I would like to buy a French dictionary and grammar book written for native speakers. What are some good ones?

  • “Good ones” is to imprecise and different people will have different interpretations for it. If you want to turn your question into a constructive one, please indicate what you will use this dictionary for—not that I doubt you will make “good” use of it ;-) Sep 11 '12 at 17:55
  • I think the description below is self-explanatory. As Stéphane said, it's not only imprecise, it's subjective. What I find to be a good dictionary, someone else will find it's terrible. There is no one answer, and the SE network is about questions that are objectively answerable.
    – Kareen
    Sep 12 '12 at 2:59
  • Same as Stéphane Gimenez and Kareen. I find that this type of question is not about French Language and usage, and besides, I am not at all convinced that FL&U should promote commercial products by the means of its questions ans answers. The cc-by-sa attribution would allow the publisher to use any content for the promotin of its product. I would feel more comfortable if this type of question was asked on the chat.
    – None
    Sep 12 '12 at 5:31
  • 1
  • If this close is a point of contention among users, it may be better to discuss it on Meta than in comments here.
    – Kareen
    Sep 12 '12 at 14:20

You have the choice between the rival compact dictionaries Petit Larousse and Petit Robert. I prefer the Petit Larousse since it is far more precise, and its famous "pink pages" contain common expressions, Latin phrases used in French, proverbs etc. Both Larousse and Robert have good conjugation and grammar sections.

However, my preferred dictionaries are:

  • The Hachette Encyclopédique which is a little bigger (although there is a very practical pocket edition I used in highschool). It contains a lot of encyclopedic information about places, people, cities, etc and also has good conjugation and grammar sections. It is widey used by cruciverbalists, arrowords enthusiasts or Scrabble players.
  • The Petit Larousse
  • The Littré is a normative dictionary that gives a lot of information about the words themselves. It might too advanced for you (and it is difficult to find a good modern edition), but if you see it in a library while looking for advanced information it can be really useful.
  • The Bled / Bénac grammar guide is a small (pocket-size) book that contains every complicated rule of the French language. It is not a dictionary, but it is of great value each time you forget a rule or its exceptions, or if you don't know which tense to use. Bled was born in 1899 and wrote so many grammar books and exercise books for schools that nowadays a lot of books written in his particular style are called "Bled".
  • The Larousse du XXème siècle is an old (1920-1927) dictionary in 6 books that had a great success. You might find it in some libraries. It is not modern, but when you need a very precise definition of an old word (example, an old tool or architecture style) it's very good.

Although I recommend the Hachette, I agree with cl-r's answer. The Robert is a good learner dictionary and well suited for an everyday use, even if I was sometimes disappointed by its lack of precision for such a big dictionary.

  • "I was sometimes disappointed by its lack of precision for such a big dictionary." That's funny, because I usually have the same complain about Larousse. I'm going to assume you have issues when you look for encyclopedic information in Robert (which makes a point of being a purely lexicographic work with almost no encyclopedic information, so not exactly surprising). Me I tend to find that Larousse is shamefully lacking on the lexicographic aspect. But then it's half the size of the Robert (the other half being proper nouns), so...
    – Circeus
    Sep 11 '12 at 13:19

Le petit Robert a ma préférence pour refléter et définir le français contemporain, par son amour des mots, plus que des définitions.

Les définitions sont adaptées aux mots : tous ont leur transcription phonétique, certains ont leur histoire, les idées associées, les synonymes ou contraires, les variations.

Plus qu'un distributeur de définitions, il permet d'abord d'appréhender un mot tant par l'intuition que l'on peut en avoir selon l'environnement dans lequel ils évolue, que par les définitions et citations elles-mêmes.

Pour formuler une phrase de qualité, il permet de varier ou de préciser son vocabulaire pour la bonne expression des idées.

C'est plutôt un dictionnaire littéraire, qui ne référence pas forcément tous les termes techniques, scientifiques, médicaux que l'on peut trouver dans Le petit Larousse, mais, à mon goût, c'est le plus francophone.

De plus il donne les conjugaisons, et annexe les datations principales des mots, et les noms et adjectifs relatifs aux personnes et au lieux.

... et c'est grâce à lui que j'ai pu répondre judicieusement quelquefois sur ce site.

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