Why do I need to know alors?
French speakers pepper conversation with alors all the time. It's one of those words that you can go by years without knowing exactly what it means, but will make you sound a lot more natural when you talk.
What does it mean?
Alors has several meanings.
It can be used to mean 'then' or 'in that case'. For example, Si tu sais conduire, alors tu peux prendre la voiture. (If you can drive, then you can take the car.)
Or it can mean 'so', 'well' and in informal conversation, 'so then'.
For example Alors, raconte ce qui s'est passé! (So, tell me what happened!/Well? Tell me what happened!)
Or, Alors, ton nouveau voisin, il est comment? which means 'So then, what's your new neighbour like?'
Alors can also be used as part of an expression, such as in the case of Ça alors! which is used to express shock and is the equivalent of 'goodness!', 'my goodness!' and 'goodness me!', or even 'well,well!' in English.
Or you might hear someone shout in an exasperated manner Merde alors! which means 'For crying out loud!' or 'For goodness' sake!'
Another common expression including alors is Et alors? which means 'So what?' and is often said in a sarcastic tone.
For example you might say Tu n'y crois pas? Et alors? (You don't believe it? So what?)
How is it pronounced?
Remember to make sure you can hear that French 'r' when pronouncing alors.