Body parts in French

When you’re speaking a foreign language, there are always a few words that give you trouble. You may know how to say “hello,” “thank you,” and “goodbye,” but when it comes to more specific vocabulary, things can get a little tricky.

If you want to be able to describe someone's physical appearance or talk about your own body, knowing the French words for body parts is essential. Learning this vocabulary will come in handy if you’re visiting France (or another French-speaking country), whether you need something health-related or simply want to get a manicure or a massage.

In this article, let’s learn some basic French vocabulary regarding body parts and boost your speaking skills a bit. Read on!

Les Parties du Corps – Body Parts

The first step to learning this vocabulary is getting familiar with the most commonly used parts of the body. Here are the words that you might want to start with:

Native

Translation

le corps

body

la partie du corps

body part

la tête

head

le visage

face

les yeux

eyes

la bouche

mouth

les dents

teeth

la dent

a tooth

la nez

nose

l’oreille

ear

les cheveux

hair

le cou

neck

le dos

back

le ventre

stomach

la jambe

leg

le genou

knee

le pied

foot

le bras

arm

la main

hand

le doigt

finger

How to Use Body Parts Vocabulary in a Sentence

Just knowing the vocabulary is not enough for using it correctly in speech. There are some important rules you need to learn first.

Of course, even if you form the sentence incorrectly, the French person you’re talking to will most probably understand what you mean. However, if you want to become fluent in the French language, being able to use correct vocabulary and grammar together is essential.

So, here are some rules that will help you talk about your body in French properly:

French Body Parts with Articles

Just like other French nouns, all body parts in French need to be used together with articles. For example:

Native

Translation

J'ai les cheveux bruns et les yeux bleus.

I have brown hair and blue eyes.

Body parts in French

This is important to remember, especially if you are a native English speaker, since in English, body parts in the plural form are used without an article.

Also, when learning French body parts, pay attention to the gender and number of nouns. For example, the word hair, les cheveux, is always plural, unlike in English.

Body Parts with Reflexive Verbs

It might seem logical that, just like in English, we would say something like “I’m washing my face” in French. However, in the French language, it’s more common to use a reflexive pronoun combined with a definite article, and not a possessive adjective, when talking about someone doing something to their body.

For example:

Native

Translation

Je me lave le visage

I wash my face.

Elle s'est cassé le bras, malheureusement.

She broke her arm, unfortunately.

When we’re using regular verbs, it’s also correct to use just the definite article:

Native

Translation

J'ai levé la main.

I raised my hand.

And, this rule is used not just with human body parts, but also with animal ones:

Native

Translation

Mon chien remue la queue quand il est heureux.

My dog wiggles his tail when he's happy.

Of course, if we’re talking about someone’s body part specifically, we would use a possessive adjective and not an article:

Native

Translation

Pourquoi ta main est-elle cassée ?

Why is your hand broken?

Ses cheveux sont si bouclés !

Her hair is so curly!

Body parts in French

Saying That Something Hurts

When talking about physical health in French, you can use three constructions for different types of issues.

To Have an Ache

  • avoir mal à + definite article + body part

Native

Translation

J'ai mal à la tête.

I have a headache (my head hurts).

This is the most common way to say that something hurts in French. You can use this construction with any body part, just remember about the article contractions with the preposition à.

Native

Translation

J'ai mal aux dents.

I have a toothache.

J'ai mal au dos.

My back hurts.

Body parts in French

To Hurt Oneself

  • se faire mal à + definite article + body part

Native

Translation

Je me suis fait mal au genou hier.

I hurt my knee yesterday.

You can use this construction to say that you did something to yourself – the focus here is on the act of hurting oneself. Most often, it’s used in the past tense, but you can also use it in the future tense to warn someone.

Native

Translation

Ne frotte pas trop, tu vas te faire mal au visage.

Don't scrub too much, you'll hurt your face.

To Break Something

  • se casser + definite article + body part

Native

Translation

Je me suis cassé la jambe en faisant du ski.

I broke my leg when skiing.

Finally, this construction is used when talking about more serious injuries, like when you break a body part. You can also use this construction both in the past and the future tense.

Native

Translation

Ne monte pas trop haut, tu vas tomber et te casser le cou !

Don't climb too high, you'll fall and break your neck!

Body parts in French

Bottom Line

As you can see, there are a few different ways to talk about your body in French. Just remember to use articles and proper grammar constructions when talking about body parts, and you’ll be speaking like a native in no time.

Remember that learning French can seem challenging at first, but it's definitely doable if you're willing to put in the work. By following these tips for talking about your body in French, you'll be ready to communicate all of your thoughts on physical health – both minor aches and serious injuries – with ease. Good luck!