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Gros vs grand

Both "gros" and "grand" can be translated as "big" or "large". When translating from English to French, a rule of thumb is that "grand" is used for things that get large by growing taller, and "gros" for things that get large by growing fatter or wider. For things that can get large in either direction, one word or the other can be chosen to nuance the meaning.

May 10, 2012



csi : you are right, large in french means wide, but rarely used for something or someone, more for a space, an interval, a street, a length, a quantity, etc. Its opposite is "étroit".


Now there's also the word "large" is there not? And it tends to mean "wide"? I seem to remember always getting mixed up between the English "large" and the French "large".


Quick memory tips: "gros" like gross fat (no offense intended) and "grand" like grand skyscraper. "gros" like grown big from muscle growth and "grand" like grand canyon huge. For things that strictly only grow vertically = grand, For things that strictly only grow horizontally = gros.


then, why we say " le zoo est grand" ? (means the zoo is growing vertically!) does it mean "the zoo is large" ?


Hah, maybe it depends on the zoo. Kidding, the vertical and horizontal examples are not as universal as I first theorized. Every language does have a few "odd" out-of-place rules as well. Sometimes these also apply to the context, particularly for common figures of speech.


"Le zoo est grand" goes with your first example: "grand" like grand skycraper or grand canyon.


Doesn't grand also imply "greatness" (which is also a type of largeness) as well?

I think if it were a "Great Zoo" it might be Le Zoo Grand, or something like that.


Thanks! You cleared my doubt.


Thank you! Was wondering about this right now.


I get the tall versus wide difference and that definitely helps with learning...but what about instances such as translating from English to French "She has a big dress"? Normally, I'd think that when describing clothing as getting bigger we mean in size, so wider. But then DuoLingo likes to tell me the correct answer is only grande, not grosse.

Or what about instances such as choosing all the correct translations for "The big girl". A girl can be either tall OR wide but if you select both the grande and the grosse options available, I'm again informed this is wrong.

I'm so confused...


So quite similar to big as in 'fat', and big as in 'tall' then? ;)


How would you call an individual "fat" then? Would you use gras or gros?


gras is describing the greasiness of fat and gros is the actual size of it


Right, "gras" as in Mardi Gras or "Fat Tuesday"


Haha never knew Mardi Gras was literally Fat Tuesday even though sometimes I thought it :')


Thanks for the explanation! Have been wondering about the differnece while doing the practice.


Thanks you! I will definitly need that! :)


Thanks, I was looking for an explanation such as yours


Thx for the explanation.


I always get confused by the words, but I do the same you do!


Merci beaucoup! Je n'ai pas savoir cette.


"Le zoo est grand" or "Le zoo est gros"?


I am guessing you would use grand which is used to mean big when referring to a city, say, so I would think it would apply to any place.


in Portuguese we call "gros/grose" as "grosso/grossa".


is there really no other word for tall than "grand" in french... i wrote haut but was marked wrong


Have you tried looking it up in a dictionary? You would use haut(e) for a building not a person.


ok... thank you... so you for example say "je suis 150 cm grand" it sounds strange.. 150 cm big. ok.. thanks..


I am not sure why you translated je suis 150 cm grand as "I am 150 cm big". Surely you know the word means "tall" since that was I your original question. So the translation would be "I am 150 cm tall".

Part of knowing a language is being able to interpret statements rationally. You cannot be so rigid as not to know when the meaning of a word shifts in order to make sense in a particular context. Like the word fait means "make" or "do", but the phrase il fait froid refers to the weather and means "It is cold".


ok.... you misunderstood my question. Of course i understand what you wrote... that was why i asked... because we are talking about tall here... not big... i was being ironical. because i find it strange that "grand" can mean both "big" and "tall" That was the strange part... because in english it is totally different. But doesnt matter. Have a good weekend..


Sorry to be dense, but could someone tell me what all these circular national emblems mean on every post, together with the numbers (or ratings?)


The flame and the 111 next to it by your name, I believe shows how many consecutive days you have done Duolingo exercises. The French flag is for the language you are learning. You can choose to learn more than one language hence the many flags next to some learners' names. The number next to the flag shows the level you have reached in the course of that country's language. This discussion has some more info: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/8000024


Thanks MDC - a real help!


Yep, as in the verb "élargir", to widen (out) for a path, to broaden for a debate, an ideaa, a spirit.., to stretch let (out) for clothes..contrary to narrow (down), limiter.

The English language has more than 300 000 words, the others, like French or other Latin languages, German or Mandarine Chinese, Arabic or all the other languages, having around 50 000 words each.

But for the river word, English has just one word, when all the other languages have several. That's quite rare, as English people went by boat everywhere on Earth but the poles.




thanks for the explanation.

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