I'm writing down a paragraph where I introduce myself, and am doing a quick grammar check through Google Translate (yes, I know it is terrible), before I ask my French teacher tomorrow. I actually seem to have run into something interesting.

If I type in:

J'habite dans une petite rue s'appelle ___.

It translates to "I live in a small street called ___" except if I then translate it back into French:

Je vis dans une petite rue appelée ___.

Forgetting about vis because I don't care about the mis-translation, the verb appeler looks to me like the passé composé definition, except it's also like a few other ones. (I'm only in Year. 11 and so far we've only gone as far as présent, or though I try to stretch further, so really, I have no idea what conjugation it is).

When I translate simply:

a small street called ___.

It actually translates with "s'appelle" instead.

My question is, is this just a semantic error with Google Translate and I am in fact correct by using s'appelle, or am I indeed wrong?


  • 2
    Welcome to French Language. Nice first question.
    – None
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 12:50
  • 2
    GT has a hard time discerning that s'appelle has no interpretation if not preceded by a subject (a regular noun phrase or the pronoun qui, for example). To generalize, GT doesn't know what to do with grammatical errors. Its model associates words and translations, and as far as it can see s'appelle is the main contributor to meanings like "called, named, calls itself". It always tries to produce a translation, so that's what it gives you. Hence, it's not very useful as a grammar checker. ... Even if it gets lucky sometimes and turns meaningless French into meaningless English for you. ;)
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 13:08

2 Answers 2


"J'habite dans une petit rue s'appelle" is grammatically incorrect.

You can say either une petite rue qui s'appelle (literally "a small street that is called") or une petite rue appelée ("a small street called").

Appelée is a form of the past participle (the e at the end makes it feminine, to agree with rue - the base form is appelé.) French, like English, often uses past participles as adjectives.

  • 1
    Ahhh! I forgot the qui! Merci beaucoup!
    – user14339
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 20:54

The verb s'appeler is a reflexive verb. As is sometimes the case in French the reflexive verb is used where English would use a passive voice.

une rue qui s'appelle ...

would translate into English with: a street (that is) called..., (you usually only keep the past participle).

What Google Translate does is to keep the passive voice when translating back into French, making a word for word translation. It is not wrong but it does not sound idiomatic French. Using s'appeler is much better, in that case.

J'habite dans une petite rue qui s'appelle ___.

Other examples of instances where French would use a reflexive verb instead of a passive voice:

  • Ce livre se lit facilement.
  • Cette boisson se garde au frigo.
  • Ce gâteau est tellement bon qu'il se mange facilement.

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