French Vocabulary Quiz

Kevin Zed

Image: Carlo A / Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Blank stares, the "I don't know what you're saying" head nod, delayed reactions because you're translating everything mentally ... these are the hallmarks of talking to people in another language. According to a study from the University of Chicago, people make more rational decisions when they think in a foreign language, because the emotional connection with your mother tongue can fog logical reasoning. This is interesting considering that learning another language sometimes feels so irrational.

But if you're here, it means you're a trouper: You're ready to set aside your inhibitions and take on the French language, full stop. Google Translate won't be your best friend anymore, and you won't spend countless hours trying to remember if it's un famille or une famille. You'll serenely glide through nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives that will test and even improve your skills. And in the end, you'll reap the benefits! Research from the University of Edinburgh found that bilingual people tend to outperform their monolingual counterparts on attention tests. Another study found that learning another language, even in late adulthood, improves general intelligence and reading skills. If you want to prove that the "advanced French proficiency" on your resume is actually true, you've come to the right place. Allons-y!

You need a seat! What are you looking for?

Both "chair" and "chaise" start with "ch," who would've guessed? "Lit" means "book," who would've double guessed? "Tapis" is a rug or carpet, and "porte" means "door" — not an ideal place to sit.

Do you know what "un portable" means?

You can easily remember this word by thinking that a laptop is very portable. In fact, the official French term is "ordinateur portable," with "ordinateur" meaning "computer" and "portable" referring to its mobility.

Can you tell us what "une journée" means?

This is a classic "faux ami" (otherwise known as "false friend.") These are French words that look like English ones, leading you to wrongly assume that they share the same definition.

You want to go on a run. Which verb are you using?

"Marcher" is the opposite of running, meaning "to walk." "Aimer" and "manger" are unrelated to physical activity, with the former being "to like" and the latter signifying "to eat."

You're at a Parisian market and notice some grapes. What are they called?

If you wanted to buy raisins, you'd purchase "raisins secs," meaning "dried grapes," which actually makes a lot of sense. "Champignons" are mushrooms and "pommes" are apples. Plot twist, "grapés" isn't a word.

It's summertime and your friend says, "Je veux sauter dans la piscine." What did they say?

Who doesn't love a good belly flop? "Je veux" means "I want," while "sauter" is the verb for "to jump." "Piscine" means "pool," similar to the Spanish "piscina." If you're wondering what the word is for "to swim," it's "nager."

Your vain colleague tells you they're too pretty for work. What word did they use for "pretty"?

"Laid" is the opposite of "pretty," meaning "ugly." "Haut" and "court" are also opposites, with the former meaning "tall" and the latter being "short." And an "e" to the end of these words if they describe a female noun.

Your friend asks you to get something from "la cuisine." Which room are you heading toward?

"La cuisine" is where all the magic happens! The food magic, that is. Almost everyone's favorite place, the verb for "to cook" is the same as the French word for the kitchen. The person cooking is "le cuisinier."

Your driving instructor says you drive too slowly. Which word did they use for "slowly"?

French adverbs often end in "ment," making them easy to identify among other types of words. The adjectival counterpart of "lentement" is "lent," but you certainly won't be slow at French once this quiz is over!

Your friend says he will "t'appeler demain." What did they say?

"Appeler" is the verb for "to call," but it can also be used when requesting someone's name, such as when saying, "Comment tu t'appelles?" (the literal translation is, "What do you call yourself?")

You're feeling tired. What word is appropriate here?

All these words are related to sleep: an "oreiller" is a pillow, a "lit" is a bed and "nuit" is night. For anyone who knows what "fatigued" means, it's no surprise that "fatigué" denotes tiredness.

Your hungry friend says they want to go out for "souper." Which meal are you eating?

A good way of remembering this is to keep in mind that soup is often eaten at dinner. You can also say "dîner," but it's sometimes used to refer to lunch, so beware of possible confusion.

Which word isn't essentially a synonym for "nice"?

"Méchant" is the word for "mean." You can remember this by noting that both words start with "m." "Gentil" is a basic way of saying "nice," while "chaleureux" denotes warmth. "Sympathique" is good for agreeableness or pleasantness.

You're playing "Rock, paper, scissors." Which one isn't an option?

"Main" isn't an option, but it's what you use to play the game — it's your hand. "Papier" is a rock ... just kidding, it's actually paper. The word for "rock" is "roche" and, you guessed it, "ciseaux" are scissors.

You're starting to read your favorite book series again. Which option is the word for "read"?

Reading before you "dormir" — or go to sleep — is a good idea, but don't do it as you "conduire" since driving and reading don't mix. We hope you "apprendre" — or learn — a lot from this quiz.

Your optometrist gives you a new prescription, what's the French equivalent of "glasses"?

A ''verre'' is a glass, such as one that you would use to drink water. "Bouteille" is a bottle and, despite looking like "lentils," "lentilles" actually refers to glasses lenses. Lastly, you're not seeing double, an "optométriste" is, in fact, an optometrist.

You just tried your mother-in-law's flavorless meatloaf and you tell her it needs some salt and pepper. What are the words for these two?

So many meatloafs, so little flavor. "Sale" is actually "dirty," hopefully not a word that'd be needed to describe a meatloaf. "Poivron" refers to bell peppers and not the seasoning.

Your friend asks if you want to take a ride on their "bateau." Which mode of transportation will you be on?

While the idea of riding a donkey seems lovely, a boat is your friend's transportation of choice. Had they said "un âne," well, that would be a different story. "Un avion" is a plane and "un canoë" is, you guessed it, a canoe.

You're rereading your yearbook and see the classic, "See you this summer!" comment from a peer. What word did they use for "summer"?

