Porter, S'habiller, Se Mettre En… Saying "To Wear" In French

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French fashion is quite important worldwide, and many of us like to shop. However, when it comes to saying "to wear" in French, things get complicated...

In French, to say "I am wearing pants", you could say:

  • Je porte un pantalon.
  • Je suis en pantalon.
  • Je m'habille en pantalon.
  • Je me mets un pantalon.

Let's look into it.

Porter

The regular ER verb "porter" is the most common way to translate "to wear". Note that it also means "to carry". "Porter + clothes" is very used to describe what you are wearing now.
Maintenant, je porte ma robe rose.
Now, I'm wearing my pink dress.

Etre En

Another very common way to describe what you are wearing is to use the construction "être en + clothes".
Hier, j'étais en pyjama toute la journée.
Yesterday, I was in my PJs all day.
 

Mettre

Literally, the irregular verbe "mettre" would translate as "to put". So in this context, it means "to put on".
Leyla, mets ton pull ! Il fait froid dehors!
Leyla, put on your sweater! It's cold out!

But it has switched meaning a bit: if you use "mettre + clothing", you focus on what you are wearing, not the action of putting it on. So it translates as "to wear". We use it mostly to talking about what we are going to wear.
Demain, je vais mettre mon pull bleu.
Tomorrow, I'll wear my blue sweater.

Se Mettre (En)

Another variation is to use "mettre" in the reflexive form. It's not as common, and how to use it is hard to explain because it's kind of slang. So I'd say don't use it, but understand it if you hear it.
Ce soir, je me mets en jean.
Tonight, I'll put on a jean.

A very popular idiom is based on this construction: "n'avoir rien à se mettre (sur le dos)": to have nothing to wear. The "sur le dos" part is often left out.
Pfffff.... je n'ai rien à me mettre !
Pffff... I have nothing to wear (she says in front of her huge full closet...)

The lesson continues on page 2...

 S'habiller and Se déshabiller

These two reflexive French verbs describe the act of getting dressed and undressed. They are usually NOT followed by a piece of clothing
Le matin, je m’habille dans ma chambre.
In the morning, I get dressed in my bedroom.

An idiomatic use of the verb s’habiller means “to dress up”, to dress nicely. You will hear "une soirée habillée" for a dress-up party. 
Est-ce qu'il faut s'habiller ce soir ?
Do we have to dress-up tonight? (the alternative is not to show up in the nude :-)

We use this reflexive construction a lot to ask "what are you going to wear".
Tu t'habilles comment ce soir ?
What are you going to wear tonight?

You can also use it to say "to wear".
Je m'habille en pantalon.
I'll wear pants.

Note that for some reason, even though the action is going to take place in the future, the question is sometimes in the present tense... I don't quite know why... If the action was in another time frame, we'd conjugate the verb.
Tu t'habilles comment pour aller chez Anne samedi ?
What are you going to wear to go to Anne's on Saturday?
Je ne sais pas encore... Je mettrai peut-être une robe noire...
I don't know yet... Maybe I'll wear a black dress... 

Now my advice to you: when you need to say "to wear", use "porter". It's a no brainer. But you need to understand the other verbs when the French use them.

I suggest you also read my complete list of French clothes vocabulary. I will soon be adding articles about what shoes to wear in France, shoes and accessories as well as learn French in context stories, so make sure you subscribe to my newsletter (it's easy, you just enter your email address - look for it it's somewhere on the French language homepage) or follow me on my social network pages below.

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