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French Vocabulary

Avoid a Huge Mistake: to Kiss: Embrasser ≠ a Kiss: un Baiser

Camille Chevalier-Karfis By Camille Chevalier-Karfis on February 4, 2013
bisou baiser

This is such a common mistake, and it’s soooo embarrassing. The verb “to kiss” is “embrasser”. The NOUN “a kiss” is “un baiser”. Don’t use the noun as a verb…

1 – How to Say “a Kiss” in French
 = un Baiser

  1. Un baiser = general for a kiss
  2. Un bisou = colloquial word for a kiss
    Both un baiser/un bisou could be romantic (sur la bouche) or friendly (sur la joue).
  3. Une bise = colloquial for a kiss on the cheek (to say hi or goodbye)
  4. Un patin = slang = a tongue kiss

2 – How to Say “to Kiss” in French = Embrasser

  1. Embrasser (verb) = to kiss
  2. S’embrasser (reflexive verb) = to kiss each other
  3. Watch out !!! baiser (verb) = used to be “to kiss”, but has switched meaning through time. Now it means to f..k

Careful not to mistake the very common noun “un baiser” with the vulgar verb “baiser”.

The correct verb to use for “to kiss” is “embrasser”. If you said to someone “je vous baise”, it will not be well taken….

Say “je t’embrasse” or “je vous embrasse”.

To say “to make love”, say “faire l’amour” (more about this topic in my explicit article about French sex vocabulary – for mature audience)

  1. Rouler un patin = slang = to kiss with the tongue
  2. Faire un smack = slang = to give a light kiss (usually on the mouth) to someone. So if you see in a French comic book “smack, smack” it means “kisses”, not smacking someone on the face :-)

3 – How Many Kisses in France?

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This is complicated. Most of the time, the French kiss twice, once on each cheek. But it may be up to four times depending on the region.

4 – In France, Kiss NEVER Hug

If hugging is a common greeting in the States among friends and family, French people almost never hug.

When I arrived for the first time in the States, it was so awkward to me that it actually took me about six years to feel comfortable enough to truly hug my friends!

Actually, we don’t have a proper word for “a hug” – you can say “une étreinte” but it’s kind of an old-fashioned word that describes the action of holding someone in your arm.

French men often give each other a sort of pat in the back kind of hug gesture. But it’s very short and the upper body doesn’t really touch.

If you haven’t seen someone in a long time, or are really moved for some reason, you could possibly hold him/her in your arms quickly, but it would be rare and still, it would not be exactly the same body position as an American hug.

So, in other words, no French hug comes close to the big fat hug you’d give to a good friend in the US!

5 – Kiss or Handshake in France?

Adult Frenchmen mostly shake hands: a firm, strong shake, looking into the eyes. If you are really happy to see the person, you may cover your handshake with your other hand, or put one hand on their shoulder.

Women shake hands in a professional situation, or sometimes if they don’t know each other at all (and are older), but move on to kissing very quickly, even at work among colleagues — with both genders.

In any case, you’ll receive a handshake or a kiss. People don’t just say “bonjour” without doing one or the other to go with it – you won’t at a cash register or in a boutique, but you will shake hands if you are engaging in a relationship with someone. For example, we shake hands with contractors we hire or even interview.

This is also a question of social class, and age. The higher up in social class, the less kissing and more handshaking. In more relaxed social classes or with younger crowds, men often kiss each other. Always on the cheeks, usually twice. They may even hug a bit, but more of a “tap on the back” kind of motion, never a big American hug.

The gesture may evolve from a handshake to a kiss: you may arrive at a party and shake hands, then socialize, make friends, and get kissed when you leave.

6 – How To Kiss in France?

The kiss is more of an air kiss, but the cheeks do touch, unlike the American air kiss.

Learn more about kissing and hugging in my French Politeness masterclass.

To learn how to avoid to accidentally say to someone you like that you are in love with them, study the uses for the verb aimer in French.

And memorize French love nicknames with my audio post.

You will find more French Love Vocabulary and Valentine’s Day French Traditions in this article, and I even wrote an article about French Sex Vocabulary (for mature audience only).

Finally, here is a fun video in English about kissing in French – warning, it’s quite vulgar… But it shows well the body position and tells you all you need to know about kissing in France!

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