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Tirer: Pulling, Drawing, Shooting, and More

The galette des rois (kings' cake) is a holiday treat prepared throughout the French-speaking world. Associated with the feast of Epiphany on January 6, the cake contains a small figurine (called la fève) representing the baby Jesus. Whoever finds la fève in their slice is crowned king or queen for the day.


Patricia explains the tradition of the galette des rois in her latest video. While doing so, she also happens to use the verb tirer in all three of its major senses: 


En début d'année, au mois de janvier, nous tirons les rois.

At the beginning of the year, in the month of January, we draw kings.

Captions 4-5, Le saviez-vous? - La tradition de la galette des rois - Part 1

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Non, il ne s'agit pas de tirer les moustaches du roi ou encore tirer des fléchettes sur le roi.

No, it's not about pulling the king's mustache or shooting darts at the king.

Captions 6-7, Le saviez-vous? - La tradition de la galette des rois - Part 1

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Le roi et la reine qu'on a donc tirés, c'est-à-dire tirés au sort, choisis au hasard, portent leur couronne pour clôturer cette célébration.

So the king and the queen that were drawn, that is to say drawn at random, chosen at random, wear their crowns to close this celebration.

Captions 19-22, Le saviez-vous? - La tradition de la galette des rois - Part 1

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"To pull" is the most basic meaning of tirer. You'll often come across it when approaching a door (tirez, "pull"), along with its opposite (poussez, "push"). And in the event of an emergency, you might tirer l'alarme incendie (pull the fire alarm).


Tirer means "to draw" not in the sense of "drawing" a picture (the verb for that is dessiner), but rather "drawing" something toward you or extracting something (such as la fève from a galette des rois). It's also "to draw" as in "to pick" or "select." For example, a French magician might say to you:


Tirez une carte. 
Pick a card.


Tirer's more sinister meaning is "to shoot" or "to fire," referring to a weapon. This also has to do with pulling—you pull the trigger to fire a gun and pull the bow to shoot an arrow. Be careful with your prepositions here: we say "to shoot or fire at" in English, but in French it's not tirer à but tirer sur (tirer des fléchettes sur le roi).


Tirer has many, many other meanings. For instance, you can use it to describe skin irritation (which, if you think about it, kind of feels like your skin is being pulled):


J'ai la peau qui tire
My skin is irritated.


On a totally different note, tirer can also refer to printing something, such as a book, a photo, or a poster. In this case it's synonymous with imprimer


On a tiré [or imprimédes affiches pour le concert. 
We printed some posters for the concert. 


Note that there are two noun forms of tirerle tirage and le tirTir exclusively refers to "shooting" or "firing" a weapon, as in le tir à l'arc (archery). Tirage refers to "drawing" or "printing," as in le tirage au sort (drawing lots) or le tirage d'un livre (the printing of a book).


For even more usages of tirer, check out this page or do a search in our video library. 


On se tire! (We're out of here!) Thanks for reading. Tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to



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