Merde in France

I’m an English teacher by trade, (though this doesn’t mean I like what I do), but, I’ve decided that I’m going to teach you French, because you probably already speak English. Naturally I’m going to teach you all the rude words first, because they’re the ones you all want to know. Here is lesson one


This is one you might already know. Merde, (pronounced M-AIR-DE) is the first rude word all French learners learn. The literal translation for Merde is « Shit » or « Shite » depending from which part of Blighty (or the States) you hail.

Merde does not mean « Shit » all the time. Depending on the intonation, the expression and the circumstances it can mean « crap » or « fuck »

The word Merde might only seem to have one syllable, but the French actually pronounce it with two. Both syllables are stressed, and when pronounced properly, your Merde should sound something like this.


Remember to keep your « R’s » nice and guttural

So, when and how do we use Merde?

It can be said loudly and vehemently, or subtly under one’s breath on a daily basis, in all situations where you would say « Shit » in English

There are of course a variety of expressions with Merde.

C’est de la merde (say de la mair’d)– it’s a load of shit / it’s a load of crap.


Le dernier disque de Johnny c’est de la merde – Johnny Halliday’s last record is shit

Here’s another expression

Tu n’es qu’une merde (too nay kune mair’d) – you’re just a shit

What loving couples may say to one another in the midst of an acrimonious divorce

There are derivatives of Merde

C’est un petit merdeux (set urn pertee mairder) – He’s a little shit

This one you might say when referring to someone’s kid who has spent half the night waking up the neighbourhood on his mini motorbike, before tagging your front door and pissing in your garden

Here’s another one

C’est merdique (say mairdeek)– It’s a fucking mess / it’s crap

This can be used when referring to the bad handiwork of an « odd job man » you’ve employed to renovate your farmhouse. It could also be used to qualify your administrative situation when you have not got the right papers.

Here are a few more « merde » expressions that will make your French just a little more authentic.

On est dans la merde – (onnay don la mair’d) we are in the shit, as in, we are in it right up to our necks

Of course you can be slightly ironical and use the negative form –

On n’est pas dans la merde (on nay pa don la mair’d)– meaning the exact contrary that, so deep are we in the shit, that we are buried in the stuff over and above our heads. You could also translate this as « being up shit creek without a paddle. »

This last phrase can also be accompanied with the hand wringing gesture which

There are of course shorter ways of saying the same thing. If you cannot remember « On n’est pas dans la merde » just say « eh merde » (ay mair’d) which literally means « oh bugger »

We have studied noun and adjectival forms. Now let’s turn our attention to the verb form.

Il a merdé – (eel a mairday) He’s fucked up

Tu as vraiment merdé – (too a vraymon mairday) you really fucked up

Tu as merdé grave, hein – (too a mairday grarve – an) you really fucking screwed that up, didn’t you

Sometimes you hear this wonderful phrase, used by distraught or overwrought parents when questioning their offspring on the calamitous results of their actions

« Qu’est-ce que tu as merdé là » or (kess ker too a mairday lar)« what the fuck have you done? »

There are derivatives of the verb « Merder »

A common way of saying « get out of that » or « sort your own shit out » or « you got yourself in the shit, you get yourself out of it » is the expression « demerdes-toi » (demair’d twa) (literally meaning unshit your shit). This is often said by exasperated parents to teenage offspring when, the former are so far up shit creek that even Thunderbirds with a GPS won’t get them back.

The full verb is « se demerder », a reflexive verb which in everday polite usage would mean « to get on with one’s own shit ». It is politely acceptable to say of someone as a compliment « Il se demerde bien » or (eel se demair’d beeyan) « he really knows his shit »

And when do we use all these shitty terms, well, in everyday French. Most people say merde even in polite circles, but only use it with other French people when you have known them for a certain (but unspecified) length of time.

HOMEWORK (even though I promised I wouldn’t be giving any.)

Translate the following text into English

Eh merde ! Qu’est-ce que tu as merdé, petit merdeux. Tu t’es mal demerdé là et on n’est pas dans la merde. Tu n’es qu’une merde tu sais.