French Swearing: 10 Words to Avoid

Salut,

Ca va ?

French swearing.
The evil topic.

Many blogs will teach you that using « Putain » when you speak French will make you sound like a native.

Don’t.

In this episode of Comme une Française TV, you will learn 10 swearing words in French. And understand why you should avoid them.


Click to watch « French swearing: 10 words to avoid »:

It was a big decision for me to give you this. But I thought it was my duty to tell you.

Did you like this episode? Watch « How to swear without being rude ».

Et toi ?
Your French will improve ONLY if you take action on what you learn on Comme une Française TV.

Take action now:
Spot these 3 swearing words in 3 TV programs, movies and radio shows. It is a great way to understand if this program is appropriate for your children. And how French people use the swearing words. Spot them in people’s conversation as well!

What is THE one you’ve heard the most?

Share it in the comments area below this video :
It’s the best area to start discussions and ask questions!

Merci for watching Comme une Française TV, Live in France, Feel at home.

A bientôt !

Géraldine

Join the conversation!

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  • L’expression/mot le plus frequent que j’entends c’est “merde.” Quelqu’un d’autre? Geraldine, êtes adorable, et vos vidéos sont très utiles!

  • Merci pour votre videos Geraldine !!!
    Est-ce que vous pouvez nous donner quelques argots ? ????????????

  • Thanks, Geraldine. Good decision. However, you don’t give us any inoffensive words we can use to express surprise, disgust, frustration, annoyance, etc. Here are a few I find handy:
    La vache ! kind of equivalent to You’re kidding!
    Mince ! equivalent to Flip! or Sugar!
    Punaise ! as above
    C’est / Il/elle est pénible / casse-pied ! It/He/She is a pain!
    If anything, using these will make you sound more French than using the common swear words.
    Hope this helps.

  • Merci, Geraldine! J’ai regardé le film, “Un peu, beaucoup, aveuglément”, et je crois que les personagges a dit, “Tu me fais chier”, ou “you piss me off”. Est-ce exact?

    Et votre t-shirt…je l’aime beaucoup! J’aime les hiboux. 🙂

    (I hope this is all correct…oh, verb conjugation, ouch!)

  • Eu usava somente uma camiseta do Alex, comprida a ponto de ir até quase os joelhos e estava sem corpete.

  • i have been living in france for several years and go to a plongee club for several years one day a young french guy said to me sa nique.i tried to repete several times but found it difficult eventually got it rightand we all had a laugh about it.At the time i did not now what the exact meaning was( i thing his was trying to teach me bad words in a funny way) my comment is this in the uk you can swear ( at your friends) and not take offence done in the right contex.Do you think its the same in french, also the ok sign is used alot when diving it means i am ok. the same thing in english not the same thing in french

  • Merci de nouveau Geraldine! Je profitai de votre video qui m;avez partagez! J’aime apprendre, comprendre, et passer un bon temps comme vous! Moi, comme vous, j’aime comprendre les choses que j’entends, mais j’utilize soin avec mon vocabulaire. Vous avez bon humeur! Merci! Votre Ami, Brandon.

  • Hi Geraldine,
    Thankyou so much for sharing this topic, its such a relief to be told all the things that few people will tell you!
    I very rarely swear in English so I will not be swearing in French. The only time I
    have really used swearing effectively in English is to stop someone ( a stranger) who is pestering me, at times when I need to sound more aggressive than “leave me alone” or “go away” or “get lost”
    What would be the best way to sound assertive in this way in French?
    Thanks it might be handy to know this as a woman!
    Jacqueline

  • Bonjour! I have a question about “putain”. The equivalent in English is definitely considered the worst curse word, however I’m in high school where it’s pretty much said every other word in conversations. With teenagers, being as rebellious as they think they are, the word has sort of lost the taboo and really the meaning. Is the situation the same in France? Merci!

    • Bonjour Kenzie,

      There’s no such thing as taboo words in the French language. 🙂
      It is still a curse word and we have to tell our kids not to swear, but it is not forbidden in the mouth of adults.

