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Buying A Glass In French – Don’t Forget The Drink! Posted by on Jan 24, 2018 in Culture, Grammar

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes when you speak French! Not knowing how to say simple words like mattress or shorts have put me in some strange situations, but if I had been too afraid to speak, I would never have learned les nouveaux mots (the new words) at all!

Image from Pixabay. Licensed under CC0.

Between looking at someone dans les yeux (in the eyes) and learning the importance of l’eau (water), I’ve learned a lot au café.

Another fun experience learning new words au café happened when I was out with mon ami (my friend) and wanted to buy them a drink as a friendly gesture. I wasn’t sûr à cent pour cent (one hundred percent sure) and ended up thinking in English as I smiled at mon ami:

Je t’achète un verre ! 
D’accord… pourquoi ? 
Tu es mon ami, donc je veux t’acheter un verre ! 
Pourquoi pas ! 

I’ll buy you a glass! 
Okay… why? 
You are my friend, so I want to buy you a glass! 
Why not! 

Mon ami was nice enough to play along even if he didn’t really understand what I wanted to say. When le barman (the bartender) came over and I placed an order, mon ami immediately understood what I originally tried to say.

Aaah ! Tu voulais dire que tu veux me payer un verre ! 

Aaah! You wanted to say that you want to buy me a glass! 

It was my turn to be confused because it sounded like he pretty much said exactly the same thing, only using the word payer (to pay) instead of acheter (to buy).

Alors, c’est quoi la différence entre ce que tu viens de dire et ce que j’ai dit ? 
Si tu dis que tu vas m’acheter un verre, ça veut dire que tu vas vraiment m’acheter un verre et pas la boisson ! 

So, what’s the difference between what you just said and what I said? 
If you say that you’re buying me a glass, that means you are going to really buy me a glass and not the drink! 

I quickly understood my mistake and realized how funny my original statement must have sounded to mon ami. The difference between payer un verre and acheter un verre has since stuck with me, but that wasn’t the last time a small error made my French sound strange!

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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.