Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir ?

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir ?
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Unused French Expression

Meaning Do you want to sleep with me tonight?
Register familiar
Pronunciation [voo lay voo koo shay ah vehk mwa seu swahr]
IPA   [vu le vu ku ʃe a vɛk mwa sə swaʁ]

Usage notes: Many Americans have this idea that the French expression voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir ? is a great pick-up line. Others don’t know what it means, yet think it’s a cool thing to say to prove that they know a bit of French. They’re all wrong, for two reasons.

1. Inversion and vous are both very formal, which doesn’t make sense in the context of trying to pick someone up*—unless you’re talking to more than one person. 😮 So if anything, the question should be Tu as envie de coucher avec moi ce soir ? However …

2. The French don’t often use pick-up lines, and when they do, they’re not in-your-face direct like this one – see French pick-up lines.

 Bad grammar?

I know what you’re going to say: "shouldn’t it be voulez-vous vous coucher?” The answer is no. Coucher means “to put someone (e.g., the baby) down to bed," and it also means “to go to bed in order to have sex.” The pronominal se coucher means “to go to bed in order to sleep," which is clearly not what you’re asking here.

So the bottom line is that yes, the grammar is correct, but no, you should never say this.

* Someone once explained the reason for the unusual formality to me: In the song Lady Marmalade, which is essentially where this expression came from, it’s not a pick-up line spoken by a man to a woman, but rather a business proposition from a woman to a man. Also, it takes place in New Orleans, and Acadiens (like Quebecois) prefer inversion even in informal settings.

French forum discussionHave you ever heard – or used – voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir other than in Lady Marmalade? Share your stories below!

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Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir ?
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1 Response

  1. Morgan Brynnan 3 September 2017 / 9:27

    e.e. cummings wrote it in a poem before the song came out