Basic French phrases


The French have a completely unwarranted (in Teddy’s opinion) reputation as being rude and arrogant. This worries some tourists, who think they’ll be confronted with rudeness at every turn. Teddy is here to tell you it’s just not true. In fact, the French are working hard to destroy that reputation, encouraging their countrymen (and visitors) to remember to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ – more than one coffee shop now charges extra if you don’t say ‘hello’ and ‘please’ when ordering!

Fortunately for the visitor, most French people, as with most western Europeans, have a reasonable grasp of English – so they’re doing all the hard work for you! The French, however, do appreciate you at least trying, and will go that extra yard for you if you do. So a quick exchange in French at the start will win you their respect and they will then be happy to continue the conversation in English for you. So here are a few basic phrases you can throw around.


Hello / Good day
(From morning to 6pm)
Good evening
(After 6pm)
Hi! (informal) Salut! (sa-lew)
How are you? (informal) ca-va? (sah-var)
(The easiest response to this question is exactly the same phrase – ca-va. Basically, you’re just saying “Fine?” and answering “Fine.” Very easy!)
How are you? (formal) Comment allez-vous? (common-allay-voo)
Good Bien (bee-en)
Good night Bonne nuit (bon-nwee)
Please s’il vous plaît (si-voo-play)
(So “One coffee, please” would be “Un cafe, s’il vous plait”)
Thank you (very much) Merci (beaucoup!) (mercy ber-coo)
See you later A plus tard (ah-ploos-tard)
Farewell / Goodbye Au revoir (awe-re-vwar)
How much is this? Combien cela coûte? (com-byen-silla-coo-tye)

The Louvre, Paris

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