What is the English equivalent of the French word "consigne"? I am referring here to the classroom context, so in phrases such as "consigne de l'exercice". See also the picture at the bottom of the post.

Additionally, can we use "rule", "guidelines"?

Using Linguee to check "consigne", it gives "guidelines", and, as rarer, "instruction".

Using Linguee to check "consigne de l'exercice", it gives only one result (the others are not related to the school system), and interestingly, it does not translate the word "instruction".

"donne les consignes de chaque exercice" --> "Each exercise is explained"

A machine translation tool gives "instruction of the exercise".

In this picture of an exercise, what we would call a "consigne" in French is squared in red with a red arrow pointed to it. The original image before this personal modification comes from here Picture of an exercise

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    I speak French, though I haven't used it much for years and I'm not familiar with the classroom context. If it refers to explaining how to do an exercise, I can't think of anything better than explanation or guidelines. Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 8:15
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    It would appear that "Each exercise is explained" makes consigne mean explanation. I'm not sure English has the same construction at all: we would say something like "How to do the exercise."
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 11:56
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    I would call the things in your example directions, but I suspect that there is no one word which would translate all French educational uses of consigne. Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 14:20
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    @starckman: In this case instructions are used with the preposition for, not of. You say the instruction of the child (l'enseignement de l'enfant) but the instructions for assembly (les instructions de montage). Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 12:55
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    The word guidelines would be a much looser term ... it sounds to me more like a suggested way for doing the exercise rather than a required one. And rules wouldn't generally be used here, even though the meaning is appropriate. Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 12:58

2 Answers 2


Wiktionary does have an entry for this word

Consigne (Wiktionary)

Under the French heading

  1. orders, instructions

  2. bottle deposit

  3. baggage locker, luggage locker (in an airport, railway station, etc.)

The pertinent one to your query is the first definition.

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    In the given context, "instruction" / "instructions" would be more appropriate than "orders".
    – psmears
    Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 12:22
  • Are "rules" and "guidelines" possible in that context?
    – Starckman
    Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 14:02
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    @starckman What about here or here?
    – tchrist
    Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 16:12
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    Here: Instruction formelle donnée à quelqu'un, qui est chargé de l'exécuter (From the Larousse) @tchrist
    – jlliagre
    Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 16:19
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    @starckman Consigne has no specific textbook meaning in French. While overlapping concepts, a consigne is always softer than an ordre. A consigne describes what needs to be done in a specific situation, it's more a rule. A soldier who doesn't respect the consigne will have to provide (convincing) explanations, a soldier who doesn't respect an order is in big trouble. In a textbook, not respecting the consigne is harmless but also pointless.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 22:58

Some English speakers may use the word prompt for this purpose. It is a word that has its origin in the educational jargon, but has recently been percolating into everyday usage (I suspect because teachers get habituated to using the word in the course of their own education, and then let it slip when communicating with their students).

I post this answer only hesitantly because I don't wish to encourage further expansion of the use of this word.

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    I'd upvote this answer, except I agree with you about not encouraging this use of the word. Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 13:00

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