  • Thanks Geraldine,

    It’s good to understand these words.
    I think you hear a lot more in films and on TV than you do in real life.

    I never feel the need to swear…….unless I stub my f****** toe!

    Kevin

  • I’ve heard the expression “je m’en fout” which I guess is similar to “j’en ai rien à foutre”. Is there a difference?

    • Hi Maria,
      They are similar in meaning but different in intention.
      Je m’en fous = I don’t care (with a slang meaning)
      J’en ai rien à foutre = I don’t give a sh*t
      A tiny bit different. 🙂

  • I heard putain many times in the excellent police series Spiral. There were probably many more swear words in the programme but I didn’t know them then. I do now after your excellent lesson!

  • Putain is often heard but not as bad as fuck. Another bad one is, “Va te faire enculer” which would be the equivalent of, “Go fuck yourself”. Geraldine thank you so much for this video because when learning a language you have to know these things. Une tres bonne lecon! Bonne continuation!

  • I really like that fact that you addressed this topic. I have read several books and sometimes I come across the word “Putain” but never knew what it meant.

  • Sorry, evidently the phrase he used did not enter with my post. He said, ‘Apparamment, je parle comme un connard’.

    • Bonjour Robin,

      Sorry, I have no idea… Are you sure he used the word “connard” ? It sounds weirdly rude, considering the situation…
      Let me know if you have any other clue on what he might have said! 🙂

      • Thank you for your reply, Geraldine. I thought it was rude, too, considering the situation and the group we were with. He was very nice, otherwise, so that’s why I was surprised. The only other thing I can think that he might have said is ‘canard’. The southeastern US accent is nasal and what I call ‘twangy’…. Maybe my ears just didn’t hear properly, which would not be surprising given that I have much more difficulty understanding French than I do speaking it! Thank you! 🙂

        • That’s very possible, Robin! “Canard” and “connard” are very very close to an American ear. 🙂
          No worries, it’s a very common mistake in restaurants where foreigners ask for “du magret de connard”!

  • After watching this video I am wondering about something I heard a couple of nights ago. My husband and I were at a gathering of French neighbours. There was a gentleman there we had not met before and we were chatting about the local patois. The way he was pronouncing some of the patois phrases reminded me of the southern accent in the USA and I told him a couple of examples of that accent, which he repeated. He picked up the accent really well and I told him so. He then told the group, in French, something along these lines… <> I am assuming (hoping?!) that he meant this as ‘idiot’ but, even if so, am uncertain if it was truly meant jovially or as a put down? How would you interpret this situation? Thanks for your input!

  • Thank you so much for this lesson Geraldine! When I studied French in Paris, I came across a number of Anglophiles who like to curse in English and it was in parts comical and distasteful. I also had a friend with me who was also learning French and she swore in French all the time. I saw how offensive it was to French hearers even if they wanted to be ‘cool’ about it. What I have realized is that cuss words in a learned language never seem as emotionally charged/vulgar as those of your mother tongue. So thank you for all your warnings Geraldine!

  • As a native I’m always surprised by the ambivalence of Anglo-Saxon mindset. I think generally British people tend to swear more than Americans. Americans may tend to use more religious swear words. In France there are practically no religious swear words anymore. In Quebec they use a lot. In France slang and swear words are not censored on TV, but it doesn’t mean it’s appropriate in real life. I don’t advice foreigners to use them if they don’t speak french very well. But it’s often funny to hear foreigners speaking french well, using sometimes some swear words. In public situations, you will very rarely hear people swearing. It also depends on the social class you’re from and the way you say it. “Merde” is common everywhere in French speaking countries. Hope this comment is going to help some people. Your blog is great! 🙂

  • Thank you, you’ve answered a question I’ve recently had regarding swearing in French. I learnt French to A-Level (many years ago) and we were studying Sartre’s Crime Passionelle in the Literature portion of the class, so our teacher had to try to explain a variety of swear words in the lessons, but I’ve been watching Engrenages & had been a little confused by some of the translations for subtitling – wondering if certain words were being ‘cleansed’ for British TV, for example ‘do you think we’re all idiots?’ I had translated to be much stronger but even post-watershed I don’t think the BBC would dare put the ‘c’ word up! I was also surprised by the liberal use of ‘putain’ and the variety of translations, now I understand that it has more to do with the context in which the multi-purpose words are used in.

