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Add These Advanced French Words to Your Vocabulary

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Why settle for an intermediate level when you can reach the summits of advanced French? It sure takes guts, dedication, and a lot of brainpower, but once you pull it off, there is nothing as rewarding as using your limitless fluency with your French-speaking friends!

Improving at an advanced level is no small feat, and few people have gone as far as you have. At this level, you’re getting hit pretty hard with diminishing returns: The more you learn and add to your vocabulary, the more difficult it becomes.

It can also be difficult to find educational content advanced enough to challenge your skills, and this is where we come in! In this article, you’ll find a large collection of useful advanced French words and phrases, from general terms to linking words, specialized vocabulary, and fancy substitutes for common words to help you stand out in a proficiency exam.

An Older Man Pointing to His Head with an Index Finger

Expand your mind with advanced French words.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. General Advanced Words
  2. Advanced Business Vocabulary
  3. Advanced Medical Vocabulary
  4. Advanced Legal Vocabulary
  5. Alternative Words
  6. Le mot de la fin

1. General Advanced Words

These are the bread and butter of advanced words: verbs, adjectives, and adverbs that you could use in a wide variety of situations. The last section contains a collection of useful linking words that you should use to articulate your speech and connect different phrases into logical structures.

Most of these words have a very specific meaning and allow you to clearly express your ideas. Later in this article, we’ll also talk about some alternative words that you can use to replace simple terms in order to sound a bit more sophisticated.

1 – Verbs

ArgumenterElle argumente en faveur de cette loi.
To argue / To debateShe’s arguing for this law.

DébattreOn pourrait en débattre toute la journée.
To debateWe could debate this all day.

ApercevoirJ’ai aperçu le sommet de la montagne.
To glimpseI’ve glimpsed the top of the mountain.

MurmurerIl murmure à mon oreille.
To whisperHe whispers in my ear.

RecueillirNous recueillons des données.
To collect / To gatherWe are collecting data.

AssumerJ’assume les risques.
To take responsibilityI take responsibility for the risks.

ConstituerCela constitue un progrès important.
To be / To make upThis is a huge step forward.

EntraînerCette crise entraîne une diminution des revenus.
To lead toThis crisis leads to a decrease in revenue.

Mener àCela ne mène à rien de bon.
To lead toThis leads to nothing good.

S’éleverLa facture s’élève à €80000.
To amount to / To come toThe bill comes to €80,000.

A Man Whispering another Man

Il murmure. (“He’s whispering.”)

2 – Adjectives

BénéfiqueCette mesure est bénéfique pour la France.
BeneficialThis measure is beneficial for France.

Conforme àElles sont conformes à mes attentes.
Consistent with / In line withThey are in line with my expectations.

ConvenableNous cherchons une solution convenable.
Suitable / AdequateWe’re looking for an adequate solution.

DéroutantCe film est déroutant.
Puzzling / ConfusingThis movie is puzzling.

DétailléUn compte rendu détaillé
DetailedA detailed report

FormidableC’est formidable !
Great / WonderfulThis is wonderful!

ImpeccableSa coupe de cheveux est impeccable.
FlawlessHis haircut is flawless.

PropiceCe milieu est propice à la criminalité.
ConduciveThis business is conducive to criminal acts.

RaisonnableC’est une solution raisonnable.
ReasonableThis is a reasonable solution.

RentableMon entreprise n’est plus rentable.
ProfitableMy company is not profitable anymore.

SpontanéUne combustion spontanée.
SpontaneousSpontaneous combustion.

SubtilUn mélange subtil d’ail et de basilic
SubtleA subtle blend of garlic and basil

AléatoireUn échantillon aléatoire est retenu.
RandomA random sample is selected.

DiscutableC’est moralement discutable.
DebatableThis is morally debatable.

FastidieuxSon travail est fastidieux.
Cumbersome / TediousHis work is tedious.

LaborieuxC’est une tâche difficile et laborieuse.
PainstakingThis is a difficult and painstaking task.

ImprobableCela me semble hautement improbable.
UnlikelyThis seems very unlikely.

InadmissibleCes résultats sont inadmissibles !
UnacceptableThese results are unacceptable!

PénibleMais qu’est-ce que c’est pénible !
Tedious / PainfulThis is so tedious!

ImpensableC’était impensable il y a encore 10 ans.
UnthinkableThis was unthinkable only ten years ago.

3 – Adverbs

LittéralementJe suis littéralement épuisé.
LiterallyI’m literally exhausted.

BrusquementNous sommes partis brusquement.
AbruptlyWe left abruptly.

NaturellementNous devons naturellement partir bientôt.
NaturallyWe naturally have to leave soon.

PrécisémentC’est précisément le contraire.
PreciselyIt is precisely the other way around.

ObstinémentIls refusent obstinément.
StubbornlyThey stubbornly refuse.

DécidémentElle est décidément très populaire.
Decidedly / CertainlyShe’s certainly very popular.

RésolumentJe suis résolument contre cette loi.
ResolutelyI’m resolutely against this law.

AbsolumentÇa n’a absolument aucun sens.
AbsolutelyIt makes absolutely no sense.

BrillammentTu as brillamment relevé le défi.
BrilliantlyYou have brilliantly tackled this challenge.

ModérémentJe l’apprécie modérément.
ModeratelyI like it moderately.

A Woman Performing Tedious Work at Her Keyboard

Un travail pénible (“Tedious work”)

4 – Linking Words

AinsiOn peut ainsi obtenir de meilleurs résultats.
ThusBetter results can thus be obtained.

Alors queLa musique a commencé alors que je n’étais pas prêt.
Even thoughThe music started even though I wasn’t ready.

À moins queCommençons, à moins que tu ne veuilles attendre.
UnlessLet’s start, unless you wish to wait.

Bien queBien que je ne puisse pas venir, le rendez-vous aura lieu.
Even thoughEven though I cannot come, the meeting will take place.

CependantTu peux cependant venir demain.
NeverthelessYou can nevertheless come tomorrow.

D’autant plusCela me chagrine d’autant plus.
All the moreIt pains me all the more.

D’autant plus queD’autant plus que les prix augmentent.
Even more soEven more so as the prices are increasing.

En tant queJe travaille en tant que professeur.
AsI work as a teacher.

MalgréTu es sorti malgré la pluie ?
DespiteDid you go out despite the rain?

Quant àQuant à ton rôle, nous en parlerons demain.
As forAs for your role, we’ll talk about it tomorrow.

QuoiqueCes actions sont rentables, quoique souvent instables.
AlthoughThose stocks are profitable, although often unstable.

Quoi queQuoi que tu fasses, tu feras le bon choix.
Whatever / No matter whatWhatever you do, you’ll come to the right decision.

Tandis queLes prix augmentent tandis que la qualité diminue.
While / WhereasPrices are increasing while the quality is going down.

Aussitôt queAussitôt que tu seras prêt, nous pouvons commencer.
As soon asAs soon as you’re ready, we can start.

NéanmoinsElles doivent néanmoins apporter une solution.
HoweverThey have, however, to provide a solution.

A Man Walking in Heavy Rain with an Umbrella

Il est dehors malgré la pluie. (“He’s out despite the rain.”)

2. Advanced Business Vocabulary

Do you plan on finding work or doing business in France? Knowing these advanced French vocabulary words for business will give you a leg up and impress your colleagues or associates. 

Un départementJe travaille au département marketing.
DivisionI work in the marketing division.

Le siège socialC’est le siège social de Renault.
Head officeThis is the Renault head office.

La sous-traitanceLa sous-traitance nous permet de réduire les coûts.
OutsourcingOutsourcing allows us to cut costs.

Un licenciementUn licenciement a été envisagé.
Dismissal / TerminationTermination was considered.

Les actifsIls ont des actifs pour gérer leurs dettes.
AssetsThey have assets to deal with their debts.

Les actionsLes actions présentées vont être évaluées.
StocksSubmitted stocks will be evaluated.

Un actionnaireJe suis l’actionnaire unique de mon entreprise.
ShareholderI’m the only shareholder of my own company.

Le taux d’intérêtLes taux d’intérêt diminuent chaque année.
Interest rateInterest rates are decreasing every year.

Les ressources humainesLes ressources humaines s’occupent de ton contrat.
Human resourcesHuman resources are taking care of your contract.

Le chiffre d’affairesLe chiffre d’affaires n’a cessé d’augmenter.
Turnover / RevenueRevenues have steadily increased.

Des fondsNous devons débloquer des fonds.
FundsWe have to release funds.

Une filialeNous sommes une filiale de Renault.
SubsidiaryWe are a Renault subsidiary.

Les honorairesVous trouverez mes honoraires sur mon site web.
FeeYou’ll find my fee on my website.

Un bulletin de salaireJe n’ai pas encore reçu mon bulletin de salaire.
PayslipI haven’t received my payslip yet.

Un partenariatElle vient de signer un partenariat avec Renault.
PartnershipShe’s just signed a partnership with Renault.

Le marché du travailLes femmes sont souvent discriminées sur le marché du travail.
Labor marketWomen are often discriminated against in the labor market.

RémunérerCette mission est bien rémunérée.
To compensate / To payThis assignment is well compensated.

PostulerJe postule pour un nouveau boulot.
To applyI’m applying for a new job.

Une succursaleNous avons une succursale à Rome.
BranchWe have a branch in Rome.

La comptabilitéJe vote pour une comptabilité simplifiée.
AccountingI vote for simplified accounting.

Une marque déposéeAndroid Auto™ est une marque déposée de Google Inc.
Registered trademarkAndroid Auto™ is a trademark of Google Inc.

Faire failliteMon entreprise a fait faillite.
To go bankruptMy company has gone bankrupt.

Un voyage d’affairesElle part en voyage d’affaires.
Business tripShe’s leaving for a business trip.

Un contrat à durée indéterminée
Permanent contract

Un contrat à durée déterminée
Fixed-term contract


Two Colleagues Checking Their Flight Status at the Airport

Un voyage d’affaires (“A business trip”)

3. Advanced Medical Vocabulary

Do you want to study medicine or enter the medical field in France? Or maybe you would like to be prepared just in case you wind up in the ER. In any case, the advanced French words below are a great place to start expanding your medical vocabulary. 

Un traitementJ’essaye un traitement expérimental.
TreatmentI’m trying an experimental treatment.

BéninCe syndrome est bénin.
BenignThis syndrome is benign.

DésinfecterTu dois désinfecter la plaie.
To disinfect / To sterilizeYou have to disinfect the wound.

ContagieuxCe virus est très contagieux.
ContagiousThis virus is highly contagious.

AnesthésierJe vais vous anesthésier avant l’opération.
To anesthetize / To sedateI’m going to sedate you before the operation.

Une allergieL’allergie à ce produit est très rare.
AllergyAllergy to this product is very unusual.

La tension artérielleIl va mesurer ta tension artérielle.
Blood pressureHe will measure your blood pressure.

Une fractureJ’ai une double fracture de la hanche.
FractureI have a double hip fracture.

Une radioVous allez avoir besoin d’une radio.
X-rayYou’re going to need an X-ray.

Un plâtreJe porte un plâtre depuis janvier.
CastI’ve been wearing a cast since January.

Une crise cardiaqueIl est mort des suites d’une crise cardiaque.
Heart attackHe died after suffering a heart attack.

Le système immunitaireMon système immunitaire était affaibli.
Immune systemMy immune system was weakened.

Un saignementNous devons arrêter le saignement.
BleedingWe have to stop the bleeding.

VaccinerIls veulent vacciner l’ensemble de la population.
To vaccinateThey want to vaccinate the whole population.

Une ordonnanceTu ne peux pas acheter ce médicament sans ordonnance.
PrescriptionYou can’t buy this medication without a prescription.

Un effet secondaireIl n’y a aucun effet secondaire connu.
Side effectThere is no known side effect.

Une prise de sangVous devez faire une prise de sang.
Blood testYou have to do a blood test.

La grippeJ’ai attrapé la grippe l’année dernière.
FluI got the flu last year.

DémangeaisonJe commence à ressentir une démangeaison.
ItchingI’m starting to feel an itch.

Les règlesC’est un médicament contre les règles douloureuses.
MenstruationThis is a remedy for painful menstruation.

La nuqueLa victime a la nuque brisée.
Neck / NapeThe victim got a broken neck.

Un estomacJ’ai mal à l’estomac.
StomachI have a stomachache.

La colonne vertébraleLa colonne vertébrale est fragile.
SpineThe spine is delicate.

Les côtesJ’ai mal aux côtes.
RibsMy ribs hurt.

Les poumonsLe gaz est éliminé par les poumons.
LungsThe gas is cleared through the lungs.

    → There are so many complicated medical words that it would take days to list them all! For more phrases with recorded examples, head to our vocabulary list on medical treatments.

An Old Man Suffering from Pain in His Stomach

Une douleur à l’estomac (“A stomach pain”)

4. Advanced Legal Vocabulary

Now that you’re more advanced in French, there are some useful legal words and terms you should become familiar with. They’ll help you avoid misunderstandings, keep up with the news, and engage in more complex conversations. 

AccréditéJe suis représentant accrédité du gouvernement.
Authorized / AccreditedI’m an accredited representative of the government.

À l’amiableCette affaire a été réglée à l’amiable.
Settled out of courtThis matter was settled out of court.

Casier judiciaireJe n’ai pas de casier judiciaire.
Criminal recordI don’t have a criminal record.

Un juge d’appelLa décision a été confirmée par le juge d’appel.
Judge in appealThe decision was confirmed by the judge on appeal.

Un juristeNous avons besoin d’un juriste.
Legal counselWe need legal counsel.

JudiciaireC’est une affaire judiciaire.
JudicialThis is a judicial case.

Un justificatifUn justificatif de domicile
Written proofWritten proof of address

ConvoquerElle a convoqué le témoin.
To summonShe summoned the witness.

Représentant légalJe suis le représentant légal de Renault.
Legal representativeI’m the legal representative of Renault.

