French Expressions With Ménage

Ménage is a confusing, interesting French word. Non-French speaking people and tourists often only know it from the overrated, clichéd French expression “ménage à trois” – but it’s more than that!

Today, let’s learn some useful French vocabulary and expressions related to the word “ménage

Learning goals:
Use new fun expressions to sound more French, even to the French!

Bonjour c’est Géraldine.
Bienvenue sur Comme une Française. C’est parti !

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1) Le ménage

The most common meaning for Le ménage is housework / cleaning.

French people mostly use it in the expression Faire le ménage (= to clean, to clean up a room).

Je fais le ménage toutes les semaines.
I clean my house every week.

But, the word can also become a noun, such as in les ordures ménagères (= household trash), as in “taking out the trash” (sortir les ordures).

This is part of Les tâches ménagères (= household tasks), which also include faire la vaisselle (= cleaning the dishes), faire la lessive (= doing your laundry)…

Some people also hire une femme de ménage (= a cleaning lady) to take care of their household tasks. Of course, it’s also possible to find un homme de ménage (= a cleaning man), but that expression is less commonly used, for better or worse.

A gender-neutral, but less natural-sounding designation is le personnel d’entretien (= cleaning employees).

Spring is a special cleaning season!
It’s time to make Le grand ménage de printemps (= spring cleaning.)

2) Un ménage

When you hear the term un ménage (instead of “le”), then it usually means “a household.” It means “a family or a couple living in the same home.

It’s mostly used in administration or statistics nowadays, but we find that same meaning in some French expressions too.

Such as une scène de ménage (= a domestic quarrel), or Faire bon ménage (= to get along well, to go together well. For anyone and anything, not necessarily a couple!)

Ah oui, le miel et le fromage de chèvre font bon ménage !
Oh yes, honey and goat cheese go together very well!

Finally, un remue-ménage (= a household-disturber, literally) is a French expression that refers to an agitation, a noisy mess, a chaotic disturbance, or a big shake-out.

Vous allez arrêter tout ce remue-ménage?
Will you stop all this fuss?

Scènes de ménage (= domestic quarrels) is also the title of a semi-famous French TV show. It has short, comedic episodes showing the lives of different fictional couples and families.

If you like the show, it can help you practice your French oral comprehension – be ready though, they do talk fast.

Click here to watch an episode of the French short TV show “Scènes de Ménage”

3) Ménager

Ménage can also be a verb: ménager (= to spare, to handle gently)

For instance, you can say Ménager quelqu’un (= to protect someone’s feelings in a difficult situation)

On ne peut pas annoncer maintenant à Pierre qu’il est renvoyé ! Il faut le ménager.
We can’t tell Pierre he’s fired right now! We need to spare his feelings at least.

Se ménager is “to take care of oneself, to stop making unnecessary efforts as preparation for later.”

Je dois me ménager avant le marathon de Paris.
I need to take care of myself before the Paris marathon.

It also created the French expression sans ménagement = “without care for feelings”, bluntly = brutalement

Nowadays, though, you can mostly find the verb “Ménager” in un proverbe (= a proverb):

Qui voyage loin, ménage sa monture. (= “He who travels far, spares his horse.” = Slow and steady wins the race.)

Another version of the French proverb is: “Qui veut voyager loin, ménage sa monture.” (= “He who wants to travel far, spares his horse.” )

This French expression actually comes from a play: Les plaideurs (= The Litigants) by Jean Racine.

Racine is one of the great French tragedians from the 17th century, alongside Corneille and Molière.

French people also use ménager un espace / ménager un moment / ménager une occasion… (= to create a space / to create a moment / to create an opportunity.)

Il faudra qu’on se ménage un moment pour discuter, demain.
We’ll have to take some time to talk, tomorrow.

4) Emménager /Déménager

Now this is where things get complicated 🙂

Un ménage is a household. From that comes two verbs:
Emménager (= to move in)

On a emménagé le mois dernier.
We moved in last month.

Un emménagement is the act of moving in, or the date you finally start living in the house.

The opposite is, of course:
Déménager (= to move (out))

Dimanche, je vais aider un ami à déménager.
On Sunday, I’ll go help a friend move out.

The act of moving out is Un déménagement

Colloquially, you can use the French expression: Ça déménage !

It’s (a bit) outdated, but it means “Things are getting heated, it’s escalating”… Or “It rocks, it’s wild, it’s awesome – it’s making a lot of noise and fuss in an engaging way.”

