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Verb Spotlight: “Faire” – Usages and Expressions

The verb “faire” is one of the handiest verbs in the French language, but it can be one of the most confusing for beginners. Not only is faire an irregular verb, but it has multiple uses and appears in numerous French expressions and idioms. Even trickier, faire sometimes isn’t used where you think it should be.

Let’s take the mystery out of this useful verb!

Basic Uses of the Verb Faire

Faire is defined as “to do” or “to make.” Most of the time, you’re on safe ground translating the verb directly from English. For example:

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Franck fait ses devoirs =

Frank does his homework / Frank is doing his homework

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Je déteste faire la vaisselle =

I hate doing the dishes.

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Aurélie a fait une promesse =

Aurélie made a promise.

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Qu’est-ce que je fais? Je fais un sandwich! =

What am I doing? I’m making a sandwich!

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Mais fait attention! (But pay attention!) There are a few instances where “faireisn’t the appropriate translation for “to make,” especially with regard to making a reservation or appointment. In these instances, prendre is the correct verb. So:[quote align=”center” color=”#424141″] 

Je voudrais prendre un reservation pour six personnes, s’il vous plaît =

I would like to make a reservation for six [people], please.

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Si tu es malade, prends un rendez-vous avec un medecin! =

If you are sick, make an appointment with a doctor!

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Broader Uses of Faire

Faire is also used in many ways that don’t allow for direct translation. It’s often employed in a range of phrases where Anglophones would use a different verb, such “to be” “to have” or “to play” and much more. Look for “faire” in these contexts:

Weather:

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Il fait beau aujourd’hui = it’s beautiful (out) today

Il faisait si froid jeudi soir! = It was so cold (out) on Thursday evening!

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Sports or activities:

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Franck fait du ski = Franck is skiing / Frank skis.

Ils font du golf = They are golfing / They play golf.

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(Note: for games, use “jouer”/to play. Ex: jouer au football, aux cartes…)

Measurement/Weight:

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La pièce fait 5 mètres par 5 = The room measures 5 by 5 meters.

Elle fait 60 kilos = She weighs 60 kilos.

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To Play / To Act

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Georges, ne fait pas l’idiot! = George, don’t play the fool (with me)!

Marie a reçu le rôle principal; elle fait Lady Macbeth =

Marie got the leading role; she’s playing Lady Macbeth.

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To Feel Something

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Aie! Cela fait mal! = Ow! That hurts! (That makes me hurt)

 

L’enfant est tombé et il se fait mal son bras =

The child fell and hurt his arm.

 

Non, je n’ai pas aimé ce film. Il m’a fait peur. =

No, I didn’t like the film. It scared me. (Made me feel scared)

 

Ça me fait plaisir de vous voir =

I’m happy to see you. (It makes me happy to see you.)

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Popular Expressions with Faire

When it comes to idiomatic expressions, the verb faire is ubiquitous. Here are 10 common French expressions that use faire.

1. Faire attention – To pay attention or watch out.

 

2. Faire la queue – To stand in the queue/ to stand in line.

 

3. Faire des économies – To save money

 

4. Faire la sourde oreille – To turn a deaf ear

 

5. Faire la grasse matinée – To sleep in

 

6. Faire la fête – To party

 

7. Faire un tabac – To be a hit (as at a party)

 

8. Faire la tête – To sulk/ To be in a bad mood

 

9. Faire des cauchemars – To have nightmares

 

10.  Faire la manche – To beg

 

HOMEWORK: Write a sentence using one of these “faire” expressions in the comments section below. We’ll correct you!