What's the difference between rencontrer and retrouver?


Rencontrer vs retrouver image


French has two words to say to meet. As usual, the choice of the words depends on the context.

Check these explanations below.

Rencontrer (to meet, run into)

Rencontrer means to meet someone for the first time.

For example:

  • J'ai rencontré mon meilleur ami à l'université. (I met my best friend for the first time at the university.) 
  • Ils se sont rencontrés en 2020.  (Theymet each other in 2020.) 

***As you see in the last example, it's possible to use a reflexive form of the verb rencontrer when the action is between more than two people. > se rencontrer (reflexive form)

Rencontrer also means to run into someone, to meet someone by chance.

For example:

  • Elle a rencontré son ex (copain) au marché. (She ran into her ex-boyfriend at the market.)


Retrouver (to meet up, find)

Retrouver means to meet up with someone, to see someone again after a long time.

For example:

  • Je vais retrouver mes amis ce soir. (I'm going to meet up with my friends tonight.)

***As you see in this example, retrouver, unlike rencontrer, is used to describe an organized meeting.

  • Quand est-ce qu'on va se retrouver? (When are we going to meet up?)

*** Like rencontrer, retrouver can be used in reflexive form> se retrouver

Similar to verb "trouver", Retrouver is also used to say to find something or someone that was lost.

For example:

As-tu retrouvé ton portefeuille? (Did you find your wallet?)


Let's practice!

Fill in the blank with the correct form of rencontrer vs retrouver.

1) Philip a _____ son patron au cinéma. (to run into)

2) À quelle heure on ______ samedi ? (to meet up)

3) Ma mère a _____ sa voisine au marché. (to run into)

4) J'ai ______ mes clés! 

5) Anne et Olivia se _____ il y a dix ans. 


Check your answers

1) Rencontré

2) Se retrouve

3) Rencontré

4) Retrouvé

5) sont rencontrés


Check out my book Don't mix them up to learn the differences between the most confusing French word pairs

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