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100+ Basic French Phrases for Every Situation

by Rosetta Stone

Planning a trip to France? How about Belgium, Madagascar, or Senegal? With 29 French-speaking countries around the world, knowing basic French phrases can help you see the sites, navigate transportation, and—most importantly—spark meaningful conversations with the people you meet! Plus, you’ll be able to connect with French speakers in your community long after your trip has ended. 

Below, you’ll find 100+ basic phrases to get you started, including:

  • French greetings 
  • French phrases for getting around
  • How to ask for clarification in French
  • Getting to know others
  • Easy French conversation starters
  • French food and dining vocabulary

French greetings

First impressions matter—especially to French speakers! Knowing how to properly greet new acquaintances and old friends is the first step to starting any conversation on the right foot. 

French speakers have clear boundaries between formal and informal speech based on how familiar you are with the person you’re speaking to. It helps to be prepared with several formal and informal phrases. Plus, for those long winded talkers, it helps to know how to end a conversation with a polite goodbye. 

BonjourHello, Good morning
AllôHello (only used when answering the phone)
Bon après-midiGood afternoon
BonsoirGood evening
Enchanté(e)Nice to meet you (masculine, feminine
Comment allez-vous ?How are you? (formal)
Comment ça va ?How are you? (semi formal
Comment vas-tu ? How are you? (informal
Au revoirGoodbye
À plus !Later! (informal)
Merci et bonne journéeThank you and have a nice day
Merci et bonne soiréeThank you and have a nice evening
Ça roule ? How’s it going? (slang)
Quoi de neuf ? What’s new? (slang)

Saying hello in French

Bonjour is the most common and basic greeting.  It means “Hello” and “Good morning” and can be used with any person you meet. Salut means “Hi” but be careful, people only use it with people they know really well, like friends, family, and coworkers. The same rule applies with coucou (“hey”). When people answer the phone in France, they don’t say “Hello” but allô

After 12pm, you can say bon après-midi. Come 6pm, you should greet people with bonsoir (“Good evening”). 

>>Watch this video to learn how to say bonjour, bonsoir, and more. 

Greeting acquaintances and good friends

When someone introduces you to one of their friends, it is nice to say: Enchanté(e) ! (“Nice to meet you!”). It is also very polite to ask them Comment ça va ? or Comment allez-vous ? (“How are you?”) You may hear people say Comment vas-tu? which also means “How are you?” but you can only use it with friends, family or coworkers. 

People who are very well-acquainted with each other in France say: Ça roule ? (“How is it going?”) or Quoi de neuf ? (“What’s new? or “What’s up?”). 

Tip: Keep in mind that French has two forms of “you”. One is tu (informal), which can only be used when addressing someone you know really well, like a friend, a family member or a coworker. Vous (formal) is used when addressing a stranger or someone you don’t know well. 

Saying goodbye in French 

 Au revoir means “Goodbye”. If you say goodbye to someone you are close with, you can say À plus ! (“Later!”). 

When leaving a store, it is very common that people say: Merci et bonne journée (“Thank you, and have a nice day”). Come 6pm, they say: Merci et bonne soirée (“Thank you, and have a nice evening”). 

French phrases for getting around 

Travelers, this section is for you. With 29 French speaking countries across Europe, North America, and Africa, we hope you’ll have the opportunity to explore them all! Knowing basic French phrases for getting around ensures that you’ll make it to your destination safely. Plus, it boosts your chances of discovering off-the-beaten-path locales. 

En voitureBy car
En trainBy train
En busBy bus
En avionBy plane
En ferryBy ferry
À piedBy walk
Excusez-moiExcuse me
Savez où est le musée ?Do you know where the museum is? 
Où est le musée ? Where is the museum? 
Y a-t-il une pharmacie près d’ici ?Is there a pharmacy near here? 
À côté deNext to
En face deAcross from
À droiteTo the right 
À gaucheTo the left
DevantIn front of 
Traversez la rueCross the street
Prenez à gaucheTake a left
Tournez à droiteTurn right
Continuez tout droitKeep going straight
Suivez la SeineFollow the Seine (river)
Traversez la rue Victor Hugo, puis continuez tout droitCross Victor Hugo Street, then keep going straight

Navigating French transportation 

Knowing your means of transportation to go from one place to the other can be very helpful. You can travel:

  • en voiture = by car
  • en train = by train
  • en bus = by bus
  • en avion = by plane
  • en ferry = by ferry 
  • à pied = by walk 

Asking for directions in French 

If you are lost, don’t hesitate to ask for directions. To be polite, always start your sentence with Excusez-moi (“Excuse me”). 

Let’s say you want to go to the museum. You can say: Excusez-moi, savez où est le musée ? (“Excuse me, do you know where the museum is?”) or you can ask in a more direct way: Excusez-moi, où est le musée ? (“Excuse me, where is the museum?”). 

If you want to find a place or visit a place near you, you can ask Y a-t-il une pharmacie près d’ici ? (“Is there a pharmacy near here?”), or if you want to make sure that the place you are looking for is not too far, you can ask: Est-ce que c’est près d’ici ? (“Is it near here?”) When the person you asked for directions answers you, listen carefully to adverbial phrases like:                              

  • à côté de = next to
  • en face de = across from
  • à droite = to the right
  • à gauche = to the left
  • derrière = behind
  • devant = in front of                                

For example: Le musée est à côté du parc (“The museum is next to the park”).

