17 different ways to talk about sex in French

France's "sexpressions" sound ridiculous when translated literally into English, but they're good for a laugh. Caution: Some of these may be described as "locker room talk".

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr
Forget faire l'amour, coucher ensemble or even baiser.
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised the French have so many expressions for the act of making love given their love of language and their reputation for passion.
There are so many to choose from but here are a few “sexpressions” that clearly work in French but sound bizarre when translated into English. 

We advise you to think carefully before using some if you're trying to woo a French person into your bedroom. 
There's the foreplay done, here's the list:
1. A quick run with the one-legged man  Faire sprinter l'unijambiste
No prizes for guessing what a one-legged man is here… This phrase refers to what we might call a “quickie” in English. 

2. Take Willy to the circus  Emmener Popaul au cirque
Popaul is a French nickname for a penis, similar to John Thomas or indeed Willy in English. 
3. Get Santa stuck in the chimney – Coincer le Père Noël dans la cheminée
A less common expression, thankfully, after all, who'd want to get their Santa stuck anyway?

Photo: Michael Coghlan/Flickr
4. Set the table again – Remettre le couvert
This literally means “put out the cutlery again”, suggesting a second “session” is on the way. Eg: We woke this morning and “set the table again”, if you know what I mean. 
5. Doing the wolf dance – Faire la danse du loup
A howler of an expression that apparently stems from the 16th century. Makes you wonder if the French thought the 1990 Kevin Costner classic Dances With Wolves was an erotic film. 
6. To do somersaults – Faire des galipettes
An energetic kind of romp. Eg: We were doing somersaults last night, mon ami, real somersaults. 
Photo: Teddy Kwok/Flickr
7. To put (her) in the saucepan – Passer à la casserole
This is what some might call locker room talk, and means to have sex with a particular person for the first time. Vulgar, we know. “I finally put her in the saucepan last night”.
8. To clink glasses with your belly buttons Trinquer du nombril
This is a wonderfully visual one, imagine doing a toast with two glasses of champagne – except instead of glasses you use your belly buttons. You get the picture. 
9. A game of legs in the air – Faire une partie de jambes en l’air
This is perhaps the most self explanatory of the lot. 

Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr
10. To make boom boom crack crack – Faire boum boum crac crac
Some might have heard of “doing the boom boom” in English already, which the French use too. But sometimes they take it a step further and add a crac crac. Is this onomatopaeic? Who knows. 
11. Tickle the water lily – Chatouiller le nénuphar 
This one appears to be a firm favourite among the French. Artist Claude Monet must have been a fan of this expression.
12. Sweep the chimney – Rammoner la cheminée 
This one is pretty straight forward, use your imagination.
13. To dunk the biscuit Tremper le biscuit 
WARNING: This one is explicit. Only use this if you are a filthy fornicator. We do not condone this “locker room talk”. Admittedly this one does exist in English in the form of “dip the biscuit”.
Photo: Danny James Ford/Flickr
14. To climb the curtains – Grimper aux rideaux
This suggests a screamingly good experience between the sheets, so good that you're left “climbing the curtains”.
15. To be sent into the air S’envoyer en l’air
This is one for both parties, who are both apparently taking great pleasure in the act, so much so they've been “sent into the air”. 
16. Shake our joints – Remuer le gigot
“Shall we head back to our chambre de bonne and shake our joints?” You never know it could take off in English.
And 17. To stick the garlic in the leg of lamb – Piquer l’ail dans le gigot d’agneau
Typical France. They even manage to bring their love for food into bedroom talk. No guesses for what this might mean… 
Photo: Artizone/Flickr

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Le Havre rules: How to talk about French towns beginning with Le, La or Les

If you're into car racing, French politics or visits to seaside resorts you are likely at some point to need to talk about French towns with a 'Le' in the title. But how you talk about these places involves a slightly unexpected French grammar rule. Here's how it works.

An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre.
An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre. It can be difficult to know what prepositions to use for places like this - so we have explained it for you. (Photo by AFP)

If you’re listening to French chat about any of those topics, at some point you’re likely to hear the names of Mans, Havre and Touquet bandied about.

