How to avoid these 5 double-meaning verbs traps

This morning, I was having a cup of coffee with Jana from Berlin. We talked about double meanings in French. How 2 letters can make a verb go from « formal » to « super rude ».

I planned to write an article on this for you. To avoid you the blush of « Oh My God. I said this last week! Didn’t mean to be rude!». And as we laughed, I really felt « at the right time at the right place ». What we share together online, I also share it offline with foreign travellers as well. How cool is that!

As you know, French is full of double-meaning traps. And here are 5 verbs that could be interpreted the wrong way.

Relax. If your friend Olivier knows you don’t speak French fluently, he won’t be offended by your use of « se taper ». 🙂
It’s mainly your neighbour, the postman and the headmistress you don’t want to freak out!

Coucher / Se coucher

Se coucher = going to bed.

Il est 23h, je vais me coucher. Bonne nuit.

Coucher = sleep or putting somebody to bed.

Jean a couché ici cette nuit.

Je vais coucher les enfants.

BUT coucher avec = sleep with (familiar)

Louise couche avec Jean.

Louise et Jean couchent ensemble.

Tirer / Tirer sur / Se tirer

Tirer sur = to shoot

Jean tire sur Louise.

Tirer = to pull on

Tirez la porte.

Se tirer = to leave (like Se casser)

Je me tire.

BUT Tirer somebody = have sex with (rude)

Jean tire Louise.

Se taper / Taper

Taper = to hit

Jean tape Louise.

BUT Se taper = have sex with (rude)

Jean se tape Louise.

Se taper also means « to endure »

Louise s’est tapée tous les travaux toute seule.

Faire / Se faire

Faire = do

Louise fait les courses.

But Se faire = have sex with (rude)

Jean se fait Louise.

Oublier / S’oublier

Oublier = To forget

Jean a oublié l’anniversaire de Louise.

But S’oublier = sh*t yourself (literally)

Jean s’est oublié.

Have you ever used one of these double-meaning verbs? Let me know in the comments below how it happened. What did you meant? Have you heard of others? Would you like to know more double-meaning words?

Join the conversation!

  • Long story short, I used the word ‘baiser’ thinking I was talking about ‘a kiss (on the cheek), and realised it meant much worse……..:-( oh dear…

    • Bonjour Raija,

      No worries. You’re not the first, nor the last to make the mistake.

      Glad you found Comme une Française to guide you now. 😉

  • Hi Katie,

    ahah, this is an awesome story! Love it. This is a great idea: brainstorm words that may sound “wrong”. 🙂 I will look for more if you are interested.

  • This is great Geraldine! I learnt the importance of pronouncing things properly when I was doing some volunteer work on a sustainable farm. I was helping the old man to build a wall and really enjoyed it. When we finished for the day, I wanted to ask if we would be building the wall again tomorrow. My french wasn’t so strong at the time, but I managed to ask “demain, on va faire le mur?” He gave me a very strange look, and said “oui, on va faire LE MUR…” and walked away. I replayed in my head what I had said to make him be like this, and realised I had said “demain, on va faire l’AMOUR!” OOPS!


    Yes please, more double meanings to be learnt (and avoided!) Katie. XXX

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