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I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the difference between grand and gros, but when asking for the largest, biggest beer in a bar, which is more idiomatic?

La plus grande bière

  • does this translate more to 'tallest beer' vs.

La plus grosse bière

  • the biggest beer?

I'm thinking maybe both are correct, but with the tallest/biggest distinction. But I'd love to hear from someone with more idiomatic advice about what usage I might encounter in the Francophone world.

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First, you won't be disappointed, both nominal groups will be understood and you will have what you want.

Secondly, the main meanings behind those two words are :

  • gros :

    • it will have the meaning of big
    • but also the meaning of huge girth and volume.
    • It may have even the meaning of fat.
  • grand :

    • will have the meaning of tall,
    • large number
    • but also all that come with being tall, a bigger mass than a smaller one
    • and even a high quality meaning as the size of your achievements.

So, if you order "La plus grande bière" what you could possibly have :

  • a huge beer (which is what you want)
  • a high quality beer
  • a regular beer served in a very tall fancy glass

and "La plus grosse bière" :

  • a huge beer (same as above)
  • a regular beer in a large girth glass

I must add that in my understanding (I am French) gros bring a more familiar meaning than grand.

grosse bière may be more suitable in a bar context (use your gourmand eyes when saying it) while grande may be more appropriate in a classy reception.

  • N'hésitez pas à m'indiquer ce que je peux modifier si vous n'êtes pas d'accord. – Yohann V. Jul 10 '15 at 13:33
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Neither are really idiomatic in France. Asking for the largest quantity regardless of the quality would be often frowned upon.

La plus grande bière might be understood as the greatest, the most famous one while la plus grosse bière seems just odd. La plus grosse/grande bouteille de bière (que vous avez) or le plus grand verre de bière (que vous avez) would be preferred.

One the other hand, une petite bière is much more common, and doesn't mean the beer is specially small.

In any case, the size of a beer served at least in France is pretty standard, it is almost always a demi (originally half a pinte, now a quarter of a liter) and there is also the pinte (1/2 liter).

Bottled beers can be 0.375 liter.

Unlike in other countries like Belgium or Germany, larger glasses/bottles are very rarely served.

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    "Un p'tite bière" is an affective name, beers convey so much feelings ! – Yohann V. Jul 10 '15 at 8:16
  • @jlliagre Indead, both sounds weird to me. I would better say "Le plus grand verre de bière" to be clear. – Random Jul 10 '15 at 10:24
  • @Random Thanks. I suggested "le plus grand verre" but "de bière" need indeed to be appended in the full sentence. Editing my reply for it to be clear. – jlliagre Jul 10 '15 at 12:51

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