Lettre recommandéeJ’ai envoyé le document en lettre recommandée.
Registered letterI have sent the document in a registered letter.

Un litigeVous avez deux jours pour ouvrir un litige.
Dispute / LitigationYou have two days to open a dispute.

Un mandatJe reviendrai avec un mandat.
WarrantI will come back with a warrant.

Un mandataireNous allons désigner un mandataire.
Authorized agent / RepresentativeWe will appoint a representative.

Un notaireLe document est certifié par un notaire.
NotaryThe document is certified by a notary.

ParapherJ’ai besoin que tu paraphes ce contrat.
To initial (a document)I need you to initial this contract.

PME (Petites et Moyennes Entreprises)Les PME paient trop de taxes.
SME (Small or Medium size Enterprise)SMEs are paying too much in taxes.

Un procèsUn procès a été intenté contre Apple.
LawsuitA lawsuit was filed against Apple.

Un procureurLe procureur veut vous parler.
Public prosecutorThe prosecutor wants to talk to you.

RevendiquerJe revendique le droit de prendre cette décision.
To claimI claim the right to make this decision.

Un versementTu recevras le premier versement en juin.
PaymentYou will receive the first payment in June.

Un enlèvementC’est l’endroit parfait pour un enlèvement.
A kidnappingThis is the perfect spot for a kidnapping.

Un agresseurSon agresseur était grand et blond.
AssailantHis assailant was tall and blond.

La corruptionLa corruption est un crime.
Bribery / CorruptionBribery is a crime.

Un cambriolageLe cambriolage a eu lieu dans la nuit du 17.
BurglaryThe burglary took place on the night of the 17th.

Faire chanterIls m’ont fait chanter pour des informations confidentielles.
To blackmailThey blackmailed me for confidential information.

A Man Picking a Lock to Break into a Home

Un cambriolage (“A burglary”)

5. Alternative Words

One way to shine in a proficiency test is to display competency with a wide array of vocabulary, showing that you can express yourself with subtlety instead of relying on simpler terms.

In this list, you’ll find simple verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, followed by their more sophisticated alternative and an example sentence. The first column is the basic word, and the second is the alternative you might want to use instead.

The meaning often varies between the first and second words, so I’ll mention both throughout the list. Using these words not only allows you to show off your vocabulary but also to express your ideas more accurately.

1 – Alternative Verbs

CommencerEntamerJ’entame une nouvelle carrière.
To startTo startI’m starting a new career.

ContinuerReprendreNous pouvons reprendre la réunion.
To continueTo resumeWe can resume the meeting.

ÉcrireRédigerElle rédige sa lettre de motivation.
To writeTo redactShe’s redacting her cover letter.

DonnerTransmettreIl transmet ses connaissances à ses collègues.
To giveTo passHe’s passing his knowledge on to his colleagues.

MontrerDévoilerRenault a dévoilé sa nouvelle gamme de véhicules.
To showTo reveal / To unveilRenault has unveiled its new range of vehicles.

AcheterAcquérirNous voulons acquérir ces brevets.
To buyTo acquireWe want to acquire those patents.

AvoirPosséderJe possède un cabinet d’avocats.
To haveTo ownI own a law firm.

DireAffirmerElle affirme ne rien savoir.
To sayTo claimShe claims she doesn’t know anything.

DireDéclarerJe n’ai rien à déclarer.
To sayTo say / To declareI have nothing to declare.

2 – Alternative Adjectives

VraiVéridiqueJ’atteste que cette déclaration est véridique.
TrueTrue / TruthfulI certify that this statement is true.

EssentielPrimordialIl est primordial d’investir dès maintenant.
EssentialEssentialIt is essential to invest right now.

PratiqueCommodeLa gestion des fichiers est devenue plus commode.
ConvenientConvenientFile management has become more convenient.

DifférentDistinctIl y a deux formulaires distincts.
DifferentDistinct / SeparateThere are two separate forms.

FacileEnfantinTu verras, c’est enfantin.
EasyVery easyYou’ll see, it’s very easy.

3 – Alternative Adverbs

FacilementAisémentOn peut aisément le remplacer.
EasilyEasilyWe can easily replace it.

MaintenantÀ présentVous devez à présent signer le contrat.
NowNowYou now have to sign the contract.

DésormaisDorénavantJe travaillerai dorénavant dans ce service.
Now / From now onFrom now onFrom now on, I will work in this department.

AvantPrécédemmentC’est ce que j’ai mentionné précédemment.
BeforePreviouslyThis is what I previously mentioned.

PlusDavantageJe veux acheter davantage d’actions.
MoreMoreI want to buy more stocks.

Someone Shopping Using an App

Cette application est commode. (“This app is convenient.”)

Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you have learned a large collection of general and specialized advanced French words, from medical vocabulary to legal terms and business phrases. Did we forget any important topic you’d like to learn about?

A good way to learn new words efficiently is to try and build sentences around them. Doing so will help you memorize them and understand how to use them in context. You can also use flashcard apps to get started, but you should not overextend yourself and set 150 flashcards right away. Add them little by little for the best results.

Make sure to explore FrenchPod101, as we have plenty of free resources to help you practice your grammar and learn new words. Our vocabulary lists are also a great way to review words and learn their pronunciation.

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching. Your own private teacher will be available to help you practice with advanced words and phrases. In addition to giving you assignments and personalized exercises, your teacher can provide recorded audio samples just for you and review your own pronunciation. 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

About the Author: Born and bred in rainy Northern France, Cyril Danon was bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the world. Now, after quenching his wanderlust over the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French

Learn Intermediate French Words and Scale Up Your Vocab

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So, you’ve just reached the intermediate level, and nobody can call you a beginner anymore.

Congratulations! You have already outdone most of your fellow students, who get some basics down and then lose interest, can’t find the time or energy, or can’t build a good learning routine. I should know—I’ve been an eternal beginner in too many languages!

One of the first steps now is to learn some intermediate French words and how to use them. But first, a note:

Reaching the intermediate level is an amazing achievement in itself, but this is also when it gets tough. As your fluency level increases, you’ll start experiencing diminishing returns and realize that your progress is no longer linear. The more fluent you get, the more time it takes to improve.

This is when setting clear goals and maintaining long-term study habits really matters. Having a good overview of what’s ahead is a great way to focus on the bigger picture.

In this article, you’ll find a summary of the intermediate French words you should know as you steadily climb your way to the next level. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it’s packed full of invaluable vocabulary, from pronouns and verbs to adjectives and large numbers.

A Man Giving a Speech in Front of a Large Audience

Captivate your audience with the right words.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Pronouns
  2. Verbs
  3. Numbers
  4. Nouns
  5. Conjunctions
  6. Adjectives
  7. Adverbs
  8. Prepositions
  9. Le Mot De La Fin

1. Pronouns

If you’re seeking to learn intermediate French vocabulary, you should already know the basic pronouns. To be more specific:

  • Personal subject pronouns (je, vous, elles, etc.)
  • Impersonal pronouns (ça, ce, il)
  • Reflexive pronouns (me, te, se, etc.)
  • Basic interrogative pronouns (qui, où, quand, etc.)
  • A few common indefinite pronouns (tout, rien, etc.)

Now, here are some more advanced French pronouns you should learn at the intermediate level.

1 – Stressed Pronouns

Also known as emphatic pronouns, they may be used in place of a subject or object and can only refer to people.

They can be used after prepositions (de, à, avec, etc.):

  • Elle parle de toi. (“She talks about you.”)

Or, they can be used after the word que in comparisons (plus que, moins que):

  • Tu es plus grand qu’elle. (“You are taller than her.”)

PersonFrench pronounEnglish
1st person sg.moi“me”
2nd person sg.toi“you”
3rd person sg.lui / elle“he” / “him” / “she” / “her”
1st person pl.nous“us”
2nd person pl.vous“you”
3rd person pl.eux / elles“them”

2 – Direct and Indirect Pronouns

Direct pronouns replace a COD (Complément d’Objet Direct). In simpler terms, they answer the question “Who?” or “What?”

  • Je bois une bière. (“I drink a beer.”)
  • Je la bois. (“I drink it.”)

Indirect pronouns replace a COI (Complement d’Objet Indirect). They answer the question “To whom?” or “To what?”

  • Je parle à Simon. (“I talk to Simon.”)
  • Je lui parle. (“I talk to him.”)

Direct pronounsIndirect pronouns
1st person sg.meme
2nd person sg.tete
3rd person sg.le / lalui
1st person pl.nousnous
2nd person pl.vousvous
3rd person pl.lesleur

3 – Adverbial Pronouns

There are only two adverbial pronouns in French, but they are really important.

Y is used to replace à [quelque chose] (“to [something]” / “about [something]”) or en [quelque chose] (“in [something]”).

  • Nous allons en Estonie. (“We are going to Estonia.”)
    Nous y allons. (“We are going there.”)
  • Je pense à mon projet. (“I think about my project.”)
    J’y pense. (“I think about it.”)

En is used to replace de(s) ____ (“some ____” / “of ____”).

  • J’ai une bière. (“I have a beer.”)
    J’en ai une. (“I have one.”)
  • Nous avons du temps. (“We have time.”)
    Nous en avons. (“We have some.”)

4 – Relative Pronouns

Although these pronouns don’t have a direct translation in English, it’s easy enough, with examples, to figure out how they work.

que (“that”)Je sais que tu aimes ça. (“I know that you like that.”)
qui (“who”)J’ai un ami qui vient ce soir. (“I have a friend who’s coming tonight.”
(“where” / “when”)C’est l’endroit où je travaille. (“This is the place where I work.”)
dont (“whose” / “that”)L’homme dont elle parle (“The man [that] she’s talking about”)

5 – Interrogative Pronouns

Since you already know the basic interrogative pronouns (qui, où, quand, quoi), let’s add a few more to your French arsenal.

lequel
lesquels
laquelle
lesquelles
(“which one”)
Lequel tu veux? (“Which one do you want?”)
Lesquels sont les meilleurs ? (“Which ones are the best?”)
Laquelle est la plus jolie ? (“Which one is the prettiest?”)
Lesquelles veux-tu manger ? (“Which ones do you want to eat?”)
quel
quels
quelle
quelles
(“which”)
Quel vélo est à vendre ? (“Which bike is for sale?”)

6 – Indefinite Pronouns

And finally, here are a couple of new indefinite pronouns for your collection:

chacun (“everyone” / “every man”)Chacun paye sa part. (“Everyone pays their share.”)
certains (“some [people]”)Certains sont venus. (“Some people came.”)


A Couple Picking Out Clothing Together

Lequel tu préfères ? (“Which one do you prefer?”)

2. Verbs

Assuming you know all about the most common French verbs, starting with our two auxiliaries (être and avoir) as well as the most useful and highly irregular specimens (such as aller or vouloir), it’s time to hone your skills with some additional high-profile verbs.


servir“to serve”
laisser“to leave” / “to allow” / “to let”
envoyer“to send”
recevoir“to receive”
vivre“to live”
appeler“to call”
rappeler“to remind” / “to call back”
présenter“to introduce” / “to present”
accepter“to accept”
refuser“to refuse”
agir“to act”
jouer“to play”
reconnaître“to recognize” / “to acknowledge”
choisir“to choose” / “to select”
toucher“to touch”
expliquer“to explain”
se lever“to stand up” / “to get out of bed”
ouvrir“to open”
gagner“to win” / “to earn”
perdre“to lose”
exister“to exist”
réussir“to succeed” / “to manage”
changer“to change”
travailler“to work”
dormir“to sleep”
marcher“to walk”
essayer“to try” / “to attempt”
empêcher“to prevent” / “to stop”
reprendre“to resume” / “to take back”
cuisiner“to cook”
appartenir“to belong”
risquer“to risk”
apprendre“to learn” / “to teach”
rencontrer“to meet”
créer“to create”
obtenir“to obtain” / “to get”
entrer“to enter”
sortir“to exit” / “to go out” / “to leave”
proposer“to offer” / “to suggest”
apporter“to bring”
utiliser“to use”
atteindre“to reach” / “to achieve”
préparer“to prepare” / “to make”
ajouter“to add”
payer“to pay”
vendre“to consider” / “to study”
acheter“to buy”
pousser“to push”
tirer“to pull” / “to shoot”
voyager“to travel”

A Tourist Taking Pictures in Paris, France

Elle voyage en France. (“She travels to France.”)

3. Numbers

You can go a long way with basic numbers, and as you learn a new language, counting from 1 to 10 is usually more than enough. But now that you’re approaching the intermediate French level, it’s time to go further.

This section will give you a leg up when it comes to handling big numbers for big prices, years, or someone’s age. It would be a shame to get a big French paycheck if you didn’t know the words to brag about it!

1 – From 11 to 20


10Dix
11Onze
12Douze
13Treize
14Quatorze
15Quinze
16Seize
17Dix-sept
18Dix-huit
19Dix-neuf
20Vingt

2 – Counting Up to 100


30Trente
40Quarante
50Cinquante
60Soixante
70Soixante-dix
80Quatre-vingt
90Quatre-vingt-dix
100Cent

    → Feeling a bit rusty with big numbers such as soixante-quatorze (74) or quatre-vingt-douze (92)? Head over to our full guide on French numbers for an in-depth reminder.

3 – To 1,000 and Beyond


200Deux-cent
300Trois-cent
(…)
900Neuf-cent

And from there, the sky’s the limit!

1,000Mille
10,000Dix-mille
100,000Cent-mille
1,000,000 (106)Un million

4. Nouns

To expand your vocabulary and the variety of topics you can talk about, here’s a list of nouns you might want to add to your flashcards.


1 – Time


un siècle“century”
une matinée“morning”
The difference between un matin and une matinée is subtle. They both mean “morning,” but matinée is often used when talking about a period of time and what we do in this period.
une soirée“evening”
Same goes for un soir and une soirée. There is little difference between the two, but we often use une soirée when talking about leisure activities, while un soir is more neutral.
un trimestre“trimester” / “quarter”
un semestre“semester”

2 – Places 


une région“region”
un département“department”
Metropolitan France is divided into 13 regions that are split into a total of 101 departments.

