Tu vas offrir une corbeille cadeaux à tes cousins?

Tu vas offrir une corbeille cadeaux à tes cousins?

tew vah uh-free rewn kor-bay-yuh kaa-doh ah tay koo-ZAA? Click below to hear this. 

Are you going to give a gift basket to your cousins?

Une corbeille is a basket. But what’s in it, and what other words mean basket?

Okay. Une corbeille cadeaux is a gift basket. You could put fruits, chocolates, hot sauces, beer and brats–whatever you think is appropriate for the recipients of the basket. Do they love music? How about a music CD, a bottle of wine, and a pair of tickets to a concert? Do they love sports? A pair of tickets to a game, a signed photo of a champion, and a coupon for chili and beer. Or books: an Amazon gift card, an assortment of chocolates, and a signed copy of a book that the recipient would love. The possibilities are endless.

There’s another word for basket too. It’s le panier. That’s the one you use for laundry, fresh produce, picnics, and other everyday containers. Chances are some of these are not great gift material, especially the dirty socks.

How about the grammar? How are corbeille and cadeaux related? You can blame the English language for that. In English, we tend to string together a row of nouns to describe something, like a gift basket, pretending that some of them are adjectives. It’s a kind of shorthand, or perhaps a form of linguistic laziness whereby we avoid elaborating or perhaps even understanding the exact relationship among objects. Clearly, though, there are no adjectives here: corbeille is feminine singular, and cadeaux is masculine plural.

French has, in fairly recent years, adopted this way of expressing itself. So une corbeille cadeaux is a basket for gifts or a basket (full) of gifts. In “standard” French, one would say une corbeille à cadeaux for a basket intended to contain gifts, or une corbeille de cadeaux for a basket full of gifts. The French have always prided themselves on the clarity and precision of their language.

Alternate audio file link: une-corbeille-cadeaux

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