THE 25 MOST USEFUL FRENCH PHRASES I LEARNED WHILE STUDYING IN FRANCE

useful french phrases

 

1. Il faut la glisser.  [il fo la gli.se]  You have to slide it.

You’ll need this whenever you go to make a purchase with your American credit card. The credit cards there all have a chip in them, with a pin number attached, and chances are your credit card is of the magnetic strip sort. This is probably the phrase I found myself using the most often in France—I’m not even kidding.

 

2. Bonjour à tous.  [bɔ̃.ʒu ʁa tus]  Hello, everyone.

I always heard this at church—people would get up at the pulpit and start with Bonjour à tous…


3. C’est logique?  [se lɔ.ʒik]  Does that make sense?

You can use this the way you would in English—after a super long explanation to ask the person you’re talking to if they understood you. But I actually asked this all the time when speaking with francophones to ask if what I was saying was proper French. Just pay attention to how you say it so your question is clear.

 

4. Ça n’a pas de sens.  [sa na pa də sɑ̃s]  That doesn’t make sense.

I wanted to present this right after C’est logique? because I noticed the answer I usually got after that question whenever I wasn’t making sense was not “ce n’est pas logique” but ça n’a pas de sens. So, you could say that c’est logique and ça n’a pas de sens are opposites.

 

5. Comment épelle-t-on ce mot?  [kɔ.mɑ̃ te.pɛl tɔ̃ sə mo]  How do you spell that word?

Because a French person is going to use a new word on you, and you’re going to have to stop them to ask how to spell it and what gender it is. I’d specify ce mot instead of just saying ça because you might accidentally ask them how to spell the word ça.

You can also say Comment l’épèlle-t-on? to simply say “How do you spell it?”

 

6. doucement  [du.smɑ̃]  slowly / gently

I know. It looks like it would mean “sweetly.” And I’m sure you could probably use it that way. But the majority of the time, a French person will use it to mean “slowly” or “gently.” My host mom used it on me when I jumbled some of my French while talking to her, and at the park I saw a parent yell it at her son who was rollerblading too fast.

 

7. Allez-y / vas-y.  [a.le.zi / va.zi]  Go ahead.

You can essentially use this the way you use “go ahead” in English. So if you accidentally interrupt someone, or if you want someone to walk ahead of you on the sidewalk, reach for this phrase.

 

8. C’est par où? C’est par là.  [se pa.ʁu / se paʁ la]  Which way is it? It’s that way.

My host brother taught me this one. We walked around Lyon for, like, 20 minutes while I kept asking him, “Which way is it?” And he would say, “Oh, it’s that way.” This one’s crucial for when you’re in a new place.

 

9. On y va? On y va. [o ni va]  Shall we go? Let’s go.

On y va has kind of got that Ca va? Ca va. dynamic going on, doesn’t it? I found this to be a slightly more colloquial version of allons-y, which also means “let’s go.” I’m not sure that allons-y can be used as a question, though…


10. Je reviens.  [ʒə ʁə.vjɛ̃]  I’ll be right back.

Yeah, so don’t try to translate “I’ll be right back,” into French, word-for-word. This is the phrase you need.

 

11. Aïe, ça m’a fait mal.  [aj sa ma fe mal]  Ow, that hurt.

Just in case someone slaps you or something.

 

12. Je (ne) l’ai (pas) fait exprès.  [ʒə (nə) le (pa) fe ɛks.pʁɛ]  I did it on purpose / by accident.

Fine, so maybe I didn’t use it a ton. But hey, should you find someone chewing you out for something you did by accident, you might as well be able to communicate that. (I may have used this phrase to express that I’d accidentally touched a painting at an art museum.)

 

13. Ça suffit!  [sa sy.fi]  That’s enough!

Notice the exclamation point. You’ll only want to use this on, say, a dog that keeps barking, or a person who keeps mocking you. So don’t say it when someone is pouring you a drink at a restaurant! (Say c‘est bon in that case.)

 

14. Je suis habitué(e) à…  [ʒə sɥi a.bi.tɥe a]  I’m used to…

You know—to say that you’re used to doing a certain thing. Easy. Just put the infinitive of a verb after à.