Technically, “moving in together with someone” is se mettre en ménage. It’s a quaint, old-fashioned expression though. We’d rather say emménager ensemble (= “to move in together” literally).

Un emménagement is an opportunity for having une pendaison de crémaillère (= a housewarming party.)

Un déménagement is the opportunity for having une dépendaison de crémaillère (= a house leaving party)

5) Aménager

Aménager means “to convert a space, to adjust, to rearrange.” It sounds like “Emménager”, that we’ve seen in the last section. The pronunciation difference is subtle.
(And even though Aménager looks a bit “to manage,” there’s no connection there! In French, “to manage” is réussir (= to suceed) or gérer (= to deal with, to be responsible for the organisation of) )

J’ai aménagé le grenier en nouvelle chambre.
I converted the attic into a new bedroom.

For clarity, it’s easier to use réaménager (= to reorganize a space) instead, in most situations.

J’ai réaménagé le salon, c’est beaucoup plus lumineux maintenant !
I reorganized the living room, it’s much brighter now!


Let’s have a little quiz to “fix” what you just learned!

– What’s the French verb that means “To convert a space” ?
– What’s the French proverb that uses the verb “ménager” ?
– What’s French for “to clean (a house)” ?





(Answers: “aménager”, “Qui veut voyager loin, ménage sa monture.” “faire le ménage”)

Et toi ?

What’s your favorite new word or French expression from the lesson?

For example, you can write: “J’aime bien “Ça déménage !” car j’ai enfin compris cette expression.” (“I like “Ça déménage !” because I finally understand this expression.”)

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Allez, salut 🙂

Join the conversation!

  • Après un emméngement, on doit avoir une pendaison de crémaillère, mais avant un démanagement, on doit avoir une dépendaison de crémaillère (a farewell party). C’est très logique! Merci beaucoup, Géraldine!

  • Merci Géraldine pour encore une très bonne leçon! Je trouve le mot ´réaménager’ super, parce que j’aime bien réaménager presque toute ma maison.

  • Salut Géraldine, je suis si heureuse d’avoir appris beaucoup de nouvelles expressions aujourd’hui ! J’aime bien l’expression “ménager quelqu’un”. Merci beaucoup 😊❤️

  • Bonjour Géraldine
    J’aime bien “faire le ménage” car j’ai enfin compris cette expression.
    Merci beaucoup pour cet leçon et ça va.
    Bonne journée

  • Salut, Géraldine.
    Tu es super, et tout est clair . J’aime ce proverbe ” Qui veut voyager, ménage sa monture.” …

  • Thank you, this lesson was truly very helpful and enriching. Greatly appreciated all your efforts to share with us your beautiful language.

  • When you referred to the verb “emmenager” you pronounced the first three letters as if it were “en”. This is what I heard, can you verify it? Is “emm…” and “en….” sounding the same?

  • Voilà ~ on peut toujours apprendre.
    Quand j’ai vu la leçon de cette semaine,
    “Ménage”, j’ai pensé immédiatement à
    la chanson d’Édith Piaf Mon Manège
    à Moi ! Oui, je me suis trompé parce que
    j’avais toujours pensé que c’était ..
    mon ménage à moi !!
    Il faut rire, mais on a appris 😀
    Merci merci Géraldine. Tes leçons
    sont vraiment superbes.
    Ça déménage !

  • Il y a une autre expression : ménager la chèvre et le chou – ce qui veut dire ‘ménager des intérêts contradictoire’. Par exemple: Soucieuse de ne pas faire d’ennemis, la direction a ménagé la chèvre et le chou – Worried about making enemies, management have kept both parties sweet.(Extrait de mon livre ‘Je mourrai moins bête: 200 French expressions to help you die less stupid’.) Merci pour cette excellente vidéo !

    • Is it because the goat eats the cabbage? So, if you take care of the goat will not eat the cabbage? Peace on earth, then?
      Barbara Spyrou

      • Yes, Barbara, that’s almost right! Do you know the brain teaser about the boatman who wants to transport across a river a fox, a goose and a bag of beans? Well, this is a French variation of that puzzle involving a goat, a wolf and a cabbage. The boatman can only take himself and one other item across the river, and if he leaves the goat and cabbage together, the goat will eat the cabbage, and if he leaves the wolf and goat together, the wolf will eat the goat. So how does he get them all across safely?

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