    I also remember being in Paris many years ago & chatting with a student who told me that the French use words like ‘sh*t’ and ‘f*ck’ in English a lot when they’re just saying them in light hearted banter, but they swear in French when they really mean it. I wondered, is this still true? I think that we do swear a lot in England, but usually certain words which have somehow been used so much that they are no longer aggressive or as rude, I think the ‘c’ word is the one which is still most offensive though.

    So, thank you for clearing up my confusion. I can now continue to enjoy Engrenages and understand the variety of meanings to the various swear words liberally used in the show!

  • Malheureusement, I learned one of these the hard way. At the home of a French-speaking North African host family, we were having a dinner conversation about language and tongue-twisters — les virelangues. I offered one of the hardest ones I know in English to see if they could say it three times fast: “Unique New York.” Jaws hit the floor, their faces reddened and I had no idea why until someone explained it to me. I was mortified!

  • J”ai appris “salaud” il y a 40 ans quand je prenais un cours de préparation “avant-ski” (des exercices pour nous rendre plus souples) et notre entraineur nous a dit de faire des pompes. Ceux qui m’entouraient ont dit, à basse voix, “salaud” d’une telle voix que, quand je suis rentrée j’ai immédiatement sauté sur le dictionnaire pour découvrir la signafication du mot!

  • Well, Les Enfoirés perform (lots of YouTube videos) but I have heard “con” more often than any. People most often say it about themselves…..I was an idiot…..I did a stupid thing….using con.

  • Hi Geraldine,
    Thanks so much for posting this, I’ve seen ‘putain’ translated as a casual, not at all rude ‘damn’ and as ‘f*ck’ so I was very confused before your video. Knowing that it is quite vulgar I think i’ll just stay away from it thanks 🙂

    • Hi Rachael,
      The use of swearing words is a very delicate topic.
      So as you say, it’s better to stay away from it, just to be safe. 🙂

    • It really depends on your normal language though. Amongst my friends (we are in our 30s) fuck and shit are perfectly normal words to use all the time, it comes down to personality and society. They are not censored on UK radio (except maybe radio 1?? I don’t listen to that station…) and are used in the evening on TV. They are a normal part of adult speech!

      • Yes Martha. You are right. I use them in everyday life. But it’s important to be aware than swearing sounds much more “heavy” coming from someone whose language is not French. Just like it’s not fun to hear French people using fuck and shit only because they heard it on TV but don’t use them properly.

  • Bonjour Geraldine,

    Le gros mot celui j’ecoutais le plus souvent dans les films francais est “con”. Le deuxieme est “salope”. Cependent, ma favori etais quand je faisais du velo autour le Mont Ventoux (plus ou moins 120 kilo) avec un bon cycliste (qui possede un magazin bicyclette a Carpentras). En tout cas, quand un automobiliste est trop venu a nous (il est conduit tres incivilisee), le cycliste de Carpentras a hurle “Va te fair enculer, connard!!”. Je jamais oublie cette phrase!

    Peter

    • Bonjour Peter,

      Génial ! J’imagine bien pourquoi tu n’oublieras jamais cette phrase ! Et je peux presque entendre ton ami cycliste hurler cette phrase contre un automobiliste. 🙂

  • Grâce à toi, je viens de lire “La page blanche” par Pénélope Bagieu et j’ai lu des trucs comme, “Qu’est-ce tu fous?”, “Quel bordel!”, “Quoi, j’étais conne, c’est ça?”, et “foutu PC”!

