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FRENCH LANGUAGE

‘Putain de bordel de merde’: How to use the F-word in French

If there was a World Cup of swearing, the English language would surely win with the F-word - but what's the best way to translate the myriad of F-word phrases into French? We have prepared this guide, which unsurprisingly contains a lot of explicit language.

French tennis player, Adrian Mannarino, reacts angrily on the court.
French tennis player, Adrian Mannarino, reacts angrily on the court. Could he be about to swear? (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP)

Perhaps one of the reasons why the French – and many other Europeans – like to use ‘f*ck’ is the word’s incredible versatility. It can be a noun, a verb or an adverb and can mean that something is incredibly good, incredibly bad and virtually everything in between.

French does have its own very versatile swearword – the majestic putain – but it doesn’t quite have the range of the F-word.

We’ve therefore put together this very foul-mouthed guide on the best ways to say Fuck in French.

Surprise

Say you’ve spilled hot coffee on yourself, you’ve just discovered that the préfecture is closed after you travelled two hours to get there or someone is showing you something particularly insane on Twitter – you need an F-word for surprise, shock or incredulity.

Putain – F*ck [this literally translates as ‘whore’ but is used in French more as we would use f*ck. If you want to actually call someone a whore, you use pute. Putain also has lots of non-f*ck uses]

Fait chier – F*ck [literally – to make shit]

Merde – F*ck [shit] 

C’est quoi ce bordel? – What the f*ck? [what is this brothel?]

Tu te fous de ma gueule? – Are you f*cking with me? 

Anger

Feel the need to shout abuse at someone or just express your dissatisfaction with the driving skills of your fellow motorists? Then you want an angry f*ck. 

Putain de bordel de merde – For f*ck’s sake [the literal translation here is the majestic ‘whore of the brothel of shit’]

Va te faire foutre – F*ck off

Va te faire enculer – Go F*ck yourself up the a**. 

Ferme ta gueule – Shut the f*ck up [shut your jaws]

Casse toi – F*ck off 

Je vais te niquer/défoncer – I will fuck you up 

Je t’emmerde – F*ck you [I put you in the shit]

Nique ta mère – F*ck your mum 

Nique ta race – F*ck you [literally this means f*ck your race – but the expression is commonly used between friends of the same ethnicity] 

Dégages-toi – F*ck off

Sex

In English the verb ‘to f*ck’ is used an an explicit way to talk about having sex. In French there’s less crossover between sex phrases and angry/surprised phrases, although niquer is a notable exception that can be used for both. Despite its origin as a word for a prostitute, putain is virtually never used in a sexual way.

Baiser – F*ck [used to talk about two people who have had sex, or perhaps a person that you’ve had sex with. It’s not in itself offensive, although it is explicit] 

Niquer/Poutrer/foutre/défoncer – F*ck [again to have sex with, but more explicit and often aggressive]

Enculer – F*ck [to have anal sex with, can be simply descriptive but is often used as an insult or threat]

Dismissal

Really, really don’t care about your neighbours’ ongoing dispute over recycling rules? If you have already explained that you’re not interested you may need to wheel out the nuclear option and tell them that you don’t give a f*ck. 

Je m’en fous – I don’t give a f*ck 

Je m’en bat les couilles – I don’t give a f*ck [literally – I beat it against my balls] 

J’en ai rien à branler – I don’t give a f*ck [I have nothing to masturbate]

Mistakes

As a foreigner in France you’re highly likely to f*ck up from time to time, there’s a lot to get your head around. If you’re dealing with the mairie you might want to stick to the more polite j’ai fait une erreur, but there are times when you need to let rip and explain just how badly you have messed this up.

J’ai déconné – I f*cked up 

J’ai merdé – I f*cked up [I sh*tted] 

J’ai fait de grosses conneries – I really f*cked up 

J’ai foiré – I f*cked up 

J’ai foutu le bordel – I made a f*cking mess

Inebriation 

Don’t believe those people who try to tell you that the French elegantly sip one glass of wine all evening. Sure, some do but others like to get drunk and the French language has a nice variety of phrases to describe the state of being inebriated, drunk, battered or simply f*cked.

Je suis défoncé/foncedé – I am f*cked 

Je suis boussilé – I am f*cked [wrecked]

Je suis foutu – I am f*cked up 

And a note on F*ck

The French like to use the English word f*ck – in fact they use it a lot and in situations that to an English speaker seem rather inappropriate. For various reasons – perhaps because they tend to translate it as putain which isn’t always particularly strong, perhaps simply because foreign words seem less shocking – the French generally have no conception of how strong f*ck is.

You’ll hear it said in front of kids, you’ll even see kids wearing slogan T-shirts with it on.

READ MORE Why do the French love to say ‘f**k’ so much?

And just in case anyone was under the impression that the French are a polite nation who don’t do in for much swearing, check out this video from a group of French humorists known as Les inconnus – who are sometimes compared to Monty Python. 

The clip features more than one minute of dialogue composed uniquely of the same three curses.  

Enjoy!

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FRENCH LANGUAGE

Revealed: The simple trick to get the gender of French nouns (mostly) right

The le, the la and the l’ugly - for anyone learning the language French nouns can be a nightmare to master, but there is a technique that can make it simpler. Although we're not promising that there are no exceptions.

Revealed: The simple trick to get the gender of French nouns (mostly) right

Unlike German, which has been developed over centuries by Germans and is therefore logical, there appears to be little in the way of rhyme or reason to whether French nouns are masculine (le / un), or feminine (la / une).

