Lesson: French Body Parts


Learning the names of body parts in French is fundamental for beginners. This lesson provides a comprehensive list of body parts in French, along with pronunciation tips, useful phrases, and a practice section to help reinforce your learning.

Vocabulary List: French Body Parts

Head and Face

  • la tête ( lah tet – )  the head
  • le visage ( luh vee-sazh )  the face
  • les cheveux ( lay shuh-vuh )  hair
  • le front ( luh frahn )  forehead
  • les yeux ( layz yuh )  eyes
  • le nez ( luh nay )  nose
  • la bouche (lah boosh)  mouth
  • les dents ( lay dahn )  teeth
  • la langue ( lah lahng )  tongue
  • les oreilles ( layz oh-ray ) ears

Upper Body

  • le cou (luh koo) – neck
  • les épaules (layz ay-pohl) – shoulders
  • les bras (lay brah) – arms
  • la main(lay mahn) – the hand
  • les doigts (lay dwah) – fingers
  • le dos (luh doh) – back
  • la poitrine (lah pwah-treen) – chest

Lower Body

  • les jambes (lay zhahmb) – legs
  • les genoux (lay juh-noo) – knees
  • les pieds (lay pyay) – feet
  • les orteils (layz or-tay) – toes

Useful Phrases

  • J’ai mal à la tête. (Zh-ay mal ah lah tet) – I have a headache.
  • Tu as mal aux yeux? (Too ah mal oh zyuh?) – Do you have sore eyes?
  • Elle s’est cassé la jambe. (El s-eh kah-say lah zhahmb) – She broke her leg.

Use of Definite Articles with Body Parts in French

Contextual Ownership

In French, when the owner of a body part is clear from the context, the definite article is used instead of the possessive adjective. This usage is particularly common with body parts as objects of verbs.

Key Concept

  • Use of the definite article: Unlike English, which uses possessive adjectives with body parts (e.g., “my hand hurts”), French typically uses the definite article (e.g., “la main”) when the body part is involved in an action indicated by a verb.


  1. Mon bras me fait mal. (My arm hurts.) vs. J’ai mal au bras. (I have pain in the arm.)
    • The first sentence uses the possessive “mon” because it directly describes the pain in the arm without any action verb affecting the arm.
    • The second sentence shifts to using “au bras” (the arm) since it’s understood that the pain occurs in the speaker’s arm due to the verb “avoir mal.”
  2. Mes mains sont sales. (My hands are dirty.) vs. Je me lave les mains. (I wash my hands.)
    • Again, the first sentence uses the possessive “mes” because it’s describing a state of being directly related to “my hands.”
    • The second uses “les mains” (the hands) with the action verb “laver” (to wash), following the pattern of using the definite article.

Contrast with English

  • Incorrect:  Je me suis cassé mon bras.
  • Correct:  Je me suis cassé le bras      I broke my arm.
    • In English, we would say “I broke my arm,” using the possessive adjective “my.” However, in French, the definite article “le” is used to indicate that the arm that was broken is the speaker’s own arm, understood from the context.

Additional Note: Using “Avoir Mal À” with Body Parts

Expression “Avoir Mal À”

French Body Parts - Il a mal au pied

The phrase “avoir mal à” is commonly used in French to express pain or discomfort in a part of the body. It is equivalent to saying “to have pain in” or “to hurt” in English. When using this expression, special attention must be paid to the contraction of the article that follows.

Article Contraction with “avoir mal à”

  • avoir mal à + le (masculine singular) → au
    • Incorrect:  J’ai mal à le pied.
    • Correct:  J’ai mal au pied.        I have pain in the foot. 
  • avoir mal à + les (plural) → aux
    • Incorrect:  Ils ont mal à les jambes.
    • Correct:    Ils ont mal aux jambes.   They have pain in their legs.

These contractions are essential for grammatical correctness and fluency in French. It’s important to remember that the article “le” or “les” must always contract with the preposition “à” when used in this context.

Examples for Practice

  1. Elle a mal au dos.     She has back pain.
  2. Nous avons mal aux yeux à cause de la lumière.     We have sore eyes because of the light.
  3. Tu as mal au bras ?       Do you have pain in your arm? 
  4. Elles ont mal aux dents.       They have a toothache. 

Feminine Singular Nouns

For feminine singular nouns, you use “à la” without any contraction:

  • J’ai mal à la tête.     I have a headache. 
    • “Tête” is feminine and singular, so “à la” is used without contraction.

Nouns Starting with a Vowel

When the body part noun begins with a vowel, “à l'” is used for both singular and plural forms to ensure smooth pronunciation, avoiding awkward pauses:

  • J’ai mal à l’oreille.         I have an earache.
    • “Oreille” begins with a vowel, so “à l'” is used.
  • Elle a mal à la jambe.   She has pain in her leg.)
    • Here, “jambe” is a feminine singular noun, so “à la” is correctly used without contraction.
  • Il a mal à l’estomac.    He has a stomachache.
    • “Estomac” begins with a vowel and is masculine, but “à l'” is used for ease of pronunciation.
  • Nous avons mal à l’épaule.  We have shoulder pain.
    • “Épaule” starts with a vowel and is feminine, so “à l'” is used.

Key Takeaway

Always use “au” for masculine singular and “aux” for plural when describing pain in body parts with “avoir mal à.” This usage mirrors the way prepositions and articles interact in other contexts in French, reinforcing the importance of article contraction in the language.

🍀 Practice Exercises 🍀

Exercise 1: Complete with “le, la, les” or “mon, ma, mes”

Complete the following sentences using “le, la, les” or “mon, ma, mes” based on the context provided.

  1. ______ bras me fait mal. (personal)
  2. Je me suis cassé ______ bras. (neutral context)
  3. ______ jambe est engourdie. (personal)
  4. J’ai mal à ______ tête. (general context)
  5. ______ dents doivent être brossées. (general hygiene)


  1. Mon bras me fait mal. (personal)
  2. Je me suis cassé le bras. (neutral context)
  3. Ma jambe est engourdie. (personal)
  4. J’ai mal à la tête. (general context)
  5. Les dents doivent être brossées. (general hygiene)

Exercise 2: Complete with “au, à la, aux, à l'”

Fill in the blanks with “au, à la, aux, à l'” to correctly complete the sentences based on French grammar rules concerning prepositions and definite articles.

  1. J’ai mal ______ tête.
  2. Il a mal ______ dos.
  3. Elle a mal ______ jambes.
  4. Ils ont mal ______ oreilles.
  5. Je me suis fait mal ____ pied.
  6. Elle s’est fait mal ____ pieds.


  1. J’ai mal à la tête.
  2. Il a mal au dos.
  3. Elle a mal aux jambes.
  4. Ils ont mal aux oreilles.
  5. Je me suis fait mal au pied.
  6. Elle s’est fait mal aux pieds.

Exercise 3: Translation

Translate the following English sentences into French using the correct body part terms and appropriate grammatical structures.

  1. I have a headache.
  2. He broke his leg.
  3. They are washing their hands.
  4. She hurt her foot.
  5. They have pain in their stomachs.
  6. She is brushing her teeth.
  7. I feel pain in my back.

Answers :

  1. J’ai mal à la tête.
  2. Il s’est cassé la jambe.
  3. Ils se lavent les mains.
  4. Elle s’est blessé le pied.
  5. Ils ont mal au ventre.
  6. Elle se brosse les dents.
  7. J’ai mal au dos.


Understanding the names of body parts in French is essential for everyday conversations, especially in medical contexts or describing people. Practice these words and phrases regularly to build your French vocabulary effectively.