Can fruit teach you French?
Sure, fruit is delicious and certainly healthy, but how will this help your French in the long term?
It’s not just about memorizing the names of different fruits, although that’s a necessary foundation.
It’s about spreading fresh confiture à la framboise (raspberry jam) on your slice of baguette for breakfast.
It’s about purchasing quality produce at one of France’s many open-air markets.
It’s about tasting a piece of French culture.
No, the French didn’t invent fruit, but they do value good food, and that definitely includes fruit, whether it’s a glass of fresh-squeezed jus d’orange (orange juice) in the morning, des raisins (grapes) with lunch or une tarte aux pommes (apple tart) for dessert.
There are even several funny French expressions featuring fruit.
Are you hungry—I mean, ready—to add some fruit to your French?
Here, we’ll show you ways to put your newfound knowledge into practice, introduce you to 20 fruits in French, teach you about buying fruit in France and, finally, help you talk about fruit in drinks and food.
On y va! (Let’s go!)
Where to Practice Fruits in French
Remembering the names of fruits will help you in many contexts—reading labels at a grocery store, ordering at a restaurant, finding the right pastry at a bakery, etc.
But it takes practice. Once you’ve read the names of the fruit below—or if you’re already familiar with some French fruits—try a few of these resources to solidify your learning.
- FrenchPod101.com. Here, you’ll find a flashcard set with 22 fruits. Each word has example sentences and an audio recording so you can hear the pronunciation. FrenchPod101.com has plenty of other cool resources too, like videos and audio recordings. In addition to vocabulary and grammar, you’ll learn interesting French cultural lessons. Plus, they have learning tools, like flashcards and PDF lesson notes, to help you study.
- FluentU French. Here, you’ll learn some fruit idioms, allowing you to both practice the vocabulary in this post and learn related expressions that native speakers use. Apart from the blog, you can also use FluentU to see French vocabulary used in authentic contexts. FluentU takes real-world videos—like movie trailers, music videos, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons. You can use the interactive subtitles to find out more about a word and then practice what you’ve learned with customized vocabulary lists, dynamic flashcard sets and fun quizzes.
- ToLearnFrench.com. This site has a straightforward matching quiz. You’ll see a picture of a piece of fruit (the graphics might be a bit corny, but you’ll get the point) and choose the correct French word for it.
- French Games. This site offers a basic tutorial of fruit names, after which you can take a quiz or, as the website’s name implies, play games incorporating the vocabulary.
- Learn French with Alexa. This video teaches you the names of ten fruits and includes an oral quiz, a beneficial way to hear the words and review.
- Ouest-France. Here’s an article, in French, about a survey conducted to discover what the 10 most popular fruits are in France. If you’re a beginner learner, you probably won’t be able to read it entirely, but you can at least identify what the top 10 fruits are and get a sense of the importance of fruit in French culture.
Naming, Buying and Enjoying Fruits in French: A Delicious Guide for the Knowledge-hungry Learner
The Most Common Fruits in French
Let’s get to it, then. We’ll start with some of the fruits most commonly consumed in France on their own, as part of a dish or both.
1. Un abricot (An apricot)
2. Une banane (A banana)
3. Une cerise (A cherry)
4. Un citron (A lemon)
5. Une fraise (A strawberry)
6. Une framboise (A raspberry)
7. Les fruits rouges (Red berries)
This term, literally “red fruits,” refers to a mix of berries, such as strawberries or raspberries, and is commonly associated with baked goods.
8. Une orange (An orange)
9. Une pêche (A peach)
Be careful! Don’t confuse the name of the fruit with le péché (sin). Rest assured, eating a peach is not sinful.
10. Une poire (A pear)
11. Une pomme (An apple)
12. Un raisin (A grape)
No, that wasn’t a typo. That’s an example of a “false friend,” a foreign word that sounds like an English word but means something quite different.
The French word to use for a raisin is un raisin sec, which literally means “a dry grape.”
13. Une tomate (A tomato)
I am aware of the controversy over the status of tomatoes.
Tomato is included here because, whether fruit or vegetable, it’s quite popular in French cuisine and is a key word to recognize.
Adventurous Fruits in French
The common fruits above give you a solid foundation, but if you want to expand your culinary horizons, these more exotic or adventurous fruits will take you to the next level.
14. Un ananas (A pineapple)
15. Un avocat (An avocado)
Beware: This is a homonym, meaning that un avocat, pronounced the same way and even spelled the same way, also means “a lawyer.”
Fortunately, “avocado” and “lawyer” are so different that context should clearly indicate which definition is intended.
