Shops in French – Names to know for your trip to France

So, you’re travelling to France! Chances are that during your time there, you’re going to want to buy something simple, and you may want to speak to French with people to ask for directions: “Excusez-moi, où est le…”
And then it dawns on you: you don’t know the name of the different types of shops in French!

Don’t worry! I’m here to help.

Why this lesson?
– So you can be more independent when travelling in a francophone country
– Become more confident when asking for directions
– Understand all the shop signs in the streets
– Navigate les rayons du supermarché (=the sections of any French supermarket) easily!

Learning goals:
– Know the names of shops in French that you’ll need for your next trip to France (all levels)
– Learn the vocabulary for the products they sell and the jobs of the people who work there (Intermediate and up)

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

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1) Simple names: la fromagerie

Most commonly, shops in French tend to follow a simple rule:
the product they sell + -erie (suffix)

It creates a feminine noun.

For instance, the place that sells le fromage (=cheese) is la fromagerie (=a cheese shop). It can be a shop that only sells cheese, or a section in a larger store (or a supermarket) where all the cheese is stored.

The profession of shopkeepers also follows a simple construction. They’re le fromager / la fromagère (= cheese seller, masculine / feminine).

Finally, the name la fromagerie is also used for the cheese-making skill and traditions, as well as for its whole industry. And un fromager can be a cheese-maker too.

In older times, the same people used to make and sell their products; now that these roles are often separated (except in places like le marché des producteurs, a farmer’s market), we use the same word for both.

Once you’re inside the shop, I’ve got you covered! Click here to read the step-by-step French scripts you can use in a shop!

Other shops with the same constructions :

 

Some related shops:
La joaillerie is the place to buy jewelry made with une pierre précieuse (= precious stones). Most “bijouteries” are also “joailleries,” and most people don’t really know the difference.

Before, we used to buy le lait (=milk) at la laiterie and la crème (=cream) at la crèmerie. These shops don’t really exist anymore, but you might find these names as sections of the supermarket.

Le poissonnier / la poissonnière are people who sell fish.


Le bijoutier (-ère) / le joaillier (-ère) sell jewelry.


Le parfumeur / la parfumeuse sell perfume.

People who work at the shop would be le vendeur / la vendeuse (the seller). It’s the general word we use when there’s nothing more specific!
Le jardinier is a gardener (male). Une jardinière can be a gardener (female), but also a planter (the object), or une jardinière de légumes (=a mix of vegetables!)

2) Names you already know (or that you can guess)

La boulangerie (=the bakery) is the place of work of le boulanger / la boulangère (=the baker.)

You can buy du pain (=bread) and many other delicious products, like “le croissant” and “le pain au chocolat”. We call these “les viennoiseries” – click here to find out more!

La pâtisserie (=pastry shop) is where you can buy une pâtisserie (= a pastry) or un gâteau (= a cake) from le pâtissier / la pâtissière (=pastry cook).

We often have la boulangerie-pâtisserie : the people there make and sell bread and cakes.

Similarly, we have la boucherie, where you can buy raw meat from le boucher / la bouchère (=the butcher).
La charcuterie means both “prepared meat” (mostly pork) and the place you can buy some (like a deli).
Most times, le boucher / la bouchère is also un charcutier / une charcutière, in la boucherie-charcuterie.

Tricky “faux-ami” #1:
La librairie (=a bookstore) is where you can buy un livre (= a book) from le libraire / la libraire (same word for both genders, = bookseller)

It’s not la bibliothèque (= the library), where le bibliothécaire / la bibliothécaire (=a librarian, both genders) works! At la Bibliothèque Nationale de France, for instance.

Tricky “faux-ami” #2:
A drugstore is une pharmacie where you can buy un médicament (= a medicine), from le pharmacien / la pharmacienne.

You’ll also sometimes find a less-regulated parapharmacie (mostly at the supermarket), which sells the non-medical things from “la pharmacie” (like some hygiene products and beauty products…)

In some places, you’ll also find la droguerie, which is une parapharmacie that might also sell tools, paint, and other domestic products. They used to be called un marchand de couleurs (a color-seller) – the name isn’t used anymore but it was poetic.

Use the right pronoun!
For all shops, we say “Aller à la + [nom du magasin]” or “Aller chez le + [nom du métier].”


