The Many Translations of “Care” in French

Languages are messy. And translations are even worse. But it’s fascinating!

Some words have tons of different uses. In these cases, a direct translation will often fail since the word depends on context and underlying meanings. You know, words such as “Passer”, for instance. Or the many possible meanings of “Coup”.

But English words are complicated too! Today, let’s dive into the subtleties of “Care.”

C’est parti!

1. Care - Le Soin

Le soin is a general translation for “care.”
Example: Les soins médicaux, medical care.

Prendre soin (de quelqu’un) = caring for, or taking care (of), “helping them get better.”

Example:
J’ai pris soin de ma mère malade jusqu’à ce qu’elle aille mieux.
I cared for my ailing mother until she got better.

Tu peux prendre soin de mon chat pendant mon voyage ? Lui faire des câlins ?
Can you take care of my cat while I’m away? And pet him?

Limits to that translation:
We don’t always use “soin” for this meaning.
Healthcare = la santé. (simply, “health”).

Example:
Je travaille dans le secteur de la santé.
I work in the healthcare industry.

Carefully = soigneusement (which does come from “soin”), but more commonly prudemment, or avec précaution.

Example:
Ce vase chinois est à manier avec précaution
This Chinese vase needs to be handled carefully/handled with care.

2. Caring About - L’attention

L’attention is “care” in the sense of being attentive, or “to mind.”

Example:
Fais attention! / Attention!
Careful! or Warning! Look out!

(You need to learn this one until you know it by instinct. When you need it, you won’t have the time to check its meaning in the dictionary!)

Other examples, in less urgent situations:

Il faut étudier la question attentivement.
We should study that question with some care.

S’il te plaît, fais attention où tu mets les pieds.
Please, take care where you’re walking.

Dans la forêt, je fais attention à ne pas déranger les animaux.
In the woods, I take care not to disturb the wildlife.

We also use the verb veiller to mean “faire attention.” It’s more formal, so you’ll mostly see it on official signs or documents.

Example:
Veillez à ne pas nourrir les animaux. = Please don’t feed the animals.

“I care about it” = “Je suis intéressé(e)” / “Ça m’intéresse”

Example:
Je suis intéressé par la politique internationale.
I care about international politics.

Problem: “To care” as indefinite.
In English, “to care” about something or someone is mostly positive. “Être intéressé” in French is mostly neutral.

“We care” on its own, without a specific thing to care about, is also difficult to translate in French.

Example:
Je le fais parce que je me sens concerné.
I do it because I care or more precisely “I do it because I am concerned about it.”

Possible answer: “le souci”
Le souci, worry.
Se faire du souci, to worry about something.
Se soucier, to worry, to care about something

Je le fais parce que ça me cause du souci.
I do it because it’s causing me to worry.

Je me soucis de toi, tu es importante pour moi.
I care about you.

However it’s quite formal and unusual to use “souci.”

“problem” in slang

Un souci = a problem, synonyms:

Un problème (common)
Un os (familiar)
Une couille (slang, vulgar)

“I don’t care.” – Many translations in French!

Ça ne m’intéresse pas.
I don’t care about it. (formal)

And we have tons of French slang words for it too!

“I don’t care” in slang and everyday spoken French.

Je m’en fiche = I don’t care. (mildy slang, almost common language)
Je m’en fous = I don’t give a damn. -> Very popular slang.

Je m’en tape / je m’en cogne = “I’m hitting myself with it” (literally)
Je m’en bats l’œil = I’m hitting my eye with it
Je m’en tamponne l’oreille avec une babouche, I’m hitting my ear with a slipper…

Very crude but very common variation:
Je m’en bats les couilles = I’m hitting my testicles with it.
“It hurts, how much I don’t care.”

3. Taking Care Of - S’occuper De

This is close to the previous themes, but with more practical undertones.

S’occuper de quelque chose = taking care of something.

Example:
Tu peux t’occuper mon chat pendant mon voyage ? Et lui donner à manger ?
Can you take care of my cat while I’m away? And feed him?