For example, Morbihan is a department within the Bretagne region.
un village“village”
un parc“park”
une banque“bank”
une pharmacie“pharmacy”
un hôpital“hospital”
This ^ on the ô is not pronounced; it’s just there as a tribute to the spelling of the word in Old French: hospital.
une boulangerie“bakery”
Have you ever noticed that in France, you can buy your bread from two different shops? Une boulangerie makes and sells bread, while une pâtisserie is more specialized toward cakes and sweets.
une plaine“plain”
une falaise“cliff”
une plage“beach”
une île“island”
une colline“hill”

3 – Technology 


un écran“screen”
un clavier“keyboard”
une souris“mouse”
Just like in English, une souris is also the word for the cute furry animal.
une tablette“tablet”
une télé“TV”
The full word is télévision, but the abbreviation is just as popular as the English “TV.”
une console“console”
un chargeur“charger”
un site / un site web“website”
un compte“account”
un mot de passe“password”
It may seem more complicated, but it’s actually a direct translation, using un mot (“word”).
un fichier“file”
un répertoire“folder”
un logiciel“software”

4 – Home 


une pièce“room”
un étage“floor”
In France, le premier étage (literally: “the first floor”) is what most North Americans call the second floor.

This is because the word étage has a slightly different meaning, and we don’t consider le rez-de-chaussée (“the ground floor”) to be un étage.
  • Le rez-de-chaussée (“The ground floor”, i.e.: “The first floor”)
  • Le premier étage (Equivalent of “The second floor”)
  • Le deuxième étage (Equivalent of “The third floor”)
un salon“living room”
une salle de bain“bathroom”
un frigo“fridge”
une armoire“cabinet” / “wardrobe” /
“cupboard” / “closet”

5 – City & Transportation


une banlieue“suburb” / “outskirt”
un quartier“district” / “neighborhood” / “area”
une autoroute“highway”
une ruelle“alley”
un rond-point“roundabout”
un carrefour“crossroad” / “intersection” / “junction”

6 – People 


un oncle“uncle”
une tante“aunt”
un petit-fils“grandson”
une petite-fille“granddaughter”
un bébé“baby”
un grand-père“grandfather”
une grand-mère“grandmother”

7 – Body Parts 


un doigt“finger”
You should not get distressed by the weird spelling. The letters “gt” at the end of doigt are silent.
un dos“back”
un ventre“belly”
un sein“breast”
une épaule“shoulder”
une jambe“leg”
une cuisse“thigh”
une fesse“butt cheek”
un pied“foot”
une joue“cheek”
un menton“chin”
un front“forehead”

8 – Food & Dining


un couteau“knife”
une fourchette“fork”
une cuillère“spoon”
un vin“wine”
un plat“dish”
une entrée“starter”
un dessert“dessert”
une boisson“drink”
un café“coffee”

9 – Work & Studies


un infirmier / une infirmière“nurse”
un policier / une policière“police officer”
un avocat / une avocate“lawyer”
un serveur / une serveuse“waiter”
une université“university”

10 – Clothes


un pantalon“pants” / “trousers”
un pull“sweater”
un t-shirt“T-shirt”
une chemise“shirt”
un manteau“coat”
une chaussette“sock”
une chaussure“shoe”
une robe“dress”
un chapeau“hat”

A Woman Wearing a Hat Holding a Cup of Tea in France

Elle porte un chapeau. (“She wears a hat.”)

5. Conjunctions

As you may already know the most basic ones (et, ou, si, parce que, mais, pour par), we’ll move on to the more complex conjunctions.

Ni…ni (“Nor”)

  • Je ne bois ni bière ni vin. (“I drink neither beer nor wine.”)

Alors (“Then” / “So”)

  • Je n’ai pas soif, alors je ne bois pas. (“I’m not thirsty, so I don’t drink.”)

Sinon (“Otherwise”)

  • Je ne bois pas, sinon je ne peux pas conduire. (“I’m not drinking, otherwise I cannot drive.”)

Puisque (“Since” / “As”)

  • Puisque tu es là, tu veux entrer ? (“Since you’re here, do you want to come in?”)

Quand (“When”)

  • Quand je suis fatigué, je baille. (“When I’m tired, I yawn.”)

Donc (“So” / “Therefore”)

  • Je pense donc je suis. (“I think, therefore I am.”)

Du coup (“So” / “Therefore”) [Casual]

  • J’avais soif, du coup j’ai bu. (“I was thirsty, so I drank.”)

6. Adjectives

Although not as essential for beginners who just want to express basic ideas, adjectives are a great way for intermediate French learners to make their sentences more meaningful and flavorful.


génial“great” / “awesome” / “amazing”
horrible“horrible”
bizarre“weird”
compliqué“complicated”
epais“thick”
fin“thin”
proche“near”
lointain“far”
etroit“narrow”
large“wide”
doux“soft”
dur“hard”
plein“full”
vide“empty”
léger“light”
lourd“heavy”
unique“unique”
spécial“special”
particulier“particular” / “special” / “specific”
neuf“new” (as in: never used)
pauvre“poor”
riche“rich” / “wealthy”
propre“clean”
sale“dirty”
faible“weak”
mince“slim”
mignon“cute”
méchant“mean” / “wicked” / “evil”
drôle“funny”
sympa“nice”
heureux“happy”
triste“sad”
calme“quiet”
excité“excited”
dangereux“dangerous”
ennuyeux“boring” / “annoying”
gras“fat”
epicé“spicy”
second
deuxième
“second”
prochain“next”
précédent“previous”
avant-dernier“penultimate” / “second-to-last”
orange“orange”
rose“pink”
gris“gray”
violet“purple”
magenta“magenta”
turquoise“turquoise”

A Turquoise Stone

Une pierre turquoise (“A turquoise stone”)

7. Adverbs

Like with adjectives, you could get away with very few adverbs as a beginner, but you’ll need to learn some more as you level up. They’re not only great for showing some style and sophistication in writing, but also for helping the audience picture how something is done when having a conversation. 

1 – When


déjà“already”
longtemps“a long time” / “long”
maintenant“now”
encore“again”
enfin“at last”
ensuite
alors
“then”

2 – How Often 


parfois“sometimes”
rarement“rarely”
d’habitude“usually”
généralement“generally” / “usually”
tout le temps“all the time”

3 – Where 


nulle part“nowhere”
quelque part“somewhere”
ailleurs“somewhere else”
en haut“up” / “above”
en bas“down” / “below”
dessus“over” / “on”
dessous“under” / “below”
loin“far”
près“close”

4 – How 


doucement“softly” / “quietly”
lentement“softly” / “quietly”
lentement“slowly”
rapidement“fast” / “quickly” / “shortly”
calmement“calmly” / “quietly”
facilement“easily”
heureusement“luckily”
simplement“simply” / “just”

5 – How Much 


plutôt“rather”
assez“enough”
surtout“especially”
presque“almost”
combien“how” / “
how much” / “how many”
tellement“so” / “so much” / “so many”
environ“about” / “approximately”


8. Prepositions

Our final list of intermediate French words consists of the most frequently used prepositions. You don’t need too many prepositions, but they’re nonetheless vital for articulating your speech and structuring your sentences. They mark the relationships and links between people, objects, places, and moments. 

1 – Time


avant“before” / “prior”
après“after” / “then” / “once”
dans“in” / “inside” / “within”

2 – Space


à côté“next to” / “beside”
à droite“to the right”
à gauche“to the left”
chez“at”
There is no direct translation for chez. It usually means “inside somebody’s home or place.”
  • Je vais chez Simon. (“I’m going at Simon’s place.”)
  • Bienvenue chez moi. (“Welcome to my home.”)
It can also be used to talk about a specific feature of a group of people:
  • Chez les Américains, il y a (…) (“Americans have…”)
  • Chez les écrivains, on pense que (…) (“Writers think that…”)
devant“in front of” / “ahead”
derrière“behind”
sous“under”
sur“over” / “on”

3 – Other


entre“between” / “among”
grâce à“thanks to”
malgré“despite”
sans“without”

An Elderly Couple Greeting a Younger Couple into Their Home

Bienvenue chez nous ! (“Welcome to our home!”)

Le Mot De La Fin

In this guide, you’ve learned many of the best French words for intermediate learners. Did we forget any important words or categories you’d like to know about?

At this level, there are still some grammar and conjugation rules to learn, but your vocabulary is what’s going to make the difference when trying to tackle an unusual topic or when expressing complex thoughts in a conversation.

FrenchPod101 has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings and other free resources to boost your studies and keep your French learning fresh and entertaining!

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching with your own private teacher who can help you practice intermediate words and more. Your teacher will provide you with assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples just for you; he or she will also review all of your work and help improve your pronunciation. 

Happy learning with FrenchPod101!

About the Author: Born and bred in rainy Northern France, Cyril Danon was bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the world. Now, after quenching his wanderlust over the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

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Animal Names in French

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Do you know which animals the French love most? What about the most popular pets and common farm animals? How many species are there in the gastropod family, and what’s the life expectancy of forest-litter snails? We’re about to answer some of these questions.

As I was gathering animal names, I came up with a fascinating theory: the more exotic an animal is in France, the easier it will be for you to learn its French name. Conveniently enough, there are several animal names in French that are identical to their English equivalents: lion, crocodile, panda, koala, giraffe, jaguar… They shouldn’t give you too much trouble!

In this article, you’ll learn the names of different animals in French, from pets and farm animals to wild beasts, sea creatures, and all sorts of tiny bugs. We’ll even spice it up with some extras: French animal sounds, body parts, and a bunch of colorful expressions such as il pleut comme vache qui pisse (“it’s raining like a pissing cow”).

Different Types of House Pets

Des animaux de compagnie (“Pets”)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Pets
  2. Farm Animals
  3. Wild Animals
  4. Sea Animals
  5. Bugs
  6. Birds
  7. Reptiles & Amphibians
  8. Animal Body Parts
  9. Animal Verbs
  10. Animal Sounds
  11. Bonus: Animal Idioms
  12. Le mot de la fin

1. Pets

When it comes to pets, the French don’t have very eccentric tastes. Sure, you could always find domestic snakes or spiders here and there. But the all-time classics (cats and dogs) are as ubiquitous here as anywhere else in the world, with fish and birds coming next on the list.

Polls have shown that the most popular pets in France are cats (purring in around 30% of households), followed by dogs (20%), and then fish (10%). When asked about their favorite animals (and not just pets), the French still answered in favor of cats and dogs, followed by horses and dolphins.

Surprisingly, France is also the European country with the highest number of domestic reptiles, though this number is marginal compared to the number of domestic mammals.

Un chat“Cat”
Un chien“Dog”
Un lapin“Rabbit”
Une souris“Mouse”
Un rat“Rat”
Un cochon d’Inde“Guinea pig”
Un poisson rouge“Goldfish”
Un perroquet“Parrot”

A Kitten Mewling

Un chaton (“Kitten”)

2. Farm Animals

Farm animals don’t vary much from one country to the next, and France is no exception. We breed the same-old cows, pigs, sheep, and goats as anywhere else in the world, which makes these words some of the most useful to learn.

The only feature you may find “exotic” about French farms is that we breed horses for their meat.

Hippophagy (the practice of eating horse meat) is generally frowned upon in the U.S., and is even banned in many states across the country. It’s met with the same disgust in the U.K., where it remains a strong taboo. 

In France, it was never wildly popular, but following lots of scandals and controversies over the last two decades, the consumption of horse meat has decreased dramatically. At this rate, it shall soon become a distant nightmare for all horse-lovers.

Here are the names of common farm animals in French:

Une vache“Cow”
Un cochon“Pig”
Un mouton“Sheep”
Une chèvre“Goat”
Un cheval“Horse”
Une poule“Hen”
Un coq“Rooster”
Un canard“Duck”
Une oie“Goose”
Une dinde“Turkey”

    → To learn more French words and practice your pronunciation, why not stop by our vocabulary lesson on farm animals? It’s available for free on FrenchPod101.com.

Several Pigs

Des cochons (“Pigs”)

3. Wild Animals

French forests and mountains are home to a variety of wild animals. Rabbits and hares are the easiest to spot, but if you hike deep enough in the woods, you might encounter deer, wolves, and even bears.

If you’re more of a mountain climber, you may find some adorable groundhogs hiding from eagles and different kinds of wild goats strolling around like they own the place. The Alps are especially renowned for their wildlife, but we also have a few whales singing in the Mediterranean Sea and fluffy seals on the northern coast.

Here are the names of popular wild animals in the French language:

Un ours“Bear”
Un loup“Wolf”
Un cerf“Deer”
Un lièvre“Hare”
Un renard“Fox”
Un hérisson“Hedgehog”
Un écureuil“Squirrel”
Un sanglier“Boar”
Une marmotte“Groundhog”
Un lion“Lion”
Un tigre“Tiger”
Un jaguar“Jaguar”
Une panthère“Panther”
Un éléphant“Elephant”
Une giraffe“Giraffe”
Un singe“Monkey”
Un gorille“Gorilla”
Un kangourou“Kangaroo”
Un koala“Koala”
Un panda“Panda”
Un paresseux“Sloth”
Un phoque“Seal”
Un pingouin“Penguin”
Un ours polaire“Polar bear”
Un morse“Walrus”

A Cute Sloth Peeking Over Some Railing

Un paresseux (“Sloth”)

4. Sea Animals

Counting our overseas regions (Nouvelle Calédonie, Polynésie Française, Mayotte…), France alone is home to 10% of the world’s corals. They’re mostly gathered around our islands, and they host an impressive diversity of fish, algae, and shellfish.

On the other hand, the industrialization and pollution of the French coasts have taken a huge toll on the marine ecosystem, with plastic being one of the main culprits.

