I have read the definition of "racheter" in the Larousse dictionary and understood that the "r" prefix means "to do again".

However, I have read the following dialogue in the TV series Narcos:

  • Qu'est-ce que tu veux en échange ?
  • Un resto. (...). J'ai pas de revenus déclarés, moi. Donc, je vais avoir besoin d'un banquier dans la combine et un homme de paille qui rachète le resto à crédit.

Why "racheter" is used instead of "acheter" in this sentence? The restaurant will not be bought again, but rather for the first time.

  • Some appropriate glosses are on the bilingual Larousse (“to buy [secondhand, roughly speaking]”) and TLFi (“Acheter qqc qui a déjà acheté par un autre ou plus rarement par soi-même.”). – Maroon Apr 5 '20 at 3:24

Racheter means not only to buy for a second time, but also to buy something that someone else bought in a first instance, and not from a shop, a reseller or a flea market seller.


J'ai beaucoup aimé ce vin. J'ai bu toutes mes bouteilles, alors j'en ai racheté (I have bought the same item a 2nd time)

Mon voisin n'utilisait plus sa voiture. Alors je la lui ai rachetée (=I have bought it in 2nd hand, from the person who bought it in the 1st place).

If this persons says he wants to racheter a restaurant, he means he plans to buy an existing restaurant to its current owner.

Note it would be awkward to say that anyone has "acheté" the restaurant in first instance anyway: when someone decides to start a restaurant as a business from scratch, they may buy or rent a house or a building for it, hire some staff, buy the furniture, the equipment, etc. - but at least in French you cannot consider that the founder/entrepreneur/chef has acheté a restaurant by then, he has rather fondé/lancé/démarré un restaurant. So the transaction by which someone takes over a restaurant would indeed be racheter, because it means buying something to the current owner and not from some sort of reseller.

More generally, if the transaction means a takeover of a business or a company, the verb is indeed always racheter:

Disney a racheté Lucasfilm

L'état a racheté Air France

Mon associé est intéressé par un rachat de mes parts

  • Sans qu’il soit forcément question d’argent, on peut aussi "acheter une conscience" et "racheter ses fautes", ces verbes se trouvent aussi dans les dialogues télévisés ;-) [recherche Ngram en French 2012, "acheter une conscience,racheter ses fautes"] – Personne Apr 4 '20 at 17:58
  • If I understood right, the point here is that "acheter" can only be used when buying from a shop/reseller. For instance, I cannot use it when buying something that someone else founded or built (eg restaurant, company, house). I should use "racheter" instead. The answer could be a little clearer if it highlighted that. – Alan Evangelista Apr 5 '20 at 13:25
  • yes - and on second thoughts, if I even buy a 2nd hand item on eBay or on a flea market, I would still say "j'achète" et not "je rachète" spontaneously, so I guess these also count as some sort of "shop", even though these are 2nd hand purchases from the owner. I would use "racheter" only for a transaction outside of these "commercial" frameworks, as weird as it may sound... For takeovers of a company or a business, the verb is definitely always "racheter" (ex: Disney a racheté Lucasfilm, l'état a racheté Air France, mon associé a racheté mes parts). I will edit the answer. – Greg Apr 5 '20 at 13:46

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