French Phrases That Are Nice To Know

French Phrases


Traveling overseas can be exciting and daunting, especially if you’re not fluent in the native language. Whether you’re asking for directions, ordering at a restaurant, or simply being friendly with the locals, having even a general grasp on the language can make a big difference.

The French are famous for their romantically formal language and their culture is deeply important to them. It’s important to remember that you’re in a foreign land and while many people may speak English, you’ll never know when the phrases will come in handy or accidentally disrespect somebody. Anytime you visit a foreign country you should always respect their culture and customs and greeting them in their own language is a great way to start.

The French shake hands while saying “Bonjour” or “Bonsoir” depending on the time of the day. You are expected to greet every person individually, even if they’re in a group.  There are two ways of addressing someone in French: a polite or formal way using “Vous” and a more casual way using “Tu”. The same concept applies to greetings. A general rule of thumb to follow is to always greet someone formally unless you’ve known them for some time.

Tips for your Accent

French has some sounds in not found in english so some words can prove a little tricky in pronunciation.  Practice those words that contain the letters “ou” (pronounced “oo”  like the sound in “soup”) like rouge, vous, pour, fou, bijoux, etc. until you can produce the “ou” sound naturally. Chose one sound to practice for a few days and afterwards, move on to another sound group such as:

  • – eu (veulent, feu, peu) – Don’t pronounce the “u” but only the “e” sound
  • – u (jus, nu, dessus) – similar to “ew” sound in English. Say with rounded lips.
  • – r (roux, rue, répéter) – pronounced from the back of the throat with minimal tongue tip movement.
galeries la fayette

The Basics

French (Pronunciation) English

Au revoir (oh-reu-vwar) Goodbye
S’il vous plaît (see-voo-play) please
Merci (mair-see) Thank you
Je suis (zheu swee) I am
Je veux (zheu veu) I want
Je cherche (zheu share-sh) I’m looking for
Un hôtel (ern otell) A hotel
Une chambre (une shombre) A room
Payer (pay-yeh) to pay
Acheter (ash-tay) to buy
Je ne comprends pas (zheu neu kompron par) I don’t understand
Je ne parle pas français (zheu neu parl par fron-say) I don’t speak French
Pouvez vous parler plus lentement, s’il vous plait (poo-vay-voo par-lay ploo lontermon, see-voo-play) Could you speak more slowly, please
Pouvez-vous répéter,s’il vous plait (poo-vay-voo ray-pay-tay, see-voo-play) Could you repeat that please

Food & Drink

French (Pronunciation) English

Manger (mon-zhay) to eat
Petit-déjeuner (peuti – dayzheurnay) Breakfast
Diner (dee-nay) Dinner
Boire (bwar) to drink
Un verre (ern vair) a glass
De l’eau (deu-lo) some water
Un thé /au lait (ern tay /olay) a tea /with milk
Un demi (ern deu-mee) A half pint of draught beer
Ou est-ce qu’on peut trouver des restaurants? (oo esk on peu troo-vay day resto-ron) Where are there some restaurants?
Une table pour deux / quatre personnes (oon tarbleu poor deuh /cat-r pair-son) A table for two / for four.
Le menu, s’il vous plaît. (luh muh-new, seel vooh pleh) The menu, please.
Un café et un café au lait, s’il vous plaît. (ern caffay ay ern caffay olay, see-voo-play) One black coffee, and one white coffee please.
L’addition, s’il vous plaît. (lad-eesi-onsee-voo-play) Could I have the bill please.
Avez-vous…? (ah-vey vooh. . . ?) Do you have. . . ?

Places & Direction

French (Pronunciation) English

La toilette (lar twa-lette) the washroom, toilet
La gare (lar gar) The train station
L’aeroport (l’aero-por) the airport
Une banque (une bonk) A bank
Carte de crédit (kart deu cray-dee) Credit card
Un supermarché (ern supair-mar-shay) A supermarket
Des magasins (day magga-zan) Shops
Une voiture (une vwa-tiure) a car
Je cherche un distributeur de billets (zheu share-sh ern dee-stree-beaut-eur deu bee-ay) I’m looking for an ATM / cash dispenser
Pourriez-vous m’indiquer comment aller. . . ? (pooh-ree-ey-vooh maN-dee-key kohN-maN-tah-ley. . . ?) Could you indicate/point out how to get to...?
Pouvez-vous m’appeler un taxi, s’il vous plaît (poovay voo maplay ern taxi see-voo-play) Could you please call me a cab
Nous voulons aller à .. (noo voolon allay are...) We want to go to ...
A l’aeroport, s’il vous plaît (ar l'aeropor see-voo-play) To the airport, please
Quel temps va-t-il faire aujourd’hui? (kel tom vartil fair oh-zhour-dwee) What’s the weather going to be like today?

Like any new skill, learning another language takes a lot time and practice but there's many options out there to help you improve. Program like Rosetta Stone have been proven to work for many people with all sort of different learning styles. Prefer to give it go on you own? Make flash cards and review them often. Draw comics to illustrate different phrases or activities. Listen to movies or TV shows in french with English subtitles.

No matter your method, the absolute most important thing to remember is that you..

Vive le voyage

Enjoy the journey