Un poisson“Fish”
Un requin“Shark”
Un dauphin“Dolphin”
Une baleine“Whale”
Un lion de mer“Sealion”
Une méduse“Jellyfish”
Une pieuvre
Un poulpe
“Octopus”
There is no difference between un poulpe and une pieuvre. The latter is a bit more modern, but both are equally used.
Un hippocampe“Seahorse”
Un oursin“Urchin”
Une étoile de mer“Starfish”
Une moule“Mussel”
Un concombre de mer“Sea cucumber”
Sea cucumbers are so bizarrely amazing that I couldn’t resist including them on this list. Do you know of any other animal that breathes through its butt?

They especially thrive in deep water, and make up 90% of life on the ocean floor below 15,000 feet.

    → Do you wanna dive deeper? We have a vocabulary list of marine animals and fish with recorded pronunciation examples.

A Hammerhead Shark

Un requin-marteau (“Hammerhead shark”)

5. Bugs

France has a diverse fauna of native and endemic bugs. Nothing as lethal and scary as what you’d find in Australia, luckily, but we have our fair share of crawling insects and nasty worms.

The three most dangerous animals in France are the Asian hornets, blood-sucking ticks, and the infamous veuve noire (“black widow”), a spider found on the island of Corsica and the region of Provence. Its venom is more dangerous than that of a cobra and can induce crazy hallucinations.

Une abeille“Bee”
Une guêpe“Wasp”
Un moustique“Mosquito”
Une mouche“Fly”
Une araignée“Spider”
Un criquet“Grasshopper”
Un cafard“Cockroach”
Un papillon“Butterfly”
Une fourmi“Ant”
Une mite“Moth”
Un escargot“Snail”
Une limace“Slug”

A Wasp on Someone’s Skin

Une guêpe (“Wasp”)

6. Birds

There are more than 500 species of birds in France, but none are as familiar as our iconic pigeon.

Around 23,000 pigeons live in Paris today, but it wasn’t always so. Back in the nineteenth century, they could only be seen flying over the city. Pigeons only settled in later on, thanks to the lack of predators and the rise of the pigeon post during the Franco-Prussian War.

Un pigeon“Pigeon”
Une mouette“Seagull”
Un corbeau“Crow”
Un aigle“Eagle”
Une colombe“Dove”
Un hibou
Une chouette
“Owl”
What’s the difference between hiboux and chouettes? Simple enough: Hiboux have fluffy ‘ears’ and chouettes don’t. Both are adorable.
Une pie“Magpie”
Un moineau“Sparrow”
Un paon“Peacock”

A Flock of Pigeons on the Ground

Des pigeons (“Pigeons”)

7. Reptiles & Amphibians

Although we don’t have many lethal snakes in France, we still have a few vipers hiding in the bushes here and there. However, they usually don’t attack without provocation and their venom is rarely fatal to humans.

Their natural habitat has been increasingly threatened in recent years and they’re nearly extinct today. Due to their bad reputation (much of which is derived from phobias and irrational fears), nobody’s too eager to protect them.

Une grenouille“Frog”
Un crapaud“Toad”
Un crocodile“Crocodile”
Un lézard“Lizard”
Une tortue“Turtle”
Une tortue de mer“Sea turtle”
Un serpent“Snake”


A Snake

Un serpent (“Snake”)

8. Animal Body Parts

Une queue“Tail”
Un poil“Hair”
Une fourrure“Fur”
Une dent“Tooth”
Un croc“Fang”
Une griffe“Claw”
Une corne“Horn”
Un sabot“Hoof”
Une plume“Feather”
Une aile“Wing”
Un bec“Beak”
Une gueule“Mouth”
The word gueule is also a rude slang term for “mouth,” as in the expression: Ferme ta gueule. (“Shut your trap.”)

In that case, you’re implicitly comparing the other person to an animal.
Une nageoire“Fin”
Un tentacule“Tentacle”
Une crinière“Mane”
Une trompe“Trunk”
Une défense“Tusk”
Une antenne“Antenna”
Un dard“Dart”
Une patte“Leg”
Une patte can only be used for animals. When talking about a human leg, we use une jambe.
Une écaille“Scale”

A Ram

Des cornes (“Horns”)

9. Animal Verbs

Miauler“To meow”
Aboyer“To bark”
Rugir“To roar”
Bourdonner“To buzz”
Grogner“To growl”
Ronronner“To purr”
Galoper“To gallop”
Nager“To swim”
Ramper“To crawl”
Mordre“To bite” (with teeth)
Piquer“To sting” (with a dart)
Griffer“To scratch”
Lécher“To lick”
Caresser“To pet”
Dresser“To tame” / “To train”
Nourrir“To feed”
Vacciner“To vaccinate”

A Dog Barking

Le chien aboie. (“The dog is barking.”)

10. Animal Sounds

The onomatopoeia used for animal sounds vary greatly from one country to the next, and it’s always hilarious to see how people perceive barking or meowing in other cultures. Here are the most popular French animal sounds, for your entertainment.

But before you make fun of our animals’ sounds, just keep in mind that cats say “knavili” in Georgian, dogs go “Gaf gaf” in Russian, Danish ducks sing “Rap rap,” and Belgian turkeys gobble “Irka kloek kloek.” Just sayin’.

Miaou(Cat)
Ouaf / Wouf(Dog)
Meuh(Cow)
Bêêê(Sheep)
Cui cui(Bird)
Cocorico(Rooster)
We also use this sound as a symbol of national pride. When a French person says Cocorico !, it’s pretty much like saying “Go France!”
Coin coin(Duck)
Grrr(Growling sound)
Hou hou(Owl)
Croa croa(Toad)
Glouglou(Turkey)
Cot cot(Hen)
Groin groin(Pig)

A Rooster

Cocorico ! (“Cock-a-doodle-doo!”)

11. Bonus: Animal Idioms

French expressionMarcher sur des œufs
Literal translation“To walk on eggs”
This is the equivalent of “to walk on eggshells,” when you’re being very careful not to offend someone or do anything wrong.

French expressionÇa ne casse pas trois pattes à un canard.
Literal translation“It doesn’t break a duck’s three legs.”
The equivalent of “It’s nothing to write home about,” when something is not really impressive.

French expressionOh la vache !
Literal translation“Oh, the cow!”
The unholy version of “Holy cow!”

French expressionVachement
Literal translation“Cowishly”
This roughly translates to “really” or “very.”

For example: C’est vachement bien ! (“It’s really good!”)

French expressionIl pleut comme vache qui pisse.
Literal translation“It’s raining like a pissing cow.”
Similar to “It’s raining cats and dogs,” when talking about heavy rain.

French expressionIl n’y a pas un chat.
Literal translation“There is not a cat.”
The place is so empty that you can’t even spot a stray cat strolling around.

French expressionJ’ai un chat dans la gorge.
Literal translation“I have a cat in the throat.”
The equivalent would be “I have a frog in my throat,” when you can’t speak normally because of how dry and hoarse your throat feels.

French expressionIl fait un temps de chien.
Literal translation“It’s a dog’s weather.”
“The weather is really bad.” 

The expression was introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century, when dogs still had a reputation for being dirty animals. When it was pouring rain, only stray dogs would stay outside and roam the empty streets.

French expressionUn trou à rat
Literal translation“A rat hole”
A dirty or miserable place.

French expressionDonner de la confiture aux cochons
Literal translation“To give jam to the pigs”
The equivalent of “to throw pearls before swine.” To waste good things on someone undeserving.

French expressionUn caractère de cochon
Literal translation“A pig’s temper”
Do pigs have especially bad tempers? This is what the expression implies.

French expressionPoser un lapin
Literal translation“To put a rabbit”
The equivalent of “to stand someone up,” when you’re supposed to meet them but fail to show up.

French expressionC’est chouette !
Literal translation“It’s owl!”
I’d translate it as “It’s nice,” or “It’s cool.” We use it when talking about something exciting or pleasant.

For example: Ce film est chouette. (“This movie is nice.”)

French expressionÀ vol d’oiseau
Literal translation“On bird’s flight”
This is the equivalent of “as the crow flies.” It describes the shortest possible distance between two points that a bird could cover, flying over roads and obstacles.

For example: La gare est à 2 km à vol d’oiseau. (“The train station is two kilometers as the crow flies.”) In other words: It would be further when walking, but here’s a raw estimate.

French expressionNoyer le poisson
Literal translation“To drown the fish”
Similar to “to cloud the issue,” when you make a problem more difficult to understand or deal with by introducing unnecessary ideas.

French expressionChercher la petite bête
Literal translation“To look for the tiny beast”
The equivalent of “to nitpick,” when you focus on small, specific mistakes. A teacher might nitpick if they blame you for a missing comma in your otherwise perfect paper.

An Owl Resting on a Woman’s Shoulder

Les chouettes sont vachement chouettes ! (“Owls are super cool!”)

12. Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you’ve learned many animal names in French, from pets to marine animals and beyond. Now you’re ready to ask your friends about their pets or their favorite furry animals.

Did we forget any animal expression you’ve heard? If you know more funny French animal sounds, be sure to share them in the comments below!

Make sure to explore FrenchPod101, as we have plenty of free resources to help you practice your grammar and learn new words. Our vocabulary lists are also a great way to review words and learn their pronunciation.

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching with your own private teacher. They can help you practice the animal words from this article, and much more. In addition to giving you assignments and personalized exercises, your teacher can record audio samples for you and review your work to help you improve in all areas. 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

About the Author: Born and bred in rainy Northern France, Cyril Danon was bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the world. Now, after quenching his wanderlust over the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

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French Phone Phrases for Smooth Calls

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Do you sometimes get anxious when the phone rings? For some, this anxiety arises due to the fear of being criticized or judged for what they’re gonna say. Telephone phobia can even make one afraid, by association, of the actual ringing.

Even though this type of anxiety was not common for me, I noticed that taking phone calls in a foreign language could get me really tense. I would sometimes struggle to find the right words, and I was afraid I’d fail to understand what the other person wanted from me.

As a learner, picking up some French phone phrases can relieve you of most of this apprehension. Equipped with the essential phrases and useful phone vocabulary, you’ll be ready to face almost any phone scenario. 

In this article, you’ll learn how to answer the phone in French and handle different components of a phone call: greetings and introductions, transferring a call, taking a message, handling connection issues, and much more. Once we’re done here, you’ll be ready to keep your cool and pick up with confidence.

A Man in a Business Suit Smiling while Talking on the Phone

No more stress: Pick up the phone with a confident smile!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Phone Vocabulary
  2. Greeting
  3. Checking
  4. Transferring
  5. Stating Your Business
  6. Problems
  7. Ending
  8. Le mot de la fin

1. Phone Vocabulary

Before we start with the phrases, let’s have a look at the most useful words you should know when talking about phones and calls. This short vocabulary list includes everything you need, from words to describe the hardware to some key verbs.

Un téléphonePhone
Un portable
Un mobile
Mobile phone
Une batterieBattery
Un chargeurCharger
Un message
Un texto
Un SMS
Text message
Un écranScreen
Une sonnerieRingtone
Un appel
Un appel téléphonique
Call
Un coup de filCall [Slang]
Un numéroUn numéro de téléphonePhone number
AppelerTo call
RappelerTo call back
ComposerTo dial
SonnerTo ring
DécrocherTo pick up
RaccrocherTo hang up
Laisser un messageTo leave a message
AllumerTo turn on
ÉteindreTo turn off
BrancherTo plug
Charger / RechargerTo charge


Someone Picking Up Their Work Phone

Décrocher le téléphone (“To pick up the phone”)

2. Greeting

When calling someone or picking up the phone, the conversation almost always starts with a greeting of some sort. This is just basic phone etiquette.

It might be casual when you’re calling friends or answering your personal phone, or formal and informative if you’re answering in a professional capacity.

Below, you’ll find a few common phone greetings in French for making and receiving a call. 

1 – Calling

Allo.Hello.
Allo is a “hello” for phone conversations only. 

In France, we never use allo in any other context, unlike in French Quebec where it’s also a common in-person greeting.
Bonjour.Hello.
When you’re calling, you could simply say Bonjour instead of Allo, then move on to introducing yourself, stating your business, or whatever comes next.

2 – Answering

Allo ?Hello?
When answering the phone, you can also use Allo or the interrogative Allo ?

Unless you’re answering in a professional capacity, this is usually all you need to say before you know who’s calling and why.

Another option is Oui, allo ? It doesn’t change much, really.
Bonjour.Hello.
Like when calling, you can answer with a simple Bonjour.
Allo oui, j’écoute.Hello, yes, I’m listening.

If you’re taking a professional phone call on behalf of your company, here’s the formal and efficient way to do it:

[Company name], bonjour.

Or:

[Company name], [Your name] bonjour.

For example: 

  • Clinique Saint-Martin, bonjour. (“Saint-Martin Clinic, hello.”)
  • Decathlon Montreuil, David Morel, bonjour. (“Montreuil’s Decathlon, David Morel, hello.”)

Then, you could add something like:

  • Je vous écoute. (“I’m listening.”)
  • Comment puis-je vous aider ? (“How can I assist you?”)

Beyond Allo, there are many different ways to greet someone on the phone. You’ll find lots of ideas on our list titled Common Ways to Say Hello here on FrenchPod101.com.

A Man Receiving a Wakeup Call in His Hotel Room

Oui, allo ? (“Hello?”)

3. Checking

Now that you’ve said “hello,” the next step is to make sure you’ve reached the right person (or to ask who’s calling). Once you familiarize yourself with the following French phone call phrases, you’ll be able to handle this with ease. 

1 – Calling

One simple way to see if you’ve gotten the right person is to just use their name:

  • David? [Casual]
  • Monsieur Morel ? [Formal – Male]
  • Madame Lemaire ? [Formal – Female]

Here are a few other options:

Je suis bien chez David Morel ?Is this the home of David Morel?
Je suis bien au 06 78 24 XX XX ?Did I reach the 06 78 XX XX?
If you suspect you might have dialed a wrong number, this is how you would double-check.
Je suis bien au cabinet du docteur Morel ?
Je suis bien à la clinique Saint-Martin ?
Is this the office of Doctor Morel?
Is this the Saint-Martin Clinic?

