French: Food and drink

If you travel in France or a French-speaking country, it's important to be able to talk about what you like to eat and drink.

Here are some useful phrases to help you.

Talking about food and drink in French

When talking about food and drink, it's useful to be able to talk about what you like and don't like.

The French for 'to like' is listen aimer. This form of the verb is called the infinitive.

You can recognise an infinitive in English as it begins with to, such as 'to like' or 'to eat'.

In French, you can spot an infinitive by looking at the end of the verb. All French infinitives end in either -er, -ir or -re.

As aimer ends in -er it is called an -er verb.

Saying what you like and don't like

To say 'I like', you say:

  • listen J'aime – I like

Can you see that the end of the verb is no longer -er but -e? The ending of the verb changes depending on who is doing the action.

Remember that before the verb, you use the word for I - je. As the verb aimer begins with a vowel, je changes to j' to make it easier to say.

  • Je + aime = J'aime

To say 'I don't like', you need to add ne or n' (before a vowel) before the verb and pas after the verb.

  • listen Je n'aime pas – I don't like

Food in French

Here are some words for food so you can say what you like or don't like.

Did you notice that all the words begin with either le, la, l' or les? This means 'the' and it is called the definite article.

You can learn more about this in Indefinite and definite articles.

FrenchEnglish
listen les friteschips
listen le fromagecheese
listen le fruitfruit
listen la glaceice cream
listen le hamburgerhamburger
listen le jambonham
listen les légumesvegetables
listen l'œufegg
listen le painbread
listen le poissonfish
listen le pouletchicken
listen le sandwichsandwich
listen la viandemeat

Now you can say what you like:

  • listen J'aime le fromage – I like cheese

  • listen J'aime les frites – I like chips

  • listen J'aime les légumes – I like vegetables

...and what you don't:

  • listen Je n'aime pas le fromage – I don't like cheese

  • listen Je n'aime pas les frites – I don't like chips

  • listen Je n'aime pas les légumes – I don't like vegetables

Did you know?

Did you notice that in French you say 'the' before the noun, whereas in English you don't?

You can also say that you like more than one thing if you use the word for 'and' – listen et.

  • listen J'aime le fromage et le pain – I like cheese and bread

  • listen J'aime le poisson et les frites – I like fish and chips

Drinks in French

Here are some words for drinks.

FrenchEnglish
listen le cafécoffee
listen l'eauwater
listen le jus d'orangeorange juice
listen le jus de pommeapple juice
listen le laitmilk
listen le thétea

Saying what you prefer

You might want to say that you like something, but you prefer something else.

  • listen préférer is the French word for 'to prefer'.

To say 'I prefer' you say:

  • listen Je préfère – I prefer

You can also add the useful conjunction listen mais (but). Conjunctions are joining words that link together parts of a sentence.

listen J'aime les légumes, mais je préfère la viande – I like vegetables, but I prefer meat.

Mealtimes

Here are words for mealtimes in French.

FrenchEnglish
listen le petit déjeunerbreakfast
listen le déjeunerlunch
listen le goûterafternoon snack
listen le dînerdinner
listen le repasmeal

How do I say 'I eat' in French?

The French word for 'to eat' is listen manger.

Manger is a regular verb like aimer - to like.

The endings of verbs change, depending on the person or thing doing the action, for example, je - I, tu - you, elle - she or it, il - he or it.

Regular verbs change in the same way, so once you know how a regular verb changes, you will be able to use lots of different verbs in the same way.

Below are the endings for regular -er verbs. You remove the -er from the infinitive manger, then you add these endings.

PronounStemEndingExampleEnglish
jemangelisten je mangeI eat
tumangeslisten tu mangesyou eat
ellemangelisten elle mangeshe eats
ilmangelisten il mangehe eats

Did you notice that the verbs sound the same, even though the endings are different?

How do I say 'I drink' in French?

The French word for 'to drink' is listen boire. This is an irregular verb, so it doesn't change in the same way as regular verbs. This means you need to remember the different forms.

You remove the -re from the infinitive boire, then you add these endings.

PronounStemEndingExampleEnglish
jeboislisten je boisI drink
tuboislisten tu boisyou drink
elleboitlisten elle boitshe drinks
ilboitlisten il boithe drinks

Did you notice that they all sound the same? This is because s and t are silent letters.

You can also use the infinitive of manger or boire to say what you like to eat and drink.

  • listen J'aime manger la glace – I like to eat ice cream

  • listen J'aime boire le jus d'orange – I like to drink orange juice

Key French sounds

Below are some important French sounds that you have heard in this topic. Try practising them yourself out loud.

  1. e

There are different ways of saying and writing e in French. One way of saying the e sound can be written as é, -er, es, ez and et.

All these letter combinations make the same sound, which is not found in English. It is a short, sharp sound which you might use to attract someone's attention.

listen les frites - chips

Also the same sound as -er, -es, -ez and et
  1. e

Another way of saying e in French sounds like the e in the English word egg.

This can be written as e before two consonants, è, ê, ai, aî, ei and e before a final c, l or t.

listen mais - but

Remember that the s at the end of a word is silent.

Also written as è, ê, ai, aî, ei and e before a final c, f, l and t
  1. th

These letters make the same sound as t in English.

listen le thé – the tea

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