Because of its many meanings, “voilà” is by far one of the most used words in France… but not only. Indeed, the term is used in many other languages, such as English, Italian or Spanish. That’s why we decided to make you discover the different uses and meanings of “voilà”, in France and abroad.
What does “voilà” mean?
According to the Larousse definition, “voilà” is an adverb that can have multiple meanings in French. It can be used to draw attention to someone or something close, to mark the conclusion and/or the statement of an action in a sentence, or to introduce an explanation. If we look at the etymology of the word, “voilà” is the contraction of “vois” (from the verb “voir” =to see) and the adverb of place or time “là”. Literally, the word means “regarde ici” (=look here).
Depending on the context, “voilà” will be translated in different ways in English. The most literal translation is “there it is”, but you can also translate “voilà” as “here it is”, or simply “here” or “there” depending on the situation.
▶️ “Voilà la pluie qui se rapproche.”
“Here comes the rain.”
▶️ “Et voilà. C’est la fin de mon exposé.”
“There it is. This is the end of my presentation.”
▶️ “Voilà pourquoi elle n’a pas pu venir.”
“Here is why she couldn’t make it.”
How do you pronounce “voilà”?
In French, “voilà” is said in a monotone, without accentuating either syllable: “vwa-lah”. It is pronounced the same way as the two words that make it up, “vois” and “là”. The official phonetic writing of the expression is: /vwa.la/
How do you write “voilà”?
There is only one way to write the term in French: “voilà”. The first syllable is written as the root of the verb “voir” while the second syllable, the “là”, takes a grave accent in reference to the adverb of place. However, it is not uncommon to find “voilà” spelled any way online. Here are some of the most common spelling errors found:
With over four million Arabic speakers in France, it is also common to see foreigners confusing the term “voilà” with the Arabic word “wallah”, a word literally meaning “by God”. One thing is certain, the only correct spelling of the French term is “voilà”.
How is “voilà” used in France?
As we saw in the first part, “voilà” can have many meanings in French. Here are the most common uses of the adverb in everyday life in France.
“Voilà” used to show something
One of the most common uses of “voilà” is to use the adverb to show something (physical or figurative) to someone. You might hear it used when you are being served at a bar or restaurant. Depending on the situation, you might use “there it is” or “here is” to translate it into English.
▶️ “Voilà la vidéo dont je parlais l’autre jour.”
“There is the video I was mentioning the other day.”
▶️ “Et voilà votre omelette au fromage !”
“Here is your cheese omelet!”
“Voilà” used to conclude an argument
“Voilà” is also very often used to mark the end of a speech and/or to tell the speaker that you have said everything you had to say. In these cases, “voilà” is usually preceded by an interjection or a preposition such as “et”, “bon” or “bah”. The adverb can also be followed by “tout” to mark the finality.
▶️ “Bah voilà. C’est tout ce que j’avais à te dire.”
“Well there you go. That’s all I had to tell you.”
▶️ “Cet après-midi, j’ai eu deux réunions, une présentation et un appel avec un client… Voilà tout.”
“This afternoon, I had two meetings, one presentation and a call with a client… That’s about it.”
“Voilà” used as “yes”
When used alone, the adverb “voilà” can also mean “yes”. It is then almost always followed by an exclamation mark. In this situation, it is used to indicate that the speaker has understood the arguments that have just been communicated.
▶️ – “Donc ta sœur a raté son permis ?” – “Voilà !”
– “So your sister missed her driving test ?” – “Yes !”
▶️ – “Vous avez pris le métro pour venir ?” – “Voilà !”
– “You took the subway to come here?” – “Yes !”
“Voilà” used as “it is”
In France, it is not uncommon to use “voilà” instead of “c’est” in a sentence. Most of the time, it will be used at the beginning of the sentence and will be followed by some kind of explanation.
▶️ “Voilà pourquoi elle a choisi de déménager.”
“This is why she decided to move.”
▶️ “Voilà la marche à suivre pour finir ce projet.”
“This is what needs to be done to complete this project.”
“Voilà” used to support the end of an action
“Voilà” is also used to express relief at having completed a task. Unlike the other uses, the pronunciation of this “voilà” will often be more pronounced than usual. It is therefore possible to lengthen the last syllable of the word: “Voilààààà!” Its meaning is similar to “that’s it”.
▶️ “Et voilà ! Le dossier est terminé, je peux enfin rentrer chez moi.”
“That’s it ! The case is done, I can finally go home.”
▶️ “Voilàààà ! J’ai enfin battu ce boss.”
“Here we goooo ! I finally beat this boss.”
Expressions associated with “voilà”
Over time, the French preposition has given rise to a number of expressions that include the word. Here are the ones you will hear most often in France.
It is very common for the French to use “et voilà” to accentuate a feeling of pride after having accomplished an action or to remind us that we had seen a consequence coming.
▶️ “Et voilà ! J’ai eu mon diplôme !”
“And here we go ! I’ve got my diploma !”
▶️ “Et voilà. Tu as pris trop d’assiettes et tu as tout fait tomber.”
“And here it is. You took on too many plates and you dropped all of them.”
Literally translated, “me voilà” means “here I am” or “here I go”. This expression is still quite common, although probably less used than “je suis là”. It can be used for all persons: me voilà / te voilà / le/la / nous voilà / vous voilà / les voilà.
▶️ – “Où es-tu ?” – “Me voilà.”
– “Where are you?” – “Here I am.”
▶️ – ”Mais où sont donc passés tes frères ?” – “Les voilà !”
– ”But where did your brothers go?” – “Here they are !”
In French, “voilà tout” is mostly used to explain or justify a past action. It is most often found at the end of a sentence. More rarely, the expression can also be used to conclude a long speech.
▶️ – “Pourquoi es-tu si heureux ?” – “Parce que je viens d’apprendre une bonne nouvelle. Voilà tout.”
– “Why are you so happy?” – “Because I just learned some great news. That’s all.”
▶️ – “On est allé faire les courses, puis à la plage, avant d’aller au restaurant et de manger une glace. Voilà tout.”
– “We went shopping, then at the beach, before going to the restaurant and eating some ice cream. That’s about it.”
The word “revoilà” is composed of “voilà” and the prefix “re-“, which is used to express repetition. In French, it is used almost exclusively as “me voilà”. Thus, if you have seen someone before and you run into them again later in the day, you will use “me revoilà”. The closest English translation is “Here I am again” or “I am back”.
▶️ “Ah tiens ! Les revoilà !”
“Oh well ! Here they are again !”
▶️ “Cela fait plus de deux ans que j’ai arrêté le football, mais me revoilà !”
“It’s been two years since I’ve quit soccer, but I’m back at it again !”
Now that you know all about one of the most versatile words in the French language with voilà, why not expand your culture by discovering the meaning of other typical French expressions like “sacrebleu” or “je ne sais quoi“.
Translated into English by Sacha