The French adjectives gros and grand may appear similar, but they have distinct meanings and usage.
Gros usually translates to big or fat, and grand to tall or large.
Sometimes they are (and sometimes they are not) interchangeable.
Let’s look at the example of a big bear. Un gros ours vs un grand ours.
Gros emphasizes the bear’s weight or bulkiness, while grand emphasizes its height or overall size.
We tend to use gros with animals unless specifically referring to height – une grande girafe, bien sûr.
Size: “Gros” = physical bulk or overall size, width or volume.
- C’est un gros chat.
- That’s a big cat.
Size: “Grand” = vertical height
- Il est très grand pour son âge.
- He is very tall for his age.
- Un grand arbre
- A tall tree
People: When describing people, “gros” refers to someone being overweight, and “grand” describes someone as being tall.
- Elle est grosse.
- She is fat.
- Il est grand et mince.
- He is tall and slim.
Abstract Concepts: “Gros” can also be used metaphorically to express intensity or significance, and “grand” can convey importance, influence, or scale.
- Un gros problème
- A big problem.
- Un gros mensonge
- A big lie.
- Une grande décision
- A major decision.
- Un grand écrivain
- A great writer.
Interchangeable: There are instances where “gros” and “grand” can be used interchangeably, and they mean exactly the same thing.
- Une grosse/grande ville
- A big city.
- Une grosse/grande maison
- A big house.