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To Dress in French – Porter, Mettre, S’Habiller etc…

Camille Chevalier-Karfis By Camille Chevalier-Karfis - updated on Feb 25, 2021

To say to wear in French we use many verbs: S’habiller, mettre, porter, être en… and they are not interchangeable.

1 – S’Habiller and se Déshabiller – Getting Dressed

These French verbs describe the act of getting dressed and undressed. They are usually NOT followed by a direct object (like a piece of clothing).

  • le matin, je m’habille. Le soir, je me déshabille. (In the morning I get dressed. In the evening, I undress).

You can however say “ce soir, je m’habille EN pantalon” (tonight, I’ll get dressed in pants) but the focus here is that you are wearing pants and not a skirt, so you won’t talk about the precise pair of pants you are going to be wearing (you cannot say “ce soir, j e m’habille en pantalon noir et court”… for this you need to use “porter” ou “mettre”).

For this notion, we also use the expression “être en”.

  • Ce soir, je suis en pantalon. Je m’habille en pantalon. (Tonight, I’m wearing pants).

Check out my blog post about the “se verbs in French” – the French Reflexive Verbs.

2 – S’habiller – to Dress Up in French

An idiomatic use of the verb s’habiller means “to dress up”.

  • Est-ce que je dois m’habiller pour aller chez Anne ? (should I dress up to go to Ann’s)
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3 – Porter and Mettre – to Wear

To describe what you are wearing, use the verbs porter (to wear) or mettre (to put on).

  • Ce soir, je porte un pantalon noir et un pull rose.(Tonight, I’ll wear a black pair of pants and a pink sweater)
  • Demain, je vais mettre une robe bleue. (Tomorrow, I’ll wear a blue dress)

4 – Other French Verbs Related to to Dress

Other French verbs commonly used with clothes in French are :

  1. enlever (to take off),
  2. retirer (to take off),
  3. enfiler (to slip in),
  4. essayer (to try on),
  5. se changer (to change clothes),
  6. rester en… pyjama (to stay in… my pyjamas)

5 – Common French Expressions Related to to Dress

Note these common expressions that can be a bit confusing:

  1. “Comment tu t’habilles ce soir?” what are you going to wear tonight?
  2. “Qu’est-ce que tu mets demain?” what are you going to wear tomorrow?
  3. “Elle portait quoi ?” what was she wearing?
  4. “Je ne me change pas, je reste en jean” I won’t change outfit, I’ll keep wearing my jeans.

You might also enjoy my post on

How to dress in Paris.

How to Describe Clothes in French

150 French Clothing Terms With Audio Recordings

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Can You Understand Today’s Spoken French?

It’s not just slang. The French everybody speaks in France today is NOT the overly enunciated, extremely formal French usually taught to foreigners.