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Watch out for the many French verbs ‘to walk’ - they can trip you up

Walking, hiking and strolling in France can stretch your vocabulary and your legs, explains columnist Annaliza Davis

To ‘flâner’ or stroll along suggests you are in holiday mode, in no particular hurry Pic: oneinchpunch / Shutterstock

It made sense when I learned that promenade was French for a walk, as I had grown up near Cheltenham Promenade and its Regency streets. 

It conjured images of refined ladies taking the air.

Who will you take on the walk?

The verb, however, is a little more complicated as you have to stipulate exactly what you are walking: Je vais me promener (myself) or je vais promener le chien (the dog).

Furthermore, it is often used figuratively – for example, when someone is misleading or manipulating you (tu me promènes!) or when you tell someone to get lost (je l’ai envoyé promener).

Are we going there on foot?

Marcher is probably the best verb to describe walking, so you could join a club de marche and say J’aime bien marcher, if you like walking rather than jogging.

As for simply strolling along, that’s balader or even flâner, which additionally suggests you are in holiday mode, in no particular hurry.

To explain that you will walk rather than take a bus, bike or car, it is aller à pied, so On y va à pied? would be “Are we going there on foot?”.

Read more: Why exercise can put you on the fast track to being fluent in French

A hike on a bike

And finally, as you will see in any large sports shop, you have randonner, a far more serious and energetic business that is essentially hiking or trekking.

For this activity, you will need chaussures de randonnée, and if you are a regular randonneur, you will casually shorten it to rando (pronounced ‘ron-doh’).

Whether you are walking, strolling or hiking, look out for variations with these verbs.

Unlike in English, bikes can join in (promener à vélo and balader à vélo), so if you ask for a list of local randonnées, you will also receive cycle trails.

And let’s finish on my personal favourite

If you are invited to take a balade en mer, do not be alarmed: no one is asking you to walk on water. 

It is a little boat trip, so go ahead and enjoy it!

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