French you don’t learn at school: machin

Finally, the French word for 'thingy'

22 June 2020
By Connexion Journalist

Knowing the French word for “thingamabob” can rescue you from all manner of linguistic scrapes and corners, whether you forget the name for something entirely or you simply do not know the correct French word. Here we present the multi-functional and very handy word machin.

Machin is a common noun, very common in fact – and much more frequently used than your French teacher would ever have let on. There are so many situations in which you might hear it uttered in everyday French life, from a simple “Donnez-moi ces machins” (“Pass me those thingamabobs”) or used in reference to a risqué or taboo subject to avoid embarrassment: “Il était tout nu, son machin à l’air” (“He was completely naked, with his thingy out”).

Read more: French language notes: le jogging

You can use it to replace someone’s proper name should you not know it: “J’ai vu Monsieur Machin à la Poste, tu sais, le mec qui travaille au bar” (“I saw Mister Whatshisname at the post office, you know, the bloke who works at the bar”).

You might also combine it with “chose” (which also means “thing’) like this: “Comment il s’appelle, Machin-Chose?” (What’s he called again, old whatshisname?). However, this is deemed slightly rude and you would not use it in unfamiliar company.

Machin can also be used in a suffixed word, so you could stick it on the end of a long or convoluted scientific word that you can’t quite finish! Imagine using ‘tiddly-pom’ at the end of a word, for example, and the French version works.

Note, you will almost certainly hear other alternatives to machin, such as truc (perhaps the most popular) and bidule.

More French you don't learn at school: quoi

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