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)
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)
Other French verbs commonly used with clothes are :
- enlever (to take off),
- retirer (to take off),
- enfiler (to slip in),
- essayer (to try on),
- se changer (to change clothes),
- rester en… pyjama (to stay in… my pyjamas)
Note these common expressions that can be a bit confusing:
- “Comment tu t’habilles ce soir?” what are you going to wear tonight?
- “Qu’est-ce que tu mets demain?” what are you going to wear tomorrow?
- “Elle portait quoi ?” what was she wearing?
- “Je ne me change pas, je reste en jean” I won’t change outfit, I’ll keep wearing my jeans.
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