French Expression of the Day: Boire un coup

The Local
The Local - [email protected]
French Expression of the Day: Boire un coup
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

It's likely that sooner or later someone will suggest this, so it's important to know what you're agreeing to.


Why do I need to know boire un coup ?

Because at some point or another a French person will invite you to do this. 

What does it mean?

Boire un coup – pronounced bwahr uhn koo – translates to ‘drink a shot’ or ‘drink a blow.’ In common usage, the phrase means to have or get a drink - usually implied to be an alcoholic beverage. 

This is a phrase you will likely hear in less formal settings, among friends - or even on the street if someone is trying to pick you up - and it's particularly common in Paris. 


It is particularly common amongst the younger generation, though the expression has been used for decades. Often it might be posed to you as a question or suggestion.

The word un coup is very flexible in French, with several different meanings depending on the context. You might have heard of ‘coup de foudre’ (love at first sight) or ‘tout d’un coup’ (all of a sudden). These use the word’s definition as a sudden shock or rapid blow, but in the context of boire un coup, the word carries a bit of a different meaning.

Coming from old French, where ‘a blow’ (un coup) was also synonymous with the quantity of liquid a person could drink in one go, over time the word went on to represent a glass or pint, usually shared amongst friends. 

Another French synonym for this expression would be ‘Boire un verre' (drink a glass). 

Use it like this

Tu veux aller boire un coup après le travail ? – Do you want to go grab a drink after work?

On a commencé a boire des coups, et au cours de la nuit, je me suis senti de plus en plus mal. - We started drinking, and throughout the night I started feeling worse and worse.


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