 

15. Je suis content(e) de / j’ai hâte de…  [ʒə sɥi kɔ̃.tɑ̃(t) də / ʒe at də]  I’m excited to…

These two are a little different but similar enough to pair them together. Je suis (très) content(e) de means “I’m (very) excited/happy to/about…” while j’ai hâte de… means “I’m looking forward to / I can’t wait to…” With either phrase, you can simply put the infinitive of a verb after de to express what you’re excited about doing. But with je suis content de, you can just slap ça on after de to say “I’m happy about that.”  Does that make sense?

I would use these over je suis enthousiaste or je suis excité(e) when expressing excitement about something. The French tend not to exaggerate as much as we do in English, plus excité has sexual connotations. (Though, you can use excité in the right context, apparently. I still wouldn’t risk it.)

 

16. tout à fait  [tu ta fe]  quite / completely

It may consist of three words, but you’ll pretty much just be inserting it in a sentence where you would use one word in English. Example: “That was tout à fait / quite relaxing.”

Bonus usage: To exclaim “Exactly!” Example: “Is this what you mean?” “Oui, tout à fait!

 

17. en fait  [ɑ̃ fɛt]  in fact / actually

Notice that this isn’t pronounced the way it looks. Use en fait the way you would use “in fact,” “as a matter of fact,” or “actually” in English. So, for example: I saw Céline yesterday. En fait, she was with her new boyfriend, Jean.

So far I’ve only encountered this adverbial usage of en fait I’m describing at the beginning of a sentence. So, keep it there!

 

18. Ça marche. / Ça roule.  [sa maʁʃ / sa ʁul]  That works.

Both of these can basically be used to say, “Yeah, that works for me.”

Bonus usage of ça marche: to express that something is functioning properly. I’m not sure that I even ever heard the word fonctionner while in France.

Bonus usage of ça rouleÇa roule? Ça roule! (“How are things going?” “They’re going okay.”)

 

19. beaucoup/trop de monde  [bo.ku/tʁo də mɔ̃d]  a lot of / too many people

I remember going to a pub for trivia night with a group of French students, and when we noticed that it was way too crowded, one kid said, “Il y a trop de monde.” So I noticed that I heard il y a beaucoup/trop de monde for “there are a lot of / too many people” more often than I heard il est bondé for “it is crowded.” In faaact, our girl Emilie in the comments tells us that bondé is a bit on the formal side for everyday conversation.

 

20. hop  [ɔp]  muttered word

Pay close attention, and you’ll hear a French guy or gal mutter “up” to himself or herself while doing something like cleaning the kitchen. It’s kind of like how we mutter “ok” to ourselves in English. This is something that I wouldn’t try to incorporate into my own French vocabulary, actually, because it’s more of an acquired habit…it’s hard to mimic a natural usage of hop.

I also saw my host mom say Hop là! upon finally getting a bowl into a very high cabinet in the kitchen. So just pay attention to where you see this word. It’s fun 🙂

Bonus usage: Apparently Et hop!  is “Bingo!”

 

21. Oh là là.  [o la la]  Oh my. / Oh no. / Oh dear.

I included this because I think oftentimes people try to use this to indicate being pleasantly surprised at something or to remark at something risqué. But in most cases, you’ll be remarking at something unfortunate. Dropped all of your papers? Oh là là. Can’t think of the French word you want to use? Oh là là… Forgot your umbrella at the restaurant? Oh là là! J’ai oublié mon parapluie.

 

22. Et alors?  [e a.lɔʁ]  So?

This can mean two things: either “So…?” as in “What happened next?” or “So?” as in “So what?”


23. J’ai mes règles.  [ʒe me ʁɛɡl]  I’m on my period.

You’re welcome, ladies.

 

24. C’est trop bon / bien / beau.  [se tro bɔ̃ / bjɛ̃ / bo]  That’s too good / beautiful.

I’m really happy about this phrase because I say its English equivalent all. the. time. C’est trop… is used in French very much like “That’s too…” is in English. You say it when something is beyond “very” something. So if, for example, someone tells you a hilarious joke, you could say C’est trop bon! Just don’t overuse this phrase.


25. Ça envoie du lourd / pâté.  [sa ɑ̃.vwa du luʁ / pa.te]  That’s awesome.

Yep. You’re literally saying “That sends…heavy…pâté…?” but don’t question it. It’s nice to know something other than c’est cool, huh?

