's a piece of cake." At first glance, it seems like an almost perfect equivalent. However, the French expression is rarely used in the affirmative (that is, to say that something is easy), and the English isn't used in the negative (to say that something is not easy). The equivalence of tarte and "cake" makes it seem like these expressions are nearly identical, but the French is usually negative and the English is always positive.**

Example

   Je dois travailler pendant douze heures d'affilée aujourd'hui et demain - c'est pas de la tarte !
   I have to work for twelve hours straight today and tomorrow - it's tough!

*Why c'est pas rather than ce n'est pas? It's common for ne to be dropped in informal French. You can say ce n'est pas de la tarte, but the more informal your speech, the less likely you are to use ne.

**French does in fact have an equivalent expression to "it's a piece of cake": c'est du gâteau.


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