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Que Sera, Sera: Translation & Meaning

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  • 0:35 Meaning
  • 2:30 Translation
  • 3:26 Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor
Ann Casano

Ann has taught university level Film classes and has a Master's Degree in Cinema Studies.

Expert Contributor
Ginna Wilkerson

Ginna earned M.Ed. degrees in Curriculum and Development and Mental Health Counseling, followed by a Ph.D. in English. She has over 30 years of teaching experience.

We've all heard the popular saying 'Que sera, sera,' but where does it come from? In this lesson, we will take a look at the phrase's origin, translation and meaning.

Background Information

No doubt we've all heard the popular song 'Que Sera, Sera'. The song has been recorded dozens of times by dozens of singers. Perhaps the most popular version was the one created by songwriters Ray Evans and Jay Livingston for Alfred Hitchcock's 1956 film, The Man Who Knew Too Much. This version was sung by Doris Day, who went on to record the song for Columbia Records. It became a massive hit. She also used it as her theme song in her television comedy, The Doris Day Show.

Que Sera, Sera Singer Doris Day
Doris Day

What Does 'Que Sera, Sera' Mean?

Okay, so what does que sera, sera mean? Let's take a look at the chorus from the song and we will see that the translation is actually right there in the second line.

'Que sera, sera

Whatever will be, will be

The future's not ours to see

Que sera, sera

What will be, will be'

So, que sera, sera means 'whatever will be, will be'. Let's take a look at the first set of verses in the song to get a better idea of the deeper meaning behind the phrase.

'When I was just a little girl

I asked my mother

What will I be

Will I be pretty?

Will I be rich?

Here's what she said to me'

We get a really good sense of the meaning of que sera, sera from these lines of the song. The little girl wants to know what is going to happen to her in the future. She wonders if she will be rich and pretty. Then in the chorus, her mother tells her that whatever is going to happen is going to happen. If it's meant to be, then it's meant to be, and there's nothing you can do about it.

The phrase is used today as a way of expressing acceptance in something that you can no longer control, as in, 'I've done all that I can and I can't go back and change anything now.' Let's say you were running for class president. You ran your campaign and you already gave your speech, and now your classmates are in the process of voting. That would be a 'que sera, sera' situation. There's no longer a need to worry, because the future is the future. If you were meant to be class president, then you will be class president.

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Additional Activities

Further Study of Foreign Phrases in Songs and Films

Activities:

1. In the lesson, you learned something about how this phrase came to be used in an English language song. Can you find other foreign phrases that are used by speakers of English? Some suggestions: cooking terms, words, and phrases used in literature, political expressions. When you have found two or three examples, read about how those examples found their way into the English language. If you are working on this activity with a group, share your examples.

2. Think of an example from your own life of a que sera, sera situation. Write a brief five-paragraph essay explaining why this situation qualifies. Remember that these situations share the feature of being out of one's control, often after some effort has been put in to succeed.

3. This phrase connects in meaning to the philosophy of existentialism. Read something about the basic ideas contained in this philosophical framework and see if you can list a few definite connections to the use of the phrase que sera,sera in the song by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston.

4. The song featuring this line was sung by Doris Day in the movie The Man Who Knew Too Much. Watch the movie and see if you understand the reason for the song, and how the meaning of que sera, sera plays a part in the story.

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