I understand that in French we refer to floors as "rez-de-chaussée, premier étage" etc., but if you want to tell someone how many floors a building has, does this still hold? I.e. if it only has the ground floor, does it have aucun étage, or if the floor highest up is the "deuxième étage," does it have deux étages? I feel like that's how I learned it in school but it's been a while so I wanted to double check

4 Answers 4


You have it right: according to the TLFi, étage seems to refer to the space between two floors, so you'd need indeed two floors to make un étage.

A house with only the ground floor has "aucun étage", it is "de plain-pied".
A house with three floors, so the rez-de-chaussée + le premier étage + le deuxième étage has deux étages. The ground floor is implicit. This same house has trois niveaux (levels, floors).

Note that historically, both versions seem to be correct:

Le premier étage, anciennt. et encore au Canada, le rez-de-chaussée ; auj., l'étage carré situé au-dessus du rez-de-chaussée ou de l'entresol.

Disclaimer after reading some comments: the following statement is based on a few buildings I saw, which doesn't mean it's a rule, just that it can happen.
In some buildings and industrial constructions, the actual numbering may vary (probably depending on how it was designed). I have seen the rez-de-chaussée being numbered 1 and the following floors 2,3,4, etc. It's absolutely not the most common situation, though.

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    In France, I have never seen a rez-de-chaussée with number 1. It's always 0 if it has a number. If you can walk in from the street to floor number 1, it's because the building is on a hillside and has entrances on both floor 0 (normally the main entrance) and floor 1 (typically a back entrance if it isn't numbered 0). Sep 22, 2017 at 8:47
  • @Gilles Well I've worked in at least two different buildings (different companies, no relation) with the rdc numbered 1, and visited some others occasionally, so I can confirm that it does happen. Just "pour l'anecdote", I've even worked in a place where rdc was labeled 1, but because of the hillside the entrance was on the 1st floor ...so you entered on a floor labeled 2!
    – Kerkyra
    Sep 22, 2017 at 9:11
  • I agree with @Gilles. The ground floor is always labeled 0 or RdC in France. You might have floor 1 (or higher) accessible from the ground level but that is because the building is on a sloping ground and the other side does starts at level 0. Otherwise, the upper side is called RdC and the lower level is called RdJ (for rez-de-jardin).
    – jlliagre
    Sep 22, 2017 at 16:46
  • @jlliagre as I said, I thought so too until I found a building where it's not the case. I'm not saying it's common, just that it happens.
    – Kerkyra
    Sep 22, 2017 at 16:52
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    I'm still unconviced. Where is the building located? Are you sure it is not on a sloped place?
    – jlliagre
    Sep 22, 2017 at 17:20

When talking about a building that has only ground floor, we say [bâtiment, maison, appartement] de plain-pied. Ground floor in France refers to floor zero. When we say that a building has n floors, it's the number of floors without ground floor (so it would be n+1 in other languages).


En plus d'étages, on peut parler de niveaux: un immeuble de cinq étages a six niveaux.


the way for anglophone to solidify a 'floor, or, 'space of each floor' as étage is think of 'a stage.' Each level is a stage that life is performed.

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