French Language Blog

Going To L’Epicerie – Groceries In French Posted by on Mar 1, 2017 in Vocabulary

I learn new things everyday by making mistakes. Whether I need to buy un chargeur or find un dentiste, there seems to be an endless vocabulary list of words I didn’t realize I didn’t know!

8 à huit by Stephen Rees on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Finding out you don’t know un mot (a word) can be quite the learning experience. Many mundane experiences hide the hardest words to learn. The first time I had to tell un ami (a friend) that I was going grocery shopping really taught me how hard it can be to explain some ideas.

The conversation with mon ami  was normal until I reached a word I didn’t know how to say:

Salut John ! Ça va ?
Oui, ça va, et toi ?
Ça va, ça va. Tu fais quoi maintenant ?
je vais….

Hi John! How are you?
I’m find, and you?
I’m doing alright. What are you doing now?
I’m going to….

I froze and in between the euhs and ums I realized that not only did I not know how to say grocery shopping, I didn’t know how to explain what grocery shopping is! Faire du shopping (shopping) wouldn’t work and something like acheter de la nourriture (buying food) sounds weird and could be confused with going to un restaurant.

After an uncomfortable amount of time I said the first thing that came to my mind:

Je vais… faire quelque chose….
Et bien, à bientôt !
À bientôt ?

I’m going to… do something….
Well, later!

After the awkward exchange I made my way to l’épicerie (the grocery store), but on my way home I ran into mon ami again. With a few sacs de courses (grocery bags) in hand, I felt I could explain what I couldn’t say earlier.

Salut !
Salut John ! Alors, tu as fait quelque chose ?
Ouais… En fait, je ne savais pas comment on dit faire du shopping mais dans un magasin où on achète de la nourriture.
Un restaurant ?
Non, où on achète des légumes, de la viande et de la bière entre autre chose.
Une épicerie ?
Oui c’est ça ! J’allais faire du shopping dans une épicerie !
Faire les courses ! C’est pour ça que tu m’as dit « quelque chose » ?
Oui c’est ça….
T’inquiètes! C’est comme ça qu’on apprend !

Hi !
Hi John ! So did you do something?
Yeah… Actually, I didn’t know how to say “go shopping”, but in a store where you buy food.
A restaurant?
Non, where you buy vegetables, meat and beer among other things.
A grocery store?
Yes that’s it! I was going shopping in a grocery strore!
Grocery shopping! That’s why you told me “something”?
Yeah, that’s it….
Don’t worry! That’s how you learn!

Between les rires (the laughter) of mon ami I made sure to remember faire les courses. I even started putting le mot at the top of mes listes de courses (my shopping lists)!

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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.