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I understand that both words describe trudging through difficult terrain, except that « patauger » is specifically about struggling through the wet ground such as a muddy path or a shallow body of water.

What about trudging through the snow, then? I wasn’t sure which verb to go for when saying:

J’en ai des frissons rien qu’à l’idée de crapahuter / patauger dans la neige abondante jusqu'à chez soi tous les jours.

  • Not directly your question, but since you start the sentence with je, maybe you should consider using chez moi. Out of context I can't be sure, but it sounds strange this way. – SdaliM Dec 15 '16 at 16:14
  • @SdaliM Hi. I have chosen "chez soi" over "chez moi", as I'm talking about an imagined situation here: "I don't live in such cold climates, but just the thought of ...". More specifically, it is one of my friends, not myself, that experiences this ordeal every day. If I used "chez moi" instead, wouldn't that make it sound like my own personal experience? Merci. – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Dec 15 '16 at 16:31
  • @alone It depends on how you phrase it, but my first thought when reading your sentence was that the narrator puts himself in someone else's place, hence my comment. There is no problem with someone thinking it is your personal experience. I didn't wrote it in my answer below because I was just pointing out that it could be written differently. It's very subtle : "the thought of…" -> chez soi, but something like "I can't imagine myself…" -> chez moi. – SdaliM Dec 15 '16 at 16:42
  • J'utiliserais plutôt se crapahuter que crapahuter – Eau qui dort Dec 15 '16 at 17:16
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    Am I the only one who never even heard of the word crapahuter until today? And I am a 30 year old native. – stack reader Dec 16 '16 at 1:45
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I wouldn't use crapahuter which for me evokes too much military activities like an assault or a forced march.

As already stated:

  • patauger implies there is some water so might work or not depending of the snow quality.

  • chez soi is for third person (e.g. chacun chez soi.) Here you are talking about your own home, so chez moi.

I would remove the pronoun en from your sentence as it has no antecedent.

Here is what I would use if the snow is usually melting:

J'ai des frissons rien qu'à l'idée de devoir patauger dans tant de neige jusqu'à chez moi chaque jour.

and if the snow usually stays frozen:

J'ai des frissons rien qu'à l'idée de devoir [me traîner]/[progresser] péniblement dans tant de neige jusqu'à chez moi chaque jour.

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    Not agreeing on the "too much militar activities". I realize that it is the first (or only) meaning given in a dictionnary, but to me it isn't reductive. – SdaliM Dec 15 '16 at 22:33
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    @SdaliM You are obviously free to disagree, that's the very reason why I wrote "I wouldn't" and "which for me". It is just my opinion, and this opinion is not based on dictionary definitions but on personal experience. – jlliagre Dec 15 '16 at 23:02
  • Crapahuter is way too familiar. If it has military connotations, it's because it's basically slang. – user13512 Jun 12 '17 at 18:47
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I would go for crapahuter.

As you said, patauger is specifically used when there is water somewhere. Pataugeoire is even used as the small-depth pool for children.
Crapahuter is more general, for every kind of terrain.

I'm sure there is another word, in another style, more formal, but I can't find it.

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"Crapahuter" is really very familiar, and not snow-related. Neither is "patauger".

I would say : "Me frayer un chemin dans la neige", if the distance is short (between the car and the house for instance). It seems to me it is the most suited expression for snow.

But for longer distances, I would formulate it otherwise, stressing the time (and thus the effort) needed: "Rien qu'à l'idée de devoir marcher des heures dans la neige, j'en ai des frissons"

I do not agree with "la neige abondante", which is definitely very english-sounding.

Many other possibilities exist, depending on the effect you are looking for : "Me frayer un chemin dans la neige / dans les congères" (Regular style) "Me frayer un chemin dans la neige sur deux kilomètres". "Moi, me taper deux kilomètres dans la neige, vous rigolez ?!" (Popular style). "Rien qu'à l'idée de devoir traverser toute cette neige à pied, j'en ai des nausées" (Drama queen). "Mon ami, si vous croyez que je vais traverser toute cette neige à pied, vous vous trompez!" (Victorian style). "Je vais vous dire un truc : moi, la neige, j'ai horreur de ça et je ne mets pas les pieds dedans, mais j'irai quand même" (Audiard/Gabin style). etc... etc...

On the many ways of saying a same thing, read "Exercices de style" of Quenaud, or the famous "Tirade des Nez" in Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac.

  • “Neige abondante” to me sounds like heavy snow fall, not snow already on the ground. Not particularly English-sounding, though. I totally agree that patauger is not meant for snow. It could possibly be applied to slush (informally though ubiquitously named “sloche” in Quebec Frenglish), but this unpleasant substance cannot be considered as snow anymore: the colour, the texture and the insulation properties are lost, and it is not even solid anymore. Great suggestions for the rest. +1 – ﺪﺪﺪ Jun 12 '17 at 16:54

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