A recent question concerning the translation of the word drive, and especially #mouviviel’s comment :

‘Rouler’ also works for bicycles, whereas in English one says ride [a bike] instead of drive [a bike].

got me wondering if the decision to choose between the two French verbs conduire ou rouler (en) (or any other suitable French verb for “riding as a passenger”) should depend on whether the speaker is the driver (conduire) or a passenger (rouler or voyager? or faire [de] la route? etc?).

Stated otherwise:

Was/is it proper for a PASSENGER in a personal automobile to use conduire (drive) instead of rouler (ride) or any other suitable French verb for “riding as a passenger” in the following scenario?:

After 8 hours of driving all through the night with my (French) wife snoring beside me, she wakes up at dawn declaring:

Wow, on a conduit toute la nuit !

to which I answer:

D’accord pour moi, chérie, car oui, effectivement j’ai conduit toute la nuit, mais toi, je dirais plutôt que tu n’as que roulé (tes pouces ?) toute la nuit !

to which she replies (PAS pour me donner raison, j’en suis certain!)

Alors-là mon chéri, tais-toi et conduis !

Although she acknowledges the point that I am making in my snarky (anal?) reply, she insists that it’s ok for a French passenger to use conduire in this case. Is she correct? Or is this just another instance of her having lost some of her French from living in an English-speaking country with an anal-retentive husband for the past 35 years?

I understand and agree that rouler (or voyager, etc.) works for both the driver and the passenger, because both the driver and the passenger “roulent”, “voyagent”, etc. (even if, in my opinion these diminish a bit the role of the driver), but when a passenger speaks of having conduit (driven) I find that a bit presumptuous (except in cases where the driving duties are shared or when the passenger serves as navigator or some other function of the 'Driving Team').

Of course I’ve heard fellow Anglophones (even done so myself, I'm sure) use 'drive/drove' when 'ride/rode' (travel/traveled) would have been a better choice of words, but it has been my experience that Anglophones will readily admit to their little error, whereas my wife feels that there is no real error for her to admit. Again (and finally), is she correct?

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    Il ne faut surtout pas chercher à avoir raison, car ce que vous prenez pour une offense à la raison ce « Wow, on a conduit toute la nuit ! » est plus une preuve d'amour fusionnel qu'une faute de français ; comprenez-le ainsi, vivre en harmonie avec les gens tels qu'ils sont, sourire des maladresses et non imposer une objectivité inconnue en amour ouvrent des perspectives heureuses !
    – Personne
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 21:01
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    Even if the time that I spent on my question generates nothing more than your truly beautiful and so very true comment, @cl-r , it will have been time very well spent. Thank you!
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 23:34
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    Je rejoins l'avis de cl-r (qui devrait être une réponse plutôt qu'un commentaire probablement ;) ). Même si techniquement le mot "rouler" aurait été plus approprié, c'est le genre de "faute" qui passe totalement inaperçue tant sa vraie signification dire est claire.
    – Cédric D
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 8:37
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    If one were to construe "on" as a determinate third person pronoun like "il", then the selected verb is proper, as she would be talking about you! :)
    – user3177
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 10:02
  • @PapaPoule C'est parce que vous avez réfléchi et trouvé les réponses techniques de votre interrogation que ma réponse est apparue évidente.
    – Personne
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 17:35

1 Answer 1


Je pense que le passager devrait plutôt dire:

« Wow, on a roulé toute la nuit ! »

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