This article is aimed at more advanced French learners. It explores the uses of the French verb "mettre" meaning "to put". This extremely common French verb follows an irregular conjugation which, as you will discover, is represented in a number of idiomatic phrases. 


In its three most obvious interpretations, the verb “mettre” is used to say:

1. “to place” (to place something on a shelf)

2 “to put” (put some washing up liquid into the water)

3. “to wear” (to wear some clothes)

There are other uses for the verb mettre, the majority of which this article has tried to list. These are sometimes distant from the action of putting or placing.



To put/place


  • Je mets la bouteille dans le frigo. I place/put the bottle in the fridge.
  • Je mets les chaussures dans l’armoire. I put the shoes in the cupboard.
  • Je mets mon pantalon. I wear/put on my trousers.



To wear

  • Je mettrai une cravate ce soir. I’ll wear a tie this evening.
  •  J’ai mis du parfum. I'm wearing perfume
  • Je ne sais pas ce qu’il a mis, mais ca ne sent pas bon! I don‘t know what he’s wearing but it doesn’t smell nice!


To put on


  • Je mets la camera sur automatique: I put the camera on automatic.
  • Je mets le chauffage: I’m putting the heating on.
  • Je mets (la télévision) sur Canal + : I put on the Canal + channel.
  • Je mets mon clignotant et je mets mes phares: To put on the indicators in a car  



Taking time


Ca met longtemps: It takes a long time, which is the same as saying “Ca prend longtemps” in which “mettre” is no longer equated with “putting away” but with “taking”. (Just as in English)

  • Il met deux heures à répondre: He takes two hours to answer
  • J’ai mis un instant à comprendre: It took me a while to understand.
  • Ca met des plombes: It takes an age.
  • Ca m’a pris trois heures pour faire Londres-Manchester: It took me three hours to travel from London to Manchester.



Mettre un goal: To score a goal


  • On leur a mis un goal à la dernière minute: We scored a goal at the last minute
    At the outcome of a victory (sports, war…) we might say “Qu’est ce qu’on leur a mis!” meaning that the opposition took a beating.



When we talk about starting an action we can use “s’y mettre”


  • Je me mets à la peinture. Il est temps que je m’y mette: I am starting painting. It's time for me to start.
  • Tu t’y mets trop tard: You are beginning too late.
  • For example: Je suis en retard pour mon étude pour mes examens. We might say: Demain je m’y mets sérieusement. Tomorrow I’ll start to study seriously.
  • Je me suis mis au ski. I started skiing
  • Il s’est mis à rire. He started to laugh.
  • Il s’est mis à blaguer. He started to tell jokes.
  • Il s’est mis a picoler. He started to drink heavily.





French  English translation
Je mets le cd en route / Je mets un disque

We don’t say “Jouer le CD” but rather put the CD on.


Je lui ai mis une baffe I gave him a slap
Se mettre sur son 31 To dress up well. (Dressed to the nines)

Se mettre à l’aise

Faites comme chez vous, mettez -vous à l’aise.

To put oneself at ease.

Make yourself at home, put yourself at ease.

se faire mettre en morceaux This expression relates to a crushing defeat.
To be taken to pieces by the opposition.

se faire mettre

This is equivalent to f*** off
Se mettre une cuite To get drunk
Mettre les pieds à

to go to a certain place (to put/place your feet in Greece for instance)

Tu t’es mis cette idée dans la tête.

Il s’est mis dans la tête qu’il doit absolument déménager

To have a fixed idea about something that may be unfounded. Similar to the English expression: To have a bee in your bonnet

He’s decided that he absolutely needs to move house

Mettre can replace the verb "to write"

T’as mis quoi à la question deux?


What did you answer/put/write for question two?


I hope that this article was helpful to you. If you'd like to continue your French journey, I'd be happy to help. Leave me a comment below, or schedule a lesson with me here on italki. 


Hero image by JOHN TOWNER on Unsplash