“Je vais à la boucherie” = “Je vais chez le boucher” = “I’m going to the butcher.”
Saying “Je vais au boucher” is a classic mistake that even French people sometimes make when they speak quickly and mess up.

3) Exceptions and advanced names

There are many ways you can start a conversation in these shops. I want to help you become confident in French for all these interactions, and in all other real-life scenarios. You can find all these tips and more in my program: French Conversation with Confidence: Speak French with confidence in real life (even outside the classroom) click here to take a look!

After all the shops in French we’ve covered, you can now understand the basic rules. But of course, as always in French, there are many exceptions!

Le marchand de journaux: the newspaper shop or stand
Le magasin de chaussures: the shoe shop
Le magasin de sport: the sporting goods store

Many stores are also known by their brand name.

For high-end brands (especially food), we use the pronoun “chez”:
Je suis allée chez Ladurée. (=I went to Ladurée, a famous luxury bakery. Try un macaron, a French macaroon, from their shop – they’re delicious!)

For most stores and shops, however, we use “à”. But remember, “à + le” becomes “au.”

Carrefour (supermarket brand) → Aller à Carrefour.
Le Printemps (department store, “le” is in the brand name) → Aller au Printemps.
Le Carrefour près de la gare (the Carrefour store near the train station, “le” comes from being specific) → Aller au Carrefour près de la gare.

More exceptions:
Le bureau de tabac is where you can buy cigarettes and tobacco. It often sells newspapers too, and sometimes you can get a coffee. It’s where le buraliste works.

La confiserie sells des bonbons (=sweets), and is often a boulangerie as well.
La cordonnerie repairs your shoes. We say “Je vais chez le cordonnier.”
Une épicerie is a grocery store where you can buy lots of small things, including food and other stuff, from l’épicier / l’épicière.
La friperie sells des vêtements d’occasion (=second-hand clothes), also called des fripes.
La quincaillerie sells tools, from le quincailler.

Finally, le primeur (or “le marchand de primeurs”) is a greengrocer, selling fresh fruits and vegetables.

These jobs are often found in French proverbs and expressions.

For instance :
Les cordonniers sont toujours les plus mal chaussés = cobblers have the worst shoes. The expression implies specialists often neglect to use their skills on themselves (“the cobbler’s children go barefoot”)
Des comptes d’épicier = a grocer’s accounting; over-scrupulous, complicated calculations on small sums or unimportant details.

Click here to learn more useful French proverbs about life.

4) QUIZ!

Que vendent ces magasins ? What do these shops sell?

Easy: l’animalerie
Intermediate: la papeterie
Advanced: la mercerie

Take your time to think it over!

 


— Spoilers: the answers —

L’animalerie comes from “un animal” → It sells des animaux de compagnie (=pets) and des produits pour animaux (=products for animals)

La papeterie comes from “le papier” → It sells du papier (=paper) or stationary, such as un cahier (=a notebook) and products to write on that paper, like un stylo (= a pen)…

La mercerie comes from an old word for “a travelling salesman”. Nowadays, it sells des produits pour la couture (=everything that has to do with seaming and stitching: needles, thread, buttons, etc.)

Want to save this for later ?

Your turn now – ET TOI ?

→ Quel est ton magasin préféré en France?
Any recommendations? Tell me your favourite shops, in French!

You can answer in French in the comment section, I’d love to hear from you.

For example:
“J’aime beaucoup aller au Bon Marché quand je suis de passage à Paris. C’est mon grand magasin préféré.”
(= “I love to go to Le Bon Marché whenever I’m in Paris. It’s my favorite department store.”)

I’ll give you pointers for your mistakes and read all your replies on the blog!

And now:
→ If you enjoyed this lesson (and/or learned something new) – why not share this lesson with a francophile friend? You can talk about it afterwards! You’ll learn much more if you have social support from your friends :)

Double your Frenchness! Get my 10-day “Everyday French Crash Course” and learn more spoken French for free. Students love it! Start now and you’ll get Lesson 01 right in your inbox, straight away.
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Allez, salut :)

Bonne journée,
Géraldine

Join the conversation!

  • Bonne soirée Géraldine. J’aime aller à la Zara. Il y a beaucoup des très jolies vêtements. Le week-end dernier J’ai m’achete la jupe et la chemise. Je suis très contente. 🙂

  • J’adore les vieilles quincailleries. Toujours j’y déniche de petits trésors, pour cadeaux originaux ( ou pour moi).

