Au fur et à mesure is a rather long and seemingly complicated French expression for what it actually means in English. The most common English translation for it is “as” like in the sentence “I set the table as he washes the dishes”.
It’s important to take note that you would only use this for verbs that are considered active (like courir – to run or payer – to pay) and not verbs that are passive (like regarder – to watch).
It may seem like the nuance between these types of verbs makes using au fur et à mesure difficult, but once you start seeing it used in context you’ll definitely start to get the hang of it.
One way to help distinguish the active verbs from the passive verbs (and thus when it’s appropriate to use au fur et à mesure) is to look at the literal translation which is “at the rate and in mesure”. The first part “at the rate” can help you understand whether what you’re using is active or passive. It would be pretty weird to say “I watch TV at the rate he reads a book” wouldn’t it?
Let’s now take a look at some examples of au fur et à mesure used in complete sentences.
Il rangeait sa chambre au fur et à mesure que sa sœur faisait la vaisselle – He was cleaning his room as his sister was the dishes
Au fur et à mesure que le jour de l’examen approche, mon angoisse augmente – As the test day approaches, my anxiety increases
As you can see from the examples above you must add que to the end of au fur et à mesure if what comes directly after is a subject (I, you, we, the dog, the day, etc…)
What comes after au fur et à mesure can be left off if it’s obvious what’s being talked about.
Il faudra résoudre ce problème au fur et à mesure – This problem will have to be solved as we go.
Tu seras informés au fur et à mesure – You will be informed as we get more information
You can also use au fur et à mesure + de and a noun.
Les effets indésirables diminuent au fur et à mesure du traitement – The adverse effects decrease as the treatment goes on
Je les étudierai au fur et à mesure des prochaines leçons – I will study them progressively in the coming lessons
Au fur et à mesure is a relatively easy French expression to learn despite its rather long and complicated translation. As with anything, with just a little bit of practice you should be able to master it in no time. If you’d like to learn more French expressions and vocabulary head on over to the French vocabulary page.