Once you know you’re at the right place, this is a good time to introduce yourself:

C’est Sophie. [Casual]It’s Sophie.
Je m’appelle Sophie Cibat. [Formal]My name is Sophie Cibat.

2 – Answering

If you didn’t recognize the person calling and they haven’t introduced themselves yet, you probably want to inquire about that.

Qui est à l’appareil ? [Formal]Who’s this?
This literally means: “Who’s at the device?”
Qui est-ce ? [Casual]Who’s this?
A Man Sitting at a Park and Talking on the Phone

Qui est à l’appareil ? (“Who is it?”)

4. Transferring

At some point during the conversation, the caller may be transferred to another person or department. Here are several French phone expressions you can use to make this as smooth a process as possible. 

1 – Calling

If you’ve reached the secretary of a big company or the main desk of an administration, your next step is to be transferred to the right person or service.

J’essaye de joindre David. [Casual]I’m trying to reach David.
Je cherche à joindre David Morel. [Formal]I’m trying to reach David Morel.
Je cherche à joindre monsieur Morel. [Formal]I’m trying to reach Mr. Morel.
Je peux parler à David ? [Casual]Can I talk to David?
Tu peux me passer David ? [Casual]Can you put David on?
Je voudrais parler à David Morel, s’il vous plaît. [Formal]I would like to speak to David Morel, please.
Est-ce que je pourrais parler à David Morel, s’il vous plaît ? [Formal]Can I speak to David Morel, please?
Je cherche à joindre le service juridique.I’m trying to reach the legal service.
Est-ce que vous pourriez me transférer au service juridique, s’il vous plaît ?Could you transfer me to the legal service, please?

2 – Answering

C’est de la part de qui ?Who’s calling?
This is similar to qui est à l’appareil, but this phrase is used when you’re asking on behalf of the person you’ll transfer the caller to.
Ne quittez pas.Hold the line.
Un instant, s’il vous plaît.
Un moment, s’il vous plaît.
A moment, please.
Je te le passe. [Casual]
Je vous le passe. [Formal]
Je vous mets en relation. [Very formal]
I’ll put him on.
I’ll put him on.
I’ll put you through.
La ligne est occupée.The line is busy.
Elle n’est pas disponible pour le moment.She’s not available right now.
Est-ce que je peux prendre un message ?Can I take a message?
Je peux lui demander de vous rappeler.I can ask him/her to call you back.
Pouvez-vous me laisser votre nom et votre numéro ?Can I take your name and number?

    → To learn and practice some more useful phrases for your phone conversations, check out our vocabulary list with audio recordings.

A Woman Taking a Call while Working in the Office Late at Night

Je suis désolée, la ligne est occupée. (“I’m sorry, the line is busy.”)

5. Stating Your Business

There could be many reasons why you’re making a phone call. Maybe you want to discuss a casual topic with a friend or perhaps you’re calling for serious business matters. 

J’appelle pour prendre de tes nouvelles.I’m calling to check on you.
Tu as essayé de m’appeler tout à l’heure.You tried to call me earlier.
Je voudrais parler à quelqu’un d’un problème juridique.I would like to talk to someone about a legal issue.
Je voudrais prendre rendez-vous.I would like to make an appointment.
Je vous rappelle après avoir reçu un message.I’m calling you back after receiving a message.

A Guy Sitting on the Couch and Talking on the Phone with a Remote in His Hand

Tu as essayé de m’appeler tout à l’heure. (“You tried to call me earlier.”)

6. Problems

Nowadays, smartphones and the internet are making “wrong number” situations rather unusual, but there are still many other issues that might come up.

Compared to old models that could last for days on a single charge, the curse of smartphones is the short battery life…you never know if it’ll die on you in the middle of a call. There are also lots of opportunities for a bad connection, like if someone drives through a tunnel and breaks up unexpectedly.

Je t’entends mal. [Casual]
Je vous entends mal. [Formal]
I can’t hear you. / I can barely hear you.
Je t’entends plus. [Casual]
Je ne vous entends plus. [Formal]
I can’t hear you anymore.
La connexion est mauvaise.The connection is bad.
Il y a de la friture sur la ligne. [Casual – Idiom]There is noise on the line.
Literally: “There is something frying on the line.”
Tu peux répéter ? [Casual]
Vous pouvez répéter, s’il vous plaît ? [Formal]
Can you repeat?
Could you repeat, please?
On a été coupés.We got cut off. / We got disconnected.
Ma batterie est bientôt morte. [Casual]My battery’s almost dead.
Ma batterie est presque épuisée.My battery’s almost depleted.
Je n’ai presque plus de batterie.I’m almost out of battery.
Vous vous trompez de numéro.You’ve dialed the wrong number.
Désolé, je me suis trompé de numéro.I’m sorry, I’ve dialed the wrong number.

Two Kids Talking through Tin Can Phones

La connexion est mauvaise ! (“The connection is bad!”)

7. Ending

Ending the call is usually as easy as greeting the other person. It’s just a quick formality that only gets a bit more complicated in professional contexts.

Au revoir. [Formal]Goodbye.
Salut ! [Casual]Bye!
Bonne journée.Have a good day.
Merci, au revoir.Thank you, goodbye.
Merci pour votre appel. [Formal]Thank you for calling.
À bientôt.See you soon.
À tout à l’heure.See you later.


8. Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about phone calls in French, from basic phone vocabulary to specific phrases for greeting, introducing yourself, stating your business, transferring a call, taking a message, and more. 

Did we forget any important phone phrases you’d like to learn?

FrenchPod101 also has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings, free resources to boost your studies, and plenty of fun audio/video lessons to keep your French learning fresh and entertaining!

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching. Your own private teacher can help you practice any new French words you’ve learned, and more. They can also provide you with assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples just for you—all this in addition to reviewing your work and helping you improve your pronunciation. 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com

About the Author: Born and bred in rainy northern France, Cyril Danon bounced off various jobs before leaving everything behind to wander around the wonders of the world. Now, after quenching his wanderlust over the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French

Start Strong with These French Words for Beginners

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Do you know how many words there are in the French language? Come on, have a guess.

Most French dictionaries list around 60,000. But Le Grand Robert, one of the most prominent resources, gathers more than 100,000 words for a total of 350,000 different meanings.

Sounds overwhelming? Keep in mind that even native French speakers know merely a fraction of that! To start having basic conversations, you only need a few hundred basic French words for beginners. 

Further down the line, you’ll be considered “proficient” in French upon reaching around 5,000 words. That’s only about 5% of the whole collection.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! In this article, we’ll list all of the French beginner words that will allow you to handle many everyday situations, whether you want to talk, listen, or both.

A Man and a Woman Chatting on a Date with Drinks

You only need a few words to start a conversation and make friends.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Pronouns
  2. Verbs
  3. Numbers
  4. Nouns
  5. Conjunctions
  6. Adjectives
  7. Adverbs
  8. Le mot de la fin

1. Pronouns

Let’s start our list of beginner French words with the most useful pronouns you should learn as you begin your studies.

At first, all you’re gonna need are the personal subject pronouns (“she,” “you,” “we,” and so on). As you move forward, you’ll quickly add some more to your arsenal.

    → To learn all about this topic, from the general rules to the 10 main categories of French pronouns, make sure to visit our complete guide on FrenchPod101.com.

1 – Personal Subject Pronouns

Personal subject pronouns replace the subject of a sentence.

  • Sophie parle français. (“Sophie speaks French.”)
  • Elle parle français. (“She speaks French.”)

PersonFrench pronounEnglish
1st person sg.je, j’I
2nd person sg.tu / vousyou (casual / formal)
3rd person sg.il, elle, onhe, she, one
1st person pl.on / nouswe (casual / formal)
2nd person pl.vousyou
3rd person pl.Ils, ellesthey

2 – Impersonal Pronouns

When a sentence doesn’t have a clear subject, let’s stay vague and impersonal:

ça, ce, c’ (“it”)

  • Ça fait mal. (“It hurts.”)
  • Ce n’est pas vrai. (“It is not true.”)
  • C’est important. (“It is important.”)

il (“it”)

  • Il est temps. (“It’s time.”)
  • Il pleut. (“It’s raining.”)

3 – Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are used with reflexive verbs. For example:

  • se lever (“to stand up”)
  • se promener (“to stroll”)
  • s’habiller (“to get dressed”)

PersonFrench pronounExample
1st person sg.me, m’Je me lève. (“I stand up.”)
2nd person sg.te, t’Tu te lèves. (“You stand up.”)
3rd person sg.se, s’Elle s’habille. (“She gets dressed.”)
1st person pl.nousNous nous préparons. (“We’re getting ready.”)
2nd person pl.vousVous vous rasez. (“You shave.”)
3rd person pl.seIls se promènent. (“They are strolling.”)

4 – Interrogative Pronouns

  • Qui ? (“Who?”)
    Qui est là ? (“Who’s there?”)
  • Où ? (“Where?”)
    Où es-tu ? (“Where are you?”)

  • Quand ? (“When?”)
    On commence quand ? (“When do we start?”)
  • Quoi ? (“What?”)
    On fait quoi ce soir ? (“What are we doing tonight?”)
  • Pourquoi ? (“Why?”)
    Pourquoi tu ris ? (“Why are you laughing?”)

5 – Indefinite Pronouns

  • tout (“everything”)
  • rien (“nothing”)
  • quelque chose (“something”)
  • tout le monde (“everybody”)
  • personne (“nobody”)
  • quelqu’un (“somebody”)

A Woman Stretching Upon Waking Up in the Morning

Elle se réveille. (“She wakes up.”)

2. Verbs

Here’s a list of the 50 most useful French verbs for beginners. Of course, depending on whether you’re studying, visiting, or working in France, you might have different needs. But this is a good place to start in any case!

    → For all the information you’ll need on regular verb groups (-ER and -IR), irregular verbs, and reflexive verbs, be sure to have a look at our full article on FrenchPod101.com.

êtreto be
avoirto have
allerto go
vouloirto want
pouvoirto be able to / can
devoirto have to / must
falloirto be necessary
This verb is only conjugated in the third person, with the impersonal pronoun il (“it”). In this case, it means “it is necessary that.”
  • Il faut partir à l’heure. (“We must leave on time.”)
  • Il faut que je parte. (“I have to go.”)
faireto do
direto say / to tell
parlerto talk / to speak
aimerto like / to love
mettreto put / to place
remettreto put back
poserto put down / to ask
prendreto take / to catch / to capture
donnerto give
savoirto know
entendreto hear
voirto see
demanderto ask / to request
répondreto answer / to reply
chercherto look for
trouverto find / to discover
retrouverto regain / to meet up
rendreto return / to give back / to make
venirto come
passerto pass / to go / to come
croireto believe / to think
montrerto show
commencerto begin / to start
continuerto continue / to keep going
penserto think
comprendreto understand / to include
resterto stay / to remain
attendreto wait
partirto leave
arriverto arrive / to happen
suivreto follow
revenirto come back
connaîtreto know
compterto count
permettreto permit / to allow
s’occuperto take care of
semblerto seem
lireto read
écrireto write
devenirto become / to turn into
déciderto decide
tenirto hold
porterto carry / to wear
Signs that Read Now, Tomorrow, and Yesterday

Just add a few tenses and you can talk about anything!

3. Numbers

As a beginner, you really won’t need much as far as counting and numbers go. In most situations, you can get by with only small numbers; I’d not go further than 1 to 10 for now.

    → Should you need more digits, you could check out our article on French numbers. You’ll find everything you need to count from zero to infinity! It’s available for free on FrenchPod101.com.

  • 0        Zéro
  • 1        Un
  • 2        Deux
  • 3        Trois
  • 4        Quatre
  • 5        Cinq
  • 6        Six
  • 7        Sept
  • 8        Huit
  • 9        Neuf
  • 10       Dix

4. Nouns

As a beginner, your basic French vocabulary arsenal should consist of the most common nouns in various categories. Knowing these alone will allow you to communicate basic ideas in a pinch. 

French nouns can be masculine or feminine, and you can generally determine which gender a word is based on the ending. However, because you don’t want to think about it in the middle of a conversation or get tricked by exceptions, the best way to learn nouns is to always use the article.

  • Train Un train (“A train”)
  • Voiture Une voiture (“A car”)

In the following list, I’ll mention the article for each word. In case the plural is irregular, I will include that as well. For every other word, the general rules apply.

  • Un train, des trains (“Train, trains”)
  • Une voiture, des voitures (“Car, cars”)
  • Un mois, des mois (“Month, months”)

For more information on the gender and plural of French nouns, we just happen to have a detailed article on FrenchPod101.com.

1 – Time

une heurean hour
une minutea minute
un joura day
un moisa month
un an / une annéea year
An is mainly used with numbers, as in:
  • J’ai 20 ans. (“I’m 20 years old.”)
  • Deux fois par an (“Twice a year”)

Année
is used in most other cases: 
  • L’année prochaine (“Next year”)
  • Chaque année (“Every year”)
un lundiMonday
un mardiTuesday
un mercrediWednesday
un jeudiThursday
un vendrediFriday
un samediSaturday
un dimancheSunday
un matinmorning
un midinoon
un après-midiafternoon
un soirevening
une nuitnight

2 – Places

un mondeworld
un payscountry
un endroitplace
une mersea
une forêtforest
une montagnemountain
un magasinshop

3 – Technology & Internet

un téléphonephone
un écranscreen
un ordinateurcomputer
internetinternet

4 – Home

une maisonhouse
une portedoor
une fenêtrewindow
une cuisinekitchen
une chambrebedroom
des toilettestoilets / restroom

5 – City & Transport

une voiturecar
un busbus
un traintrain
un avionplane
un taxitaxi / cab
un vélobicycle
une villecity
une ruestreet
une avenueavenue
une routeroad

6 – People

une mèremother
un pèrefather
MamanMom
PapaDad
une femmewoman / wife
un hommeman
un marihusband
un frèrebrother
une sœursister
une famillefamily
une copinegirlfriend
un copainboyfriend
un filsson
une filledaughter
un amifriend

7 – Body

une têtehead
un œil / des yeuxeye / eyes
une bouchemouth
un neznose
une oreilleear
des cheveuxhair
un brasarm
une mainhand

8 – Food

une tabletable
une assietteplate
un verreglass
de l’eauwater
un fruitfruit
un légumevegetable
un cafécoffee
du painbread

9 – Work & Studies

un étudiantstudent
une écoleschool
un docteurdoctor
un vendeursalesman / vendor / seller
un professeurprofessor

10 – Conversation

une questionquestion
une réponseanswer
un motword
une phrasephrase / sentence
une idéeidea

A Man at the Subway Station Reviewing Vocabulary on His Tablet

There is always a bit of time to review vocabulary lists.

