For members


French Word of the Day: Choper

From illness to stealing to trying out your best pick-up lines, this is a very versatile French verb.

French Word of the Day: Choper
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know choper?

Because there’s a pandemic, but even when (if?) it’s over, illness will always be with us. 

What does it mean?

Choper, pronounced “shop-eh”, is a slang verb that means “to catch”, typically in relation to an illness. It’s informal so you won’t hear it in government health briefings, but it’s not offensive. 

It is thought to come from the Old French, chopper, which meant “to stumble/to fall”. 

While choper is most commonly used to talk about illness, it can also be used to talk about stealing, getting arrested or seducing someone. 

On m’a chopé mon vélo – They stole my bike 

Il s’est fait choper par les flics en sortant de chez lui – He was arrested by the police when he left his house

Tous les samedis soir, vous sortez en boite pour essayer de choper des meufs – Every Saturday night, you go to the nightclub to try and chat up women 

While choper can be used in multiple contexts, the verb conveys a general sense of “taking”: your health; your possession; your freedom; or perhaps in the last example, your phone number. 

The verlan of choper is pécho. When used in the verlan form, this word is generally only applied in the romantic sense. 

By and large, if you are the one to choper, you are the one taking. If you have been chopé, you are having something taken from you. 

Use it like this

As previously mentioned, this verb is mostly used to talk about getting ill. 

J’ai chopé le covid – I have caught covid

Peut-on chopé le covid deux fois? – Can you catch Covid twice? 

Afin de ne pas choper le covid, il faut respecter les gestes barrières – To avoid catching Covid, you must respect barrier gestures 


Attraper une maladie – To catch an illness 

Être covidé – To have Covid 

Être infecté – To be infected

Être contaminé – To be contaminated

Être empoisonner – To be poisoned 

Être intoxiqué – To be poisoned 

Member comments

  1. “The verlan of choper is pécho.” As if French weren’t difficult enough to learn, the kids had to add verlan mdr

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

This expression is more than just your last order at the boulangerie.

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

Why do I need to know tarte à la crème ?

Because if someone uses this phrase to describe you, you should probably be a bit offended.

What does it mean?

Tarte à la crème – pronounced tart ah lah krem – literally refers to a cream filled tart, or a custard tart, in English. However, this expression has more to do than just baking. It is another way of describing something that is boring, predictable or commonplace.

This expression comes straight from Moliere himself. In the 17th century, there was a popular rhyming game called “Corbillon.” The phrase “Je vous passe mon corbillon” (I pass you by corbillon) is said, and then it is followed by “Qu’y met-on?” (What does one put on it?) To keep the rhyme up, people must respond with something ending in an -ON sound.

In the play, “L’Ecole des Femmes” (The School of Wives), one character says the ideal woman would respond to the question with “tarte à la crème” which is obviously the wrong answer. The right answer would be tarte à la citron (lemon tart). Molière did this on purpose to poke fun at the fact that disgruntled fans would send poor actors cream tarts to express their frustration.

It was a way of ridiculing his critics and showing he was unimpressed by their method of showing discontentment at his plays. Over time, the phrase went on to describe things that are commonplace or boring. It is often used to describe entertainment related topics, such as books, movies, or plays.

A synonym for this phrase in French might be banal and in English you might say something is ‘vanilla’ to describe something that is fairly unexciting.

Use it like this

Le film était vraiment tarte à la crème. Je ne recommande pas d’aller le voir au cinéma, vous pouvez attendre de le voir une fois qu’il sera gratuit en ligne. – The movie was really boring. I don’t recommend going to see it at the movies, you can simply wait to see it once it is free online.

Je pense que l’album est tarte à la crème. Elle a pris tellement d’idées d’autres artistes que ce n’est vraiment pas original du tout. – I think the album is predictable. She really took plenty of ideas from other artists and it was not original at all.