Properly Using 'Je Suis Plein' in French

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It's common for non-native French speakers to make mistakes in conversation, especially if they're using a phrase like "je suis plein." Imagine this scenario: You're at a bistro and have just had a delicious, filling meal. The waiter comes by to ask if you'd care for dessert. You're stuffed, so you politely decline by saying you're full. The waiter smiles awkwardly. What did you just say?

Understanding "Je Suis Plein"

The French translation of "full" is plein, except when it comes to your stomach. Correct ways to say "I'm full" include " j'ai trop mangé" (literally, I ate too much), "je suis rassasié" (I'm satisfied), and "je n'en peux plus" (I can't [take] anymore). But if you're new to the language, you may not be aware of this subtle nuance.

Although it may seem logical to use "je suis plein" to mean "I'm full," most people in France interpret the phrase as meaning "I'm pregnant."It's not a very nice way to say it, either, because the phrase "être pleine" is used to talk about pregnant animals, not people.

Many visitors to France have anecdotes involving the misuse of this expression. What's interesting is that if a woman actually says "je suis pleine" to a native French speaker, he or she will probably understand that to mean she's pregnant. And yet if you talk about this expression in the abstract with a native speaker, s/he's likely to tell you that no one would ever take it to mean you're pregnant because it's only used for animals.
Note: Je suis plein is also a familiar way of saying "I'm drunk." In Quebec and Belgium, unlike France, it's perfectly acceptable to use this phrase to mean "I'm full."

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Team, ThoughtCo. "Properly Using 'Je Suis Plein' in French." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). Properly Using 'Je Suis Plein' in French. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "Properly Using 'Je Suis Plein' in French." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 4, 2022).