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Laura K. Lawless

French expression: Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir

By February 13, 2012

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What does the French expression voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir mean, and do the French actually say it? Click to learn all about it, and then come back here to let us know if you've ever used this risqué expression.
More: French expressions | Common French phrases

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February 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm
(1) John Atkinson says:

Once when I was on holiday in Istria an Austrian girl flung her arm around me and kissed me passionately for about 20 minutes, then taught me the phrase, “Willst du mit mir schlafen?” which means the same. Then she went off and slept with a waiter. I would never ask a French lady to coucher avec moi, I’d just let things develop naturally.

February 13, 2012 at 1:48 pm
(2) Jose White says:

Cet expression était la première que j’ai compris en francais parce que j’ai écouté la chanson “Lady Marmelade” …

February 13, 2012 at 2:10 pm
(3) elaine says:

Interesting to read about the background, thanks Laura!

February 13, 2012 at 2:17 pm
(4) Henry says:

A note on the “odd” formality. In Lady Marmalade, this apparently isn’t a pickup-line spoken by a man to a woman, but rather a business proposition from the woman to the man (the previous line is “Hey joe, you wanna give it a go?”). So the formality isn’t entirely out of place.

And the inversion? The setting is New Orleans, not Paris. Just like the Quebecois, the Acadiens have always preferred inversion even in informal settings.

February 13, 2012 at 9:23 pm
(5) Michelle says:

This expression immediately takes me back to French 101 in college, where the professor asked the class on the first day who could tell him what it meant. Many hands went up in the air, and almost just as many subsequently admitted that this was the only French they knew . . . In any case, several semesters later, 201 or 202 perhaps, with yet another professor, we “graduated,” if you will, to a discussion of the difference between “baiser” and “baisser,” which perhaps would be an appropriate topic on February 15th! ;-) I enjoy you blog very much, btw. Thank you for helping me brush up on my French!

February 14, 2012 at 7:27 am
(6) TK says:

But why do they say it at all??? You mean, it means the same, as it is written?

February 14, 2012 at 11:09 am
(7) LKL - French Guide says:

It means exactly what it says and Americans say it sometimes to be funny, sometimes to be risqué, sometimes because they don’t even know what it means.

February 14, 2012 at 12:22 pm
(8) Angelita Porcella says:

My high school French teacher (the sainted Layna Szabo — where are you now? We all still love you!) taught us that the grammar was incorrect. Since going to bed should be reflexive, the question should be “Voulez-vous vous coucher avec moi?” Was she wrong? Say it’s not so!

February 14, 2012 at 12:29 pm
(9) LKL - French Guide says:

Angelita – sorry, but she was wrong. Se coucher means “to go to bed (in order to sleep)” – that’s not what this question is proposing.

February 14, 2012 at 12:32 pm
(10) Berta says:

On the street in Paris, 1973, a gang of swaggering young mecs accosted our giggling group of American girls, and leering, hollered it out at us. I didn’t really get it until later…but it certainly made it an unforgettable phrase for me.

February 14, 2012 at 12:36 pm
(11) Marty says:

Heh-heh-heh… “your friend”, eh? I suspect the conversation in the cafe’ went something along the lines of your non-French-speaking friend saying to you (referring to another patron) “Oh, he’s hot!” and you said “Well… go up to him and say…”. And then sit back and watch the fun ensue. Great article and I enjoy your blog and emails. They are always enlightening.

February 14, 2012 at 12:37 pm
(12) Dee says:

I thought this would need an extra “vous” in front of coucher because of the reflexive nature of the sentence. Coucher itself would lend itself to putting someone else to bed. Where am I going wrong?

February 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm
(13) Ed says:

Also consider “se coucher” as a correct option.

February 14, 2012 at 1:13 pm
(14) Anne Shedlock says:

In 1964 when I was a college freshman straight from a Catholic girls school, I was propositioned with this phrase during a Freshman mixer. The nun who taught me French didn’t teach us this but I was able to figure it out and walked away.

February 14, 2012 at 1:41 pm
(15) Rick says:

Since it was brought up multiple times, it’s worth repeating that se coucher (the reflexive verb) means to go to bed “in order to sleep,” whereas the non-reflexive coucher means to go to bed to do “other things.” The French teacher who corrected the grammar either did not kow this fine point or wanted to avoid discussion of the actual meaning. At any rate, she used it to reinforce a grammatical point for her first year students. As for having used the phrase? I never have, but now I may reconsider. I did like to sing the other famous lyric: Michelle my belle, sont des mots qui vont très bien ensemble, très bien ensemble. A la prochaine fois….

February 14, 2012 at 1:52 pm
(16) Ed says:

Reliable source for mentioned distinction between “coucher” and “se coucher”?

