Friday’s French – consommer

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It’s the next day after a wedding. Everyone’s having a late breakfast, including the groom who’s just joined us. The bride is still upstairs in their bedroom. This, of course, wouldn’t have happened in the olden days. They would have already been off on their honeymoon.

wedding

As-tu consommé?” asks one of the guests. “Yes”, he replies, and everyone laughs. I am shocked! Fancy using the term consommer (to consume) in that context. How vulgar can you get. Then I realise that it must mean “consumate” as well.

I might add that it also means to perpetrate a crime …

It’s one of those French verbs that needs a different translation nearly every time in English. You could conceivably say “consume” in English when talking about food or petrol consumption, for example, but it certainly wouldn’t be natural.

On consomme beaucoup de fruits chez nous – we eat a lot of fruit in our family.

Cette machine consomme beaucoup d’eau – this machine uses up a lot of water

Le lot a été consommé par cette opération – the batch was entirely consumed by this operation

In fact, in English, we usually use the word consumption rather than consume, a typical case of a verb being replaced by a noun.

La voiture consomme 8 litres au 100 km – the gas/petrol consumption is 8 litres per 100 k.

La France est le pays où l’on consomme le plus de vin – France is the country with the highest wine consumption.

Another typical example is à consommer de préférence avant le 10/09/2013 – best before 10/09/2013.

On the opposite end of consummating a marriage, you can say la rupture est consommée, meaning the break-up is complete.

Do you have any other examples?

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2 Responses to Friday’s French – consommer

  1. I find these Friday posts fascinating. They touch on areas of common misunderstanding. I am learning so much. Thanks Rosemary.

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