Home Advice Is “Faire” the Most Versatile French Word?

Is “Faire” the Most Versatile French Word?

by Calli Zarpas
Faire - a versatile French word

The word faire might be one of the most versatile verbs in the French language. Faire is an irregular verb that is commonly used throughout the French language. Although faire is one of the most common French verbs, it can be challenging to master because it has many different meanings. Faire can be used in idiomatic expressions to talk about the weather, going shopping, and more. 

On its own faire can be translated as “to do,” “to make,” “to equal,” “to play,” “to cover,” “to turn into,” “to work as,” “to act,” “to measure,” “to cost,” and “to last,” depending on the context. These 11 definitions might not seem much compared to the 430 uses possible with the English word “set,” but faire can have even more meanings when modified by other words. For example, when the modifier se is added before faire to create se faire, there are additional possible definitions. Se faire can mean “to have,” “to become,” “to get,” “to stretch,” “to get used to,” and “to imitate.” In addition to these definitions, the French use faire in a ton of different idiomatic phrases, which we’ll go through next.

Common Idiomatic Faire Expressions

  1. Faire semblant de

For the longest time, I thought the French were saying faire sans blanc when they were saying faire semblant because it wasn’t a phrase I had learned in school. Faire semblant de means to pretend or fake.

Il a fait semblant de s’endormir. = He pretended to sleep.

  1. Faire les courses

When I have to faire les courses, I usually have to go by the post office or head to the grocery store. Did you guess that faire les courses means to run errands? This phrase can also mean just to go grocery shopping. 

Je vais faire les courses cet après-midi. = I’m going to run errands this afternoon. 

  1. Faire les bagages

Literally meaning “to do the luggage,” faire les bagages means “to pack.” If you’re going to be traveling with a French speaker or throughout a French-speaking country, this is an excellent phrase to know. The phrase “faire les valises,” or “to do the suitcases,” also means “to pack.” 

Ils n’ont pas envie de faire les bagages. = They don’t want to pack.

  1. Faire du jardinage

Faire du jardinage means “to garden,” or literally “to make the garden.” The French word jardiner also translates to “to garden.” 

Elle aime faire du jardinage. = She likes to garden. 

  1. Faire le pont

This faire phrase literally means “to do the bridge,” but it is a little difficult to translate. Technically, it’s translated as “to take a long weekend,” but the phrase is only used when there is a public holiday on a Tuesday or Thursday, and a worker takes off that Monday or Friday, thereby creating a bridge between the weekend and the day off. 

Cette année le 8 mai tombe un jeudi, donc je vais faire le pont et rester chez moi vendredi. = This year May 8th (Victory Day) is a Thursday, so I’m going to take a long weekend and stay home Friday. 

  1. Faire plaisir 

Faire plaisir has a few different definitions and can mean “to please,” “to like,” “to make happy,” and “to enjoy.” When modified with se to be se faire plaisir means “to treat oneself.” 

Je vais me faire plaisir et je vais acheter cette robe. = I’m going to treat myself and I’m going to buy this dress.

Fais-moi plaisir et fais le lit s’il te plaît. = Make me happy and make the bed please. 

  1. Faire ami-ami avec

If translated literally, faire ami-ami avec would mean “to make friend-friend with,” which sounds pretty funny. But, it means to buddy up with someone or to act like someone’s friend. The French aren’t usually ones to faire ami-ami avec people they don’t know, but they’re friendly once you get to know them.

Mon collègue essaie de faire ami-ami avec notre chef. = My coworker tries to buddy up with our boss. 

  1. Il fait…

Il fait is one of the most commonly used faire expressions and is used to talk about the weather or other conditions. Il fait beau or il fait bon means it’s nice out, il fait froid means it’s cold, il fait chaud means it’s hot, and il fait nuit means it’s night-time. 

Il va faire jour bientôt. = It’s going to be daytime soon. 

  1. Faire la fête

We can faire la fête because you’ve officially learned a bunch about the verb faire. Faire la fête means “to party” and “to celebrate.” You can also faire la fête à quelqu’un, which means to welcome someone excitedly, which if I do say so myself, the French will do when they hear how well you use the word faire

C’est son anniversaire samedi, donc on va faire la fête. = Her birthday is on Saturday, so we’re going to celebrate.

Chaque fois que je rentre à la maison, mon chien Nelson me fait la fête. = Every time I go back home, my dog, Nelson, welcomes me excitedly. 

Faire is a versatile French verb that can be hard to get a handle on, but as long as you keep working on it, you’ll be a master soon.

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