***Book Fair near Bonnieux***
Please come and see me and my mom, Jules (pictured). We'll be in Roussillon (Luberon) this Sunday: she, in her colorful poncho, a just-swiped flower in her fedora... and I'll be the one who needs to loosen up a bit.

Michel Thomas Speak French For Beginners: 10-CD Beginner's Program

beau-fils (boh-feece) noun, masculine
    : son-in-law

synonym: "gendre" (more synonyms, a great soundfile... and a dictionary of terms, after the story column)

It is 7:48 a.m. on Tuesday morning, and my mom and my husband are dancing the tango. Mom's silver hair is swept back; she's laughing though she hasn't yet put her teeth in.

Tango "I'm sixty-two! I'm sixty two!" she sings as she looks into Jean-Marc's eyes.

"You know why I married your daughter, don't you?" he asks, with that melts-your-heart French accent.

"Because when she is sixty-two... she will be as beautiful as you!"

* * *
PS: I forgot to add that yesterday was Mom's birthday. We'll be celebrating all week.

"Family" dictionary:
la belle-famille = in-laws
le beau-fils (son-in-law, stepson) = gendre
la belle-fille (daughter-in-law, stepdaughter) = bru
la belle-soeur = sister-in-law
le beau-frère (brother-in-law) = beauf
la belle-mère (mother-in-law, stepmother) = marâtre
le beau-père (father-in-law, stepfather) = parâtre
les beaux-parents = step-parents
Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the lexicon, above: Download beau-fils.wav . Download beau-fils.mp3


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This is a great time to discuss all those "beautiful" members of the French "belle-famille". Why do the French call their in-laws "beau" and "belle" and isn't it a lovely idea, as well?

...Belle-mère, belle-fille, beau-père, beau-fils, beau-frère, beaux-parents...

A mother-in-law is a "belle-mère"... and so is a stepmother. Do you have other examples of how these words are borrowed for other family members? Does Cinderella call her evil stepsisters "belles-soeurs" ("beautiful sisters")?

Finally, if one can refer to her beau-frère as "beauf"... just what can she call her "belle-soeur"? 

Your thoughts, anecdotes, questions, and answers are welcome here:

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Such sweetness! Maybe it's just yours and mine, but sometimes I think if the women of the world knew what they were missing by not marrying a frenchman then they would be flocking to France in search of the first one available! Bonne chance pour notre mamans, les belles-meres!


Once again I am inspired by your mother's free spirit and love of life! What a sweet photo and story!


I am very pleased that as of this summer I have a French gendre, and my daughter has the full array of a French belle-famille. I was told by members of this belle-famille that they consider gendre a bit nicer than beau-fils (so I call him mon gendre because he is tout à fait adorable!), but they feel that bru is less affectionate than belle-fille. Also, if you really like your mother and father in law you can call them beau-papa and belle-maman.

patricia donbeck

kristin, lovely pictures of your beautiful mother. without seeing her face still you know how beautiful she is. treasure these times.

Visitor Info

I too hope to one day have a beau-fils, when my daughter gets back from the peace corps.


Wonderful photos ..... such happy moments!

Very nice indeed to use beau / belle.... but it's a bit confusing when there is a re-marriage

Suppose I am the daughter of my father's first wife, and my father remarried.
My “belle-mère” means my father's second wife and it also means, my husband's mother! So, no distinction between “stepmother” and “mother-in-law"! A word seems to be missing here, in the French language!

Traditionally, (specially in the world of stories, fairy tales) stepmothers are cruel towards their stepdaughters, so, I think it's when the word “marâtre” should be used.... same with “parâtre”.
I may be wrong, but, in my mind, I associate marâtres & parâtres with bad treatments, cruelty ... Of course, I know that some stepmothers and stepfathers can be as good as mothers and fathers!