5. Conjunctions

There’s a LOT to say and explain about conjunctions, but luckily, you don’t need to use many of them when you start learning French.

    → Later on, though, have a look at our complete guide on French conjunctions to learn everything about how to list things, express conditions, state consequences, and much more.

  • et (“and”)
    Un chat et un chien (“A cat and a dog”)

  • ou (“or”)
    De l’eau ou du vin (“Water or wine”)

  • si (“if”)
    Si tu veux venir (“If you want to come”)
  • parce que (“because”)
    Je mange parce que j’ai faim. (“I eat because I’m hungry.”)
  • mais (“but”)
    Un peu mais pas trop (“A bit, but not too much”)
  • pour (“for” / “to” / “so that”)
    J’apprends le français pour voyager. (“I learn French to travel.”)
    C’est pour toi. (“It’s for you.”)
  • par (“by” / “out of” / “with” / “using” / “through”)
    Je suis aidé par un expert. (“I’m helped by an expert.”)
    Je passe par Paris et Bordeaux. (“I go through Paris and Bordeaux.”)

A Cat and a Dog

Un chat et un chien (“A cat and a dog”)

6. Adjectives

French adjectives must agree in gender and number with the noun they describe. In this table, you’ll find both genders in the format [ Masculine – Feminine ], as they can get quite irregular. If you see only one, it just means that the masculine and feminine forms are identical.

Plurals, on the other hand, are rather predictable and follow the general rules of the French plural.

    → You might want to check out a more detailed article on French adjectives for more grammar info and examples.

bon – bonnegood / right / correct
mauvais – mauvaisebad / wrong / incorrect
facileeasy
difficiledifficult / hard
nouveau – nouvellenew
cher – chèreexpensive
grand – grandelarge / big / tall / great / major
gros – grossebig / fat
petit – petitesmall / little
long – longuelong
court – courteshort
rapidefast / quick
lent – lenteslow
chaud – chaudehot / warm
froid – froidecold
premier – premièrefirst
dernier – dernièrelast / final / latest
mêmesame
autreother
différent – différentedifferent
seul – seuleonly / alone / lonely
meilleur – meilleurebest / better
pireworst
beau – bellehandsome / beautiful
mocheugly
fort – fortestrong / high / important
gentil – gentillenice / kind
fou – follecrazy / mad
content – contenteglad
maladesick / ill
important – importanteimportant
noir – noireblack
blanc – blanchewhite
bleu – bleueblue
rougered
sucré – sucréesweet
salé – saléesalty
délicieux – délicieusedelicious

A Woman Biting into a Tart

Cette tarte est délicieuse ! (“This tart is delicious!”)

7. Adverbs

If you need a reminder on what adverbs are, how they’re formed, and where to place them in a sentence, I would recommend a pit stop at our extensive article on French adverbs.

1 – When

tardlate
tôtearly
bientôtsoon
hieryesterday
aujourd’huitoday
demaintomorrow
avantbefore
aprèsafter

2 – How Often

jamaisnever
troptoo much
souventoften
toujoursalways
peut-êtremaybe
aussias well / too / also

3 – Where

icihere
there
partouteverywhere
dedansinside
dehorsoutside

4 – How

bienwell
malbadly / poorly
vitequickly

5 – How Much

vraimenttruly / really
toutall / everything
riennothing
beaucoupmany / much / a lot
seulementonly
peulittle / few
trèsvery / really
plusmore
moinsless

A Zombie Coming Toward the Camera

Il a très faim ! (“He’s really hungry!”)

8. Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you’ve learned more than 200 of the most useful French words for beginners: pronouns, verbs, nouns, adjectives, and all that jazz. As you keep learning French, you might find it handy to have them all conveniently gathered in one place.

Can you think of any more words you might need to know as you start your language learning journey? Let us know in the comments and we’ll get back to you!

Make sure to explore FrenchPod101.com, as we have plenty of free resources to help you practice your grammar and learn more basic French words and structures. Our vocabulary lists are another great way to learn and review the pronunciation of new words.

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching with your own private teacher. They can help you practice with beginner words and more. In addition to providing you with assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples, your teacher will review your work and help improve your pronunciation. 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101!

About the Author: Born and bred in rainy Northern France, Cyril Danon was bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the world. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

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Top 10 French Filler Words: Maximum Frenchness!

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Have you ever started a conversation in a foreign language, believing you could handle it, only to end up puzzled and confused with the abundance of mysterious and seemingly unnecessary sounds that no academic learning could have prepared you for?

Like all languages, real-life spoken French is quite different from what you learn in grammar books. It’s littered with weird “filler words” that easily get in the way when you’re trying to follow a complicated conversation.

French filler words are short and meaningless words or sounds we use to fill the gaps. They can get rather irritating, but on the bright side, mastering these filler words in French will allow you to sound even ‘Frencher’ than locals.

In this article, you’ll learn how to use the most common French filler words and phrases. We’ll also discuss why you should consider using them (within reason). Get your Uh and your Um ready, and let’s dive in.

A Man with a Very Confused and Frustrated Look on His Face

The first time you hear: “Alors, euh…tu vois, quoi.”

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Why Do We Use Filler Words?
  2. Top 10 French Filler Words
  3. Pros and Cons of Filler Words
  4. Le mot de la fin

1. Why Do We Use Filler Words?

We’ve all met like…that person that…like…uses filler words, like…at least twice per sentence. Are they looking for the right word or thinking about what to say next? And why does it sound so bad when used in excess?

Filler words add no meaning to a sentence. They are trivial sounds or pieces of speech—the “um” and “uh” of most conversations—but that doesn’t mean they serve no purpose and should be removed entirely.

French filler words can have various functions:

  • To give you a moment to think about what you want to say or how you want to phrase it
  • To let others know that you’re not finished yet, and that even if you’ve paused for a second, you have more to say
  • To emphasize something, or to stress the importance of what you’ve just said

Some filler words can be used in any situation, while others should be avoided in formal contexts. In the following section, I’ll add a note when that’s the case.

2. Top 10 French Filler Words

#1

FrenchLiterallyEnglish equivalent
Euh…“Uh…”

Euh is possibly the most overused filler sound in French, and I can guarantee that you’ll hear a LOT of it when talking with locals, in informal and formal settings alike.

Just like its English equivalent, you can use it to mark a pause and reflect on life for a moment, as your companions patiently wait for what’s coming next, hanging on your every word.

Je voudrais acheter du lait et, euh…des œufs. (“I would like to buy some milk and, uh…eggs.”)
Euh…je sais pas quoi dire. (“Uh…I don’t know what to say.”)
C’est euh…la première porte à droite. (“It’s, uh…the first door on your right.”)

    → Are you spending too much time looking for the right word when you’re in a shop? Stop by our Shopping vocabulary list, or learn essential words for Shopping Downtown.
A Couple and Their Child Standing at a Counter in the Deli Section of a Grocery Store

Je voudrais des œufs et…euh… (“I would like some eggs and…uh…”)

#2

FrenchLiterallyEnglish equivalent
Quoi“What”“You know”

Although quoi literally means “what,” it has a whole different meaning when it’s not used as a question word. We use it at the end of a sentence to emphasize what we’re saying and make it sound like an obvious truth.

This is especially ubiquitous in northern France, but you could hear it pretty much anywhere. It’s better to avoid it in very formal settings such as a job interview, as it sounds a bit too laid back (even if most people wouldn’t even notice it on a conscious level).

Cette équipe gagne à chaque fois. C’est les meilleurs, quoi. (“This team wins every time. They are the best, you know.”)
1000€ pour ça ? C’est trop cher, quoi.
(“1000€ for that? It’s too expensive, you know.”)
J’étais fatigué. J’en avais marre, quoi. (“I was tired. I had enough of it, you know.”)

#3

FrenchLiterallyEnglish equivalent
Hein ?“What?”“Right?” / “Isn’t it?”

Outside of its function as a filler word, hein is a very informal version of quoi (“what”) that you can use when you don’t understand something or can’t believe what you’ve heard.

– On part dans dix minutes. (“We’re leaving in ten minutes.”)
– Hein ? (“What?”)

As a filler word, it’s used to emphasize a question, making it sound like something you believe is correct. You’re asking the other person for confirmation. 

Tu pars bientôt, hein ? (“You’re leaving soon, aren’t you?”)
C’était une bonne soirée, hein ? (“That was a nice evening, right?”)

#4

FrenchLiterallyEnglish equivalent
Ben / Bah / Beh“Well”

Ben is a shortened version of bien (“well” / “good”) and can be used as a filler word at the beginning of a sentence, or somewhere in the middle, just like euh (“uh”).

There are a few variations of this common French filler—ben, bah, beh—that can all serve the same two functions:
  • To emphasize the meaning of something (sort of like saying “duh” to express that you believe something is obvious)
  • To express indecision, just like euh or a reluctant “well”

– Tu aimes le fromage ? (“Do you like cheese?”)
– Bah bien sûr ! (“Duh, of course!”)

– Tu aimes le vin ? (“Do you like wine?”)
– Bah… je sais pas. (“Well, I don’t know.”)

– Le film, beh…c’était pas terrible. (“The movie, well…it wasn’t amazing.”)
– Ben non, c’était mauvais ! (“Well no, it was bad!”)

#5

FrenchLiterallyEnglish equivalent
En fait“In fact”“Actually”

This is literally “in fact,” and it can be used in a similar fashion. I’m personally guilty of overusing it, even though I’m well aware it’s not bringing anything meaningful to the table. 

It can be used in various places within a sentence and it’s very close to the English filler “actually.”

Mais, en fait, j’en achète tout le temps. (“But, actually, I buy it all the time.”)
En fait, je préfère manger dehors. (“In fact, I prefer to eat outside.”)
Je suis venu mais en fait, il n’y avait personne. (“I came, but actually, there was nobody.”)

A Woman Ordering from the Meat Section of a Store

Je vais prendre des saucisses, en fait. (“I’ll take some sausages, actually.”)

#6

FrenchLiterallyEnglish equivalent
Bon“Well”“Well” / “So”

Bon is a close equivalent of the English “well.” It can be used either to emphasize a sentence or, less commonly, to express impatience like “so” does in English. 

Bon, ça t’a plu ? (“Well, did you like it?”)
Bon, on commence quand ? (“So, when do we start?”)
Bon, je ne suis pas vraiment convaincu. (“Well, I’m not really convinced.”)

#7

FrenchLiterallyEnglish equivalent
Genre“Type” / “Kind”“Like”

Literally, genre means “kind” as in: “It’s a kind of cake.” (C’est un genre de gâteau.

As a filler word, it does not convey any specific meaning but rather expresses some sort of indecision.

Ça se mange, genre…avec une sauce. (“It’s eaten, like…with a sauce.”)
Il faudrait partir, genre…vers 20h. (“We should go, like…around 8 p.m.”)

#8

FrenchLiterallyEnglish equivalent
Enfin“Finally” / “At last”“Well”

Enfin is the literal combination of en and fin (“in end”):

J’ai enfin vu ce film. (“I have finally watched that movie.”)

As a filler word, it’s closer to “anyway” or “well,” and it stresses the phrase it’s attached to.

It can also be combined with bref (“anyway”), and the result enfin bref would roughly translate to “long story short.”

Enfin, tu vois ce que je veux dire. (“Well, you know what I mean.”)
Il y avait de la bonne bouffe et de la bonne musique. Enfin bref, c’était une super soirée. (“There was great food and good music. Long story short, it was a great night!”)

#9

FrenchLiterally and English equivalent
Tu sais / Tu vois“You know” / “You see”

This is generally used at the end of the sentence as a question, even though it’s not necessarily pronounced as such and can be said like a statement. Also, this is a rhetorical question and the speaker does not expect to get an answer.

It’s quite casual, though it wouldn’t be considered rude to say the formal variations vous voyez (“you see”) and vous savez (“you know”) in a formal setting.

C’est vraiment difficile, tu vois. (“It’s really difficult, you see.”)
J’aimerais beaucoup venir, tu sais. (“I would love to come, you know.”)
C’est un produit très efficace, vous savez. (“It’s a very effective product, you know.”)

A Man at a Coffee Shop Flirting with a Woman Sitting Across from Him

T’es mignonne, tu sais. (“You’re cute, you know.”)

#10

FrenchLiterallyEnglish equivalent
Alors“Then”“So” / “Well”

Alors is a very common filler word in French that’s often used to draw attention to your next sentence. You can use it to get the other person’s attention or before changing the topic.

You can use it in formal or informal situations, and as opposed to euh, quoi, or ben, it will not sound like you’re slow or indecisive. Rather, it will sound like you’re giving your speech some structure.

Alors, quoi de neuf ? (“So, what’s up?”)
Alors, qu’est-ce vous voulez commander ? (“So, what do you want to order?”)
Alors, voyons voir qui est arrivé. (“Well, let’s see who has arrived.”)

3. Pros and Cons of Filler Words

As you can see, this was a fairly short list and lots of these basic French filler words have a similar function. It makes filler words quite easy to pick up once you wrap your head around their very concept. Should you really use them, though?