 

The 25 Most Useful French Phrases I Learned While Studying in France

17 Feel-Good French Films You Should Definitely Stream On Netflix

 

1. Amélie

The Draw: A love letter to Montmartre, Paris' art/bohemian district, as told through the eyes of one of cinema's most bewitching ingénues.The Fact: Yes, the views from the top of Sacré-Coeur really are that spectacular — even without Jean-Pierre Jeunet's ambitious color correction. The Fiction: The new owners of Café des Deux Moulins have done some remodeling. So you can still dig into crème brûlée, but don't plan on buying a packet of smokes on the way out.

s3-ak.buzzfeed.com / Via France 3 Cinéma

The Draw: A love letter to Montmartre, Paris’ art/bohemian district, as told through the eyes of one of cinema’s most bewitching ingénues.

The Fact: Yes, the views from the top of Sacré-Coeur really are that spectacular — even without Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s ambitious color correction.

The Fiction: The new owners of Café des Deux Moulins have done some remodeling. So you can still dig into crème brûlée, but don’t plan on buying a packet of smokes on the way out.

2. Heartbreaker

The Draw: Alex (Romain Duris) is a nice guy with a dirty job — breaking up unhappy relationships. His mission: Accompany Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) to Monaco and prevent her from marrying her English boyfriend. The Fact: Here's hoping Alex is paid well for his work. A noted tax haven, the cost of living in Monaco is not for the faint of heart. The Fiction: In one of the world's most beautiful principalities, who takes that long to fall in love with Romain Duris?

Via Universal Pictures International

The Draw: Alex (Romain Duris) is a nice guy with a dirty job — breaking up unhappy relationships. His mission: Accompany Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) to Monaco and prevent her from marrying her English boyfriend.

The Fact: Here’s hoping Alex is paid well for his work. A noted tax haven, the cost of living in Monaco is not for the faint of heart.

The Fiction: In one of the world’s most beautiful principalities, who takes that long to fall in love with Romain Duris?

3. Romantics Anonymous

The Draw: Two pathologically shy chocolate makers fall in love. Can they keep it together and launch a new product line? The Fact: France is a chocoholic mecca. (Names of note: Abanico, Valrhona, Richart.) The Fiction: Belgium would dispute the superiority of French chocolate.

Via Pan-Européenne

The Draw: Two pathologically shy chocolate makers fall in love. Can they keep it together and launch a new product line?

The Fact: France is a chocoholic mecca. (Names of note: Abanico, Valrhona, Richart.)

The Fiction: Belgium would dispute the superiority of French chocolate.

4. Populaire

The Draw: It's 1958. A suave older man (Romain Duris) takes a younger village girl (Déborah François) under his wing with the hopes of turning her into the world's fastest typist. It's basically My Fair Lady en français. The Fact: A fairly accurate representation of fashion and life in 1950s France. Who wouldn't want to live in a time when typing competitions were en vogue? The Fiction: None. We're choosing to live in the world, kitsch be damned. Bye-bye, 2014.

Via Les Productions du Tresor

The Draw: It’s 1958. A suave older man (Romain Duris) takes a younger village girl (Déborah François) under his wing with the hopes of turning her into the world’s fastest typist. It’s basically My Fair Lady en français.

The Fact: A fairly accurate representation of fashion and life in 1950s France. Who wouldn’t want to live in a time when typing competitions were en vogue?

The Fiction: None. We’re choosing to live in the world, kitsch be damned. Bye-bye, 2014.

5. I Do

The Draw: A fussy middle-aged bachelor gives into pressure from his overbearing mother and sisters to marry. He hires Charlotte Gainsbourg to be the ultimate fiancée from hell. You can probably guess where this one is going, but it's fun watching them get there. The Fact: In France, marriages are only legally recognized if they're performed at city hall. The Fiction: The capital of the Paris perfume industry isn't Paris, but rather Grasse, a small town northwest of Nice.

Via Mars distribution

The Draw: A fussy middle-aged bachelor gives into pressure from his overbearing mother and sisters to marry. He hires Charlotte Gainsbourg to be the ultimate fiancée from hell. You can probably guess where this one is going, but it’s fun watching them get there.

The Fact: In France, marriages are only legally recognized if they’re performed at city hall.

The Fiction: The capital of the Paris perfume industry isn’t Paris, but rather Grasse, a small town northwest of Nice.

6. Two Days in Paris

The Draw: Marion and Jack visit Paris after a disastrous trip to Italy. They may not be soulmates, but their long breakup over the course of two days features enough post-Woody Allen bon mots that you kinda wish they were. The Fact: Jim Morrison's grave in Père Lachaise really does draw that many crazy fans. The French hate it and often threaten to posthumously deport the musician. The Fiction: No cabbie in Paris is that talkative.