February 14, 2012 at 2:12 pm
(17) Rick says:

Larousse

(familier) to sleep with

(très familier) [sexuellement] to sleep around

February 14, 2012 at 2:26 pm
(18) sandra ragsdale says:

Je n’ai jamais jusqu’à présent prononcé ces mots à un homme avec l’intention de poursuivre la ‘conversation’. Mais il ne faut jamais dire jamais…’spa?

February 14, 2012 at 5:51 pm
(19) Ray says:

Isn’t it grammatically incorrect?? Voulez-vous vous coucher…?

February 14, 2012 at 6:04 pm
(20) Rick (Richard en français) says:

Conversation? Je suis toujours prêt à converser en français. Moi aussi j’ai suivi des cours à l’Aliance française, et ce discours-ci m’intéresse. Vous pouvez me trouver à entrenous2000 chez yahoo.

February 14, 2012 at 6:47 pm
(21) Lauriate Roly says:

Oh Laura, il serait impossible? Sommeil signifie dormire et je ne serais pas capable de dormir dans le même lit que vous. . Je voudrais vous tenir occupé. (Oh, je révèle ma nature humaine. Une telle faiblesse).
Sorry Laura for such a demonic reply, but the question in the subject begged for it. Also, you live miles from here .

February 14, 2012 at 7:04 pm
(22) Len says:

So, for those interested in a real treat for Valentine’s Day, download Nanette Workman’s cover of “Lady Marmalade,” en francais. It is a superb rendition, and quite saucy.

Now, there’s a term for you. How would one say “saucy” in French?

February 14, 2012 at 8:59 pm
(23) Lauriate Roly says:

Peut-être “trempé”?
ou peut-être saucé?

February 14, 2012 at 10:57 pm
(24) Glenn says:

The song, in a version similar to the one by Lady Marmalade, is frequently performed as a cover song by local bands in our area.

February 14, 2012 at 11:26 pm
(25) Brenda says:

18 years ago, when I interviewed for a job, the supervisor used the phrase as his last question to me. I was already standing up and half-way out of the office when he posed it. I was so flabbergasted and embarrassed that I pretended I didn’t understand what he’d said. I took the job (with a note to self to keep a healthy distance from him). A few months later, when he was interviewing a new hire, I heard him ask her the same thing through the open office door. She also professed ignorance, and I yelled “just say, NO”. She took the job as well. It was a good place to work and had an excellent group of people for company – just the one sleaze-ball. Funny, I hadn’t thought about that in years before I read your post; but it instantly sprang to mind when I saw the phrase. Thanks for the smile!

February 14, 2012 at 11:47 pm
(26) Christine says:

Just before midnight, might I ask, do the French wish each other a “Happy Valentine’s Day”? If so…comment dirait-on cela?

February 15, 2012 at 5:10 am
(27) J Ward says:

Serving the USAF in France 1958 to 1961, “voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir” was the first full French phrase I learned, but I never got the chanca to use it. My dates all seemed to naturally lead in that direction before the need for the phrase came up in conversation. Vive les belles dames françaises!

February 15, 2012 at 9:36 am
(28) Don says:

I have never understood this “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?”

I have often believed that the artists that ramble on about “IT” so much are usually the ones who know the least about “IT” … let alone the grammar.

This expression is not grammatically correct … it should be “Voulez-vous vous coucher avec moi ce soir?”

As we all know (well, most of us, anyway) the reflexive verb se coucher means to go to bed, whereas, coucher means to put to bed.

E.g. “Voulez-vous coucher (le bebe) ce soir? Will you put THE BABY to bed tonight?

E.g. “Voulez-vous vous coucher avec moi ce soir? Will you put yourself to bed …. etc., etc.

KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK, LAURA … I LOVE FRENCH ! SOMETIMES I NEED TO CONTACT YOU WITH A QUESTION OR TWO … YOU ALWAYS DO A SUPERB JOB IN “SETTING ME STRAIGHT” ON THE IDIOSYNCHRASES OF THE FRENCH LANGUAGE.

February 15, 2012 at 10:10 am
(29) LKL - French Guide says:

Dee, Ed, Ray, and Don -

As I already explained in message 9, se coucher means “to go to bed in order to sleep.” It does not mean “to have sex.” Coucher, without se, means both to put someone (else) to bed, and informally to have sex. From Le Petit Robert:

coucher, II (verbe intransitif) 3. Coucher avec qqn, partager son lit, sa chambre avec lui. Fam. Avoir des relations sexuelles avec qqn. Elle couche avec lui. Ils couchent ensemble. (1539) Absolt Coucher : avoir des relations sexuelles, une vie sexuelle.

February 15, 2012 at 1:11 pm
(30) Carol Kent says:

Years ago French friends came to visit us here in CO. They are traditional, older, like us. After hugging Christian, I said, “Voilà un baiser américain” trying to show him how we Americans greet each other. He turned beet red. Never said THAT again.
J’adore votre site..toujours quelque chose à apprendre. Merci!

