French Vocabulary And Phrases For Military Personnel

  • Adrien Renault
    Written byAdrien Renault
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French Vocabulary And Phrases For Military Personnel

Whether you’re serving or just interested in French wartime literature, learning military French is useful.

Which French vocabulary and words linked to the military (and war) should you learn?

I’ve listed the most important terms in this guide.


NOTE: If you need info on the salary perks in the military for learning French, see this guide on DLAB and DLPT.


French vocabulary for military ranks

The table below contains essential French vocabulary for military ranks.

To use these ranks correctly, remember to use the feminine or masculine article that matches the gender of the French noun and the article l’ when the article precedes a vowel.

English French
Army general Le général d’armée
Army corps general Le général de corps d’armée
Brigade general Le général de brigade
Colonel Le colonel
Lieutenant colonel Le lieutenant colonel
Commandant Le commandant
Captain Le capitaine
Officer cadet L’élève officier
Major Le major
Chief sergeant Le sergent-chef
Sergeant Le sergent
Corporal Le caporal
Recruit La recrue

French weapon vocabulary

The list below contains French weapon vocab.

You may have heard some of these terms before, or at least recognise them (they’re very close to their English equivalents).

English French
Bullet La balle
Grenade La grenade
Gun Le pistolet
Drone Le drone
Bomb La bombe
Landmine La mine terrestre
Machine guns Les mitrailleuses
Weapon L’arme
Missile Le missile
Rifle Un fusil
Automatic handgun Une mitraillette
A firearm Une arme à feu

Other French phrases related to weaponry

You may also hear other French phrases linked to weapons when watching news coverage of war or military personnel.

The following examples are common French phrases related to weaponry to help you listen for those words.

  • Abattre quelqu’un - to kill a person with a weapon
  • Tirer sur quelqu’un - to shoot at a person
  • Tuer quelqu’un - to kill a person
  • Blesser quelqu’un - to wound a person
  • Se faire tirer dessus - to be fired upon or shot at

French imperative verbs used in military contexts

If you’ve watched films related to the military or seen some documentaries on the French Foreign Legion for example, you would have noticed that they use many French imperatives (commands).

Check the examples listed in this table to learn what the main imperatives are.

English French
Go Va !
Get up Levez-vous !
Listen Écoutez !
Hands up Les mains en l’air !
Surrender Rendez-vous !
Don’t move Ne bougez pas !
Stop Arrêt !
Move Déplacez !
Hurry Dépêchez !
Calm yourself Calmez !
Give it to me Donnez moi ça !
Lower the hands Baissez les mains !

Division names

The terms for 3 main divisions of the military (army, navy and air force) are in the table below.

English French Pronunciation
Army L’armée Luharme
Navy La marine Lah-mah-reen
Air force La force aérienne Lah-forss-ahrienn

French army-specific terms

Here are a few army-specific terms you should learn.

English French
Army L’armée
Tank Un tank
Truck Un camion
Missile Un missile
Airplane Un avion
Troops Troupes
Armoured vehicle Véhicule blindé
Military base Base militaire

French wartime vocabulary and expressions

Here are some more important terms you should learn (general wartime terms and expressions).

English French
An armed conflict Un conflit armé
A declaration of war Une declaration de guerre
Ceasefire Cessez-le-feu
Soldier Soldat
A peace treaty Un traité de paix
The enemy L’ennemi
A combat Un combat
A massacre Un massacre
An alliance Une alliance
A spy Un espion
An invasion Une invasion
Battlefield Champ de bataille
War La guerre

Example sentences

If you’re not sure how the French war vocabulary above is used, look at the example sentences below.

Listen to audio

Le conflit armé s’est aggravé.

The armed conflict has worsened.
Listen to audio

Touts les pays veulent négocier et accepter un traité de paix.

All countries hope to negotiate and agree to a peace treaty.
Listen to audio

L’alliance négocie avec l’ennemi pour mettre fin à la guerre.

The alliance is negotiating with the enemy to end the war.
Listen to audio

Les deux parties ne veulent pas se rendre, mais elles peuvent négocier.

Both sides do not want to surrender, but they may negotiate.
Listen to audio

L’invasion était attendue, mais les deux pays espèrent convenir d’un cessez-le-feu.

The invasion was expected, but both countries hope to agree to a ceasefire.
Listen to audio

De nombreux pays veulent éviter une déclaration de guerre.

Many countries hope to avoid a declaration of war.
Listen to audio

Les soldats veulent la fin de la guerre.

The soldiers want the war to end.
Listen to audio

La situation est difficile sur le champ de bataille.

The situation is difficult on the battlefield.

Other war-related French vocabulary

There are a few other words we can add to the list of war-related French vocabulary above.

I’ve included a handful of other words and phrases in the table here to help you understand more about the military and conflicts.

English French
Artillery L’artillerie
Ammunition Les munitions
Retreat La retraite
War criminal Le criminal de guerre
Civilian Les civils
Surrender La reddition/l’abandon
War strategy Stratégie de guerre
The wounded Le blesse/la blessure

Wartime reporting in French (examples)

If you’re wondering how French reporters use the phrases above, consider the sample sentences here.

Listen to audio

Le pays était menace par l’artillerie.

The country was threatened by the artillery.
Listen to audio

Les troupes se sont retirées du danger.

The tropos retreated from the danger.
Listen to audio

Protéger les civils et les garder en sécurité.

Protect the civilians and keep them safe.
Listen to audio

Notre stratégie de guerre n’a pas à se produire. Nous pouvons négocier.

Our war strategy doesn't have to happen. We can negotiate.
Listen to audio

Emmenez les soldats blessés à la base.

Take the wounded soldiers to the base.

The vocab and expressions above are a useful starting point for active servicemen (or anyone interested in French wartime literature).

The example dialogues will help you identify some common structures and themes.

If there’s anything I missed or should add, let me know.

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Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
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