Via Samuel Goldwyn Films

The Draw: Marion and Jack visit Paris after a disastrous trip to Italy. They may not be soulmates, but their long breakup over the course of two days features enough post-Woody Allen bon mots that you kinda wish they were.

The Fact: Jim Morrison’s grave in Père Lachaise really does draw that many crazy fans. The French hate it and often threaten to posthumously deport the musician.

The Fiction: No cabbie in Paris is that talkative.

7. L’Auberge Espagnole

The Draw: A student from France travels to Spain to have the ultimate semester abroad. (And, oh yeah, learn the language too.) The Fact: Only 10% of American students study abroad. (Really, guys? Look what you're missing out on!) The Fiction: None. The film about sums up the exchange-student experience. (Sorry Mom, Dad.)

Via Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Draw: A student from France travels to Spain to have the ultimate semester abroad. (And, oh yeah, learn the language too.)

The Fact: Only 10% of American students study abroad. (Really, guys? Look what you’re missing out on!)

The Fiction: None. The film about sums up the exchange-student experience. (Sorry Mom, Dad.)

8. Ne Quittez Pas!

The Draw: Félix Mandel is a spacey astrophysicist prone to flights of fantasy. But even he is shocked when he gets a call (collect) from his late father with one final request. The Fact: 39% of France claims to have no belief in life after death. The Fiction: We always imagined the dearly departed were more likely to send a text message.

Via France 3

The Draw: Félix Mandel is a spacey astrophysicist prone to flights of fantasy. But even he is shocked when he gets a call (collect) from his late father with one final request.

The Fact: 39% of France claims to have no belief in life after death.

The Fiction: We always imagined the dearly departed were more likely to send a text message.

9. The Fairy

The Draw: A treasure trove of sight gags, The Fairy is the story of, well, a real-life fairy that drops into a lonely hotel clerk's life, grants him three wishes, and disappears. And that's just act one. The Fact: Like near-silent comedy? This film has the DNA of Mon Oncle running in its veins. The Fiction: Don't believe anyone who says magic isn't real — the French have a strong tradition of fairy tales.

Via MK2 Productions

The Draw: A treasure trove of sight gags, The Fairy is the story of, well, a real-life fairy that drops into a lonely hotel clerk’s life, grants him three wishes, and disappears. And that’s just act one.

The Fact: Like near-silent comedy? This film has the DNA of Mon Oncle running in its veins.

The Fiction: Don’t believe anyone who says magic isn’t real — the French have a strong tradition of fairy tales.

10. A Woman Is a Woman

The Draw: When a stripper's boyfriend vetoes the idea of having a child, she turns to the next best thing — her man's best friend. The Fact: Director Jean-Luc Godard had his romantic priorities in the right place, once famously remarking, "I don't think you should FEEL about a movie. You should feel about a woman. You can't kiss a movie."The Fiction: Anna Karina plays a striptease artist, but evidence suggests that she wasn't comfortable with nudity. She turned down a bit part in Breathless, another of Godard's films, because she'd have to take her clothes off.

Via Euro International Film

The Draw: When a stripper’s boyfriend vetoes the idea of having a child, she turns to the next best thing — her man’s best friend.

The Fact: Director Jean-Luc Godard had his romantic priorities in the right place, once famously remarking, “I don’t think you should FEEL about a movie. You should feel about a woman. You can’t kiss a movie.”

The Fiction: Anna Karina plays a striptease artist, but evidence suggests that she wasn’t comfortable with nudity. She turned down a bit part in Breathless, another of Godard’s films, because she’d have to take her clothes off.

11. OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

The Draw: When the fate of the Middle East is at stake, who are you gonna call? France's answer to James Bond, OSS 117.The Fact: Recognize the two stars? Yup, that's The Artist's Bérénice Bejo and Jean Dujardin in their first on-screen meeting. (Here's to many more.)The Fiction: As pointed out by IMDB: The film is set in 1955, but many of the cars we see are from the 1960s. Of course, it's a farce — so take inaccuracies with a grain of salt.

Via Gaumont

The Draw: When the fate of the Middle East is at stake, who are you gonna call? France’s answer to James Bond, OSS 117.

The Fact: Recognize the two stars? Yup, that’s The Artist‘s Bérénice Bejo and Jean Dujardin in their first on-screen meeting. (Here’s to many more.)

