This is something I've always had a little trouble with because people have told me more than once that the way I was saying it wasn't really idiomatic, so I'd like to get this set straight once and for all.

Is "J'ai besoin de pratique" a good way to translate "I need practice"? Is "I've been practicing for a few weeks" translated effectively by "Je m'entrainais depuis quelques semaines" ?

  • Wherever "rehearse" might be used in Eng (band/choir/drama/etc), maybe "répéter" could work in French. Whatever the verb, you could, imo, also express "needing" practice as suffering from a lack of it: "[J'ai?] un manque de pratique/entraînement/etc.
    – Papa Poule
    Nov 15 '17 at 15:48

Both pratiquer and s'entraîner are valid translations of "to practice".

Which one is the most idiomatic will depend on the use case, and sadly I don't think there is a rule for that. For sports we tend to use mostly s'entraîner, maybe because of it's proximity with the English verb "to train".

For instruments however we use pratiquer more often.

If I had to sketch out a rule, I would say for the more technical and refined it is the more you would use pratiquer, and the more effort and sweat it requires the more you would use s'entraîner. For languages for instance it's definitely pratiquer.

By the way J'ai besoin de pratiquer sounds more idiomatic than J'ai besoin de pratique (both are grammatically correct), while with s'entraîner both are OK: J'ai besoin d'entraînement and J'ai besoin de m'entraîner.

  • Thanks that's really helpful. Are those the two primary words used to express this, there isn't another that maybe I don't know? When you are practicing, for example a new language, and you as a (presumably?) native speaker go to say "I need the practice," are these the words you would use? Nov 15 '17 at 9:27
  • Yes they are the two main words, right now I don't see any other Nov 15 '17 at 16:56

It's perfectly fine. In this particular usage, pratique means "experience", not "training", hence manquer de pratique and avoir de la pratique (though expérience is more common for the latter).

It's only an anglicism when it's used for practice in the sense of "training", as in the second case you ask about. It's commonly heard for that in Quebec (at least. I'm not sure about Europe), but considered incorrect.

  • So both my translations are okay? How would you translate it if you did mean "training," as in "I've been really practicing the piano a lot lately." Nov 15 '17 at 4:47
  • What about verb: "S'exercer"?
    – VlS
    Nov 15 '17 at 5:39

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