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Mar 13

La Vaisselle – Washing Dishes In French

My early trips to l’épicerie were an interesting exercise in how much I trusted my French. I took gambles on whether the bottle I was buying was l’assouplissant (softener) or la lessive (detergent), hoping it wasn’t l’eau de Javel (bleach).

Before having the luxury of un lave-vaisselle (a dishwasher) I used to rely on du liquide vaisselle (dish soap) and des éponges (sponges). That means looking at many different products that even if I know le mot français (the French word), I often don’t know la marque (the brand)!

Cependant (however), before struggling to realise what the difference between French soap brands are, I had to also learn the vocabulary. The difference between la lessive, le liquide vaisselle et le savon (detergent, dish soap, and hand soap) is very important!

Luckily I knew how to say faire la vaisselle (wash dishes) so when I was confusingly staring at the different bottles at l’épicerie, I at least knew how to say what I was looking for.

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La Vaisselle – Washing Dishes In French

Excusez-moi monsieur, vous cherchez quelque chose ?

Oui…. J’ai besoin du savon pour faire la vaisselle.

Vous voulez dire du liquide vaisselle ?

Je crois… oui…

Suivez-moi, monsieur, c’est juste ici.


Excuse me, sir, are you looking for something ?

Yes… I need soap for washing dishes.

Do you mean dish washing soap?

I believe so… yes…

Follow me sir, it’s right over here.


I will admit I was not sûr à cent percent (one hundred percent sure) that le liquide vaisselle was the right word. I figured if l’employé (the employee) knew it would work with la vaisselle (dirty dishes), it should be the right thing.

I made my way out of l’épicerie and when it came time to faire la vaisselle I was relieved to find out that I bought the right kind of soap!

Voici un vocabulaire de la vaisselle :

Faire la vaiselle – To do the dishes

La vaisselle – Dirty dishes

Le liquide vaisselle – Dish soap

La lessive – Detergent

L’assouplissant – Softener

L’eau de Javel – Bleach

Le savon – Soap

L’assiette – Plate (physical dish)

Le plat – Plate (meal, dish)

La tasse – Cup

Le verre – Glass

Le lave-vaisselle – Dishwasher

Le plongeur – Dishwasher (person).

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Blog submitted by: David at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

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Feb 28

Learning the French Parts of Speech

Most native English speakers are familiar with the eight or nine English parts of speech (nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections, and articles). All English words fall into one of these general parts of speech.

Luckily, French follows the same basic organisation of parts of speech that English does.

Called les classes de mots, French parts of speech are categorised as follows:

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Les noms

Nouns, or les noms, are one of the most important parts of a French phrase. As in English, French nouns identify a person, place, or thing. However, unlike in English, all French nouns have a gender. You can further divide French nouns into les noms propres, or proper nouns (names), and les noms communs, or common nouns (general nouns).

Les déterminants

Determiners, or les déterminants, consist of articles (les articles) and certain kinds of adjectives (les adjectifs non qualificatifs). These words precede nouns and determine the gender and number of the noun that they modify. Les articles include le, la, and les, and les adjectifs include words like mon, ma, mes, ce, cette, ces.

Les adjectifs

As in English, adjectives modify nouns. In French, most adjectives follow the nouns that they modify although this depends on the adjective (For more about adjective word order in French see this post.)

Les pronoms

Pronouns in French replace nouns, just as they do in English. French pronouns include je, tu, il/elle/on, vous, nous, and ils/elles. 

Les verbes

Verbs are another integral part of speech in each French sentence. They must always be conjugated to match with the person or thing (noun) that is performing the action. In French, verbs also change based on gender, number, tense, mood, and voice.

Les adverbes

Adverbs modify a verb, adjective, or another adverb. In French, adverbs do not change based on gender or number and are typically recognisable by the ending –ment. Check out this post for more information about French adverbs.

Les prépositions

Like adverbs, French prepositions are invariable, which means that they do not change based on gender or number. This makes them, along with adverbs, an easier part of speech to use in French. Prepositions link nouns and phrases to other parts of a sentence. They include words like après, à, and chez, among others.

…and finally…

Les conjonctions

Conjunctions in French are also invariable.

As in English, conjunctions are words that link a group of words together.

Conjunctions in French include et, car, mais, or, ou, and donc.

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

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Feb 28

French Manners and Etiquette

The French are very big on manners and following the rules of étiquette. You can read here about the rules for gift giving, here for proper greetings, and here for the rules for kissing (yes, they even have rules for that!). But do you know where the rules come from?

The rules of French etiquette, from the French word étiquette (literally meaning a tag or label*), are often attributed to the period of Louis XIV as ways for the king to both accommodate and control the vast number of nobles whom he compelled to join him at the palace of Versailles (Louis believed in keeping his friends close, and his enemies closer!).

Over time, the rules of courtly etiquette spread throughout society as people sought to appear more sophisticated and “noble” themselves.

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Cle France office meeting this morning.

