zeldathemes
Real insight on French culture from a French native point of view.
Mostly run by Em, 26, living in Paris.
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Liberté, Egalité, Croque au Comté
Most common colors in French. Click for bigger size.

Most common colors in French. Click for bigger size.

hi! I've tried looking it up, but no luck - is there a single word for "sex" in French? As I understand it, le sexe means gender and to say sex, you have to say "make love" (faire l'amour). This seems really clumsy to me and I refuse to believe there isn't a better (maybe more colloquial) way to express it? Thank you ever so much, love the blog btw :D


"Le sexe" can be used for "genitals", "sexuality"/"sex" and "gender". It all depends on the context. For example : 

  • "L’Origine du monde" est un tableau représentant un sexe de femme. 
    "L’Origine du monde" is a painting featuring a woman’s genitals. 
  • Le sexe (sexualité) est un sujet de conversation courant chez les ados. 
    Sex (sexuality) is a common topic in teenagers’ conversations.
  • Les parents n’ont pas désiré connaître le sexe du bébé.
    The parents decided not to find out the baby’s gender. 

Regarding “having sex”, there’s several options :

  • Avoir des rapports sexuels : To have sexual intercourse 
  • Avoir des relations sexuelles : To have sex 
  • Faire l’amour : To make love
  • Coucher avec quelqu’un : To sleep with someone 
  • Baiser : To fuck 

And some common funny/slang ones too : 

  • Voir le loup : (“To see the wolf”) To have sex for the first time
  • Passer à l’acte : (“To take action”) To have your first intercourse with someone. (Could use this one in other not-sex related contexts though, it just means to “take the plunge”, whatever you do but we use it a lot about sex). 
  • Faire des galipettes : (“To do somersaults”) To have sex, to make love (quite passionately!)

 

Common mistake : Ballade/Balade

Une ballade : a ballad(e), a slow song, a poem (lit.)
Ce chanteur est célèbre pour ses ballades toutes douces> This singer is famous for his very tender songs.

Une balade : a walk
J’aime les balades sur la plage > I like walks on the beach.
Also, se balader : to walk (around)
J’aime me balader sur la plage > I like to walk on the beach.

Verbs about “seeing”.

Voir
The ability to see, to perceive thanks to your eyes, literally or not.

  • Je vois le jour à travers les rideaux : I see the light of day through the curtains.
  • Aveugle de naissance, on l’a opéré et quand il s’est réveillé, il a vu : Born blind, he got operated and when he woke up, he saw.
  • Je vois que tu n’as pas rangé ta chambre : I see you didn’t clean your room.

Regarder
The action of using your eyes to see, to sort of concentrate to see.

  • Tu n’as pas vraiment regardé le tableau ! Approche-toi et regarde-le vraiment, regarde tous les détails : You didn’t really look at the painting ! Come closer, truly look at it, look at all the details.
  • Je m’ennuyais hier donc j’ai regardé un film : I got bored yesterday so I watched a movie.
  • Le recruteur regarde d’abord le CV avant d’accorder un entretien : The recruiter looks at the CV before granting any interview.

Visionner
To study something, to look at something professionally.

  • Nous avons visionné un documentaire de M. Moore en cours d’Histoire : We watched a documentary from M. Moore in History class.
  • Les historiens ont du visionner des centaines d’heures d’archives pour comprendre ce qui s’est réellement passé au delà de la propagande : Historians had to watch hundred hours of film footage to understand what truly happened despite the propaganda.
  • Les étudiants en cinéma doivent visionner au moins 4 films par semaine : Cinema school students must watch at least 4 movies a week.

Fixer (du regard)
To stare, to look at someone in the eye

  • On ne peut pas fixer les chiens du regard, ça les rend nerveux : you can’t stare at dogs, it makes them nervous.
  • Cet homme n’arrêtait pas de me fixer dans le métro, j’ai pris peur alors je suis descendue et je suis allée chercher la police : This man just couldn’t stop staring at me, I got scared so I left the train and looked for the police.
  • Fixer quelqu’un du regard est une technique de psychologues pour stresser leurs patients et leur faire avouer quelque chose : To stare at someone in the eye is a psychologists technique to stress their patients and make them confess something.

