French word of the week: ouvrir

We’re glad to see you back again for yet another word of the week. This time, we are studying the French verb ouvrir.

To hear the pronunciation of ouvrir, you can listen to the clip below:

In English, we would normally translate this as to open. While it follows some of the regular rules for conjugating -ir verbs in certain tenses, it is an irregular verb. For more about verbs, see our Easy Learning French Grammar page on important things you should know about French verbs.

So, how do we use ouvrir in phrases and sentences? It can be used both transitively and intransitively – in other words, the verb may be followed by a direct object, or it might not.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

ouvrir la fenêtre to open the window

J’ouvre le restaurant plus tard ce soir, il n’y pas assez de réservations. I’m opening the restaurant a bit later this evening, there aren’t enough reservations.

Tu peux m’aider à ouvrir les huîtres ? Can you help me to open the oysters?

ouvrir à quelqu’un to let somebody in; to open the door for somebody

ouvrir l’esprit à quelqu’un to open or broaden somebody’s mind

Ouvrez ! Open up!

Ses avocats ont déjà ouvert les négociations. Her lawyers have already opened the negotiations.

While it generally translates as to open, we can also use this verb in French to talk about turning something on functionally, or operating something.

ouvrir le gaz to turn on the gas (hob)

Je n’ai pas ouvert le robinet. I didn’t turn the tap on.

Just as an aside, try not to get ouvrir confused with the masculine noun ouvrier, meaning worker.

When you’re passing by shops in France, you might see the past participle of ouvrir on the door. It’s used as an adjective, and it’s a handy one to be able to recognise – especially at certain times of the day in France, when shops may shut for la pause de midi

Ouvert Open

Fermé Closed

Finally, this verb also has a reflexive form, s’ouvrir. If you need a refresher on these types of verbs, take a look at our grammar page on using reflexive verbs.

You might see it most commonly used in phrases like:

s’ouvrir sur to open out onto; to lead into

Cette porte s’ouvre sur la rue, mais l’autre s’ouvre sur le jardin. This door opens onto the street, but the other opens onto the garden.

We hope that you’ll be open to the idea coming back next week to learn about another word!

Written by Holly Tarbet, freelance copywriter and editor.

All opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of Collins, or its parent company, HarperCollins.

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