I'm told that the phrase "mauvais ton" should be translated into English as "in bad taste."

Is this true?

If so, is it popular in today's French?

Also: I know that in standard French, the adjective normally follows the noun it modifies, and not the other way around. So, why isn't it "ton mauvais" rather than "mauvais ton"?

  • 2
    Most of the time, French adjectives follow the noun, but there are some, like bon and mauvais, that almost always come before the noun. Mar 21 at 10:57
  • 1
  • 3
    "in bad taste" is "de mauvais goût". The other phrase, "de mauvais ton", is much rarer and has a more specific meaning, I would say, so I wouldn't translate it as "in bad taste".
    – Stef
    Mar 21 at 18:44
  • 1
    @Ricky Yes, you got it.
    – Frank
    Mar 23 at 14:27
  • 1
    I was so worried this was about the literal translation of "my bad" for how many kids I've had to tell that "mon mauvais" n'existe pas.
    – livresque
    Mar 23 at 16:30

1 Answer 1


In this case, we would say mauvais ton only, never ton mauvais, supposing that's the entirety of the phrase. I don't know that it's a "popular" sentence, but it's definitely in use, and it means something like "breaking the etiquette".

It's the opposite of the most common (de) bon ton, that would even less support to be reversed (de ton bon).

enter image description here

For "in bad taste", we have "de mauvais goût", but of course there is some possible overlap between "mauvais ton" et "de mauvais goût", depending on the context.

See also: When do adjectives go before or after a noun?

  • 10
    and we even less say de ton bon! :-) By the way, de mauvais ton usually means 'breaking the etiquette' more than referring to the literal tone of a voice/text.
    – jlliagre
    Mar 21 at 9:49
  • Wildcards in Ngram? You just opened an insane door to me right here.... Apr 2 at 15:32
  • @RomainValeri It has limitations...
    – Frank
    Apr 2 at 17:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.