1 – Sound Like a Local

When you start using filler words, it will instantly boost how “authentic” you sound. Most people might not even realize it, but it will have an effect on how they perceive you and your speech. 

If you’ve attained a beginner or intermediate level of French, using filler words correctly will make you sound a bit cooler and might boost your confidence.

As an advanced learner, you’re getting one step closer to truly blending in. If your pronunciation is good enough, you could even start fooling your new local friends by sounding just like a native French speaker.

2 – Why You Shouldn’t Overuse Them

However, this is a double-edged sword and if you overdo it, it might make you sound too hesitant or less confident. I’ve been on the hiring side of job interviews, and hearing a candidate constantly mumble Euh… in every single sentence doesn’t make for a good impression.

Conveniently, you don’t have to substitute filler words with anything, because they don’t add any meaning to begin with. You can simply cut them from your speech and you’ll be just fine. 

There are also a few tricks that will buy you some time to gather your thoughts while making you sound smarter than using euh or genre would. 

  • Euh…. je crois que c’est là bas. (“Uh… I think it’s over there.”)
    • Mmmh… je crois que c’est par là. (“Mmh… I think it’s over there.”)
    • Voyons voir… je crois que c’est par là. (“Let’s see… I think it’s over there.”)
    • Laissez-moi réfléchir… je crois que c’est par là. (“Let me think… I think it’s over there.”)

As long as you’re relaxed enough, you can just embrace the pause and build some suspense while pausing to collect your thoughts. Great public speakers often pause for several seconds, to great effect. You won’t hear them dragging on an “Uh….” as they carefully think about their next words.

A Woman Thinking in Front of a Blackboard that Has a Thought Bubble Drawn on It

Voyons voir… (“Let’s see…”)

4. Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about French filler words: what they are, how to use them in a sentence, and what the most popular filler words in French are. We’ve also discussed why you might want to use them and how to refrain from overdoing it.

Did any of these filler words catch you by surprise? Let us know which ones in the comments!

A couple of good ways to practice French filler words are to focus on one or two words at a time and to start paying attention to how locals use them. You can do this during a conversation or by watching videos or listening to podcasts. Then, once you feel like you’ve got the hang of it, you could try using them yourself and let the magic happen.

FrenchPod101 also has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings as well as other free resources to boost your studies and keep your French learning fresh and entertaining! 

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching with a private teacher who can help you practice filler words and so much more. In addition to giving you personalized assignments and exercises, your teacher will record audio samples just for you and review your work to help you improve every day. 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon had been bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust over the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

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How to Say “I Love You” in French

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Did you know that the French language does not differentiate between “love” and “like”? When you say J’aime le fromage, it means that you like cheese. But if you say Je t’aime, it stands for “I love you” in French and certainly not just “I like you.”

This might be one of the reasons why the French are known to be rather quick about saying “I love you.” Unlike other cultures, they don’t necessarily mean that they want to get married and spend the rest of their days with the person, but more like they really like the person and love spending time together.

But I’m getting ahead of myself! In this guide, we’ll talk about love, of course, but also about flirting and seduction—from first contact to sweet talk for lovebirds—staying in touch, and spicing things up. We’ve even included a bonus section on the most infamous love quotes that you should never use.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. First Contact
  2. Keep in Touch
  3. Take it to the Next Level
  4. Let’s Meet Again
  5. You’re in Love
  6. Bonus: The Worst French Love Phrases
  7. Le mot de la fin

Four People Making Heart Signs with Their Hands

All you need is love!

1. First Contact

Have you just seen the stylish guy over there with the stubble and fancy scarf? Or maybe you’re looking at the Mediterranean-looking girl with olive skin, high cheekbones, and dark hair? 

If you’ve just gotten a crush on someone and want to make first contact, this is where we start. 

In the following sentences—and throughout this guide—we’ll assume you’re in an informal setting such as a bar or a club, and using the casual tu (informal “you”) instead of the polite vous (formal “you”).

Tu viens souvent ici ?“Do you come here often?”

Tu veux danser ?
Tu veux danser avec moi ?
“Do you want to dance?”
“Do you want to dance with me?”

Je t’offre un verre ?“Can I buy you a drink?”
In France, men are not expected to pay for everything and it’s common for couples on a date to split the bill. It’s perfectly fine to buy a girl a drink, but you should not feel obligated to do so. 

It’s more unusual for a girl to buy a guy a drink, but you’re sure to make an impression simply for being different.

Tu es venu(e) avec ton copain ?
Tu es venu(e) avec ta copine ?
“Did you come with your boyfriend?”
“Did you come with your girlfriend?”
This is a not-so-subtle way to ask someone if they’re single. 

If you want to be even more straightforward, you could ask: Tu es célibataire ? (“Are you single?”)

A Guy Trying to Talk to a Girl at a Bar

Tu veux danser ? (“Do you wanna dance?”)

2. Keep in Touch

Now that you’ve made first contact, let’s imagine that you both had a good time and you want to spend more time with your potential date. You could set the next date right away or just smoothly get their phone number.

Si on prenait un verre un de ces quatre ?“What about having a drink one of these days?”
Un de ces quatre (literally: “One of these four”) is the short version of Un de ces quatre matins (“One of these four mornings”). It describes a short, undefined amount of time, such as “a few days,” and adds an element of uncertainty (it might just not happen at all).

Je peux t’inviter à dîner ?“Can I invite you for dinner?”
Like I mentioned before, it’s not necessarily up to the man to pay the bill and it’s not expected “by default.” However, this shouldn’t keep you from inviting someone for dinner, which implies that you’ll be paying.

Je voudrais te revoir.
J’aimerais bien te revoir.
“I’d like to see you again.”

Je peux te donner mon numéro ?“Can I give you my number?”
Why give your number instead of asking for his/hers?

Aside from being more courteous, giving your number first is a way to show interest right away. Then, if you’ve made a good impression and your potential date is interested, they’ll either return the favor right away or call you later. 

Just be cool about it and accept that it might not happen.


A Number with the Name Sarah

Je peux te donner mon numéro ? (“Can I give you my number?”)

3. Take it to the Next Level

Did you score that second date? Or a third, or more? Whether it’s your first or your tenth, if you feel like it’s time to shift into high gear, I’ve got you covered with these romantic French phrases: 

Tu veux sortir prendre l’air ?“Do you wanna get some fresh air?”
“Do you wanna get out?”
This is a rather casual request and a great way to see whether the person is interested in spending a bit of time alone with you, without having them commit to anything more.

On va dans un endroit plus tranquille ?“Do you wanna go somewhere quieter?”
It’s getting more serious than just sortir prendre l’air.

Je te raccompagne ?“Can I take you home?”
As early as the first date, you can ask her if you can take her home (it’s most commonly a guy thing). It doesn’t need to have any hidden meaning and you shouldn’t be offended if she declines.

You’ll be showing good manners by offering, but keep in mind that your partner is not committing to anything, such as letting you in.

Tu veux entrer prendre un verre ?“Do you want to come in for a drink?”
This is often seen as a seduction technique, but you shouldn’t necessarily read too much into it.

If you’re made such an offer and are willing to accept it, only assume that you’re going in for the drink and the conversation. Your partner is not committing to anything else for now.

Tu me plais.“I like you.”
This is more than “I like you.” You’d rarely say this to a friend and it’s more often used toward a partner or a romantic interest. It can also express physical attraction.

J’ai envie de toi.“I want you.”
This one is rather self-explanatory.


A Couple being Intimate

J’ai envie de toi. (“I want you.”)

4. Let’s Meet Again

When you’re seeing someone and would like to spend more time together, you should probably let them know. Here are a few ways to express it:

Tu me manques.“I miss you.”
This is a peculiar and cute feature of the French language.

Unlike in English, where missing someone is a direct action toward the person, the French version literally means “You are missing from me,” or “I’m missing you,” (in the same way that a dish would “miss” salt or pepper). Missing a person is like missing a part of yourself.

On se revoit bientôt ?“Are we meeting again soon?”

J’ai hâte de te revoir. “I can’t wait to see you again.”

Je voudrais passer plus de temps avec toi.
J’aimerais passer plus de temps avec toi.
“I’d like to spend more time with you.”

Je pense toujours à toi.
Je n’arrête pas de penser à toi.
“I’m still thinking about you.”
“I can’t stop thinking about you.”

A Boy and Girl Dating

On se revoit bientôt ? (“Are we meeting again soon?”)

5. You’re in Love

There you are: You’re now completely head over heels, madly in love with your French date or partner, and you want to confess your love…or maybe tell your most trusted friends about it. Here are some French love words and phrases you can use to do so.

Je t’aime.“I love you.”
Even though we don’t have a clear distinction between “like” and “love” like English does, there are some ways to express the different levels of affection:

Je t’aime bien (“I like you”) [Friendly]
Je t’aime (“I love you”) [Romantic]
Je t’adore (“I adore you”) [Could be friendly or romantic]

For more information on the many shades of aimer (“to love” / “to like”), make sure to stop by the fifth chapter of our article on the Top 10 French Sentence Patterns.

Je suis fou de toi.
Je suis folle de toi.
“I’m crazy about you.” [Speaker is male]
“I’m crazy about you.” [Speaker is female]

Tu es beau.
Tu es belle.
“You’re beautiful.” [The other person is male]
“You’re beautiful.” [The other person is female]

Mon amour
Mon chéri
Ma chérie
“My love”
“My dear” / “My darling” [Male]
“My dear” / “My darling” [Female]
These are just a few popular French terms of endearment, but there are many more: mon cœur (literally: “my heart”), mon bébé (“my baby”), mon chaton (“my kitten”). It’s all a matter of preference.

Je suis tombé amoureux.
Je suis tombée amoureuse.
“I’ve fallen in love.” [Speaker is male]
“I’ve fallen in love.” [Speaker is female]

J’ai eu un coup de foudre.“I’ve had a crush.”
This literally means that you’ve been struck by lightning. We generally use it to describe “love at first sight”: a very strong and immediate attraction.


A Middle-aged Couple Embracing Each Other Romantically

Je t’aime. (“I love you.”)

6. Bonus: The Worst French Love Phrases

Do you feel like you’re too handsome and charming for your own good and you’re growing tired of constantly attracting the people around you?

Here is a collection of the most infamous French love quotes that remain inexplicably popular. You can use them if you want to make sure you’ll stay single.

T’as d’beaux yeux, tu sais.“You have beautiful eyes, you know.”
A famous quote from the movie Le Quai des Brumes (1938) with Jean Gabin and Michèle Morgan. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the quote, but it has been overused to the point where it sounds silly.

T’es bien charmante mademoiselle.“You’re very charming, miss.”
If you’ve been to Paris, you might have bumped into one of these groups of small-time dodgy-looking youngsters trying to act tough.

If you’re a woman, they would most likely whistle at you and throw a bunch of distasteful comments in some futile attempt to look witty and seductive. This quote is rather harmless, but most French girls would run away at the sound of it.

Lâche ton 06.“Give me your mobile number.”
Literally: “Drop your 06.” It’s a reference to the first digits that all French mobile phone numbers used to start with.

This is what generally comes after the T’es bien charmante and some more naughty comments. For the same reason, you should only use it to get rid of someone, or humoristically.

J’te kiffe bébé.“I’m into you baby.”
Kiffer (“to like” / “to love”) is the slang equivalent of aimer.

Ton père est un voleur. Il a volé toutes les étoiles du ciel pour les mettre dans tes yeux.“Your father is a thief. He stole all the stars from the sky to put them in your eyes.”
If you want the cheesiest of all French love phrases, look no further.

Man and Woman Staring Each Other

T’as d’beaux yeux, tu sais. (“You have beautiful eyes, you know.”)

7. Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you’ve learned how to say “I love you,” in French and how to use the most common and useful French love phrases. From the early flirting lines to intimate whispers and ardent confessions of love, you now have some phrases for every step of the way.

Did we forget any important love phrases you know? Don’t hesitate to share them in the comments below!

Make sure to explore FrenchPod101, as we have plenty of free resources for you to practice your grammar and learn new words. Our vocabulary lists are also a great way to review the words and learn their pronunciation.

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching with your own private teacher who can help you practice. In addition to giving you assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples, your teacher will review your work and help you improve your pronunciation. Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon has been bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French

Negation in French: How to Say No and Deny Everything

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Have you ever paid attention to all those books about The Gentle Art of Saying No, The Power of a Positive No, How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty, and many more? 

Based on these titles, it would seem that there’s something inherently difficult about saying no. In fact, it could even be considered rude, insensitive, or socially disruptive…

…unless you happen to be in France! Here, you can safely say no to most questions without the need to carefully sugarcoat it. 

Negation in French is rather similar to that in English, and once you’ve mastered the most basic structures, it shouldn’t give you any trouble.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to do negation in French. We’ll cover everything from the fundamentals to the more advanced rules, providing you with a list of the most useful negative words in French and examples of how to use them in sentences.

A Woman Holding Her Palms Out in Front of Her to Say No or Stop

Non, pas du tout. (“No, not at all.”)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. The Basics of Negation
  2. More Negative Words
  3. Important Negation Rules
  4. Negative Questions
  5. Negative Phrasebook
  6. Le mot de la fin

1. The Basics of Negation

There are four basic French negation words and phrase patterns you should become familiar with before moving forward. Here they are: 

A- Non (“No”)

Let’s kick off with something straightforward: Non is the French equivalent of “No,” and that’s pretty much all you need to know about it.

Tu aimes les films d’horreur ? (“Do you like horror movies?”)
Non. (“No.”)

The main difference between non and its English equivalent is that non is mainly used as a negative answer to a question.

For structures such as “I have no time,” we use: Ne… pas. (Je n’ai pas le temps.)

B- Ne… pas (“Don’t”)

There you have it: The bread and butter of negation in French. Ne… pas is a structure you’ll see and hear a lot as you learn French. 

The basic rule is to place ne and pas around the verb.

  • Je sais. (“I know.”)
    Je ne sais pas.
    (“I don’t know.”)