    • Hi Jo,
      What a great idea!
      These a very familiar and used expressions.
      “foutu [quelque chose]” means “Damn [thing]”
      If you liked it, I also recommend:
      – “Joséphine” by Penelope Bagieu
      – “Notes” by Boulet who cowrote La Page Blanche

  • Hello and thanks for the lesson. The phrase that I hear often is : “Ah, c’est vraiment con ca” Whilst i think it is rude, I do not find it very offensive, as Catherine Rose mentions “c*nt” in English is MUCH worse!

      • The words “con” or “connard” (“connard” meaning “who likes the con”) are some I never use when swearing : “le con” in old french refers to the genitals of women… the reason this word can be heard so frequently is that most french people have forgotten what it originally means.

  • Apparently I hang with a very classy crowd – they’ve taught me everything on this list! I agree it’s important to know this things – you want to know what people are saying. I disagree with you on one translation – I think that “c*nt” is MUCH more vulgar than connard/connasse. I would never say it (…but I’m not very rude, either.) Whereas, as you point out, it’s not always so bad to say “con” – I think it’s a little more like “bitch” or “jerk” or “asshole” in English, and even gentler in the nicer example you give. Okay, no more vulgarity for now!

    • Hi CatherineRose, thank you for your contribution and precision on the degree of strength of these words. I’ve learned something thanks to you.

  • It was interesting to hear your take on this Geraldine, when I have heard many of these words (mostly merde and putain), coming from people I know and respect,though generally in response to stubbing a toe, or stepping in some real merde, heh heh. What struck me was one friend in particular who said she hated hearing foreigners swear in French. Even if it’s “correct swearing,” and words she might use herself, she doesn’t approve at all. Similarly, a few of my French friends seemed to say f*ck all the time in English. I admonished them, saying it was really rude, and they responded “but it’s every other word in all of the American movies we see.” (ok, probably drug or bad guy movies!!!) They were surprised to learn that it was–and still is–perceived as vulgar. The under 23 crowd might disagree….but then youth has its own vocabulary which often changes later in life 🙂

    For alternatives, in addition to what Kat posted, I have used “mince alors” and “flûte alors” as options.

    • Hi JB,

      I agree with your friend who is offended by foreigners swearing in French. 🙂
      As well, I’m VERY careful with the words I use in English. However, I figured out very late while in England how bad some swearing words were.
      This is why I made this video.

  • Thanks so much for this information! My French boyfriend told me that a good alternative to using “merde” is to use the word “zut” …do you agree?

        • Yes, all the French textbooks are extremely conservative. But they don’t help you with the flow of everyday conversation. Zut is like gosh or darn, very polite. This is why I really like and appreciate Geraldine’s videos!

          • I guess this shows it goes both ways when deciding which word to use. If someone said ‘gosh’ or ‘darn’ in conversation with me I would assume they were being funny or they learned English from their Grandma!

  • Could you provide information on the relative register of these french words? For example, in America you are allowed to use the d h and s words on tv, because they are about religion and poop, but f and c are taboo in most social situations, because they are about sex. How “bad” is each bad word? Which might I hear on an old-fashioned movie, and which one should burn my ears off? Sorry for the embarrassing questions, and thank you for providing this helpful video.

    • Hi Vanessa, thanks for this excellent question. In France, there is no such censorship so you can hear all of them on TV, radio, and I personally use them in conversation. What French people see in America is often a source of question, because as I said, it does not exist here. This is why not all programs are suitable for children. It’s great you asked.

  • Hi this is helpful. My hubby kept coming home saying that his work mates used plus-tard as a swear word when they make a mistake. He asked me why and i was confused. We now think they were using putain and to his ear that sounded similar. Thanks for clearing up this confusion.

  • J’ai vécu à Marseille il y a presque 10 ans et je me souvien d’avoir écouté “merde, putain et salop” bcp des fois

    • Bien fait! Thank you for sharing this video. It is very important to know slang in a foreign language but you must know when and where to use it. I studied abroad in Paris and I was told that putain is a very strong curse word and to not use it as casually as the people in the south of France do.

      • Bonjour Andrea,

        Yes “Putain” is stronger than most foreigners think.
        The same happens when French people speak the English they learned in series!
        They swear and it’s VERY inappropriate.

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