Apercevoir
To catch sight, to notice

  • J’ai aperçu ta mère vers Chatelet, je n’ai pas pu lui dire bonjour car j’étais dans le bus : I saw your mom around Chatelet, I couldn’t say hello because I was in the bus.
  • Ceux qui font l’expérience de la mort imminente disent tous apercevoir un tunnel avec de la lumière blanche au bout : All those who went through near-death experience say that they see a tunnel with white light at the end.
  • J’ai cru apercevoir une bouteille de champagne dans ton sac, est-ce que c’est pour moi ? I sort of noticed a bottle of champagne in your bag, is that for me ?

Zieuter (slang)
To look at something. Comes from “zieu” (the way we pronounce “les yeux”/ "lé+zieu") 

  • Mais arrête de zieuter sur ma copie, j’aime pas quand tu copies sans demander ! Stop looking at my test, I don’t like when you cheat without asking first !

Difference between “Langue” & “Langage”

Both can be translated by “language” which is confusing. French language differenciates both :
Langage
"Langage" is the ability to communicate (general concept). It’s also the system (spoken or written) you use to express yourself. This system can be made of technical vocabulary, specific grammar rules, jargon, slang… : it really is the general "concept" of communicating. We can differenciate two "langages" when both don’t use the same rules/codes.
  • Il faut apprendre le langage commercial pour devenir un bon vendeur : One must learn the commercial speech to become a good seller. > The specific jargon of business/sellers = commercial language
  • Mon fils et moi n’utilisons pas le même langage, il utilise le vocabulaire de la rue alors que je parle un français soutenu comme dans les livres : My son and I don’t use the same language, he uses street vocabulary while I speak formal French like in the books = The son uses a language which codes are different from his mother’s, so they don’t use the same language.
  • On utilise le langage HTML pour créer une page internet : We use HTML to create an online page. = we use a language made of codes which structure is different from the language we use to express our thoughts or emotions for example.
  • Les enfants font l’apprentissage du langage vers 2 ans = Kids learn how to communicate verbally around 2. = The children learn by themselves how basic codes can work together to make themselves understood.

____________________________

Langue
A “langue” is a group of languages which all have a special feature in common. It has its own codes. For example : the “general language” using Latin roots, using conjugaison in three groups, which pronouns are je-tu-il-elle-on-nous-vous-ils-elles, is French language > La langue française. The “Langue française” is the name of the set of many different jargons that all use these said codes : slang and formal speech (aka the mother and son example), commercial speech… all technical/slang languages that use the same grammar and synthax.

  • Le français est la langue maternelle de cet enfant : French is this kid’s mother tongue. : This kid speaks French since forever, he’s been taught different languages of a same “langue” since his first words. For example, a kid will first learn the language of emotions, like “I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I’m sick, it hurts, I’m happy”, then he’ll learn the language of facts : “this fork is dirty, it’s sunny” etc… but it all is included in one single mother tongue.
  • Elle étudie une langue latine, l’espagnol, ainsi qu’une langue germanique, l’allemand. : She studies a latin language, Spanish, as well as a germanic language, German. : She studies different languages that use different grammar and synthax codes and that can be labelled as Spanish and German.

____________________________

Comparison between “Langue” & “Language”.

In few cases, the frontier between both is quite blurry. Let’s take the example of Sign Language.
We can labelled this practice after two names : Langage des Signes or Langue des Signes.

Le Langage des Signes is the ability to communicate with hand gestures. You can sign either words, letters, or numbers, which could all be common to other languages. For example, if I sign H-E-L-L-O (letter by letter), I’d sign the same word than written “Hello” or spoken “Hello”. It’s the exact same word using the same each letter=one sign system. It’s sort of “English sign language” : English language spoken with hand gestures.

La Langue des Signes
is the language that uses hand gestures to transcript its own grammar & synthax. If I want to say “hello”, I’d sign this :
image
You no longer have letters to sign, it’s a word on its own, a word that is made and understood from all people using Sign Language, whether they are English, French…

Connaître Vs. Savoir

Both are translated by “to know” which can be very confusing. 

Connaître

To be aware of the existence of something, of its value. Can also be used to speak about people, places, the experience of something/its deep knowledge. The etymology in Latin is “to visit, to see each other, to get to know”. A good tip could be to remember that in Connaître, there is “naître” (to be born, to start). This way you can remember the link to people and starting something. 

  • I know my neighbors : Je connais mes voisins (You got to know them)
  • I know the Louvre : Je connais le Louvre (you visited the Louvre)
  • I know South America : Je connais l’Amérique du Sud (you traveled through South America)
  • I know my lesson : Je connais ma leçon
  • I know my work : Je connais mon travail. 

Connaître is always followed by a noun and can’t never be used before pronouns (qui, que, quoi, comment, etc.)