16. Un kiwi (A kiwi)
17. Une mangue (A mango)
18. Une noix de coco (A coconut)
19. Un pamplemousse (A grapefruit)
20. Une pastèque (A watermelon)
How to Buy Fruit in France
Now that your mouth is watering at the prospect of biting into a juicy pastèque (watermelon) or ananas (pineapple), you’ll need to go out and purchase some fruit.
There are two main options: a traditional marché en plein air (open-air market) or le supermarché (the supermarket).
Shopping at an Open-air Market
An outdoor market is similar to a “farmer’s market” in the US. Vendors offer a dazzling variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes, there are also stands boasting local cheeses, meats or baked goods.
So how do you take advantage of this marvelous French institution?
Remember that France uses the metric system, so fruit is usually sold by the kilogram. Occasionally, you might see une livre, which is the French term for the American unit “pound.”
You can also ask for a certain number of whole fruits or, for berries, a certain number of barquettes (trays).
Browsing in the market is more personal than in a large grocery store. You’ll tell the vendor what you want, and you’re welcome to ask questions about the merchandise or make special requests (size, ripeness, etc).
Here are a few sample phrases you can customize to get just the right product:
Je voudrais cinq pommes. (I would like five apples.)
Avez-vous des bananes mûres? (Do you have ripe bananas?)
Est-ce que les tomates sont bio? (Are the tomatoes organic?)
Je prendrai deux barquettes de fraises. (I’ll take two trays of strawberries.)
Je vous dois combien? (How much do I owe you?)
Shopping at a Supermarket
These days, larger supermarkets are quite common and certainly convenient.
There, you’ll find a produce section brimming with various options, usually priced by kilogram.
As in an American grocery store, you’ll pick the fruits you desire and place them in a plastic bag.
However, there’s an important difference.
In most large stores, you’re expected to take the produce to one of the digital scales in that section.
You’ll choose the appropriate fruit on the screen (remembering the names of the fruits will greatly help you!) and place the bag on the scale.
The machine will weigh them, tell you the price and print a label to place on the bag so the cashier can scan it at the register.
If your fruit doesn’t have this label, the cashier may send you back to the produce area. This happened to me on my first trip to France.
But don’t worry, it’s a common, forgivable mistake. You certainly wouldn’t be the first one to forget or not understand the process.
How to Talk About Fruit in Drinks and Cuisine
As satisfying as biting into a plain, crisp apple can be, fruit is highly versatile and comes in many forms.
Here, we’ll look at common ways fruit is consumed in France so you’re better equipped to order at a café or choose your favorite flavor at a store.
Talking About Fruit Juices
Le jus de followed by the name of a fruit is how one would describe a certain kind of juice.
For instance, a traditional French breakfast might include un croissant (a croissant), un café (a coffee) and un jus d’orange (orange juice).
Many cafés offer a variety of fresh juices, from jus de pomme (apple juice) to the more exotic jus d’ananas (pineapple juice).
Talking About Tea Infused with Fruit
You may have learned that le thé means “tea,” which is true unless you’re talking about herbal tea. In English, we use “tea” for almost any beverage in which plants are steeped in hot water.
The French are more precise. Thé only denotes the drink made from the camellia sinensis plant, more widely known as black tea or green tea. (Yes, I’m a tea snob.)
A beverage made by adding hot water to dried herbs or fruits is properly called either une tisane or une infusion. The two terms are relatively interchangeable.
To talk about the drink’s contents, you’d again employ de (of, from) and the name of a fruit. For instance, you might unwind with une tisane de citron et de gingembre (lemon ginger tea).
Talking About Jam
French bread is wonderful—crisp on the outside, soft as a cloud on the inside. La confiture (jam) could make it even grander.
Once more, de and a type of fruit would specify the jam’s contents, as in la confiture de framboise (raspberry jam).
Jam of all kinds is highly popular in France, another sign of the French love affair with fruit. They even have a cookbook devoted to jam.
Asking for Fruit-flavored Food
Unfortunately, we cannot cover every use of fruit in French cuisine! One last handy phrase that’ll help you recognize the flavor of many foods is au (a combination of à and le), à la and aux (a combination of à and les).
Each of these literally means “to the,” but when followed by a fruit or flavor, like chocolat (chocolate), the phrase expresses what the food tastes like.
You’ll find this highly versatile construction with all kinds of food, especially sweets.
So, what will it be? La glace à la fraise (strawberry ice cream), la tarte aux fruits rouges (berry tart) or un macaron à la noix de coco (coconut macaron)?
These French fruit words don’t simply make up another vocabulary list to memorize.
They’re an invitation to experience French culture and engage your senses.
Rachel Larsen is a lifelong francophile and freelance writer who dreams of living in France one day. She’s currently a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.
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