In today’s free intermediate French lesson, we’re going to discover more French verbs to allow you to talk about eating in French.
Food is at the center of French culture, and being able to talk about it smoothly and casually is important for fitting in almost any French conversation.
Sure, you already know about the verb Manger (= to eat).
But what about all the other French verbs we have to talk about eating? Because there are… a lot of them!
Learning goals: This is what you’ll be able to do after watching this lesson
- Beginner: Know the French verbs for each meal of the day
- Intermediate: Refine your vocabulary with the French verbs for eating slowly and quickly
- Advanced: Understand the familiar/slang verbs
Bonjour c’est Géraldine.
Bienvenue sur Comme une Française. C’est parti !
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1) Les repas de la journée
Les repas de la journée = the different meals in a day
→ In the morning, the first meal of the day is:
Le petit déjeuner (= the breakfast)
In French, the names for the different meals of the day can also be used as verbs!
That’s why we have, for example, the French verb petit-déjeuner (= to have breakfast). Though it is somewhat more common to use prendre son petit-déjeuner (= to have eat breakfast)
For example :
Je petit-déjeune vers 8 heures tous les matins.
I have breakfast around 8 am every morning.
À la maison, on prend notre petit-déjeuner en famille.
At home, we have breakfast as a family.
→ In France (especially in Paris and big cities), the verb bruncher (= to have brunch) is also gaining traction, stolen from the English language.
→ Around midday, it’s time for le déjeuner (=lunch!)
The French verb, then, is Déjeuner (= to have lunch)
Je te laisse, je vais déjeuner.
I have to go, I’m going to have lunch.
→ In the afternoon, around 5pm, you can have a light snack (especially for children): le goûter.
The verb goûter also means “to taste”, so we’d rather use prendre le goûter or prendre un goûter. For snacking in general (at any time), a good French verb you can use is grignoter (= to nibble, to snack).
J’ai pris un truc à grignoter, pour le goûter.
I packed stuff to snack on, for the 4pm snack.
→ Finally, at night, we have le dîner (= dinner), which is also a French verb, dîner (= to dine, to have dinner).
Ce soir on va dîner chez les voisins.
Tonight we’re going to have dinner with the neighbors.
The French language is an endless source of history, interesting facts and fascinating complications.
Before the XIXth century, le déjeuner meant “breakfast” and le dîner meant “lunch.” And “dinner” was: le souper (= supper) / souper (= to have supper)
However, all these words were pushed later in the day, and nowadays, souper is an old-fashioned word for le dîner in France. It’s still common to use it in other French-speaking areas such as Belgium or Québec! And in some French areas, le souper also means “a late evening meal, after dinner” – after you come back from the theater, for instance.
2) Les verbes formels
Les verbes formels = the formal verbs
Se nourrir (= to eat, to feed on) isn’t really “formal,” especially in written French, but it still sounds quite peculiar in spoken French.
Prendre ses repas is a very formal French way to talk about “eating meals.”
Some formal French verbs for eating sound more clinical, such as ingérer (= to ingest), or even absorber (= to absorb).
Consommer (= To consume) is formal for eating food – yet it’s a common French verb for drinks at a bar : les consommations (= “drinks”, literally “consumptions”).
Finally, se sustenter (= find sustenance) is the most stereotypically formal French verb for eating.
It’s so ornate, formal, a needlessly high-class that it looped back to being used ironically, for levity, as a kind of in-joke.
3) Les verbes familiers
Les verbes familiers (= colloquial verbs) are common in spoken French with friends. They sound funny and laid-back, but they don’t show as much respect for the food as “common” French verbs.
Don’t use them at a meal that’s been prepared with love and care by a friend, or for a high-end repas gastronomique (= gourmet meal), for instance!
Bouffer is the catch-all colloquial verb for eating.
(La bouffe is the catch-all colloquial term for food.)
Gober (= to eat in one mouthful, like a fish), becqueter (= pecking, like a bird), and boulotter (= to chew up, like a hungry mammal) are also colloquial French verbs that mean “eating.”
Gober also means “being gullible, believing in a lie.”
Example: Tu vas pas me faire gober tes histoires !
(= You’re not going to make me believe your false stories!)
Also, I always felt that “Boulotter” had a meaning of “hunted, preyed on by an animal, like a cat, a hungry rat or a large predator” – but to be honest I can’t find sources to support this feeling, so it might just be a personal experience.
4) Manger lentement
Manger lentement (= eating slowly) helps you enjoy the food.
For instance, déguster / savourer (= to savour, for both) means taking your time to taste the food.
Picorer (= to peck, less colloquial than “becqueter”) is a French verb for eating lightly, and tasting different foods here and there.
Déguster (= to savour) doesn’t mean dégoûter (= to disgust) !
However, there’s also a colloquial meaning to “déguster” (= to get badly hurt, coll.)
For instance :
On ne s’est pas entraîné pour le tournoi de boxe, on va déguster.
We didn’t practice for the boxing tournament, we’re going to get hurt.
By the way, this double meaning leads to the play of a great French radio show about culture, food, and delicious recipes: On va déguster (sur France Inter)
5) Manger vite
Manger vite (= eating quickly) can be because you’re in a hurry, or just because it’s so good that you can’t pace yourself.
Dévorer (= to devour, to eat ravenously, to eat whole, to eat with hunger) is a common French verb for when you have une faim de loup (= a wolf’s hunger = you’re starving!).
Avaler (= to swallow) is also a sign that you don’t have time to lose.
Il a avalé son déjeuner et il est parti.
He swallowed his dinner and left.
It’s similar to the colloquial gober (= to swallow whole) that we’ve already seen. Ingurgiter is a close synonym as well, but more formal and ugly-sounding.
Finally, s’empiffrer means “eating quickly so you can eat more” – and it’s a great pastime to have with French cuisine 🙂
Did you read / watch this lesson?
Here are a few questions to test yourself, so you can improve your knowledge on these French verbs.
How would you say in French:
- To devour?
- To taste something?
- To have breakfast?
(Answers: dévorer / goûter / petit-déjeuner)
Et toi ?
Quel est ton nouveau verbe préféré pour “manger” en français ?
What’s your favorite new Freb verb for eating?
For example, you can write: “J’aime beaucoup “picorer” parce que c’est ce que font les oiseaux… et mon petit-fils.” (“I love “picorer” because it’s what bird do… and my grandson as well!”)
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Allez, salut 🙂