French Lessons


A Free Sampling of French Food and Drink Words

Alessandro is a pique-assiette (freeloader, literally “plate-stealer”) in his latest video, in which he walks down Paris’s Rue Montorgueil to take advantage of all the free samples (des échantillons gratuits) along the street. As the theme of this video is eating and drinking, you’ll find several different words for those two activities besides the standard verbs manger (to eat) and boire (to drink).


One of the great things about the Rue Montorgueil is that you can basically eat an entire meal for free just by sampling all the delicacies (though we encourage you to support the local businesses by making some purchases too!): 


Et on peut déguster tout gratuitement.

And you can sample everything for free.

En fait, on peut se nourrir rue Montorgueil gratuitement.

In fact, you can eat on Rue Montorgueil for free.

Captions 11-12, Cap 24 - Paris 2ème : Alessandro joue le Pique-assiette!

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Besides “to sample” or “to taste,” déguster can also mean “to savor” or “to enjoy.” Make sure you don’t confuse it with dégoûter, which has a very different meaning: “to disgust.” On the other hand, goûter is more or less interchangeable with déguster


Allons-y! Nous allons goûter.

Let's go! We are going to sample.

Caption 23, Cap 24 - Paris 2ème : Alessandro joue le Pique-assiette!

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The noun forms of these two verbs are a bit different, however. Whereas une dégustation is “a tasting” or “a sampling,” un goûter is “a snack” (while le goût refers to a person’s sense of taste or to the flavor of food). 

Se nourrir literally means “to nourish oneself,” but it’s mostly used as a synonym for manger to mean “to eat.” It’s also synonymous with s’alimenter, and both verbs mean “to feed” when they’re non-reflexive (nourrir, alimenter). Alimenter can also mean “to supply,” as in a reservoir that supplies a city with water: 


Il alimente un cinquième à peu près de la ville de Paris

It supplies about one-fifth of the city of Paris

en eau naturelle.

with natural water.

Caption 19, Voyage dans Paris - Le Treizième arrondissement de Paris

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Of course, it's also possible to nourish your soul rather than your stomach, as in the expression se nourrir d'amour et d'eau fraîche (literally, "to nourish oneself with love and fresh water") or vivre d'amour et d'eau fraîche ("to live on love and fresh water"). It corresponds to the English expressions "to live on love alone" or "to be madly in love." It's also a more romantic way of saying "to be irresponsible" or "carefree."

La nourriture is the general word for “food,” while un aliment refers to a piece of food (or a “foodstuff”). And l’alimentation has a wide variety of meanings, including “food,” “feeding,” “groceries,” “supply,” “diet,” and “nutrition.” It's typically used in a broader, more abstract way:


Tu dois pouvoir bénéficier d'une alimentation suffisante, saine et équilibrée.

You must be able to receive adequate, healthy, and balanced nutrition.

Caption 20, Marie et Sakhoura - Droits des enfants

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Par contre, si vous êtes dans un rythme d'alimentation biologique,

However, if you're following an organic diet,

vous allez réfléchir à votre consommation.

you're going to think about your consumption.

Captions 26-27, Alsace 20 - Pourquoi le bio est-il plus cher?

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Rue Montorgueil also has a lot to offer in terms of beverages, including some delicious smoothies:

Une fois que vous avez picolé gratuitement les smoothies gratuits,

Once you've downed the free smoothies for free,

donc les fruits et légumes...

so the fruit and vegetables...

Caption 18, Cap 24 - Paris 2ème : Alessandro joue le Pique-assiette!

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Picoler is a slang term for boire that usually refers to alcoholic beverages, but can also refer to “downing” or “knocking back” any kind of drink. 

The most common slang word for manger is bouffer, which, as a noun, is also a slang word for “food”: 


Quand je réalise que la bouffe est un problème

When I realize that food is a problem

Caption 25, Oldelaf - Je mange

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Oldelaf’s music video is full of food-related vocabulary, as Oldelaf depicts himself not as a mere pique-assiette, but as a total glouton (glutton). The words you learned in this lesson should come in handy in any culinary situation, whether you’re nibbling on free samples in Rue Montorgueil (goûter dans la rue Montorgueuil) or pigging out at home (bouffer à la maison)


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