French Word of the Day: genre

It’s like… you know… sort of… one of those words you can use when you’re not quite sure how to say what you mean.

French Word of the Day: genre
Photo: Depositphotos

Why do I need to know genre?

Genre is used all the time in conversation in France and it's one of those words that great to say when you want to sound French even when you're not sure how to express yourself. 

What does it mean?

Genre, besides 'gender', can be roughly translated as ‘type’, which may explain why we use it in English to categorize films and novels.

It has many uses in French, but the one we’re discussing here is a particular one: genre is often used as a filler word to imply a certain degree of vagueness or nonchalance, similar to the way English speakers will (over) use the word ‘like’.

So genre can precede an estimation, and mean ‘about’ or ‘more or less’. 

For example, Le mec faisait, genre, 2 mètres et 120 kilos. (The guy was, like, 6 foot 6 and 260 pounds.)

Or On a bu genre 5 bouteilles de vin avant de sortir. (We drank like 5 bottles of wine before going out.)

It can also be used to vaguely describe a certain ‘type’, often when giving examples, as in the following example: J’aime bien les chanteuses françaises genre Zaz ou Carla Bruni. (I like French singers, like, Zaz or Carla Bruni.)

Or, Je la trouve prétentieuse, genre trop belle pour traîner avec des gens comme nous. (I find her pretentious, like, too beautiful to hang out with people like us.)

Since genre is a filler word, you may also hear it pop up in conversation without any real meaning or explanation, just as you’ll hear ‘like’ overused in English.

And as you can probably tell, using genre in this way probably won’t make you sound more educated or professional (though it may make you sound more natural or laid-back), so it’s probably best to save it for informal social situations or conversations with teenagers you’re not responsible for.

How is it pronounced?

With most French speakers, you will probably notice that the -re at the end of genre pretty much disappears, leaving you with a nasally ‘jah(n)’.

For an example, check out this video from French-language instruction Youtubers Damon and Jo (the genre explanation runs from 1:55-2:29):


Member comments

  1. In one of Truffaut’s later films (“L’Amour en fuite” perhaps?) I recall that Jean-Pierre Leaud is followed on to a train by a private detective described by Marie-France Pisier as ‘Un type genre Lino Ventura’. Played, of course, by Lino Ventura.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


French Phrase of the Day: Syndrome de la bonne élève

Why being a good pupil can sometimes be … bad.

French Phrase of the Day: Syndrome de la bonne élève

Why do I need to know Syndrome de la bonne élève?

Feeling under-valued at work despite doing everything – and more – asked of you? You may have ‘good student syndrome’.

What does it mean?

Syndrome de la bonne élève – pronounced sin-dromm de la bon ell-evv – translates, as we’ve already hinted, as good student syndrome. 

You may well also see it written as syndrome du bon élève (pronounced sin-dromm doo bon ell-evv) – but this is predominantly a female issue.

It refers to someone in the workplace who tries their hardest to work to the rules, do all the jobs asked of them – and more – and yet is overlooked in favour of co-workers who don’t necessarily put in the same hard graft.

It’s not an official ‘syndrome’, but mental health experts do recognise it in many people – particularly women.

It is a hangover, according to features in magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, from school days when girls are considered to be harder workers and less trouble than their boy counterparts.

Marie Claire labelled it a “destructive perfectionism … which affects the mental health of the women they become, while preventing them from embracing positions of responsibility’.’

Use it like this

Le syndrome de la bonne élève touche essentiellement les femmes dans le monde occidental. – Good student syndrome mainly affects women in the Western world.

Cette question d’éducation est d’autant plus marquante que le syndrome du « bon élève » affecte généralement les femmes – This question of education is all the more striking because “good student” syndrome generally affects women