In (american) English, to describe a person who was not outstanding in school, but who wasn't failing either -- an average student if you will -- you might describe them as "a B student". How would you convey the same idea in French?

  • Un étudiant lambda.
    – Damien
    Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 19:46
  • Hi, bienvenue sur French Language SE. What did you find when you started to research how to say this?
    – livresque
    Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 20:09
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    @livresque "Un étudiant de catégorie B", but I don't think that they use the A, B, C, F system in France, so I'm not sure this would make much sense for a French person
    – usernumber
    Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 21:52
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    You are right it makes no sense to a French person because we don't use GPA rating. So you'd have to give the equivalent in the French system of evaluation (i.e. see here) or if you needn't be too precise you'd just see un étudiant juste au-dessus de la moyenne (just above average).
    – None
    Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 5:31
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    A B student is not a negative thing; it is just not remarkable. Un étudiant moyen. Voilà l'idée.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 15:42

4 Answers 4


In French a different noun for "student" would tend to be used according to the type of school attended. For students in high school or below that level the term "élève" is used the most; for students in university, the word "étudiant" is used almost uniquely. The following terms are common.

  • élève moyen, étudiant moyen (ngram)

The term "bon élève" is used a lot also, but "bon étudiant" is not used much. (bon).

  • 2
    By the by, in Canadian French one often hears "élève" only up to about Grade 8, and "étudiant" already in high school, just as a curiosity.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 13:59
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    In France, as far as I know, it's « élève » until the baccaulauréat and/or « classe prépa ». For instance, you'd be « élève au collège », « élève au lycée », « élève en math spé ». And « ancien élève de l'école normale » is very common. But you'd say « étudiant en Sorbonne ».
    – PatrickT
    Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 21:12
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    They're not look for the word for student - but rather the diferentiation between a great student and a good one Commented Jul 18, 2021 at 15:03

France and US grading systems are somewhat different in both their range and linearity.

As you described B as "average", that might match un étudiant/élève1 de niveau passable (enough to pass). This level applies to students with a grade between 10 and 12 or that might match a bon élève if the B level is considered to match the assez bien French one.

After reading all the comments, I believe the closest expression would be un assez bon élève.

Here is a chart where I try to match France and US gradings assuming B is passable2 (third column) or, more likely, assez bien2 (last column):

France Meaning1 US US2
18-20 Très bien + Félicitations A+ A+
16-18 Très bien A+ A
14-16 Bien A B+
12-14 Assez bien B+ B
10-12 Passable B C
10 Moyenne C C
8-10 Insuffisant D/C- D/C-
0-8 Très insuffisant F F


  1. French and American grading equivalency for transcripts: Why is it so hard to convert French grades into American grades (and vice versa)? - Charles Eddy

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  1. Ammon & Rousseau

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  1. Studying in France

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  1. Université Paris 10 - ECTS

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1 In France, we use élève for a student attending a primary school (écolier), a secondary school (collège: collégien, lycée: lycéen). Students attending a University are called étudiants. Students from grandes écoles (Polytechnique, ENA, Saint Cyr, Centrale, Mines, Pons, Normale sup...) are also often still called élèves.

2 Note that on the meaning of a French grade might substantially vary depending on the level (primary, secondary, university, grandes écoles...), the school, the teacher, the period, the discipline or the kind of exam. The trend is often reported to be towards higher and higher scores for a similar level, and marks that were exceptional several decades ago tend to become commonplace.

  • 2
    No, passable is just above the failure threshold. The meaning remains close to the etymology: a student is passable if the best you can say about them is that they're passing. A B student is not great, but better than just passing. I think passable matches very closely to C. Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 12:31
  • @Gilles'SOnousesthostile' Yes, that's the interpretation I stated in my last sentence. Both the French and US grading systems are subjective but passable is nevertheless between 10 and 12 so IMHO wider than "just above threshold". The OP told a B student is neither outstanding nor failing, the reason why I picked the pessimistic choice.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 12:39
  • The expression “a C student” also exists. Both a B student and a C student are neither outstanding nor failing, but a C student is just barely passing whereas a B student is comfortably passing. Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 12:46
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    A B student is “average” in the sense of unremarkable, rather than in some numerical sense. It's really similar to how in French « un étudiant moyen » ne veut pas dire « un étudiant qui a la moyenne ». Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 13:13
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    @PatrickT I do remember indeed. It would be interesting to know what average grading this year's baccalauréat général students (stunning 97.6% success rate) would have got eighty years ago if they had taken the certificat d'études primaires exam...
    – jlliagre
    Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 13:20

How you render an "B student" in French depends to what purpose you need to use the phrase.

  • If it is to be used in a casual manner and do not need to be accurate you could say:
      • un élève/étudiant tout à fait moyen

which is a phrase teachers and lecturers would use when talking about a student who is just above average (which is what a B student is).

  • If you need the phrase for a more formal situation, for instance for a cover letter or to apply to a French university then you might have to give a numerical rating equivalent using a converting table (as the one you can see there). But in fact if you apply for a French university they will ask you for a transcript of grades from the previous academic year (whether in high school or as an undergraduate).

Note that this applies to France, in other French speaking countries they might express this differently.


Un étudiant ordinaire, ...comme un autre.

  • De deuxième plan me semble péjoratif et trop fort (est-ce B ou B-grade). Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 0:10
  • Ça me paraît trop général. Pour faire allusion aux résultats scolaires, on dirait plutôt « peu remarquable ».
    – PatrickT
    Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 11:10
  • It's definitely not passable. ordinaire might work.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 15:38

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