_______________________ 

Savoir

Savoir is used for things taught, facts, abilities, knowing information, conviction. 

  • I know how to write : Je sais écrire
  • I know how to conjugate a verb : Je sais comment conjuguer un verbe.
  • I know how to bake tasty cakes : Je sais cuisiner de bons gâteaux
  • I know that you’re going to Italy for summer : Je sais que tu vas en Italie cet été
  • I know that you love stargazing : Je sais que tu aimes regarder les étoiles
  • I know why you didn’t come to the party : Je sais pourquoi tu n’es pas venu à la soirée
  • I know who stole the cake : Je sais qui a volé le gâteau.
  • I know it’s you : Je sais que c’est toi. 

It’s mostly followed by verbs or subordinate clauses (Thing you can see in English too, the verb “to know” is used differently to translate savoir than connaître!)

When it’s followed by an infitive : It’s about knowledge, how to do something
Je sais écrire > I know how to write

When it’s followed by a subordinate clause : it’s about an information you got and understood/conviction

Je sais que c’est toi : I know/I’m convinced it’s you. 

French dirty talk

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Nouns which gender even confuses French people

These are words French people sort of use anarchically regladless of their original gender. This confusion can be explained for example by liaisons (L’armistice = le + armistice, but it sounds like la + armistice), by the facts we mostly use them with their plural form (Les horaires d’ouverture d’un magasin). anyhow, here are the petty criminals :

Masculine  : 

  • Pétale
  • Tentacule 
  • Équinoxe
  • Acrostiche
  • Effluve 
  • Appendice
  • Horaire 
  • Armistice 
  • Augure 
  • Archipel
  • Haltère 

Feminine

  • Anagramme
  • Scolopendre
  • Immondice
  • Épithète
  • Enzyme
  • Réglisse

Words that can be both

  • Silicone
  • Hymne
  • Après-midi 
  • Éclair 
  • Pupille
  • Moufle
  • Amour(s)
  • gens

Don’t hesitate to submit others if they come to your mind! 

Difference between Temps/Heure/Fois

These three words are all translated by “time” and it might be confusing. 

Temps 

Duration during which events/days/nights/seasons occur, the general “concept” of time

  • Le canyon se creuse à mesure que le temps passe : The canyon grows wider as time flows by.
  • Je l’attendrai parce que je l’aime, peu importe le temps que ça prendra : I’ll wait for him/her because I love him/her, no matter how  long it takes.


Measurable length :

  • J’ai passé trop de temps à travailler sur cet essai, ça m’a pris toute une journée : I spent too much time working on this essay, it took me a whole day.
  • Combien de temps faut-il pour aller du Louvre à la Tour Eiffeil ? How long does it take to go from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower? 

The atmosphere’s condition :  

  • Il fait beau temps, le soleil brille et il fait chaud : The weather is nice, the wun is shining and it’s hot. 

The idea of the right moment, the opportunity : 

  • Il était temps qu’il fasse sa demande en mariage, elle désespérait ! : It was about time he proposes, she was losing hope!

Heure
Literally “hour”, refers to time like on a clock. 

  • J’ai fini mes devoirs, il est l’heure de manger maintenant ! : I finished my homework, it’s time to eat now!
  • Je suis à l’heure : I’m on time.

Fois 
Refers to an instance of an event, as in “one time, two times…”, “once, twice…”

  • J’ai mangé du poulet deux fois cette semaine. : I ate chicken twice this week. 
  • C’est la première fois qu’elle va au Casino : It’s the first time she’s going to the Casino.
  • Elle réserve sa première fois pour quelqu’un qu’elle aime : She keeps her first time for someone she loves.
  • Combien de fois dois-je répeter qu’il ne faut pas fumer ? : How many times do I have to repeat that you must not smoke? 
love-your-french:

French abbreviations

love-your-french:

French abbreviations

bonjour! could you please explain to me the difference between "peler" and "eplucher"? merci!

