10 Common French Expressions with Faire That You Need to Know
In French, as in every language, there are certain expressions which crop up time and again.
Don’t go round and round wondering what these expressions mean. This is a sign from the universe.
If you really want to speak French like a local, you should probably think about committing these to memory.
Out of all of the expressions out there, the verb faire (to make/to do) is certainly featured in the most. Used in relation to everyday life, illness, social interactions and the weather, there’s rarely a conversation that goes by in which you don’t need to use the verb. Getting to grips with French expressions that use faire, then, can give you a serious boost in the language. But what exactly does the verb have to do with it?
Why Learn Faire Expressions
Faire is one of the most common verbs
Out of all of the verbs, faire is one of the ones that you’ll use in most forms of conversation. Describing a whole variety of different activities, it’s normally one that beginners learn fairly early on, opening up the door to a whole load of useful expressions and sayings. Getting to know a few less common expressions using faire can really help you in your language comprehension and will show just how flexible the verb can be.
It’s conjugated irregularly
Unlike other verbs ending in “re,” faire is conjugated in a slightly different way and it pays to learn the differences. As you ‘ll use it so often, it’s easy to get a hold of and will soon become second nature to you! Using the verb in the present tense is the first step you’ll take, and it can be conjugated in the following way.
Its meaning can vary
Unlike other verbs whose meanings are fixed in place, faire can change according to how and when it’s used. While it’s commonly used to express either “to do” or “to make,” the circumstances in which these verbs can be used varies a lot between French and English. While you might use faire to describe doing the food shopping—je fais les courses—you might also use it to say that you’re riding a bike—je fais du vélo. Seeing a number of different expressions used with faire will help you to begin to understand exactly how it might be used.
It’s used in many common French expressions
Luckily, the amount of expressions out there that use faire is huge; there’s always something to learn. Unlike English, which might use a variety of different verbs to describe activities and actions, many French expressions rely on the versatility of faire to do the explaining. By learning a few new phrases each day, you can begin to really get to grips with the French language and master faire.
10 Common French Expressions with Faire You Need to Know!
1. Faire la fête
If you’re going out with friends in France or are invited to a French party, it’s likely that you’ll hear the expression on va faire la fête (we’re going to party). Faire la fête literally means “to do the party”, although it’s used in a much more colloquial way in French speaking countries. As with many English language expressions, there’s no direct equivalent in French so in this case, they use faire to describe an action that they’re going to do or are doing.
J’ai beaucoup fait la fête la semaine dernière et je suis fatigué.
I partied a lot last week and I am tired.
2. Faire attention
If you’re ever amongst parents and young children, it’s likely that you’ll hear this expression being passed around a lot. If someone warns you to fais attention, they’re telling you to watch out, or to be careful with what you’re doing. Literally translating as “to do attention,” the expression translates as paying attention, but can be used to express being careful or taking care when you’re doing something, too. If you want to warn someone to faire attention to something in particular, you can follow it with à, à la or aux, depending on the thing you’re describing.
Fais attention aux voitures dans la rue !
Be careful of the cars on the street!
3. Faire le ménage
When you’re first learning French, this is a particularly good expression to remember and use and is also one of the most common in the language. Faire le ménage literally means “to do the household” but it’s used to describe doing the housework or the cleaning. Many processes around the house are also used alongside faire and can be constructed in the same way. Faire la lessive, for example, means to do the laundry, while faire le repassage translates as to do the ironing.
C’est pas juste ! Chaque jour, je dois faire le ménage tout seul !
It’s not fair! Everyday I have to do the housework on my own!
4. Faire la grasse matinée
If you’re in a French-speaking country over the weekend, then it’s expected that you’ll faire la grasse matinée. Translating literally to “to do the fat morning,” the expression is used when you want to lay around in in the morning.
While the expression seems very different between French and English, it’s not hard to understand what it means, once you’re aware of the answer! Having a fat morning might equate to being lazy or lazing around the house, something that seems lacking in energy. You might hear French natives using the slang expression faire la grasse mat’, which is used to express the same thing.
