Language and culture For Members

Seven phrases to help you fit in on a night out in France

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
Seven phrases to help you fit in on a night out in France
All photos: AFP

Over the festive period it's not beyond the realms of possibility that you will find yourself on a night out with French friends or colleagues, so we asked French blogger Sacha Aulagnier to help us out with some phrases you might hear.


There's a popular theory that France doesn't really have a drinking culture, but while it's true that you'll see less binge drinking in France than in many other countries French people - especially younger ones - are in fact very fond of a night out drinking.

If you're invited to join them, here are a few phrases you can slip in to conversation to make you sound cool

READ ALSO Five TV series that will help you speak French like the locals

1.  Tiser

This is French slang for drinking, roughly equivalent to boozing in English. 

As-tu à tiser ce soir? - Do you have drinks tonight?

If you want to remain more formal the French word for alcohol is alcool but if you're being invited out for drinks it's likely someone will say tu veux un verre? - do you fancy a drink?

2. Caisse

This French word's more usual meaning is a checkout or till, but it also has some slang meanings.

It can be used as a slang word for car, but can also be used when someone has had too much to drink.

'Drunk' is not however the best way to translate this expression into English. A more accurate equivalent could be “partying hard” or maybe "caning it". 

Tu as vu Nicolas aujourd'hui? Non, mais carrément il avait pris une caisse pendant la soirée.

Have you seen Nicolas today? No, but he was really caning it during the party.

If you're going to use the word caisse, it is always paired with the verb prendre (to take).

If you're looking for a more straightforward way to say drunk you can use ivre - as in the Facebook group Ivre, il . . . (Drunk, he . . .) which collects local newspaper headlines from around France about the antics of drunk people.

READ ALSO The drunken antics that prove that France is embracing binge drinking

3. Résoi

This is a verlan (reverse French slang) version of the French word soirée - party.

So if you're planning to host an event that is perhaps a little less formal, with fewer canapés and more binge drinking, résoi would be a good way to describe it.

Résoi chez moi ce soir, mecs - Party at my place tonight guys.

There is another verlan version for party which is teuf, an inverted version of fête, but it is less commonly used than résoi.

4. Cloppe

If you're on a night out with French people it's likely to involve not only drinking but smoking. As you might know, French people smoke a lot especially during a party and une cloppe is a slang term for cigarette similar to the English ciggie, smoke or fag.  

If you haven't brought your own and want to smoke someone else's French people tend to use the verb 'to tax' for this.

Je peux te taxer une cloppe? Can I nick a ciggy/ Can I bum a smoke?

5. Sam

As a responsible drinker you would not of course be thinking of drinking and driving, so you will need a Sam. This is French slang for the person who is not going to drink, or the designated driver for the evening.

The expression comes from a French government road safety campaign to promote driving without drinking. The acronym stands for Sans Accidents Mortels (no fatal accidents).

Qui se fait Sam ce soir ? Pas question, je ne fais pas Sam, c'est mon anniversaire ! - Who's the designated driver for tonight? No way, I'm not being the one who drives, it's my birthday!

6. PLS

And of course if you're really responsible you might also want to know this, in case someone takes the drinking a little bit too far.

PLS stands for Position Latéral de Sécurité - also known as the recovery position in which you should place a drunk person so they do not run the risk of choking on their own vomit. While you will hopefully never have to use this on a night out, the phrase PLS has entered more common usage to describe the process of recovering from a night out.

Aujourd'hui je ne fais rien, je suis en PLS sur mon canapé à regarder Netflix - Today I'm not doing anything, I'm recovering on the couch, watching Netflix

7. Gueule de bois

If things aren't quite bad enough that you require a whole day to recover, but you are still feeling a little fragile then you have a gueule de bois - hangover.

This literally translates as a 'wooden face' but is used to describe the tender head, churning nausea and vague sense of existential dread that follows a good night out. Simply speaking, a hangover.

J'ai la gueule de bois aujourd'hui, je crois que j'ai bu trop de vin chaud à la fête de Noël - I feel hungover today, I think I drank to much mulled wine at the Christmas party.

If you've found these useful, head to Sacha Aulangier's blog to learn more about French culture and language.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also