Talking about illness in French: expressing your symptoms

Developing a dialogue at a doctor’s appointment in France

The French language is full of words and expressions to indicate that you are in pain. It can sometimes be complicated for a French language student to know which verb or word to use to make it clear that one is unwell. 

However, it is useful to know how to communicate well with your doctor and tell him/her about your symptoms in order to get better. 

Here are some useful expressions to talk about the condition of your health in French

Talking about your sickness and expressing pain in French

To express pain in French, we often use the term “avoir mal” followed by the preposition “à“. 

  • Example: J’ai mal à la gorge. J’ai mal à la tête.
  • Translation: I have a sore throat. I have a headache.

In the plural form “à” becomes “aux“. 

  • Example: J’ai mal aux dents. J’ai mal aux yeux.
  • Translation: I have a toothache. My eyes hurt.

Before a masculine singular word, “a + le” becomes “au“.

  • Example:  J’ai mal au ventre. J’ai mal au bras.
  • Translation: I have a stomach ache. My arm hurts.

Expressing different sensations in French

A patient can feel des vertiges (dizziness), des nausées (nausea), des maux de tête (headaches). 

In this case, it is necessary to use the verb “avoir” followed by the words describing the sensation. 

  • Example: J’ai envie de vomir. J’ai la nausée. J’ai de la fièvre. 
  • Translation: I feel like vomiting. I have nausea. I have a fever. 

Expressing struggle against an illness or pain in French

A patient often fights against pain. To express this struggle, it is necessary to use the verb “lutter contre” followed by the pain. 

  • Example: je lutte contre la fièvre. Je lutte contre le mal de dos. Je lutte contre les problèmes de circulation.
  • Translation: I am fighting against the fever. I am fighting against back pain. I am fighting against circulation problems.

Making a Request for medicine in French

The terms to use for medication can be: comprimé (tablet), sirop (syrup), poudre (powder), suppositoire (suppository), cachet (pill), anti douleur (painkiller), antibiotique (antibiotic).

They refer to the type of medication needed.

To specify the request, you can follow these words with “contre” and then the pain you feel. 

  • Example: Je voudrais un sirop contre la toux. Je voudrais un comprimé contre la fièvre. 
  • Translation: I want a cough syrup. I would like medicine for fever.

These words allow you to ask for the medicine you need according to your symptoms. 

Expressing the condition of your health in French

To express your condition without going into details, you can use the verb “se sentir” followed by the words “bien“, “mal” and derivatives (patraque, souffrant etc.).

  • Example: Je me sens bien. Je me sens mal. Je me sens patraque. Je me sens souffrant. 
  • Translation: I feel good. I don’t feel good. I feel sluggish. I am unwell.

Expressing a type of medicine in French

You can choose between different types of medicine. You can choose médecine préventive (preventive), alternative (alternative), homéopathique (homoeopathic) or naturelle (natural medicine). 

  • La médecine préventive” consists of preventing diseases before they happen. This involves des dépistages (screening), des conseils en nutrition (nutritional advice) etc.
  • La médecine alternative” and “naturelle” medicine advocate natural solutions rather than taking chemical drugs. 
  • La médecine homéopathique” takes into account the patient’s health as a whole, not just the symptoms. 

It may be helpful to understand the difference between these types of medicine in order to find out which one is best for you. 

Exercise

Observe and complete the series: 

  1. J’ai souvent mal à la tête, au ventre, aux yeux, à ……. et au ………..
  2. Je prends souvent des antidouleurs, des antibiotiques, des ……….. et des …………..
  3. Je lutte contre l’insomnie, l’hypertension …………. et ……………..
  4. En ce moment, je me sens patraque, fatigué et …………….
  5. Je souhaiterais un sirop contre la toux, et un ………………. ………….. le mal de gorge. 

Thank you for reading this article! I hope this article on how to express your symptoms of your sickness in French was helpful. 

You can read this article in french: Parler de la maladie en français : exprimer ses symptômes

Do you have a question? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment on the Your online French teacher blog!

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Élodie – Your online French teacher

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