French Language Blog

Leaving Imprints – How to Print in French Posted by on Nov 18, 2015 in Vocabulary

Photo by Jared Moran on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Photo by Jared Moran on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Having just come back to France, after getting over la fatigue à cause du décalage horaire (the jetlag), there’s been many meetings catching up on what happened while I was away. That means I’ve had to imprimer (print) many documents, and has led to me realizing that I don’t know how to talk about les imprimantes (printers) in French!

A few days ago I needed to imprimer something, but mon imprimante was out of de l’encre (ink). Ce n’est pas la fin du monde (It’s the end of the world), I could just go to l’imprimerie (the printer’s, printing store) and l’imprimer (print it) there before the meeting. The first surprise of the day happened when I didn’t realize what time the store opened!

After rushing around finding une imprimeire ouverte (an open printing store), I then had to explain why I was late, which meant fumbling around mixing up the words for l’imprimante and l’imprimerie, and not remembering if the verb for print is imprimer or imprimier. Worst of all, I didn’t know how to say de l’encre.

My confusing phrasing led to une réponse sarcastique (a sarcastic response):

« Ah, oui, les problèmes techniques…. »
Ah, yes, technical problems….

The feeling of being unable to effectively communicate is horrible, but it made me go home and look up how to talk about les imprimantes, and when I needed to buy de l’encre, I had no problem saying,

« Ma cartouche noire est vide. »
My black ink cartridge is empty (my printer is out of black ink).

There are always new words and new situations that are impossible to predict. Have any of you ever been in a situation where you just didn’t have the vocabulary to explain your problem?

Voici un vocabulaire d’imprimantes :

Printer – L’imprimante (f)
To print – Imprimer
Ink – De l’encre (f)
Ink cartridge – La cartouche d’encre
Printer’s / Printing store – L’imprimerie (f)
Toner – Le toner
Printer paper – Le papier d’impression

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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. David:

    Hi ! Just to say there’s some mistakes in this article : “imprimante” is a feminine word, but it starts with a vowel so you have to say “mon imprimante” as it is a masculine word. As well, when you want to say “the printer” you have to say “l’imprimante”, not “la imprimante” for the same reason that the word starts with a vowel…

    • John Bauer:

      @David Hey David, thanks for pointing that out! That’s a mistake I often make, but that’s all a part of learning. I even wrote about it when I talked about mistakes English speakers make! Let me know if you catch anything else!

  2. sunshine:

    Wouldn’t it rather be: l’imprimante instead of la imprimante.

  3. sunshine:

    Sorry did not see the previous comment. I really enjoy your topics!!!
    and share with all my students. Continuez le bon travail!

    • John Bauer:

      @sunshine Pas de problème ! I originally added the article to make it clear that imprimante is feminine. I’ve made sure to add another marker for le genre!