The Fiction: As pointed out by IMDB: The film is set in 1955, but many of the cars we see are from the 1960s. Of course, it’s a farce — so take inaccuracies with a grain of salt.

12. The Intouchables

The Draw: A young man with a criminal record strikes up an unlikely friendship with his quadriplegic employer. Dare you not to cry. The Fact: 5% of the profits from the film were donated to the Association Simon of Cyrene, an organization that creates shared living spaces for disabled adults and friends.The Fiction: It's hard to fault a film so heartwarming, and François Cluzet's performance was certainly above reproach. But we would love to see more actors with disabilities.

Via Gaumont

The Draw: A young man with a criminal record strikes up an unlikely friendship with his quadriplegic employer. Dare you not to cry.

The Fact: 5% of the profits from the film were donated to the Association Simon of Cyrene, an organization that creates shared living spaces for disabled adults and friends.

The Fiction: It’s hard to fault a film so heartwarming, and François Cluzet’s performance was certainly above reproach. But we would love to see more actors with disabilities.

13. A Cat in Paris

The Draw: A plucky cat living a double life comes to the rescue of his little girl owner when she's kidnapped by a gangster. Toss this one on next time you're babysitting your precocious niece. The Academy Award–nominated animated film features both beautiful depictions of Paris and a truly charming story.The Fact: Last year Paris opened its first "Cat Café."The Fiction: Paris is more of a dog city.

Via Gébéka Films

The Draw: A plucky cat living a double life comes to the rescue of his little girl owner when she’s kidnapped by a gangster. Toss this one on next time you’re babysitting your precocious niece. The Academy Award–nominated animated film features both beautiful depictions of Paris and a truly charming story.

The Fact: Last year Paris opened its first “Cat Café.

The Fiction: Paris is more of a dog city.

14. Kings of Pastry

The Draw: A documentary about French pastry chefs. Do we really need to spell out the appeal? The Fact: France is the birthplace of the dessert. The word "dessert" is derived from the French word "desservir," meaning "to clear the table."The Fiction: French women do get fat. The obesity rates in the country doubled between 1995 and 2004.

Via First Run Features

The Draw: A documentary about French pastry chefs. Do we really need to spell out the appeal?

The Fact: France is the birthplace of the dessert. The word “dessert” is derived from the French word “desservir,” meaning “to clear the table.”

The Fiction: French women do get fat. The obesity rates in the country doubled between 1995 and 2004.

15. The Women on the 6th Floor

The Draw: A French boss takes an interest in his Spanish maids. Who knew the breakdown of the social class system could be so fun? The Fact: According to a 2010 census, 11% of France's population are immigrants. The Fiction: Berets, not as popular in France as you'd think.

Via Vendôme Production

The Draw: A French boss takes an interest in his Spanish maids. Who knew the breakdown of the social class system could be so fun?

The Fact: According to a 2010 census, 11% of France’s population are immigrants.

The Fiction: Berets, not as popular in France as you’d think.

16. My Piece of the Pie

The Draw: A French businessman is forced to endure the fallout of his decisions when he hires a woman from a factory he closed to be his housekeeper/nanny/personal advisor. The Fact: Factories in France are closing. But every year Paris hosts a "Made in France" expo to promote industry in the country. The Fiction: We get it, it's symbolism. But one has to wonder how popular the name "France" is in France.

Via StudioCanal

The Draw: A French businessman is forced to endure the fallout of his decisions when he hires a woman from a factory he closed to be his housekeeper/nanny/personal advisor.

The Fact: Factories in France are closing. But every year Paris hosts a “Made in France” expo to promote industry in the country.

The Fiction: We get it, it’s symbolism. But one has to wonder how popular the name “France” is in France.

17. The Taste of Others

Via Pathé

The Draw: A love triangle? Child’s play. Try tracking six star-crossed lovers.

The Fact: Google “Why is France so romantic” and you’ll find 85 million hits. Clearly the country has a certain “je ne sais quoi” that can’t be denied.

The Fiction: English is taught in French schools beginning at about age 6.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/laurastudarus/travel-without-leaving-home-17-feel-good-french-f-j8z2?utm_term=.plqYQnwy0#.rkB13Q4MG

The Selfrench  Playlist

 

https://open.spotify.com/embed?uri=spotify:user:1120871662:playlist:0NVNouXK34FGTfQoOrNOxl

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