French expression of the day: Ma grande

French expression of the day: Ma grande
It could sound like an insult, but calling someone 'grande' in France is actually an act of kindness.

Why do I need to know ma grande?

Don’t flinch if someone calls you ma grande, they’re not actually referring to your body size.

What does it mean?

Calling someone ma grande 'my big/tall [girl]' is a friendly and slightly colloquial way of addressing a female person in France.

Contrary to what you might think, the expression does not refer to receiver’s physical appearance. The French use ma grande in a similar way as the English use 'my dear'.

Ca va, ma grande? – How are you, dear?

Merci, ma grande – Thank you, dear.

It's an expression mostly used by older people, usually when addressing young girls rather than women. There is a masculine option (mon grand), but it's a bit rarer than the female version.

Young girls might find it slightly patronising if older men call them ma grande, especially if they don’t know them well. When in doubt, better to avoid it.


Young people tend to say grosse more than ma grande. But, whereas grande means 'tall' or 'big', grosse actually means 'fat'.

As a foreigner, the first time you hear grosse thrown around in a school yard you might be forgiven for flinching over what sounds like blunt body shaming. But grosse doesn’t refer to the receiver’s physical appearance either.

Ca va, grosse? – How are you, hun?

Merci, grosse – Thank you, babe.

It is however a very colloquial expression, so don't use it unless you're a) roughly the same age as the other person and b) know them very well. 

Similarly, boys use gros as a way of saying 'bro' or 'mate'.

Salut, gros – Hey, mate

A plus, gros – Later, bro

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