How to Talk Sports in French

You'll love learning major French terms for basketball, golf, and more

Are you that fan of European sports who gets up in the wee hours to watch games in France? Even if you just love sports in general or 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, extraordinarily useful list, so buckle up.

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

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

Here we go with essential terms for basketball, golf, hockey, skiing, and more.

Names of Sports (Noms de sports)

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

archeryle tir à l'arc
baseballle base-ball
basketball (specific terms below)le basket
biking or cyclingle cyclisme
boxingla boxe
divingla plongée
fishingla pêche
footballle football américain
golf (specific terms below)le golf
(ice) hockey (specific terms below)le hockey (sur glace)
joggingle jogging
sailingla voile
skatingle patinage
rollerskatingle patin à roulettes or le skating 
skiing (specific terms below)le ski
cross-country skiingle ski de randonnée or le ski de fond
downhill skiingle ski de descente or le ski de piste
water skiingle ski nautique
soccer le foot(ball)
swimmingla natation
tennis le tennis
volleyballle volley(ball)
wrestlingla lutte

The French Verbs Used With Sports

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

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

Sports That Use 'Jouer au'

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

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.
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").

Sports That Use 'Faire'

to do... faire...or this
to boxde la boxeboxer
to ride a horsedu cheval 
to bikedu cyclisme or monter sur bicycletterouler
to golfdu golf 
to jogdu jogging 
to wrestlede la luttelutter
to swimde la natationnager
to skatedu patin(age)patiner
to inline skatedu patin à roulettes or du skating 
to divede la plongéeplonger
to skidu skiskier
to downhill skidu ski de descente or du ski de piste 
to cross country skidu ski de randonnée or du ski de fond 
to water skidu ski nautique 
to shoot archerydu tir à l'arc 
to sailde la voile 
to hikeune randonnée 

But 'la Pêche' Uses 'Aller'

to go...aller...or this
to go fishingà la pêchepêcher

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 teaméquipe de basket
basketball playerbasketteur (m) or basktteuse (f)
offensive playerattaquant

Basketball Equipment 

basketballballon de basket
courtterrain de jeu
opponent's basketpanier adverse
rim, ringanneau

Basketball Action

to catch the ballattraper le ballon
to blockbloquer
to dribbledribbler
to steal the ballintercepter le ballon
to handle the ballmanier le ballon
to guard a playermarquer un joueur
to passpasser

Golf (Le Golf)

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

Golf Players

golferjoueur de golf or golfeur (m)
joeuse de golf or golfeuse (f)

The Golf Course

golf courseterrain / parcours de golf
greens feedroit de jeu
driving rangeterrain d'exercice
grass bunkerfosse d'herbe
sand trapfosse de sable
waste bunkerfosse naturelle
water hazardobstacle d'eau

Golf Equipment 

golf bagsac de golf
cartchariot, voiturette de golf
golf ballballe de golf
ball markerrepère
golf glovegant de golf
set of clubsjeu de bâtons de golf
golf clubclub, crosse, canne (de golf)
driverbois n° 1
pitching wedgecocheur d'allée
sand wedgecocheur de sable
putterfer droit

Golf Action

to golffaire du golf or jouer au golf
tee markerjalon de départ
golf strokecoup de golf
half swingdemi-élan
chipapproche roulé
pitchapproche lobé
divotmotte de gazon

The Golf Score

score cardcarte de pointage
double bogeyboguey double
double eaglealbatros
hole in onetrou d'un coup

The Golf Ball

ball trajectorytrajectoire de balle
hookcrochet de gauche
slicecrochet de droite
drawléger crochet de gauche
fadeléger 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)
goaliegardien de but

The Hockey Rink 

goalbut or cage
goal creaseterritoire de but

Hockey Equipment

hockey stickcrosse de hockey
helmetcasque protecteur
face maskprotecteur facial

Hockey Action

to play hockeyjouer au hockey
to checkmettre en échec
to clear the puckdégager le palet
to score a goalmarquer un but
to shootlancer or tirer

Skiing (Le Ski)

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

Types of Skiing and Skiers

to skifaire du ski or skier
cross-country skiingski de fond
downhill skiingski de descente or ski aval
cross-country skierskieur de fond or fondeur
downhill skierdescendeur
forerunnerouvreur de piste
giant slalomslalom géant
super-Gsuper géant

Skiing Equipment

headbandserre-tête or bandeau
ski polebâton de ski

On the Hill

ski courseparcours de ski
marked coursepiste balisée
hilltremplin or piste de saut
start platformplate-forme de départ
length of the traillongueur de la piste
flagfanion or drapeau
finish timetemps à l'arrivée
control pointposte de contrôle