French Language Blog

Take Your Pills! – Finding Batteries in France Posted by on Dec 9, 2015 in Vocabulary

I’ve been having trouble with electronics and hardware these past few months. It seems that when one thing goes wrong it creates un effet domino (a domino effect).

I recently bought une souris sans fil (a cordless mouse), but forgot that it needs batteries to function. So I was surprised when ma souris stopped working il y a quelque jours (a few days ago), and I needed to buy new batteries. By now I know to look up what I want beforehand so I at least know what to ask for when I walk in the store.

That’s how I learned that une batterie is not always the same thing as a battery. A car battery or a computer battery is une batterie, but a small disposable battery is une pile.

Une fois au magasin (once I was at the store), I walked up to the nearest employé (worker) and asked them:

Est-ce que vous avez des piles ?
Do you have batteries?

L’employé responded nicely:

Oui, mais il faut demander à la caisse.
Yes, but you have to ask at the register.

Pas de problème (no problem). I knew I had the right word because l’employé understood what I was looking for. However, once I was at la caisse, I had a very swift French lesson.

Quel type de pile ?
What kind of battery?

Thinking it couldn’t be much different than in English I simply said:

Double A.
Double A.

The confusion on le visage du caissier (the cashier’s face) made me realize that’s not how it’s said in France. It turns out that a double A battery is une pille AA (pronounced “ah-ah”). I left the store slightly embarassed, but with better French than when I entered thanks to my mistake.

It also made me think about how with all these problems I’m having, I think I know what to ask for Christmas!

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.


  1. Lara:

    Very good, I do enjoy these blogs.

  2. Taghreed:

    I really liked your blog, I found it very useful to help me understand the language more in real life.

    Thank you very much for such interesting posts