For members


French word of the day: Cracher

Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad if the coronavirus crisis eradicated this habit.

French word of the day: Cracher
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know cracher?

Because it's frowned upon more than usual right now. One town in France has even made it a punishable offence.

What does it mean?

Cracher is the not-so-noble art of projeter de la salive et des mucosités par la bouche – 'projecting saliva and phlegm in the mouth'.

It is, what we in English know as 'spitting'. 

Cracher par terre – 'spitting on the ground' – is not something that has every made anyone particularly popular in France.

But, like in most societies, it has been tolerated as a slightly unhygienic bad habit. 

However since the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic it has become one of the ultimate symbols of transmission des bactéries – 'spreading bacteria'.

In one small commune near Lille in the north of France, spitting now means risking a €68 fine.


Use it like this

Tu craches par terre comme ça devant tout le monde? Mais tu es dégueulasse ! – Did you just spit on the ground in front of everyone? You're disgusting! 

Tu as fini dans la salle de bain? Faut que je crache le dentifrice dans le lavabos – Are you finished in the bathroom? I need to spit the toothpaste into the sink

Désolée, j'ai craché sans refléchir – Sorry, I spat without thinking


Cracher can be used about spitting other things than saliva.

Un volcan crache de la lave – a volcano spits lava

Un dragon crache du feu – a dragon spits fire

Un serpant crache du venin – a snake spits poison 

Or, you also have cracheurs de feu – fire eaters – the performers you sometimes spot on holiday.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Faire son cinéma

We're probably all tempted to do this after an unexpected, last-minute train or flight cancellation

French Expression of the Day: Faire son cinéma

Why do I need to know faire son cinéma?

Because you might be running out of words to describe your child’s latest meltdown.

What does it mean?

Faire son cinéma – usually pronounced something like fair sohn sin-ay-mah – translates literally to ‘to make one’s theatre,’ but in practice the expression is not about opening your own movie theatre. It is actually used to describe overly dramatic or excessive behaviour, and the best colloquial translation in English would be ‘to make a scene.’

You will likely hear this phrase in French in a particular context – when a parent is chastising their misbehaving child who is likely throwing a temper tantrum. But the expression is not limited to overly tired three year olds – it can also be used to describe melodramatic adults, or people simply hamming it up, as we might say in English. 

The origins of the expression are what you might expect – as actors are known for their exaggerated gestures and simulations, around the mid-20th century, this idea of exaggerated performance became an expression used for anyone (not just those paid for it). There is another similar French expression: Faire tout un cinéma, which translates to ‘making a big deal of something,’ and though similar, it is more so focused on the idea of exaggerating to amuse an audience.

Use it like this

Tu dois arrêter de faire ton cinéma, on était d’accord pour quitter le parc il y a cinq minutes. – You need to stop making a scene, we agreed we would be leaving the park five minutes ago.

La femme à côté de moi a vraiment fait son cinéma. Elle était tellement énervée que son hamburger était froid qu’elle a crié sur le serveur. – The woman next to me really made a scene. She was so upset her burger was cold that she screamed at the server.