Ce week-end, je vais faire la grasse matinée—c’était fatigant, la semaine.
This weekend, I will lay around—this week was tiring.
5. Faire la tête
While you might have guessed the literal meaning of this expression, the reality that it expresses might not be so clear at first. Faire la tête translates to say “to do the head” and might be easily mistaken for another similar expression, faire la fête. While the latter is used to describe something positive, however, the former isn’t quite so happy. If you hear this expression, someone is probably describing being in a bad mood or describing someone else who’s sulking. If you hear it in relation to yourself, watch out!
Il était très malpoli aujourd’hui. Je pense qu’il fait la tête.
He was very rude today. I think he is in a bad mood.
6. Faire beau/mauvais
Sometimes, faire is used to describe things in the environment and if you want to understand the weather, it’s worth paying closer attention to the verb. If someone exclaims that il fait beau aujourd’hui, they’re probably talking about the good weather that you’re having. The expressions faire beau or faire mauvais literally translate to say “it makes beautiful” or “it makes bad,” but are used to express having good or bad weather during the day.
Je suis super content aujourd’hui—il fait vraiment beau !
I am really happy today—the weather is really beautiful!
7. Faire la sourde oreille
This French expression is a little more unusual and unless you’re well accustomed to the language, it’s unlikely that you’ll have heard it before. Once you pick it up, however, you can really begin to show off your French!
Faire la sourde oreille means literally “to make a deaf ear” and like its English equivalent—to turn a deaf ear—isn’t used to describe a real situation. If you fais la sourde oreille, it means that you’re not listening to someone else’s advice or conversation when they’re trying to get through to you. As in English countries, doing so is very rude, so be careful not to have this expression used against you!
Je lui ai téléphoné ce matin, mais il a fait la sourde oreille.
I called him this morning, but he turned a deaf ear.
8. Faire de la peine à quelqu’un
If you’ve been learning French for a little while, this expression might be a little more obvious to you and as long as you know a few of the words in the sentence, it’s easy to determine what might be being described.
Faire de la peine à quelqu’un can be translated as “to do the pain to someone” but it’s used to describe hurting someone, or making them feel sad. Like its English language equivalent—it saddens me—the expression is rarely used in colloquial conversation and might be more commonly found in formal French or French literature. If you do hear this, however, it might be worth investigating further; French speakers would rarely bring it out if they didn’t mean it!
Il m’a boudé toute la journée, ça me fait de la peine.
He ignored me all day, it makes me sad.
9. Faire des économies
If you’re a student in France, it’s likely that you’ll want to take this expression and use it to your advantage, especially if you’re living in one of the bigger cities! Faire des économies translates literally as “to do the savings” but isn’t just applicable to financial issues. If you want to save on your water, energy or shopping habit, you can use this expression to share your intentions with others. If you’re worried about money and want to seek financial advice, this expression might come in particularly useful!
Je voudrais aller en vacances donc je dois faire des économies.
I would like to go on holiday, so I must save.
10. Faire la bise
Non-French people usually cringe at the thought of the bise and unless you’ve grown up kissing strangers, doing so can feel like a really strange habit. Faire la bise literally means “to make the kiss,” but is used to describe the specific cheek kissing greeting that French natives will do to one another when they meet and part.
While it’s common to give two kisses (one on each cheek), some people will go in for three or four, so it’s worth paying attention to! Failure to do the bise can also result in a French person believing you to be really rude so it’s always worth using it to say both hello and goodbye to someone.
Il était très malpoli ! Il n’a pas fait la bise.
He was very rude! He didn’t greet me by kissing.
Getting to grips with faire and all of its variations will really help you on the road to your French language goal.
Incorporating a few new expressions into your routine might really freshen up your conversation and lead to new areas of conversation. Like all other languages, the expressions native to France vary hugely and showing some understanding of how they work will really set you apart from other learners.
There’s a whole world of faire
expressions out there. Why not pick a few up today?
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