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The great pig debate: le porc / le cochon / le sanglier

Link : lindakanga s learning loom home

le porc / le cochon / le sanglier :
- porc is the more generic term for referring to pig.
- If it's domesticated, it's more often referred to as cochon,
- and if it's wild, it's a sanglier.

All these french words ( porc / cochon / sanglier ) for pig are interchangeable whether referring to a live animal or meat.
NB - This is DIFFERENT to how English speakers use the word "pork' - which in English refers to the meat. For french speakers the word porc (male noun) can refer to a live pig OR to meat from a pig. It depends on the context of the sentence - and ESPECIALLY watch out for the word before the noun - is it le / la / les / du / de la / des More about that later ....

To work out, or express, if a sentence is referring to a LIVE animal, or to meat - you need to check out the article that comes in front of the noun.

  • when it is countable , and refers to a live animal - one of these articles is used :
    le / la / les ( for " the ' , with les to refer to plural , or
    un / une / des ( for " a " , with des to refer to plural )
  • When it becomes meat - it becomes an uncountable ( indenombrable ) amount, one of these articles is used :
    le / la : when it is used only with an 'appreciative' verb (aimer: like, détester: detest, etc) - it may be referring to either a live animal OR the meat. ie. it may refer to a specific living thing / object, OR it may be "generally' the whole group of things.
    du / de la. meaning " some of " , " some " .... as in you are referring to meat !

NOTE : - les / un / une / des can only be used with countable nouns - such as a LIVE animal.
- du / de la can only be used with uncountable/mass nouns - such as meat (pork, beef, etc)
- le / la used with an " appreciative " verb (such as aimer or détester,
may be referring to a live animal - being a countable noun,
OR be a general reference to an uncountable/mass noun - such as meat. ( if it is used without an " appreciative " verb - then it is countable/live object )

I highly recommend the reading of the notes provided by PatrickJaye below,on this subject - as well as so much more of the great way he has of explaining so many things ! He is BRILLIANT !

If the article preceding either porc / cochon / sanglier is un ( which means a ), then it is referring to a whole of the item - as in a live and countable animal.
However if the article preceding a male noun like porc / cochon / sanglier is du ( which means some ), then it is referring to meat and not a live animal, as an uncountable noun.
In cases where the uncountable noun is feminine, such as la viande (meat), then the preceding article is de la.
ie. Il aime manger de la viande. Check out a discussion here
Meat is an uncountable noun in French - just as it is in English! Check out the posts about uncountable nouns below.
If it is referred to as le porc / cochon / sanglier , it may be alive, or it might be meat - you have to read the rest of the sentence to work it out - or to comprehend it in context of where it is said :)

On an uncountable noun (such as meat), when to use le / la, and when to use du / de la

  • For action verbs - you 'act upon' a certain quantity of a mass thing (ie uncountable ), and use the preposition of
    de + definitive article - du (=de+le) , or de la Examples of action verbs are:
    manger : to eat
    prendre : to take
    couper : to cut
    laisser : to leave
    mâcher : to chew

  • For appreciative verbs, they naturally introduce generalities. So if you love meant, it is not an "underfined quantity" of meat that you will love, but meat in general - all kinds of meat (pork, beef, lamb...).
    aimer : to love (a person), to like (an animal or an object)
    détester : to hate / detest
    haïr : to hate / detest
    apprécier : to enjoy
    préférer : to prefer ...note: préférer has two possible forms. Check out The French spelling war

So sum it up: J'aime le poivre et je mange du poivre = I like pepper and I eat (some) pepper.
(note in english we often leave out the concept of some, while in French you always specify du or de la.

Some other examples are:
- Élever des porcs : Raising pigs
- manger du cochon de lait : To eat suckling/baby pig
- Nous aimons le porc. : We like pork. or We like the pig.

  • As Sitesurf has pointed out here:
    • It/this is a pig = C'est un porc / cochon. ( as in a living animal )
    • It/this is pork = C'est du porc / cochon. ( as in meat )
      This means it is a piece of pork, it is partitive, so it is not a live animal - but a piece of meat. It is a piece of , or part of , a much larger generic group of something. It is uncountable.
      un = a
      du = some
      ___ For some fascinating discussions about all this - check out :
  • "Leur porc mange du riz." , and especially the really great comments made by northerguy ! It is GREAT reading.
    Also check out - Cool sayings for Le cochon for an amusing read.
    ps. Please make comment about anything here - as I will always be learning, and welcome your input !
    Also this is part of my learning loom, and if you click on the differently colored links in this post - it will take you to comments by others - both within duolingo, and to outside internet pages. To return here, use the "back arrow/return key" in your browser.
January 31, 2015



"It is true that in English "pork" means the meat of the animal and can not be used for the living animal. However this is an English distinction and not a French distinction. In French "porc" and "cochon" can both be used for the living animal and for the meat of the animal.