And this is because French towns that have a ‘Le’ ‘La’ or ‘Les’ in the title lose them when you begin constructing sentences. 

As a general rule, French town, commune and city names do not carry a gender. 

So if you wanted to describe Paris as beautiful, you could write: Paris est belle or Paris est beau. It doesn’t matter what adjectival agreement you use. 

For most towns and cities, you would use à to evoke movement to the place or explain that you are already there, and de to explain that you come from/are coming from that location:

Je vais à Marseille – I am going to Marseille

Je suis à Marseille – I am in Marseille 

Je viens de Marseille – I come from Marseille 

But a select few settlements in France do carry a ‘Le’, a ‘La’ or a ‘Les’ as part of their name. 

In this case the preposition disappears when you begin formulating most sentences, and you structure the sentence as you would any other phrase with a ‘le’, ‘la’ or ‘les’ in it.


Le is the most common preposition for two names (probably something to do with the patriarchy) with Le Havre, La Mans, Le Touquet and the town of Le Tampon on the French overseas territory of La Réunion (more on that later)

A good example of this is Le Havre, a city in northern France where former Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, who is tipped to one day run for the French presidency, serves as mayor. 

Edouard Philippe’s twitter profile describes him as the ‘Maire du Havre’, using a masculine preposition

Here we can see that his location is Le Havre, and his Twitter handle is Philippe_LH (for Le Havre) but when he comes to describe his job the Le disappears.

Because Le Havre is masculine, he describes himself as the Maire du Havre rather than the Maire de Havre (Anne Hidalgo, for example would describe herself as the Maire de Paris). 

For place names with ‘Le’ in front of them, you should use prepositions like this:

Ja vais au Touquet – I am going to Le Touquet

Je suis au Touquet – I am in Le Touquet 

Je viens du Touquet – I am from Le Touquet 

Je parle du Touquet – I am talking about Le Touquet

Le Traité du Touquet – the Le Touquet Treaty


Some towns carry ‘La’ as part of their name. La Rochelle, the scenic town on the west coast of France known for its great seafood and rugby team, is one such example.

In French ‘à la‘ or ‘de la‘ is allowed, while ‘à le‘ becomes au and ‘de le’ becomes du. So for ‘feminine’ towns such as this, you should use the following prepositions:

Je vais à La Rochelle – I am going to La Rochelle

Je viens de La Rochelle – I am coming from La Rochelle 


And some places have ‘Les’ in front of their name, like Les Lilas, a commune in the suburbs of Paris. The name of this commune literally translates as ‘The Lilacs’ and was made famous by Serge Gainsbourg’s song Le Poinçonneur des Lilas, about a ticket puncher at the Metro station there. 

When talking about a place with ‘Les’ as part of the name, you must use a plural preposition like so:

Je suis le poinçonneur des Lilas – I am the ticket puncher of Lilas 

Je vais aux Lilas – I am going to Les Lilas

Il est né aux Lilas – He was born in Les Lilas  


Islands follow more complicated rules. 

If you are talking about going to one island in particular, you would use à or en. This has nothing to do with gender and is entirely randomised. For example:

Je vais à La Réunion – I am going to La Réunion 

Je vais en Corse – I am going to Corsica 

Generally speaking, when talking about one of the en islands, you would use the following structure to suggest movement from the place: 

Je viens de Corse – I am coming from Corsica 

For the à Islands, you would say:

Je viens de La Réunion – I am coming from La Réunion 

When talking about territories composed of multiple islands, you should use aux.

Je vais aux Maldives – I am going to the Maldives. 

No preposition needed 

There are some phrases in French which don’t require any a preposition at all. This doesn’t change when dealing with ‘Le’ places, such as Le Mans – which is famous for its car-racing track and Motorcycle Grand Prix. Phrases that don’t need a preposition include: 

Je visite Le Mans – I am visiting Le Mans

J’aime Le Mans – I like Le Mans

But for a preposition phrase, the town becomes simply Mans, as in Je vais au Mans.