* Une étiquette can be the label on a bottle (like on a wine bottle), the tag in a shirt, or a sticker (though the French word for the English ‘sticker‘ is ‘autocollant‘ which literally means ‘self sticking‘ from the verb ‘coller‘, ‘to stick or adhere‘. ‘Coller‘ also gives us ‘la colle‘ which is French for ‘glue‘ . . . and the expression ‘être collé(e)‘, ‘to be in detention (at school).

And if someone ever calls you ‘un vrai pot de colle‘ (‘a real pot of glue‘) you should think about spending less time with them / giving them some space. This expression refers to someone who follows you around all the time or sticks too close.

Society is generally less formal today, but many people still follow the rules of etiquette and view good manners as a sign of “good breeding”. I still know some families in France where the children vouvoient leurs parents and where whole pieces of fruit are only eaten at the dinner table with a knife and fork (next time you’re in the mood for une belle pomme / a nice apple or une poire juteuses** / a juicy pear, try eating it on a plate, peeling it using just your knife and fork!)

Shifting gears just a bit: Did you get to see the Oscars ceremony this weekend?

It was a fun event – though not without controversy – at which France was particularly well represented.

From Best Actress nominee Isabelle Hupert and Best Animated Feature Film nominees My Life as a Zucchini and The Red Turtle, to nominations for Best Documentary, Best Costume Design, and Best Achievement in Visual Effects, French artists were up for a total of 9 awards.

If you liked La La Land, why not check out one of the French films often cited as inspiration for the film, look up and find out more about Les demoiselles de Rochefort (The young girls of Rochefort) and Les parapluies de Cherbourg (The umbrellas of Cherbourg)!

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

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Jan 31

All The Colours of The Rainbow

Spring is still a few weeks away

but at least up here in the hémisphère nord (northern hemisphere) and in the end of un janvier froid et gris (a cold and grey January), I know we can all use a little taste of spring to get us through.

En plus (And), so I got to thinking about all the colours of un arc-en-ciel (lit. an arc in the sky or a rainbow).

Les couleurs de l’arc-en-ciel sont (The colours of the rainbow are)

rouge / red

orange / orange

jaune / yellow

vert / green

bleu / blue

indigo / indigo

violet / violet (or purple)

Noir et Blanc (black and white) are not – scientifically speaking – colours, but they’re certainly useful words to know.

As are:

marron / brown

gris / grey

rose / pink

Les couleurs peuvent être (Colours can be)

clair / light

foncé / dark

vif / bright

pâle / pale

It is important to remember that colours are also adjectives. Most, like other adjectives in French, need to agree in gender and number with the nouns they modify, but it would be too easy if they all did! As is often the case, there are exceptions.

As a general rule:

Simple colours must agree:

(une voiture grise / a grey car; des livres rouges / red books; une souris verte / a green mouse)

Compound colours do not agree:

(des chaussures bleu pâle / light blue shoes; des crayons jaune citron / lemon yellow pencils)

Colours that are also nouns, do not agree:

(une chemise marron / a brown shirt; des chaises orange / orange chairs)!

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

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Jan 25

5 French Idioms To Impress Your Friends

Idioms (les idiotismes, m.) are expressions that don’t necessarily make sense literally, but have a well known meaning to native speakers. In order to be able to understand a language’s idioms, therefore, you can’t just know the exact definition of a word but you must also understand the social and cultural meaning behind that word.

It is also nearly impossible to perfectly translate.

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Here are some common idiotismes that you may come across in French:

Appeler un chat un chat

Literal meaning: “To call a cat a cat”

Actual meaning: In English, we would use another idiomatic expression “calling a spade a spade.” This means that you call something out for what you see it as.

Example: “Je l’ai vu! Il faut appeler un chat un chat.” (I saw it! I’m just telling it as it is.)


Avoir la gueule de bois

Literal meaning: “To have a mouth of wood”

Actual meaning: This just means to have a hangover.

Example: Je suis sortie hier soir et je me suis levée ce matin avec une gueule de bois grave. (I went out last night and I woke up this morning with a serious hangover.)


Être à l’ouest

Literal meaning: “To be in the west”

Actual meaning: To be out of it or to be crazy/out of touch with reality.

Example: Il est complètement à l’ouest, ce mec! (This guy is totally out of it!)


Avoir un poil dans la main

Literal meaning: “To have a hair in the hand”

Actual meaning: To be very lazy, in fact so lazy that they watched a hair grow in the palm of their hand!

Example: Il dort tous les jours jusqu’à midi. Il a vraiment un poil dans la main. (He sleeps every day until noon. He’s really lazy!)


Donner un coup de main

Literal meaning: “To give a a hit of the hand”

Actual meaning: To give a helping hand. This idiom can be especially confusing because, to someone who is not native, it can sound almost threatening, although all it means is to help someone out!

Example: Elle est tellement gentille. Elle me donne toujours un coup de main sans que je demande. (She is so nice. She always helps me out even without asking).

Bonne Chance!

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

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