  • Hi Geraldine,

    I used to live in Paris and have now moved to Calgary. I miss Paris terribly and so I like to keep in touch with your programmes because they remind me so much of Paris and are so good !

  • J’adore les magasins Olivier & Co. Ils sont des magasins specialist, qui vend des huiles d’olives, du vinaigre, du assaisonnement etc. Ces magasins sont dans plusiers grand villes partout la France.
    Today’s lesson has confirmed to me about pronunciation! I had always said – for example – “la boulang – e -rie”. My neighbour didn’t understand me when I said “Je vais a la dechett -e -rie” (I am going to the rubbish dump). Eventually she said “Ah, la dechett – rie!”. I noticed you pronounced similar shop words in the same way ie the middle syllable more or less disappears, so it seems it’s not just a regional thing.

    • Hi Barbara
      The rule is….if there is one pronounced consonant before the letter e, that e becomes mute.
      If there are two or more pronounced consonants before the e it is generally pronounced.
      Example: patisserie…silent e. Gouvernement…pronounce the e

    • Yes, Barbara — that’s one of my two important takeaways from this lesson: I’ve been pronouncing the “e” (middle syllable), and that’s been preventing me from sounding “correct” to the French.

      The other thing I learned was from the “advanced” question: une mercerie. Now I won’t forget it!

        • Sadly, a terrific one just closed a few years ago here in the San Francisco East Bay. Now one must go to a huge chain store (“Joann’s”) that is 100% dedicated to crafts of all kinds: baking, sewing, and whatnot. Joann’s does, I believe, sell every item one would need for sewing, and most of the time two employees are busy simultaneously cutting customer’s chosen material to measure.

          Strangely, I don’t know of a mercerie in Paris (although I’m sure they must exist), but there *is* a great one on the main pedestrian shopping street of Narbonne, a Roman city in Languedoc where we have a little studio. (Narbonne is situated between Perpignan and Montpellier, and is easily reachable from England through the nearby Beziers-Cap d’Agde airport.)

  • Bonjour Géraldine
    Merci encore pour cela, et j’aime bien le début en français aussi.
    J’ai adoré Galeries Lafayette quand j’ai visité Paris.

  • “Le marchand de journaux” ??
    Is there such a shop? All I have ever seen is “Presse” normally with Tabac
    Not seen a fish only shop either, must be only in the big towns.

  • Bonjour Géraldine. Je crois que la charcuterie vend ‘small goods’ – en anglais ça veut dire des viands comme le salami, le saucisson, le pâté, etc.

    • Dear Muriel, You must be from Great Britain, Ireland, or the Antipodes, because I’ve never heard the term “small goods” (when applied to a shop). Probably “deli” is a U.S. term, as they are historically associated with Jewish culture.

  • Quand on visite en France, on aime aller au marché couvert s’il n’y a pas de marché en plein air. On essaye d’y arriver environ le midi pour déjeuner 🙂

  • À ajouter: Monoprix (Monop’) et la FNAC. Mon “textbook French” dit “supérette” pour “convenience store.” Ça se dit? Au Canada on dit “dépanneur.”

  • Nous étions à Paris il y a deux semaines. Nous avions une cuisine et une salle à manger mais ne voulions pas cuisiner. Nous avons donc fréquenté les “traiteurs”. Je ne connaissais pas ce mot et je devais le rechercher. Cela signifie “delicatessen” ou “caterer”. Ils ont des salades, des apéritifs, des plats principaux et des desserts merveilleux, déjà préparés pour la vente à emporter. C’était parfait pour nous – et j’ai appris un nouveau mot.

    • Oui, Géraldine aurait du utiliser ce mot-là : les traiteurs. C’est très commun. (Désolée que vous n’ayez pas cuisiné à Paris !)

  • Quand je suis à Paris, j’aime visiter les magasins de laine (ou peut-être on peut dire les ateliers de tricot). Mon magasin préféré est La Bien Aimée dans le quartier Butte aux Cailles (13th arr.). Dans ce quartier, j’aime aussi le magasin de miel qui s’appelle Les Abeilles.

  • Je suis désolé de dire que lors de mon dernier voyage à paris, mon magasin préféré était le Starbucks à la Gare du Nord. C’était le seul endroit près de mon hôtel où je pouvais avoir un café américain.
    Un petit point si vous désactivez la mise au point automatique sur votre appareil photo, il serait moins distrayant lorsque vous regardez vos vidéos, Vos vidéos sont très instructives et bien faites.

