How to Talk Sports in French

Speaking French

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Are you that fan of European sports who gets up in the wee hours to watch games in France? If you just love sports in general or simply want to know more about talking sports in French, we've got you covered.

We have the names of the sports, the verbs to use with each, and the terms for players (usually with both masculine and feminine forms), equipment, and playing fields. It's a long, useful list, so buckle up.

Note that we discuss exceptionally popular French sports like soccer, tennis, and cycling elsewhere on their own pages.

Many of the words below are linked to audio files. Simply click on the link to hear the correct pronunciation and then repeat it a few times to commit it to memory.

Names of Sports (Noms de sports)

Note that, in many instances, the French and English words are nearly identical.

archery le tir à l'arc
baseball le base-ball
basketball (specific terms below) le basket
biking or cycling le cyclisme
boxing la boxe
diving la plongée
fishing la pêche
football le football américain
golf (specific terms below) le golf
(ice) hockey (specific terms below) le hockey (sur glace)
jogging le jogging
sailing la voile
skating le patinage
rollerskating le patin à roulettes or le skating
skiing (specific terms below) le ski
cross-country skiing le ski de randonnée or le ski de fond
downhill skiing le ski de descente or le ski de piste
water skiing le ski nautique
soccer le foot(ball)
swimming la natation
tennis le tennis
volleyball le volley(ball)
wrestling la lutte

The French Verbs Used With Sports

In French, playing or doing sports is normally expressed with jouer au or faire.

Sports That Use Jouer au

1. Jouer au ("to play"): Just add the name of the sport after the verb, like this:

  • to play golf > jouer au golf
  • to play hockey > jouer au hockey
to play... jouer au...
baseball base-ball
basketball basket
soccer foot(ball)
football football américain
golf golf
hockey hockey
tennis tennis
volleyball volley(ball)

Sports That Use Faire

2. Faire ("to do"): The verb is usually followed by de + article + noun, like this:

  • to swim > faire de la natation
  • to do archery >  faire du tir à l'arc

There are exceptions where just the noun is used, without the partitive and article. For example:

  • to hike > faire une randonnée

Some sports also have their own verb, which is a one-word verb form of the noun. Those are listed in the right-hand column below. For example:

  • to wrestle > faire de la lutte or lutter

Notice that le golf can use either jouer au or faire and is on both lists.

to do... faire... or this
to box de la boxe boxer
to ride a horse du cheval  
to bike du cyclisme or monter sur bicyclette rouler
to golf du golf  
to jog du jogging  
to wrestle de la lutte lutter
to swim de la natation nager
to skate du patin(age) patiner
to inline skate du patin à roulettes or du skating  
to dive de la plongée plonger
to ski du ski skier
to downhill ski du ski de descente or du ski de piste  
to cross country ski du ski de randonnée or du ski de fond  
to water ski du ski nautique  
to shoot archery du tir à l'arc  
to sail de la voile  
to hike une randonnée  

Anomaly: la Pêche Uses Aller

But, la pêche uses neither of these verbs and goes on a separate list with aller, as in aller à la pêche ("to go fishing"), or it's used with its own verb pêcher ("to fish").

to go... aller... or this
to go fishing à la pêche pêcher

Basketball (Le Basket)

If you like basketball, you'll enjoy learning essential basketball terms. You can practice these words while playing or watching your teams. Learning a language is like sports: The more you practice, the better you get.

Basketball Team

basketball team équipe de basket
basketball player basketteur (m) or basktteuse (f)
guard arrière
offensive player attaquant
jumper sauteur

Basketball Equipment 

equipment matériel
basketball ballon de basket
court terrain de jeu
basket panier
opponent's basket panier adverse
rim, ring anneau
backboard panneau

Basketball Action

to catch the ball attraper le ballon
to block bloquer
to dribble dribbler
to steal the ball intercepter le ballon
to handle the ball manier le ballon
to guard a player marquer un joueur
to pass passer

Golf (Le Golf)

You could practice this vocabulary the next time you hit the links.

Golf Players

golfer joueur de golf or golfeur (m)
joeuse de golf or golfeuse (f)
foursome quatuor

The Golf Course

golf course terrain / parcours de golf
greens fee droit de jeu
driving range terrain d'exercice
fairway allée
grass bunker fosse d'herbe
sand trap fosse de sable
waste bunker fosse naturelle
water hazard obstacle d'eau
green vert
hole trou

Golf Equipment 

equipment matériel
golf bag sac de golf
caddie cadet(te)
cart chariot, voiturette de golf
golf ball balle de golf
ball marker repère
golf glove gant de golf
set of clubs jeu de bâtons de golf
golf club club, crosse, canne (de golf)
wood bois
iron fer
driver bois n° 1
pitching wedge cocheur d'allée
sand wedge cocheur de sable
putter fer droit

Golf Action

to golf faire du golf or jouer au golf
tee
tee marker jalon de départ
handicap handicap
golf stroke coup de golf
swing élan
backswing montée
half swing demi-élan
chip approche roulé
pitch approche lobé
divot motte de gazon

The Golf Score

score card carte de pointage
par normale
birdie oiselet
bogey boguey
double bogey boguey double
eagle aigle
double eagle albatros
hole in one trou d'un coup

The Golf Ball

ball trajectory trajectoire de balle
hook crochet de gauche
slice crochet de droite
draw léger crochet de gauche
fade léger crochet de droite

Hockey (Le Hockey)

Ice hockey, a popular sport in French-speaking Canada and elsewhere, has a special set of terms.

Notice that when we speak of hockey players, French-speaking Canadians tend to use a different word than the French do. Both terms will be understood in both countries.

Hockey Players

hockey player

hockeyeur/euse (France)
joueur/euse de hockey (Canada)
goalie gardien de but
opponent adversaire

The Hockey Rink 

rink patinoire
goal but or cage
goal crease territoire de but

Hockey Equipment

equipment matériel
hockey stick crosse de hockey
puck palet
helmet casque protecteur
face mask protecteur facial
glove gant
skate patin

Hockey Action

to play hockey jouer au hockey
to check mettre en échec
to clear the puck dégager le palet
to score a goal marquer un but
to shoot lancer or tirer

Skiing (Le Ski)

Skiing is another popular sport in many French-speaking countries.

Types of Skiing and Skiers

to ski faire du ski or skier
cross-country skiing ski de fond
downhill skiing ski de descente or ski aval
cross-country skier skieur de fond or fondeur
downhill skier descendeur
forerunner ouvreur de piste
freestyle libre
classical classique
jumping saut
downhill descente
giant slalom slalom géant
slalom slalom
super-G super géant

Skiing Equipment

equipment matériel
hat bonnet
headband serre-tête or bandeau
goggles lunettes
glove gant
ski pole bâton de ski
skis skis
boot chaussure
coverboot surchaussure
binding fixation

On the Hill

ski course parcours de ski
trail piste
marked course piste balisée
hill tremplin or piste de saut
start platform plate-forme de départ
length of the trail longueur de la piste
flag fanion or drapeau
jump tremplin
mogul bosse
finish time temps à l'arrivée
control point poste de contrôle
gate porte