French Language Blog

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes – Body Parts in French and Their Actions Posted by on Jan 26, 2017 in Uncategorized, Vocabulary

We’ve all got them. We’re made of them. We use them all the time. In fact, you’re using some of them to read this post!

I’d argue that it’s safe to say you learn the body parts in a traditional French classroom within the first few weeks. They’re very useful words, especially when you’re just starting to talk about yourself in a foreign language. Even still, you generally only learn a few of them. When I first travelled to France, I’d already learned how to say head and arm, but you never know what word you may need in everyday conversation. I remember learning the word for ankle (la cheville) when I went ice skating with some friends – I was complaining about ankle pain but didn’t know the word for the body part causing me the agony. Once they taught me, I knew I’d remember the word forever because it was now linked to that event.  Over the years, I learned more words, but I also learned how to say what these body parts do.

For today’s post, I thought I’d introduce the body parts and list the verbs for the actions they do. That way, you can match the two words together.

(PS: I haven’t gone ice skating since then. I’m no athlete.)

la tête – head
hocher – to nod/shake
tourner – to turn


les oreilles (f) – ears
écouter – to listen to
entendre – to listen to
écouter aux portes [familiar] – to listen at the door
tendre l’oreille – to listen carefully/keep your ears open


l’œil (m) – eye; les yeux – eyes
le sourcil– eyebrow
le cil– eyelash

voir – to see
regarder – to watch
observer – to observe
mater – to check out [informal]
cligner – to blink
faire un clin d’œil – to wink
fixer – to stare at someone
scruter – to examine


le nez – nose
respirer (par le nez) – to breathe (through your nose)
sentir – to smell
renifler – to sniff
avoir le nez qui coule – to have a runny nose
se moucher – to blow your nose


la bouche – mouth
les lèvres – lips
les dents (f) – teeth
la langue– tongue

manger – to eat
mâcher/mastiquer – to chew
ronger – to gnaw
embrasser – to kiss
lecher – to lick
parler – to talk
bavarder – to chat
respirer (par la bouche) – to breathe (through your mouth)
cracher – to spit
siroter – to sip


la gorge – throat
avaler – to swallow
racler la gorge – to clear your throat


le cou– neck
se tordre – to twist/wring/knot
se dévisser le cou – to gawk at/stare at something
tordre le cou à quelqu’un – to strangle someone


la poitrine– chest
tousser – to cough
gonfler la poitrine [expression] – to be proud of yourself
les épaules (f) – shoulders
housser – to shrug


la main – hand
les doigts – fingers
le poignet – wrist
le coude – elbow
faire craquer les doigts – to crack your knuckles
montrer du droigt – to point at
claquer les doits – to snap
faire un doigt d’honneur – to give someone the finger/flip the bird
grater – to scratch
tenir – to hold
toucher – to touch
applaudir – to applaud/clap
serrer (les mains) – to shake hands
frotter – to rub
giffler – to slap
donner un coup de poing à quelqu’un – to punch someone
tendre la main – to hold your hand out
tendre les bras à quelqu’un – to welcome somebody with open arms


le ventre – stomach
digérer – to digest
gargouiller – to growl


les jambes (f) – legs
les genoux (m) – knees
les pieds (m) – feet
les orteils (m) – toes

tenir debout – to stand
marcher – to walk
courir – to run
donner un coup de pied à quelqu’un – to kick someone
enjamber – to step over
s’agenouiller – to kneel
se mettre à genoux – to get on your knees

This list certainly isn’t exhaustive. Any other verbs you’d add to the lists?

Tags: ,
Keep learning French with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Josh Dougherty

Just your typical francophile. If you have any topics you'd like me to discuss, feel free to let me know!


  1. RAUL:

    Josh, many thanks. Really useful!!!