Anonymous

image

I just… I.. Okay. I can’t promess you’ll understand but I’ll try

There are several verbs actually that mean “peeling”: 

  1. éplucher : Peeling the first layers of something that are not edible or taste bad : “Eplucher une carotte”. It’s the notion that you’ll “force” some layers out. 
  2. peler : Peeling the skin/hard layers of something, that are not edible. There’s a notion of skin as in human/animal skin, with hair and such, at least something consistant. “Peler une orange” = Peel an orange (because the orange has a really hard skin you can really differenciate from the rest of the fruit for example, unlike a carrot). We use “pêler” for human skin too, like when you’re sunburnt and your skin is peeling, we say “peler” or “avoir la peau qui pèle”. “Peler” is also to remove the hair of a skin (not for humans, in that case it would be “épiler”), as in “peler un cuir” (“Peel a leather”)
  3. dépecer : To cut-up the skin of an animal (possibly humans if you’re into killing people and dismembering them)

    So let’s take a cow for example. You’d “dépecer” the cow to get the skin out of the meat so you can eat the meat. Then you’d “peler” the skin (remove the hair) to make leather. Then you’d “éplucher” the carrots you’d put in a pot to cook the meat with to make a pot-au-feu :D (famous French dish). 

     
  4. épiler : to remove the hair, with the notion of “pulling the hairs out of the skin” (different from shaving, “raser). That’s the verb we use as a standard for girls getting their legs done for example, or for when you’re taking the feathers out of a chicken, when you remove the last little hairs on the skin so it looks completely clean.

(I feel immensely proud of this post that painfully took me ages, I feel like you should know)

Most awful mistakes the French do, according to the French themselves.

"Ils croivent", "ils voyent" : Mispelling of verbs “Ils croient” (They believe) and “Ils voient” (They see)

"Je sais pas c’est quand" instead of “Je (ne) sais pas quand c’est” (I don’t know when it is?), bad order of words. 

"Je lui la donne" instead of “Je la lui donne”, bad order of words. 

"Ceux-là qui" instead of “Ceux qui” (Those who), sheer slang creation. 

"C’est qui qui a…?" instead of “Qui a…?” (Who did…?) , sheer slang creation.

"J’ai manger" instead of “J’ai mangé”, mispelling of participe passé. 

"Se livre", "sa va" instead of “Ce livre”, “ça va”, mispelling of “ce, ça”. 

"Le truc que je t’ai parlé" instead of “Le truc dont je t’ai parlé”, bad use of “que” instead of “dont”.

"Comme même" instead of “Quand même”, mispelled slang. 

"Si je pourrais…" instead of “Si je pouvais…”, bad use of conditionnel.

"Au jour d’aujourd’hui" : three levels of pleonasm. The word “Aujourd’hui” (today) itself is a pleonasm. In old French “hui” means today. “Au jour de” (At the day of) had been added with years to merge into “Aujourd’hui”, literally meaning “At the day of today”. Yet, “aujourd’hui” still is the fully correct word for “today”. However, adding another “au jour d’” is useless and incorrect. 

"C’est jolie" instead of "Joli" : Bad agreement of masculine/feminine forms of adjectives. 

"Un ciseaux" instead of “des ciseaux” (scissors). “Un ciseau”  = one blade.

"C’est le livre à Jean" instead of “C’est le livre de Jean”, "Je vais au coiffeur" instead of “Je vais chez le coiffeur”, general bad use of prepositions. 

Nicknames for foreign people and countries.

// ! \ 
Note that nicknames are very often pejorative depending on the context, and that you should not use them until you’re sure it fits the context perfectly. 
// ! \

USA : Le pays de l’oncle Sam, les States, la busherie
Americans : Les Amerlocks/Amerloques, les Ricains, les fils de Sam

Italy : La grande botte
Italians : Les ritals, les spaghetti, les macaroni

New-Zealanders : les kiwis

Australians : les kangourou

UK : Perfide Albion
British people : Les rosbeefs/rosbifs, les Anglish, les Britons
Scottish people : les cul-nu, les pingres 
Irish people : les farfadets, les rouquemoutes

Spanish people : les espingouins, les churros

Portuguese people : les portos, les poilus, 

German people : Les Boches/bosches, les Schleu, fritz, les teutons, les casques à pointe

Japan : Pays du soleil levant

Chinese people : Chintok, chinwé, les nems, les niacks/niakwé

Arab people/ North african people : les beur, les rebeu

Polish people : Les polak 

Russian people : Les usskovs/russkofs

Canada : le grand nord blanc
Canadians : les caribou

Mexicans : les sombreros, les mariachi

Pakistani : les pak-pak

13 : Do you want to marry me? > Veux-tu m’épouser ? in FrenchVeux-tu me marier is Canadian French.

13 : Do you want to marry me? > Veux-tu m’épouser ? in French
Veux-tu me marier is Canadian French.

Sex(y) vocabulary

Find below a list of romantic/sexy/sexual words, idioms and such.

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