  • Bonjour Géraldine! J’aime beaucoup les marchés du dimanche matin. Cet été je suis allé à Saint Antonin Noble Val, une ville médiéval dans le sud-ouest de la France et pendant mon balade autour de le marché j’ai découvert une chapellerie où j’ai acheté un chapeau violet de paille. J’ai marchandé pour obtenir un meilleur prix et j’étais satisfait avec le résultat. C’est là aussi que j’ai vu une friperie pour la première fois.

  • Salut,
    Je suis desole, I will need to write in English, since I am an old Francophile who sadly not proficient in French. I have a few questions for you:
    1. When I enter a shop in Lyon or Toulouse and shop keepers here my pitiful attempt at greetings ( with horrible pronunciation) and cut to the chase by asking in English, so many of times I do not get a chance to say s’il vous plait, and end up compensating with Merci. It seems to be more of a norm in a bigger cities than in smaller places like Nimes. Does it make me rude?

    2. I tend to get intimidated to enter a small beautiful shop with no customers, in part due to my lack of language skills and in part because I am not sure what is the proper etiquette and expectations. I am not sure that I will buy anything at all I am just interested. In US and around the world ( not in Arabic countries) I feel free to shop because I like to look at beautiful things and because I am not obligated to buy, so I am window shopping, or browsing, as we would say in US. But in France and only in France in a small patisserie or specialized magazine its hard, I feel that expectation for me to buy something or not come in at all? Please explain.

    I am a mature traveler who has traveled the world as a consultant, and now as a retired person I try to spend time in France and enjoy your way of life. I am born in Europe, but lived most of my life in US.
    Thank you

  • Salut, Géraldine; dis, comment dit-on, “je travaille à Renault” ou “je travaille chez Renault”? Et quelle est exactement la différence de l’une ou l’autre préposition dans des constructions pareilles?? Merci de ta réponse.

  • Salut, Géraldine; dis, comment dit-on, “je travaille à Renault” ou “je travaille chez Renault”? Et quelle est exactement la différence de l’une ou l’autre préposition dans des constructions pareilles?? Merci de ta réponse.

  • Bonjour Geraldine!
    J’aime bien recevoir votre email en francais! Chaque fois je le lis (out loud) pour le plaisir d’entendre les mots (et pour practiquer lire me francais, bien sur!) Merci pour votre bon idee!
    Lauren

  • Bonjour Geraldine, en anglais, une “mercerie” est une “haberdashery”.
    Bonne fin de journée de Cognac à Grenoble.

  • Salut Geraldine, Quand nous etions en France, precisement a Paris, en 1972-73, nous habtions Rue des Martyrs. La, il y avait toutes sortes de petits magasins, y compris une boucherie chevaline. Pas besoin de te dire combien cela nous a choques, nous autres Americains! Jamais nous n’aurions pense a bouffer du cheval.

  • Je passe quelques semaines chaque été à faire le tour de la France en moto. Une des joies est de trouver une boulangerie pour un sandwich au déjeuner, généralement dans une ville tranquille.
    Il n’existe pas d’équivalent direct au Royaume-Uni – ils sont souvent petits et dépendent du commerce de passage. Mais ils offrent une occasion parfaite pour une conversation agréable et ils peuvent avoir une table et des sièges à l’extérieur sur le trottoir. Une fois, la vendeuse a quitté le magasin 10 minutes plus tard pour son propre déjeuner et elle m’a vue manger en face de la route. Elle a insisté pour que j’accepte une pâtisserie supplémentaire.
    Vous ne verrez pas cela au Royaume-Uni. !!

  • Bonjour, Géraldine, et merci bien pour ce leçon très utile! Mon grand magasin favori quand je suis à Paris est le BHV. J’aime aussi les Galleries Lafayette, mais ce magasin est un peu chèr pour moi! Quand même, j’aime regarder des choses là-bas. C’est un très beau magasin. Question, s’il vous plaît: “Galleries Lafayette” sont singular or plural?

  • Je vais chez Citypharma, rue de Fours, Paris pour les produits de soin de la peau. Ils ont une selection incroyable, mais beaucoup de touristes.

  • J’aime beaucoup aller au Lidl à Argèles sur mer pour faire les courses. Il y a beaucoup des choix avec les bonnes prix.

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