You can remember "l'hiver," which means "winter," by noting that you s"hiver" when it's cold. "Printemps," just like the Spanish "primavera," refers to spring. And, surprise, surprise, "l'automne" is autumn.

Your uncle says he "souvent" goes on a walk. Which word did he use?

"Souvent" is one notch more intense than "rarement" — meaning "rarely" — but not quite as frequent as "toujours," which means "always." If he had said he never goes on walks, he would've used "jamais."

You're going for a hike. Which weather condition are you hoping for?

''Sun'' starts with "S," and so does ''soleil.'' If there was any ''pluie,'' we'd hope you'd bring an umbrella. Pack some snow boots if the forecast calls for ''neige'' and just stay home altogether if there's ''grêle'' — hail hurts!

Which of the following is not essentially a synonym for happy?

''Heureux'' and ''heureuse'' both denote happiness, but are spelled differently because they're adjectives and, hence, the former is masculine and the latter is feminine. ''Gai'' is a way of saying ''jolly'' or ''cheerful.''

You're bringing a ''drapeau'' to the party. What did you pack?

You can remember this by thinking that it's common for people to ''drape'' the flag around themselves during times of celebration. As with other nouns ending in ''eau,'' add an X at the end to make this word plural.

Which option isn't an adjective?

It'd be a ''mensonge'' to say this one wasn't a curve ball. A ''mensonge'' is a lie — the others mean ''pleasant,'' ''scary'' and ''annoying,'' respectively. A liar is a ''menteur'' and ''to lie'' is ''mentir.''

Which option isn't a type of writing tool?

Surprisingly, "une gomme" isn't actually gum, but an eraser. You'll also be surprised to hear that "un crayon" is a pencil. A highlighter and pen denote "un surligneur" and "un stylo," respectively.

Which answer isn't a type of footwear?

Wearing cauliflower on your feet probably isn't the best idea. But sandals, sneakers and boots (aka options 1, 2 and 3) are better choices. The word "fleur" means "flower" in French, hence the second part in "chou-fleur."

Your friend asks for a slice of "gâteau." What are you cutting into?

Fun fact: the French equivalent of "happy birthday" is "bonne fête," or you can also say "joyeux anniversaire." You can expect "un gâteau" regardless of the language, but "un pizza," "une lasagne" and "une tarte" aren't guaranteed.

Your driving instructor tells you to never go through a red light. Which word signifies "red"?

While roses are often red, the color "rose" refers to pink. You'd definitely go through a "vert" light, but might be a bit more cautious when you see that it's "jaune." If you see "rouge" and "bleu," you're about to get pulled over.

You need room service to come clean your suite. Which verb means "to clean"?

You might "se tortiller," or squirm, upon seeing a messy room, but might feel compelled to "embrasser," or hug, the room service once it's clean. You may even "donner" — give — a really good tip after.

Which part of your face is examined at an optometrist?

The idea of going to an optometrist to get your "nez" and "menton" — nose and chin — checked doesn't seem right. You're more likely to end up at an eyebrow bar if you need your "sourcils" worked on.

You're watching a dubbed version of "Judge Judy," what's the French word for "trial"?

A trial is technically a legal process, so the word "procès" is fitting. The "procès" occurs in a court — or "cour." "Une épreuve" is a type of trial, but more in the sense of an attempt or trial run.

Which option is an antonym for "old"?

If referring to youth as a group of people, you'd say "les jeunes." If you're talking about youth as a concept, say "la jeunesse." The second option, "ancien," does mean "ancient," but it's frequently used as "former," like "mon ancien professeur."

You're at a store and see a nice "chemise." What are you grabbing?

More specifically, the word for "T-shirt" in French and English is identical. Interestingly, the word for "shorts" is also the same. But a hat is "un chapeau" and a sweater is "un chandail."

What's the word for turkey, the Thanksgiving staple?

Fun fact: the word for "Turkey," the country, is "Turquie." All these options are some variation of a bird — a chicken, hen and rooster, respectively — but do we see them stealing the show at Thanksgiving? Exactly.

Which answer isn't a noun?

"Mécontentement" looks like an adverb but it's indeed a noun, meaning "dissatisfaction," something you're probably not experiencing if you answered this correctly. A "montaigne" is a mountain and "l'arc-en-ciel" is a rainbow.

Rectangles, circles, ovals ... it seems as if there are as many shapes as there are languages. Which shape is "un carré"?

The words for shapes look almost identical in both English and French — a rectangle is "un rectangle," a circle is "un cercle" and a triangle is "un triangle," just to name a few — but this is a case where there's no resemblance.

Time sure flies by, regardless of whether you're speaking French or English. Which month means "August"?

French months are not capitalized unless they start the sentence. This rule echoes Spanish grammar, and the second option just so happens to be the word for "August" in Spanish. The third answer is a name, and "aux" is a preposition that precedes plural nouns.

Everyone at some point in their life has played a game of tic-tac-toe, but not everyone knows the French word for "toe." Do you?

Tic-tac-eyelash, or "un cil," just doesn't have the same ring to it, and neither does tic-tac-eyebrow, or "un sourcil." "Un pied" is close to the toe but not quite right — it's a foot.

Sometimes, you just need to kick your feet up and have a day where you don't do anything at all. Which word means "lazy"?

If you have time for a lazy day, some would say you're lucky, or "chanceux" (if you're a girl, you'd be "chanceuse.") Some would undoubtedly be "jaloux" (jealous) and others would simply be netural, or "neutre."

Everyone has tripped at some point in their life. Which word is an antonym of "coordinated"?

When English speakers describe something awkward or clumsy, they often use the term "gauche," which means "left" in French, and this answer essentially indicates the same thing: "mal" is "bad" and "droit" is "right," signifying "not right" ... or left!

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