The "meat v animal" distinction is specific to English and comes from the way French was incorporated into English following the Norman invasion. The anglo-saxons farmed the animals but needed to use french words when they traded the meat with the Normans.

The same is true of other meat related words such as beef and mutton which have french origin. These words can only be used for the meat in English but the original French words are used for both meat and the animal in French."

by PatrickJaye


Hunters kill 10,000 sanglier every year in the Languedoc-Roussillon because they flourish in the mountains. They can be aggressive and destructive and have been known to kill pet dogs when they stray into gardens. However, sad as I am when I see a hunt, I have to admit that they make a delicious stew.


"Porc" and "cochon" can both be used as a translation of "pig" meaning either the living animal or the meat of the animal. It is probably fair to say that "porc" is the more generic term as long as we see this as a broad tendency rather than a strict distinction between the two words. In practice which is used will be dependent on local custom and practice and will vary from place to place.

"Porc" derives directly from Latin roots. "Cochon" has less formal origins in that it derives from an imitation of the sound that a pig makes. The modern pronouncation is softer but if you try it with a harder and more gutteral pronunciation and a little imagination you will see it really does sound like a pig grunting.

When "pig" is being used figuratively "cochon" will tend to be used rather than "porc". This can be seen in the examples you have given.


Je connais bien le mot 'sanglier' grâce à Astérix! :-)


Ah oui - Astrix! Il est bon. Avec le petit village et les menhirs. Ils sont très amusants.
(Please correct my french if it is wrong :) (S'il vous plaît corriger mon français si elle est fausse)


Astrix est sur l'Internet - en français! here


Aussi en anglais! here


Other links and references ...
- PatrickJaye click here
- PatrickJaye in conversation.
- DXLi and RJM_McGill discussing the partitive article
- northernguy on pork in English here
- Sitefurf on le porc versus du porc. here .
It is well worth reading !
- ganesa_9 on " Nous aimons bien le porc.", and why use le here
- italki


This is very interesting! Another one I am intrested in is the French word for dog. I know it is chien/chienne, but I have been looking at French football teams recently. I am a football fan and I thought following and learning about a team, reading their social media/website in French would a good way to practice. One team I looked at, Lille, has Les Dogues as a nickname. This is obviously more English sounding than Les Chiens. Is there a similar thing going on with Dog too? Are their more words for Dog? Does this just refer to the football team because it sounds more foreign and exotic? Is this just a northern French way of saying dog?



"Dogue" is not a general word for "dog" and so cannot be used as a straight alternative to "chien".

Instead it is a particular type of dog - specifically a mastiff but in practice the word "dogue" is likely to be used for any large dog of a mastiff type.

Lille football team's nickname should therefore be translated as "the mastiffs" or "the great danes" rather than the dogs. The football team's logo includes what appears to be a great dane. I don't know if they have a mascot but if they do I would not be surprised if it turned out to be a mastiff or great dane.

The word "dogue" is a real French word so it is not being used just to sound exotic. The origin of the word is however old English. You might know that in Roman times Britain was known particularly for its large powerful dogs - so it is not surprising that the name of such dogs would have English origins.


I actually went on the team's wikipedia page soon after I wrote this comment and discovered that it was indeed great dane.

I guess it is sort of a faux ami because it is so similar to the english word I thought it was perhaps a northern dialect way of saying dog.

I've been a bit ignorant too, I assumed that breeds of Dog would have similar names to the english ones 'Grande Dane' or something like that haha!



The Great Dane is a mastiff type dog - the specific breed has two names in French - "grand danois" which of course is a direct translation of the English name - and "dogue allemand" (German mastiff).

At the end of the nineteenth century and early in the twentieth, German dog breeders, wanting to sell outside of Germany, found it very difficult to market a dog with "German" in the breed name - so they adopted an alternative name.

The same happened with the "German Shepherd" which became the Alsation (particularly in the UK).

Of course the same happened with the British Royal family who abandoned their German name and adopted the name "Windsor" during the First World War.

The German Shepherd has largely regained its true name - but in UK the German Mastif is still the Great Dane and the Royal family is still Windsor.