February 15, 2012 at 4:02 pm
(31) Donal says:

Hi Laura. I heard this in the late 1950s on the radio. It was a track from Peter Sellers’ Songs for Swingin’ Sellers, called Shadows on the Grass. The script is here: http://www.epicure.demon.co.uk/shadows.html. My mother heard it and was disgusted. My brother and I didn’t know that she understood!
Votre site me beaucoup plaît – merci.

February 15, 2012 at 6:15 pm
(32) Mary says:

When I was a high school teacher traveling with students through France and Spain, the Spanish teacher, who spoke no French, started singing this phrase to one of the boy students. The French teacher was mortified and turned beet red. She told her what it meant and then she too was embarrassed. This was my first introduction to the popular song of the time.

February 16, 2012 at 9:48 am
(33) lucie says:

If you want to maintain a shred of dignity and avoid offending people, do not say this even jokingly

August 17, 2012 at 8:41 am
(34) Navodeep Dutta says:

Salut Laura!

This phrase was used by Monica of the popular comedy TV series Friends. This phrase leaves a lot of people with embarrassment I suppose. But one can’t deny the fact that there are some phrases in certain languages which go viral, and people try to show off their skills without even being aware what it means. I personally know 6 Indian languages, bengali being my mother tongue. Whenever I meet new folks, they try to impress me saying “Aami tomake bhalo baashi” (which means I love you in Bengali) when they realise that I’m a bengali. And I thought why we are termed as the Frenchmen of the east!

December 11, 2012 at 1:26 am
(35) Lizzy says:

I once received a text from a guy saying this and asked my fifteen year old daughter to translate. She burst out laughing and went onto explain what it meant! How embarrassing!

December 12, 2012 at 7:47 pm
(36) Fred says:

This sentence isn’t necessarily formal. It could just be referring to more than one person. I can definitely imagine a scenario in which this sentence could lead to a party of three… or four.

February 19, 2013 at 8:23 am
(37) jo says:

I have always been curious as to the use of VOUS in the phrase. Why would you ask someone you hardly know to bed? But what if VOUS was used in the plural sense?? Asking more than one person to bed ? O la la!!

February 20, 2013 at 9:54 pm
(38) Isabelle Lemaire says:

I’m from Belgium, and French is my mother language. I learned English at school, and am currently doing an exchange in the united states.
When I arrived in the us, the first people I met looked at me and “so, you talk french? Voulez vous coucher avec moi? By the way, what does it mean” Hummm, awkaaard! :D

You say in your article that “Viens voir mes estampes japonaises” would be more used than “tu veux coucher avec moi”… Hum, sorry, but it’s wrong… The first expression is not even french… I don’t know what was your source, but this sentence just doesn’t mean anything… You would say “noix” or “boules” (nuts or balls), but never “estampes japonaises”…

And you actually would say “Tu veux prendre du bon temps?” (do you wanna have a good time?) or “Tu veux coucher avec moi?” to ask a girl out (or more) :)
I hope I helped you out

Bye

February 21, 2013 at 1:12 am
(39) LKL - French Guide says:

Bonjour Isabelle,

Thanks for your comments. You might not use the expression viens voir mes estampes japonaises, but that doesn’t mean it’s not French. You can find plenty of examples of native speakers using it on the internet:

http://lewebpedagogique.com/cdilyceemonnet/2008/04/30/viens-voir-mes-estampes-japonaises/

http://www.analysebrassens.com/?page=texte&id=95 number 48

etc.

April 8, 2013 at 6:26 am
(40) youresofrench says:

Hello everybody :)
Bonjour, je suis Français, trying to learn to people what is “So French”… with humour I hope ;)
check this page : https://www.facebook.com/YoureSoFrench

Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir was the first sentence I heard in England when I was young : around 16 … it was 30 years old :P … I was not enough mature to say … YES … but I remember the girls were not so classy ;) lol … Ok, now, you can use it today, but only o=if you want to make love with someone else ;) … believe me !!
Anyway, it’s “so charming”
Love it

June 18, 2013 at 5:07 am
(41) Emma from Sweden! says:

First time I heard the expression “voulez vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?” was in the song “lady marmalde” with Christina aguilera, pink etc, a friend showed me the song but we couldnt figure out its meaning…

Anyway, i started to sing it everywhere, in school, around my parents (!) haha. Finally i decided to google it and I found this blog post, hilarious! I hope i can use this cheesy pickup line next week when im off for a three weeks language trip to south france. Not in a serious way, im only sixteen and its not like i’m plannig to get laid! But i cant miss french people’s reactions when i say it. I can imagine its even funnier to say this to someone who doesnt know the meaning!!

Ps sorry if my english isnt correct everywhere, im still learning. Great blog by the way!

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