How To Thank in French + Thanksgiving in France

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In this article, you’ll find Thanksgiving French vocabulary as well as how to thank in French, and cultural notes about “le Jour de l’Action de Grâce(s)” as they say in Québec.

1 – French Thanksgiving Vocabulary

  • Un festin = a (food) feast
  • Une dinde = turkey (note: le dindon is the live animal)
  • La farce = the stuffing
  • Une purée de pomme de terre = mash potatoes
  • Un épis de maïs = corn ear (note the pronunciation ma-iss)
  • Du pain de maïs = corn bread
  • Une sauce de canneberges/airelles = cranberry sauce
  • La sauce au jus de viande = gravy (see my very own gravy recipe with a French twist)
  • Une tarte aux noix de pécans = pecan pie
  • Une tarte aux pommes de terre douces = sweet potatoe pie
  • Une tarte au potiron = pumpkin pie
  • De la guimauve = marshmallow
  • Des haricots verts = green beens
  • La famille = family
  • Une réunion de famille = a family gathering
  • Dire ce pourquoi on est reconnaissants = to say what we are grateful for
  • Dire merci, remercier = to say thank you, to thank
  • La récolte = the harvest
  • Les indiens d’Amérique = Native Americans
  • Une colonie = a colony
  • Un pèlerin = a pilgrim
  • Une tradition = a tradition
  • Un match de football américain = a football match

2 – How is Thanksgiving Celebrated in France?

The fact is that not only do we not celebrate Thanksgiving in France, but the majority of French people don’t have a clue of what Thanksgiving is, and how important it is a celebration for our friends to the West.

Thanksgiving tradition is linked to the early British and French settlers that came to the northern American continent, and it celebrates how this settlers shared their food with their Indian neighbourgs as a way to say “thank you” for showing them things they could eat: turkey, corn, sweet potatoes….

As big of a celebration as it is in the US and Canada, that’s pretty much the only countries that celebrate it (with few exceptions like Liberia or the Norfolk Islands).

For the French, the only idea of Thanksgiving they have is from American movies or sitcoms, where they can see the traditional, and often dysfunctional and/or hilarious, Hollywood view of it.  They are often surprised to find out that it’s a 2 days national holiday and that it’s, in many families, more important than Christmas.

And let me tell you, putting together a traditional Thanksgiving meal in France can be a real feat!

French thanksgiving in France

3 – Thanksgiving in French: Le Jour de l’Action de Grâce(s) or Merci Donnant

Quebec, Canada, is really the only place in the world where the French language and Thanksgiving really meet.

So the ‘official’ French translation of Thanksgiving is the one used in Quebec: “le jour de l’action de grâce(s)” or  “le Jour de Merci Donnant” (although the English word “Thanksgiving” is also very much used there).

thanksgiving in french
Astérix et Obélix copyright Uderzo

4 – What Sound Does a Turkey Make in French?

In French, “la dinde” (female turkey, also the name for the meat), and “le dindon” (male turkey) “glougloutent” – the verb is glouglouter, it’s a regular “er” verb, and the noun “le glougloutement” (we also say “glouglou”…)

5 – Black Friday in France

“Black Friday” marks the start of the Holiday sales in the US (les soldes = sales). It started in 2015 very slowly in France, with big companies sending out “Black Friday” or “Cyber” sales. It’s in 2017 that I saw it for the first time affecting the stores in Paimpol!

I guess most French people would be totally puzzled if you asked them what “Black Friday” was… Learn more about “Black Friday” in France and sales vocabulary in my article.

6 – How to Thank in French – “Merci”, “Je Vous Remercie” and Other Ways to Express Gratitude in French

  1. “Merci” is ‘thank you’. Its pronounced like “mair see” (watch out, no “mur” sound!!)
  2. “Merci beaucoup” – ‘thank you very much’: the “very” is included, you cannot say “merci très beaucoup”.
  3. “Mille mercis” or “merci mille fois” – kind of “thanks a million” but it’s only a thousand in French!
  4. “Merci du fond du coeur” – thank you from the bottom of my heart

If you say “merci” with a smile, it implies that you accept whatever is being offered to you.

However, you could say “non merci”, and shake your head “no”. Or even just say “merci” with a hand gesture, showing your palm to the person in front of you in a kind of stop gesture : this would mean you refuse.

Another way to say ‘thank you’ is to use the verb “remercier”. 

Note that the verb “remercier” has a stem in “i”, so the final sound will often be a vowel, just like the verb “étudier”.

  1. Je te remercie pour les chocolats – I thank you for the chocolates.
  2. Je vous remercie pour ce délicieux repas. I thank you for this delicious meal.
  3. Je voulais vous remercier pour votre patience – I wanted to thank you for your patience.

Using “remercier” is very formal in French, much less common than using “merci”. 

When talking about the thanks, the noun, you’d use the noun “le/les remerciement(s)”, usually used in the plural.

  1. Vous avez les remerciements de Pierre – you have Pierre’s thanks.
  2. Je voudrais lui adresser mes remerciements – I would like to send him/her my thanks.

how to say thank you in French merci

7 – How To Say “You are Welcome” in French

The answer to “merci” are:

  1. Je t’en prie (pronounced ‘shtan pree’) if you are using “tu”
  2. Je vous en prie (pronounced “shvoo zan pree”) if you are using “vous”

Note that although very very common “de rien” (it’s nothing) is not considered proper by some French people and will be frown upon in upper social classes.

Watch out! “Bienvenu” means you are welcome as in “welcome to my house” “bienvenu chez moi”, or “je vous souhaite la bienvenue” – I wish you welcome… However it’s never used as an answer to thank you.

8 – Thank you Notes are not Common in France

It’s not very common in France to write “une carte de remerciement”. I mean, it’s very polite, but it’s not like in the US or England where thank you cards are a huge market.

Feel free to send out a thank you note – it’s in no way a “faux pas”, just don’t expect your French friends to reciprocate. Here is more about writing letters in French.

Joyeux jour de l’Action de Grâce à vous et à votre famille !