If you’re navigating through a city, the person giving directions may say: 

  • traversez la rue = Cross the street
  • prenez à gauche = Take a left
  • tournez à droite = Turn right 
  • continuez tout droit = Keep going straight
  • suivez la Seine = Follow the Seine River 
  • traversez la rue Victor Hugo, puis continuez tout droit = Cross Victor Hugo Street, then keep going straight

Asking for clarification in French

It’s easy to mishear words or phrases in your native language, let alone one that you’re unfamiliar with. Whether you’re receiving directions or chatting about the France national football team, these phrases can help you paddle your way to clarity. 

Excusez-moi, je n’ai pas compris. Excuse me, I did not understand. 
Pouvez-vous répéter s’il vous plaît ?Can you repeat please? 
Qu’est-ce que vous avez dit ?What did you say? 
Pardon ? Sorry? 
Comment ? Come again? 
Quoi ? What?
Hein ?What? Eh? 

You may hear people say Quoi ? (“What?”) or Hein ? (“What”/”Eh?”) or even Hein ? Quoi ? (“Eh? What?”)  These phrases imply a deep sense of familiarity and should only be used among friends and people you are very close to. Never use these phrases with a stranger. They would not take it well.

Getting to know others

Learning French isn’t just about saying hello and catching the right train. To really engage with the culture and language, you’ll want to know more about the people you meet! Remember the difference between vous and tu? Here, you’ll find phrases that help you learn the basics and cross the bridge from a formal (vous) to casual (tu). 

Comment tu t’appelles ? What is your name? (informal)
Comment vous appelez-vous ? What is your name? (formal) 
Où habitez-vous ? / Où tu habites ?Where do you live? (formal/informal) 
Quel est votre travail ? / Quel est ton travail ?What is your job? (formal/informal) 
Qu’est-ce que vous faites dans la vie ?What do you do for a living? (formal)
Faites-vous du sport ? / Tu fais du sport ?Do you exercise/practice a sport? (formal/informal) 
Avez-vous un passe-temps ? / Tu as un passe-temps ?Do you have a hobby? (formal/informal) 
On se tutoie ? Shall we say “tu” to each other? 

When you feel like you’ve gotten to know an acquaintance well enough, you can always pose the question on se tutoie ? (basically, “shall we say “tu” to each other?”). If it’s an emphatic “no,” stay the course with vous pronouns. But if you’re both in agreement, then proceed with the more casual tu statements. 

Easy conversation starters in French

The best way to break the ice (Briser la glace) in French, is to ask someone about their tastes:

  • Vous aimez…. ? / Tu aimes….. ? = Do you like….?
  • Vous aimez / Tu aimes l’art ? = Do you like art?

You can comment about the weather: 

  • Qu’est-ce qu’il fait chaud / froid aujourd’hui ! = It’s so hot / cold today! 

You can ask someone about their opinion:

  • Que pensez-vous de… ? / Que penses-tu de… ? = What’s your opinion on…? 
  • For example: Que pensez-vous / penses-tu du nouveau film de Jean-Pierre Jeunet ? = What’s your opinion on the last Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie?

Asking for recommendations in French can be another way to break the ice. You could ask a person to recommend something to do in the city you are visiting or a restaurant you could go have lunch or dinner at: 

  • Quel musée me recommandez-vous / recommandes-tu ? = What museum do you recommend? 
  • Quel restaurant me recommandez-vous / recommandes-tu ? = What restaurant do you recommend?

French food and dining vocabulary

The French take their food seriously. Take this list of idioms, for example—it has 37 food-based phrases, and that’s barely scratching the surface! 

If you’re visiting France or dining with a French native, you’ll find it beneficial to brush up on your French food vocabulary. There is one important thing to keep in mind if you’re dining in a restaurant: you will only address your server or any person of the staff with vous (“you”, formal form: you do not know these people personally).  

At the restaurant

When arriving at a restaurant, you can ask: 

  • Bonjour/Bonsoir, une table pour deux personnes, s’il vous plaît. = Hello/Good evening, a table for two, please.
  • If the weather permits, ask for a table outside: Est-il possible d’avoir une table en terrasse ? = Would it be possible to be seated outside?
  • Once seated, you can ask for the menu: Je voudrais le menu/la carte, s’il vous plaît. = I would like the menu, please. 
  • There’s also a more minimalist way to ask: 
  • Le menu / La carte, s’il vous plaît.  = Menu, please. 
  • Que me recommandez-vous/conseillez-vous ? = What would you recommend? 

Tip: When asking or answering in a minimal way, as long as you say merci (“thank you”) and/or s’il vous/te plaît (“please”), people will not find it disrespectful at all.

On the menu

 Meals sometimes start with a little drink and some hors d’oeuvres (“appetizers”) which are called apéritif. Your server may offer you un apéritif using the phrase, Vous souhaitez un apéritif ? = Would you like a drink and appetizer?

Here are several common words you’ll find on a French menu:

  • L’entrée = An appetizer, a dish to start your meal like une soupe (a soup) or une salade (a salad)
  • Le plat (principal) = The entrée, or main dish
  • Le dessert = The dessert

The best way to build your French vocabulary 

These basic French words and phrases can help you get by in any conversation. To deepen your understanding and expand your connections, Rosetta Stone can help you take your learning to the next level—and get you conversation-ready in no time. 

With Rosetta Stone, you’ll never have to memorize a vocabulary list. Instead, you’ll learn French immersively, like you would if you lived abroad, with images to help you contextualize words and audio from native speakers to help you perfect your accent. Plus, with TruAccent, you get immediate feedback on your pronunciation every time! 

Did we mention you can take Rosetta Stone on the go with our app? Choose from 24 languages and master your first lesson in just 10 minutes at www.rosettastone.com

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