by Clare Jones

Bonne année! I hope you are all raring to improve your French in the new year!

You probably already know the expression faire le ménage (to do the housework) and faire du ménage (to do some housework) but let’s explore a little! You can also use faire le ménage as a euphemism to mean ‘to get rid of the deadwood’ (i.e. to sack people). If you ask someone what job they do and they reply, “Je fais des ménages”, that means that they work as a cleaner. Une femme de ménage is a cleaning lady who cleans in someone’s home. For an office or school cleaner this would be different: une femme / un homme de service and for a hospital un agent d’entretien.

Un ménage is the word for a household and ‘to set up house with somebody’ is se mettre en ménage avec quelqu’un. The French term un ménage à trois means ‘a household where three people are in a romantic and / or sexual relationship’. As the English language doesn’t have an equivalent term, we borrow the French expression. If your love life is less complicated, you might want to say, “Je suis heureux / heureuse en ménage” – I am happily married (or happy with my partner). If, on the other hand, things are not going too well, you might say, “Ça ne va pas dans notre ménage”.

Faire bon ménage is ‘to go together well; to work well with; to be compatible’ and is used in many contexts. Here are some examples:

L’homme doit faire bon ménage avec la nature – mankind must work well with nature.

La coriandre et le curry font bon ménage – coriander and curry go well together.

Can you think of some more? Please leave a comment.

There is much to learn about the verbs déménager, emménager and aménager but that will be for another blog post.

A bientôt!


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About the author

Clare Jones was born in the North of England in 1960. She fell in love with the French language at the age of 11 and went on to study it to degree level at Leicester University, where she also became a qualified teacher. In 2011 Clare collaborated with Tamsin Edwards to produce an iPhone application, “Figure out French, Rouler un patin: to give a French kiss and other French expressions for leisure and health”. Though she now lives in England, Clare always has her nose in a French book and she surrounds herself by all things French. She is currently very busy teaching French as a private tutor and when she has the time, she writes a blog on the subject of the French language (click on the blog tab to read it). Clare enjoys tai-chi, swimming, and cycling in the local country park. She is also an enthusiastic member of her local community choir.

About the illustrator

Tamsin Edwards studied art at both Nene Art College, Northampton, and Derby School of Art during the early 1980s. Though well known for her atmospheric watercolour landscapes, Tamsin also creates quirky pen & wash illustrations, often portraying comic images of people and places. Tamsin has already collaborated with Clare Jones to produce an iPhone application. Past commissioned projects also include the children’s storybook ‘Tales of Two Shires’ and a book of poetic verses. As well as regularly exhibiting work and selling to clients around the world, Tamsin has also had several paintings published in an international magazine. To view further examples of her work or to buy original artwork from this book, please visit Tamsin can be contacted at

Author Photo

Illustrator Tamsin Edwards (left) and author Clare Jones (right)

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