Easier with stepson & son-in law / stepdaughter & daughter-in law. General use of "beau-fils" & "belle-fille" but, if we want to be very precise and avoid confusion, the French language gives us 2 specific words -> gendre (only used for son-in law) and bru (only used for daughter -in law).

I wonder when the French introduced the adjective "beau" to describe their in-laws...



First of all, thanks for the great newsletter!

You asked about "les belles-soeurs" of Cinderella. Yes, thats what they are called despite their not so "belles caractères".
However, to avoid misunderstandings, the French seem to prefer "demie-soeur" for step sister (or demi-frère).

Regarding "corbaturer", my French colleague who normally has a fantastic command of his mother tongue, is not familiar with that word. Désolé!

Best regards,


Dear Kristin,

Your mom is great and supremely elegant! An inspiration for we mid-aged ladies!

All best,
Colleen (I met you in New York and am now resident in Adriers in Poitou-Charentes and loving every minute!)

Cindy McDonald

Chère Kristin,
Bon anniversaire to your mom! We are the same age, only days apart.
Roussillon is one my favorite places and oh how I wish I could be there to meet you both. We are still recovering from Gustav and Ike here in Louisiana, sweeping up the dead brown branches of so many fallen trees. A cool day spent in the beautiful vivid colors of Roussillon...sounds like Heaven.
Toutes mes amitiés,


What a beautiful time.......does your maman live in France as well or is she just visiting? Mon mari is Parisian and it is difficile to live here in Californie so far from ma belle famille.
Merci for the wonderful newsletter!


Blague a propos de la famille (bad pun)
Comment appelle t'on celui qui tue son frere?...Un fraticide
Son pere? Un parricide
Sa Mere? Un matricide
Son Beau Frere?...C'est un insecticide...Parce qu'il tue " L'époux de sa soeur" ( les poux de sa soeur)


In response to Lori - not all Frenchmen are worth having. I was married to one and ended up leaving France to get away from him.

I also agree with the others who say that it is confusing that there is no differenciation in French between step and in-law. I can't tell you how many times, when speaking with my French colleagues, that I have had to retrace my words to make it clear about if I was talking about my dad's wife (not my mother) or my husband's mother. I have never heard gendre, bru, marâtre or parâtre used in conversation and I understood beauf to be slang.


Ah, maman looks gorgeous and enjoying le danse. Merci to you for sharing your family and your life with me.

Carol Folino

What a very special time you share with your mom!My husband has made the same comment about looking at a womans mother to get a glimpse into the future....

Christine Dashper

Happy Birthday to Jules!! What lovely photos, and Jean-Marc, what can a beautiful thing to say!

All the best

Peggy Ritchie

All the best at the book fair.How I wish I were visiting my family in the Luberon right now. I could certainly drop by to visit you,(even though I own all your books). However, my daughter and beau-fils might not appreciate having both her divorced parents there at the same time.

A belated happy birthday to you mother who is looking much more glamourous than I am, although she is a few years younger.

Jeff Cwiok

Evil step sisters of Cinderella =
Les belles-soeurs méchante de Cendrillon?


There were words to describe the stepmother/father in French: marâtre and paråtre. But they have/had a very negative connotation and seem to have been dropped from the current French vocabulary. Children of a stepparent from a previous marriage are "les enfants du premier lit" ou "du second lit" depending on the speaker's relation to the said children. Et pourquoi est-ce que "gendre" est sympa et "bru" non? C'est comique, non?


Thanks for bringing up this subject. Now I can describe my first 'step-grandaughter' as being my belle petite fille - which sounds much more lovely than 'step'.

Augusta Elmwood

You're lucky you married a Frenchman... they say sweet, tender, sensitive things like that.


john lockwood

I have come across a very good way to learn is to watch french movies with french, not english, sous-titres..most of us find the speed of delivery of movies inaccessible but the titles make all the difference...
Unfortunately they are rare..i have only found one; the brilliant "les amants de pont neuf" Carax...anyone know any others? I think they will be mainly those sold in france rather than for the us / uk market

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