In this French words and phrases section are listed some current and common French phrases that are frequently used and heard, and that you should try to learn before visiting France if possible. We also provide some general articles about the best way to approach the challenge if you plan to learn French.

In the 'phrase' section we have focussed on the words and phrases that you will hear and could use in everyday conversation in France, based on our own experiences of living in France. In the 'learn french' section the idea is motivation rather than instruction, although there is a bit of that mixed in.

Being cool and trendy!

Before you start, here are some great phrases that are not so well known among non-French speakers...but used very commonly in French:

1) 'ca se peut' - means 'that's possible' or 'that could be right'. Much more elegant than 'c'est possible'! (pron: sa se purr)

2) 'ca m'étonnerait' - means 'I'd find that surprising' or 'That would surprise me' (pron; sa metton a ray)

3) 'Je dois regagner mes pénates - means 'I must be getting home'  - much more French than 'je dois rentrer chez moi' (pron: je dwa regan yez may penat)

4) One for the teenagers: 'bof' - means 'not much, not really' as an answer to a question.  eg 't'aimes cette chanson?'...'bof' ('do you like this song?'...'not much') (pron: boff!!)

It is not true that all French people speak English. It is true that they often know more English than you realise. So no rude comments in English because no one can understand you, please (we often overhear such comments in our local French bar).

Common French Phrases

VERY common phrases - indispensable

Some VERY common and basic French phrases...

Oui ... Yes

Non ... No

Excusez moi ... Excuse me

Bonjour ... Good morning / hello

Au revoir ... Goodbye

Bonsoir ... Good evening

Aidez moi, s’il vous plaît ... Can you help me please?

Combien ca coûte? ...How much is it?

Je ne parle pas français ... I don’t speak French

Je ne comprends pas ... I don’t understand

Enchanté ... Nice to meet you

À demain / a bientôt ... See you tomorrow / soon

Merci ... Thank you

Je vous en prie... You’re welcome

More common phrases


Ca marche...that works, that would be good

N'importe quoi...yeah, right! (not easy to translate, this is a very common spoken expression that can mean more or less anything that suggests 'you are talking a load of old rubbish' and more besides)

Je n'en sais rien...I haven't got a clue (often better than 'je ne sais pas', even better if you raise both hands, shrug and say 'je n'en sais rien, moi')

Je vous en prie...please (if telling someone to go through a door first or go in front of you in the queue, better than s'il vous plait)

Je cherche...I am looking to / for (eg je cherche acheter une maison, je cherche mes enfants)

Bien joué... well played, well done (but NOT for a steak well done)

Je n'y suis pour rien...its not my fault / I'm not to blame

Je m'en occupe...I'll look after it / take care of it (e.g. answer the door, pay the restaurant bill)

C'est quoi ce truc...What is this (lit: it is what, this thing)

Encore...another, again (a second coffee, for example, rather than 'un autre' which means 'an other' - a different one - rather than 'another')

C'est gentil à vous...that's kind of you

C'est quoi ce cirque?...why all this silly behaviour? (my favourite!)

Je n'arrive pas à le croire...I can't believe it / I don't believe it

Salut!...Hello / good morning (to someone you know)

Getting more adventurous...

These are more basic / mainstream than the first page of French phrases and include some more of the most common and useful phrases.

C'est dommage ... That's a pity

Attention! ... Look out!

Je suis désolé ... I'm very sorry

Ce n'est pas grave ... It doesn't matter / it's not serious

Bonsoir ... Good evening

Tant mieux ...So much the better

Tant pis ... Too bad

J'en ai marre ... That's it! I've had enough of that/it!

Je ne comprends pas ... I don’t understand

Volontiers ... Willingly, yes (eg would you like more wine?)

Rien a faire ... Nothing can be done about it

Pas du tout! ... Not at all!

Que deux, que trois etc ... Only 2, 3 etc

Normallement ... All things being equal / if things stay as they are (e.g. je viens te voir ce soir, normallement)

Pas mal ... Not bad

Voila! ... There is, there are, here it is etc

Finally, some more common and popular French phrases...

Par hasard ... By chance

Par contre ... On the other hand

en colère ... angry

Je reve ... I must be dreaming

il me semble que ... It seems to me

Il faut que ... It is necessary

en verité ... truthfully, in truth

exprès ... On purpose (e.g.tu l'as fait exprès)

enfin (enfin bref) ... finally, to summarise, at last

Il me tarde ... I am looking forward to

Je m'en vais ... I'm off now

en moyenne ... On average

Pas mal ... Not bad

A quel point ... How much, to what degree (eg how much I love you)

de mieux en mieux ... from good to better

Things you might hear and not grasp straight away:

Ça vous plait? you like / enjoy that (easily confused with 's'il vous plait' - please, if you're not listening properly

Avec ceci = Avec ça? / autre chose? / ça sera tout?...with that / anything else / will that be all (e.g. in a shop)

Vous avez choisi?...have you chosen / are you ready to order (in a restaurant) - if not,  a suitable response is 'pas encore'

Bonne continuation...good 'continuation' to a meal - avoids saying bon appetit for each new course

Some French phrases for the children...

C'est cela, oui!...yeah, right! (cela here is best pronounced as one syllable, like "sla")

Qu'est-ce que tu racontes, toi...what are you talking about

T'es folle / fou're mad! (folle to female, fou to male)

C'est pratique ça...that's very useful/inventive

au cas ou...just in case

More information about learning French

Note: for French words and phrases that have become part of the English language see French sayings.


See our guide to learning French at home - quickly and playing games!...Learn to Speak French