Anglophones find it endlessly hilarious that words like bite (a slang term for penis) are feminine while breasts and vagina are both masculine (le sein, le vagin) but French people don’t really get the joke, because they don’t see masculine or feminine in grammar terms as having anything to do with men, women, sex or gender.

Instead, it’s really more to do with the construction of the word and its spelling, which is where the ’80 percent trick’ comes in . . . 

Rules – what are rules?

Proof that French nouns don’t follow sensible rules comes with the fact that the noun feminism is masculine (le féminisme), and the noun masculinity is feminine (la masculinité).

Meanwhile, hoary old guardians of the French language, the Académie française, ruled that Covid (the word) is feminine (la covid) because it’s an illness (une maladie). But dictionaries Le Larousse and Le Robert list it as masculine (le covid) because it’s a virus (un virus). If the gatekeepers of French cannot agree, and if the genders of the nouns themselves don’t necessarily make complete sense, what hope is there for the rest of us?

And don’t get us started on synonyms – for example it’s une chaise (a chair – feminine) but un fauteuil (an armchair – masculine). 

The thing is, gender really does matter in the French language. The gender of a noun (whether it’s a le or la word) influences any related pronouns, adjectives and verbs … and it even completely changes the meaning of some words.

Adjectives must agree

Adjectives in French conform to the gender and the quantity of the noun – a masculine plural noun needs a masculine plural adjective. Another bit that makes sense, right?

Most follow a regular pattern – if the masculine adjective ends with the letter –c (blanc / blancs), then the feminine ending is –che (blanche / blanches). An –f ending to a masculine adjective becomes –ve in the feminine. A masculine adjective ending with –eux leads to a feminine adjective ending of –euse.

Except these…

And then there are those well-known, often-used adjectives that follow rules entirely of their own making. We give you:

Beautiful: beau, bel, belle, beaux, belles

New: nouveau, nouvel, nouvelle, nouveaux, nouvelles

Old: vieux, vieil, vieille, vieux, vieilles

You just have to learn them. Sorry.

Gender critical

Here are just a few examples of how the gender of a word changes what it is. Mi-temps (masculine) means part-time, as in part-time job; mi-temps (feminine) means halftime in sport. La physique is the science; le physique refers to someone’s body shape. La somme – when it’s not the place in northern France – is the total sum of, for example, money; le somme is a nap, or 40 winks.

Places and animals

But there are some rules that are (almost) hard and fast.

Most place names are masculine. Except those places that end with the letter e – they are usually feminine. Apart from a few, such as…

  • le Mexique (Mexico)
  • le Bélize (Belize)
  • le Mozambique (Mozambique)
  • le Zaïre (Zaire)
  • le Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe)

If you’re talking about animals, the advice is to go with the sex of the animal you’re discussing – unless you’re talking about, for example, a mouse (la souris, all the time) or a horse (le cheval)

Derivatives

Nouns that derive from verbs – they usually end with eur, like l’aspirateur or l’ordinateur – are masculine. 

But nouns that come from adjectives that also usually end with eur, like la largeur, are feminine.

Gender reveal

But don’t throw those French books away just yet. Before you get completely downhearted and set out to learn Spanish instead, there is a trick that means you’ll be right well over half the time.

It’s all to do with endings. According to a study by linguists at Canada’s McGill University, the end of a French noun gives away its gender in at least 80 percent of cases.

The 80 percent trick

Treat words that end in -e or -ion as feminine … Except those that end in -age, -ege, -é, or -isme (these are endings that indicate masculine words).

The rest of them – especially those that end with a consonant – are masculine. Apart from the exceptions, obviously.

Here is that McGill list in full – and if you learn all these, the Canadians promise that you will be right 90 percent of the time. That’s a better record than most actual French people,according to a 2018 study. 

Typical masculine noun endings:

  • -an, -and, -ant, -ent, -in, -int, -om, -ond, -ont, -on (but not after s/c)
  • -eau, -au, -aud, -aut, -o, -os, -ot
  • -ai, -ais, -ait, -es, -et
  • -ou, -out, -out, -oux
  • -i, -il, -it, -is, -y
  • -at, -as, -ois, -oit
  • -u, -us, -ut, -eu
  • -er, -é after c
  • -age, -ege, – ème, -ome, -aume, -isme
  • -as, -is, -os, -us, -ex
  • -it, -est
  • -al, -el, -il, -ol, -eul, -all
  • -if, -ef
  •  -ac, -ic, -oc, -uc
  • -am, -um, -en
  • -air, -er, -erf, -ert, -ar, -arc, -ars, -art, -our, -ours, -or, -ord, -ors, -ort, -ir, -oir, -eur
  • (if animate)
  • -ail, -eil, -euil, -ueil
  • -ing

Typical feminine noun endings:

  •  -aie, -oue, -eue, -ion, -te, – ée, -ie, -ue
  • -asse, -ace, -esse, -ece, -aisse, -isse/-ice, -ousse, -ance, -anse, -ence, -once
  •  -enne, -onne, -une, -ine, -aine, -eine, -erne
  • -ande, -ende, -onde, -ade, -ude, -arde, -orde
  • -euse, -ouse, -ase, -aise, -ese, -oise, -ise, -yse, -ose, -use
  •  -ache, -iche, -eche, -oche, -uche, -ouche, -anche
  • -ave, -eve, -ive
  •  -iere, -ure, -eure
  • -ette, -ete, – ête, -atte, -otte, -oute, -orte, -ante, -ente, -inte, -onte
  • -alle, -elle, -ille, -olle
  • -aille, -eille, -ouille
  • -appe, -ampe, -ombe
  • -igue

See? Simple! 

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