And just when you think you have an understanding of things - learning a language is like science - you find out there is even MORE to know! In french there are nouns that are countable and ones that are not!
Check out this post by one of my admired sensei 's - PatrickJaye. Click on this !
As PatrickJaye has also pointed out to me, English ALSO has uncountable nouns.
" Uncountable nouns are substances, concepts etc that we cannot divide into separate elements. " from English Club.
"This usually has to do with the way English speakers think of these nouns. We often picture these nouns as a single concept or one big thing which is hard to divide. Many of these words are countable in other languages, but they ARE NOT countable in English. " from english page e.g. Milk, art, love, happiness, news, furniture, rice, electricity, money, etc.

French uncountable nouns in Wiktionary here
English Club List of uncountable nouns


" What is different (and very interesting) is that French has an article (the partitive article) that is used specifically with non-countable nouns. English does not have partitive articles - this is why so many English speakers have difficulty with "du" and "de la". In many cases English uses "some" or "any" as a sort of pretend partitive article but it is almost always optional. That is probably why many English speakers cannot understand why the French partitive article is not optional. "
by PatrickJaye


"Le" and "la" are the singular definite articles (the) - these can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns. "Les" is the plural definite article - "les porcs" - it can only be used with countable nouns. "Un/une" are the singular indefinite articles (a/an) - these are used with countable nouns. "Des" is the plural indefinite article - the plural of "un/une" - it is used with countable nouns. English doesn't have a plural indefinite article but it is sometimes translated as "some" - "des porcs" = "some pigs" "Du" and "de la" are the partitive articles - these are used with uncountable nouns. English doesn't have partitive articles but again we can use "some" - "du lait" = "some milk".
By PatrickJaye


PatrickJaye responding to a badly worded question I had about "I am eating pork":
"Why is it that if we start off with the English sentence - "I am eating pork" - do we have to use "du" rather than "le"? This question is often asked because learners think that as there is no article in this English sentence - in particular it does not include "some" - so why can't we use "le".

If we are starting from the French then - "je mange le porc" and "je mange du porc" are both perfectly correct sentences - although they mean different things.

"Je mange le porc" = "I am eating the pork" - this means that I am eating the specific pork on my plate - I am eating the pork rather than the beef etc.

"Je mange du porc" = "I am eating some pork" or simply "I am eating pork" - this means that I am eating an unspecified amount of pork - no particular pork.

The English sentence - "I am eating pork" means that I am eating an unspecified amount of pork - I am not eating any particular pork. We can add "some" to this English sentence without changing the meaning - but we cannot add "the" without changing the meaning.

So in English :-

"I am eating pork" can be written as "I am eating some pork" but it cannot be written as "I am eating the pork"

Therefore that particular English sentence must be "du porc" and not "le porc"

However if we started with the English sentence "I am eating the pork" - then the French would indeed be "je mange le porc"
by PatrickJaye


So does this mean for the sentence
" Nous aimons le porc. " ,
That it might mean " We like pork " : as in the meat ,
Or it might mean " We like the pig. " : as in this pig ?


"Nous aimons le porc" almost certainly means "I like pork".

But yes you are right - in theory it could mean "I like the pig" - however that woud be an unusual thing to say a stand alone sentence.

If we meant that we like pigs generally - we think they are so cute - we would say "we like pigs" - that would be "nous aimons les porcs". We would then see that we are using a countable noun so it must be "pigs".

If we meant that we like a particular pig - then we would say - "we like our pig" or "we like this pig". "Nous aimons notre porc" or "nous aimons ce porc" - although in that case we could not be certain whether it was "this pig" or "this pork". In real life it would of course be obvious from the context.


I am so thankful for the FANTASTIC explanations that PatrickJaye has provided on this subject ! He is truly AMAZING !


From a conversation PatrickJaye had with me about this topic:

"J'aime le porc" could mean either "I like pork" or "I like the pig" Tey key thing to realise is that appreciation verbs and action verbs work differently when deciding which article to use in French.
If we are starting off with an English sentence that has no article. -"I like meat" = "J'aime la viande" (must be definite article)
-"I eat meat" = "Je mange de la viande" (cannot be definite article)
-"I like apples" =
"J'aime les pommes" (must be definite article)
-"I eat apples" =
"Je mange des pommes"* (cannot be definite article)
Once we decide that we can't use the definite article with "manger" in the examples I gave we must then decide which article to use.
Meat is uncountable so we use the partitive "de la".
Apples are countable so we use the plural indefinite article "des".
Of course in cases where we start off with an English sentence that does have an article then there is no difficulty. The French sentence will simply follow the English article. " by PatrickJaye


So I understand the difference between porc as a live animal vs the meat of a pig. But when would you choose to use cochon and when would you use porc? Would it be in specific cases like 'cochon de lait' where porc would sound strange and would never be used?

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