Je me suis occupé de la fuite dans la douche.
I took care of the leak in the shower. (A quick fix for a problem.)

C’est bon, je me suis occupé de lui, patron.
It’s OK, I took care of him, boss. (Euphemism with a darker meaning.)

other meanings for “occuper”

S’occuper de quelqu’un = to look after someone.
S’occuper = to busy oneself, to keep yourself busy.
Occuper un endroit = to occupy a place.
Une occupation = a hobby, something you do to busy yourself.
(We’d rather use un travail, un emploi or un métier for anything professional.)
L’Occupation = the German Occupation of France during WWII.

4. Caring For - Apprécier

Apprécier, to like, is a general synonym for “caring for.”

Example:
Je t’apprécie, tu es important pour moi.
I care for you.

Non, je l’aime pas trop.
No, I don’t really care for him.

And we did it! It’s a lot for a single word. We could always go deeper and deeper with that, but I hope this overview puts you in the right direction to better understand our expressions, and to get the confidence to speak more fluently!

Et toi ?

What other English word is difficult to translate in French?

Tell me in the comments section, I’d love to hear from you!

Bonne journée,
Géraldine

Join the conversation!

  • Geraldine, J’aime beaucoup les leçons comme ça et que tu fournis un PDF ! Une petite suggestion : Est-ce qu’il est possible de faire un format plus grand ? Comme tu fais avec les autres PDFs. C’est beaucoup plus facile à lire ! Merci.

  • I agree that this really was a great, super helpful episode. Thank you Géraldine. What’s more, I find that the commenters have posed some really great questions. I’ll be looking back at this episode to see how they’re answered. Thank you everyone!

  • The English word I often struggle to translate is ‘to get’. It’s used in so many different contexts in English and knowing what to replace it with in French is tricky.

  • Is there a word used just for hello. In the morning we said goodmorning to the receptionist in the hotel. In the afternoon, when we returned what can we say to the same receptionist.

  • Cette vidéo est génial ! Merci ! The two words that I use all the time in English but seem to lie between the meanings of French terms are “lovely” and “delightful.”

  • Mes amies françaises ne comprennent pas le mot anglais “get”. On le dit pour
    “to understand,” “to receive,”, ou “to catch.”

  • For “I don’t care” one can also say “Ça m’est égal” in the sense of “It doesn’t matter to me” when choosing between different options. Correct, Geraldine?

  • C’était un autre épisode très utile! Je trouve que le mot « wrong » est difficile à traduire. Par example; Something is wrong with her. I chose the wrong time. I knew it was wrong to ask the question.

  • The word “silly” is hard to translate. If you are describing a child who is being silly, not being stupid or foolish, just silly, how would you say that?

  • When Melania Trump recently wore a jacket that said “I really don’t care, do you?” RFI reported that it said “je n’en ai vraiment rien à faire.” I’m having trouble making any sense of that as a valid translation. Can you help?

    • The expression “en avoir rien à faire“ literally translates as “to have nothing to do (with it)”. Put in a french context, it often means, “to not care (about it)”. I hope this is helpful.
      ~ Rans (non-native learner)

  • Geraldine tu es tres utile a moi. Vive Geraldine! Vive la france! Vive l’equipe de foot de France et son Benjamin, le petit garcon Kylian Mbappe

  • Alors, si je veux justement dire à quelqu’un “take care!” , c’est correcte de dire “prends soins” ?

  • Il est difficile de traduire le mot “confuse” (confused, confusing). Merci de votre considération, Géraldine.

  • What is the French word for soul? My French friend was listening to a song- when a blind man cries – and didn’t know the word “soul”, he thought it meant his stomach!

  • S’il te plaît, fais attention où tu mets les pieds.
    Please, take care where you’re walking.

    “Please take care of where you put your feet.” Direct but also possible. Nothing to do with walking. You could be sitting and you need to be careful of your foot placement. Is this also a possible translation?

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