In this month’s verb spotlight, we’re going to focus on the French “bring / take” verbs. It’s no surprise that these verbs – amener, emmener, apporter and emporter – can prove troublesome for Anglophones as there are very subtle distinctions between them and none has a direct translation into English.
In French, the correct use of a “take/bring” verb depends on two or three factors:
- the nature of object being brought or taken
- how the object will be brought or taken, and (sometimes)
- whether the speaker will leave or stay with the object at the destination.
Let’s take a closer look at each verb:
Definition: To bring.
What? A person, animal or any object capable of movement on its own.
How? The person or object is driven, guided or led, not carried.
What next? The person or object is left at the destination without the speaker.
The verb amener is based on the verb “mener” which means to lead. So when you use this verb, imagine leading a person, animal or mobile object to a certain destination and then leaving them there.
• J’amène mon fils à l’école = I bring my son to school.
• Amènes ta petite amie chez nous = Bring your girlfriend to our place (Drop off your girlfriend at our place).
• Si Marie avait les temps, elle aurait amené sa voiture au garage avant de partir. =
If Marie had the time, she would have brought her car to the garage before leaving.
BUT: Naturally, this being the French language, there’s an exception to the ‘leaving the object at the destination’ rule. Amener is also appropriate to use in circumstances when you’re bringing someone along. So:
• Est-ce que tu l’ameneras à dîner demain? Are you bringing her to dinner tomorrow?
Definition: To take
What: a person, animal or any object capable of movement on its own.
How: The person or object is driven, guided or led, not carried.
What next: The speaker stays with the object at the destination.
Emmener is also rooted in the verb “mener.” So this verb is appropriate if you’ve led, driven or physically guided someone/something to a destination. But this one is only appropriate if you plan on staying with the person upon arrival.
- Aimerais-tu que je t’emmène dîner? = Would you like me to take you out for dinner?
- Emmène-moi avec toi! = Take me with you!
- Il emmène son chien au parc chaque samedi matin. He takes his dog to the park every Saturday morning.
Definition: To bring, to take
What: An object that’s incapable of going anywhere on its own
How: By carrying it.
Apporter is rooted in the verb “porter,” which means to carry. The prefix “a-“ signifies that something is being physically carried to another place. For example:
- Qu’est que vous apportez au pique-nique? = What are you bringing to the picnic?
- Peux-tu m’apporter une tasse de thé? = Can you bring a cup of tea?
- Ils apportaient leurs livres à l’école chaque jour. = They brought their books to school every day.
BUT: In a few circumstances, it’s acceptable to use amener although apporter is the technically correct verb. For example when invited to a dinner, it wouldn’t be unusual to ask:
Qu’est-ce que je devrais amener? or Qu’est-ce que j’amène? (What should I bring?) instead of “Qu’est-ce que je devrais apporter?”
Definition: To take away (with you)
What: An object incapable of going anywhere on its own
How: By carrying it.
Again, we’ve got the base verb “porter” which indicates that something is being carried. In this case, however, the emphasis is on the fact that the object is going away with you, as opposed to that you’re taking it to somewhere else.
You may find it helpful to remember that “emporter” is the French equivalent of the term “take out” or “take-away,” with respect to meals taken from a restaurant.
• J’ai emporté mon parapluie ce matin mais il n’a pas plu. I took my umbrella (with me) this morning but it didn’t rain.
• Emporte ces papiers. Take away those papers.
• Tu emportes toujours un livre. = You always take along a book.
• Repas à emporter . = Take-away food.
Note that the reflexive form of the verb is an expression:
S’emporter: Marie s’est emportée = Marie lost her temper.
If you’re still confused or have further questions, drop us a line below or contact us! We’re ready to help you learn the French that you really need.