  • Je bois du vin. (“I drink this wine.”)
    Je ne bois pas de vin.
    (“I don’t drink this wine.”)

If you’ve ever used French verbs starting with a vowel sound, do you remember how the pronoun can adapt to make the sentence smoother?

Let’s take the verb aimer (“to love,” “to like”) with the pronoun je (“I”) for example:

Je + aime =
Je aime
J’aime (“I like”)

The same thing happens with Ne… pas, but this time, the Ne becomes N’:

  • J’aime la pluie. (“I like the rain.”)
    Je n’aime pas la pluie.
    (“I don’t like the rain.”)

  • J’écoute la radio. (“I listen to the radio.”)
    Je n’écoute pas la radio.
    (“I don’t listen to the radio.”)

C- Ne… plus (“Don’t… anymore”)

This structure is very similar to Ne… pas and shortens the pronoun in the same way.

  • Je sais. (“I know.”)
    Je ne sais plus. (“I don’t know anymore.” / “I don’t remember.”)

  • J’écoute la radio. (“I listen to the radio.”)
    Je n’écoute plus la radio. (“I don’t listen to the radio anymore.”)

D- Ne… que (“Only”)

Even though this is not a negative sentence per se, this structure uses Ne which might confuse you the first time you bump into it.

Ne… que follows the same structure as Ne… pas:

  • Je ne bois que du vin. (“I only drink wine.”)
  • Je n’invite que mes amis. (“I only invite my friends.”)

What we’re really saying is: 

  • “I don’t drink anything but wine.”
  • “I don’t invite anyone but my friends.”

Practice the basics of French negation with this free lesson on FrenchPod101.com.

A Woman Holding a Plate and Refusing a Sausage

Je ne mange pas de viande. (“I don’t eat meat.”)

2. More Negative Words

Of course, depending on how specific you want to be or the message you want to get across, there are a few more French words for negation you should have handy: 

A- Ni… ni (“Neither… nor”)

At first glance, Ni… ni is pretty easy to use.

  • Ni oui ni non (“Neither yes, nor no”)

Then, you can combine it with Ne or N’ to make a sentence. It forms kind of a double negation.

  • Je n’aime ni la pluie ni le soleil. (“I like neither the rain nor the sun.”)

You can add more ni if needed. In that case, you’d usually separate them with commas.

  • Je n’aime ni la pluie, ni le soleil, ni le brouillard. (“I like neither the rain, nor the sun, nor the fog.”)

Partitive articles (du, de la, des: “some”) and indefinite articles (un, une: “a”) are omitted when using Ni… ni.

  • J’ai un chat et un chien. (“I have a cat and a dog.”)
    Je n’ai ni chat ni chien. (“I have neither a cat nor a dog.”)

  • Je mange du pain et du fromage. (“I eat bread and cheese.”)
    Je ne mange ni pain ni fromage. (“I eat neither bread nor cheese.”)

B- Common Negative Words

Here are some more useful negative words and how to use them.

Jamais (“Never”)Je ne bois jamais de vin. (“I never drink wine.”)
Personne (“Nobody”)Personne n’écoute la radio. (“Nobody listens to the radio.”)
Je n’écoute personne. (“I don’t listen to anybody.”)
Rien (“Nothing”)Rien ne change. (“Nothing changes.”)
Je ne mange rien. (“I’m not eating anything.”)
Aucun(e) (“No,” “None”)Aucun problème. (“No problem.”) – With a masculine noun.
Tu n’as aucune preuve. (“You have no proof.”) – With a feminine noun.
Nulle part (“Nowhere”)Nulle part ailleurs. (“Nowhere else.”)
Je ne vais nulle part. (“I’m not going anywhere.”)

As you probably noticed, these words create lots of double negation, but this is perfectly fine in French.

  • Je ne mange rien. (Literally: “I don’t eat nothing.”)
  • Tu n’as aucune preuve. (Literally: “You don’t have no proof.”)

And of course, you can combine these negative words together for even more negation power!

  • Tu ne crois jamais personne. (“You never believe anyone.”)
  • Je ne fais jamais rien. (“I never do anything.”)
  • Il ne voit plus personne. (“He doesn’t see anybody anymore.”)
A Woman Scolding Her Coworker

Je n’aime ni le café ni les cravates ! (“I like neither coffee nor ties!”)

C- Old-fashioned Negation Words

Ne… point and Ne… guère are two literary words that you might find in classic books or academic writing, but never in a conversation (unless used in a quote, or humoristically).

In a sentence, they behave exactly like Ne… pas.

Point is the equivalent of “not at all.”

  • Je ne travaille point. (“I’m not working at all.”)

Guère is the equivalent of “not much,” “very rarely,” or “very few.”

  • Je ne travaille guère. (“I’m not working much.”)

Get more practice with these common negative words by learning to say what you will never do in French.

3. Important Negation Rules

Now that you know the basics and have a collection of negative words at your disposal, it’s time to go deeper and learn the most important French negation rules. 

A- Compound Tenses

Compound tenses, like the passé composé, combine two verbs: Auxiliary verb + Verb.

  • Elle a mangé. (“She has eaten.”) – Auxiliary avoir + manger
  • Elle est partie. (“She has left.”) – Auxiliary être + partir

You know that the basic rule is to place ne and pas around the verb, right? With compound tenses, we place them around the first verb: the auxiliary.

  • Elle n’a pas mangé. (“She has not eaten.”)
  • Elle n’est pas partie. (“She has not left.”)

Is it still confusing? Let’s see more examples:

Présent (Present)Passé composé (Present perfect)
Je mange. (“I eat.”)
Je ne mange pas.
(“I don’t eat.”)
J’ai mangé. (“I have eaten.”)
Je n’ai pas mangé. (“I haven’t eaten.”)
J’écoute la radio. (“I listen to the radio.”)
Je n’écoute pas la radio.
(“I don’t listen to the radio.”)
J’ai écouté la radio. (“I have listened to the radio.”)
Je n’ai pas écouté la radio. (“I haven’t listened to the radio.”)
Je ne mange rien. (“I don’t eat anything.”)Je n’ai rien mangé. (“I haven’t eaten anything.”)
Je ne bois jamais de vin. (“I never drink wine.”)Je n’ai jamais bu de vin. (“I’ve never drunk wine.”)
Elle ne mange ni pain ni fromage. (“She eats neither bread nor cheese.”)Elle n’a mangé ni pain ni fromage. (“She has eaten neither bread nor cheese.”)

B- Undefined Articles

Partitive articles (du, de la, des: “some”) and indefinite articles (un, une: “a”) are usually replaced with de in negative sentences.

  • Je bois de la bière. (“I drink beer.”)
    Je ne bois pas de bière. (“I don’t drink beer.”)

  • Nous avons des gâteaux. (“We have cakes.”)
    Nous n’avons pas de gâteaux. (“We don’t have cakes.”)

  • Elle a un chat. (“She has a cat.”)
    Elle n’a pas de chat. (“She doesn’t have a cat.”)

  • Elle porte une robe. (“She’s wearing a dress.”)
    Elle ne porte pas de robe. (“She’s not wearing a dress.”)

This rule doesn’t apply to Ne… que, as it’s not strictly a negative expression.

  • Je mange du fromage. (“I eat cheese.”)
    Je ne mange pas de fromage. (“I don’t eat cheese.”)
    Je ne mange que du fromage. (“I only eat cheese.”)

Someone Refusing a Mug of Beer

Je ne bois pas de bière. (“I don’t drink beer.”)

C- Negation of the Infinitive

In a negative sentence with an infinitive verb, Ne and pas are placed together before the verb.

  • Elle m’a dit de ne pas faire ça. (“She told me not to do that.”)
  • Merci de ne pas utiliser l’ascenseur. (“Thank you for not using the elevator.”)

D- Oral Shortcuts

In spoken French, it’s very common to skip the Ne entirely. Only the Pas remains to express the negation.

Unless you’re in a formal setting such as a job interview or a business meeting, you should drop it or it will sound either foreign or uptight.

  • Written: Je ne sais pas. (“I don’t know.”) [Formal]
    Spoken: Je sais pas. (“I don’t know.”) [Casual]

  • Written: Je n’aime pas la pluie. (“I don’t like the rain.”)
    Spoken: J’aime pas la pluie. (“I don’t like the rain.”)

4. Negative Questions

Conveniently, negative questions follow the same rules as declarative sentences. They use the same words, structure, order, and so on.

In French, there are two ways you can form a given question. With that in mind, the French negation structures for questions are as follows:

Normal / Casual:

  • Ils ont un chat ? or Est-ce qu’ils ont un chat ? (“Do they have a cat?”)
  • Ils n’ont pas de chat ? (“Don’t they have a cat?”)

Written / Formal: [with inversion of subject and verb]

  • Ont-ils un chat ? (“Do they have a cat?”)
  • N’ont-ils pas un chat ? (“Don’t they have a cat?”)

In the following table, I will focus on the casual style which is much more common. The inversion of subject and verb is barely ever used in spoken French, even in formal professional settings.

StatementQuestion
Vous écoutez la radio. (“You are listening to the radio.”)
Vous n’écoutez pas la radio.
(“You are not listening to the radio.”)
Vous écoutez la radio ? (“Are you listening to the radio?”)
Vous n’écoutez pas la radio ? (“Aren’t you listening to the radio?”)
Vous avez écouté la radio. (“You have listened to the radio.”)
Vous n’avez pas écouté la radio. (“You haven’t listened to the radio.”)
Vous avez écouté la radio ? (“Have you listened to the radio?”)
Vous n’avez pas écouté la radio ? (“Haven’t you listened to the radio?”)
Elle ne boit jamais de vin. (“She never drinks wine.”)Elle ne boit jamais de vin ? (“Does she never drink wine?”)
    → Do you need some French negation practice? Why not have a look at this intermediate lesson on negative phrases?
A Boy Listening to the Radio and Pretending to Drum

Il n’écoute pas la radio ? (“Doesn’t he listen to the radio?”)

5. Negative Phrasebook

Now that you’ve become quite knowledgeable about negation in French, let’s be more practical and look at the most common negative expressions you might want to remember.

  • De rien (“You’re welcome”)

    This is what you can answer when someone says Merci (“Thank you”).

    It uses the word rien (“nothing”), which we saw earlier. It literally means: “For nothing.”

  • Pas du tout (“Not at all”)

    You can use this expression as an answer to a question, or make sentences with it, such as:

    Je n’ai pas faim du tout. / Je n’ai pas du tout faim. (“I’m not hungry at all.”)
    Ce n’est pas du tout certain. (“This is not certain at all.”)

  • Pas encore (“Not yet”)

    Elle n’est pas encore partie. (“She hasn’t left yet.”)

  • Pas trop or Pas vraiment (“Not too,” “Not so,” “Not really”)

    Je n’ai pas trop faim. (“I’m not so hungry.”)
    Elle n’aime pas vraiment le fromage. (“She doesn’t really like cheese.”)

  • Ça ne fait rien. (“It doesn’t matter.”)

A bit more practice on the fundamentals of French negation? Stop by our free lesson to review the use of Ne… pas, indefinite articles, and more.

6. Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about negation in French, from basic negative expressions to more advanced rules and how to form negative questions. You’re also well-equipped now with a list of the most useful negative words in French.

Did I forget any important negative words that you know? Feel free to share it with your fellow students in the comments below!

FrenchPod101 also has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings and free resources to boost your studies and keep your French learning fresh and entertaining!

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching with a private teacher. He or she will help you practice negation (and much more!) through assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples to help you improve your pronunciation. 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon has been bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

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Why Learn French? 10 Reasons Why You Should Start Today.

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Why should people learn French, and more importantly, why should you? That’s a fair question to ask before committing your precious time and brainpower to the task.

If I were to learn another language, I’d personally pick something simple enough, widely spread across the globe, with a thriving culture and lots of business opportunities. Damn, I wish I could learn French again!

Whether you’re a travel lover, a people person, or a culture vulture, you’ll find many benefits in learning a new language—and French might be just the one for you.

In this article, we’ll go over the 10 main reasons why you should learn French for leisure (travel, friendship, entertainment) or business (quality studies, work opportunities). We’ll also discuss why it’s easier to learn than you might think.

A Couple Traveling with a Guidebook and Backpacks

Travel opportunities are a good reason to learn a language.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. It’s the perfect language for travel lovers.
  2. You’ll be able to make real connections with French people.
  3. You’ll start to enjoy the French culture in its original version.
  4. Learning French will give you a deeper understanding of English.
  5. France is known for its cheap (yet high-quality) studies.
  6. Once you’ve worked in France, there’s no going back.
  7. French is one of the top languages for business.
  8. French is growing faster than you think.
  9. Get ready to show off at dinner parties.
  10. French is pretty easy to learn.
  11. Le mot de la fin

1 – It’s the perfect language for travel lovers.

A- French is everywhere…

French is a widespread language with native speakers all over the world

With close to 300 million speakers in 27 different countries, it’s also the only language to be spoken across all 5 continents. Belgium, Switzerland, Quebec, a big chunk of Africa, French Guiana, and lots of heavenly tropical islands, you name it!

Learning French will open up many places where you’ll be able to travel with peace of mind, knowing you’ve overcome the language barrier. It’s also the second most widely learned language in the world, making it a big asset for travelers, wherever they go!

B- Especially in France!

So many countries, but nothing beats good ol’ France!

This is such a beautiful country with a wide variety of landscapes, from lush forests to snow-capped mountains and glaciers, dramatic cliff sides, sleeping volcanoes, and don’t even get me started on the Mediterranean coast.

And it’s not just the natural wonders one has to look forward to: Cities and towns feature a unique blend of architectural styles, thanks to centuries of history. There’s a reason why France is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations, with over 80 million visitors per year.

Oh, and one more thing…

You might think that in this day and age, you’ll always find someone who speaks English, right? That’s not necessarily true in France, as we’re known for lagging behind most of our European neighbors. 

Are you sure you want to rely on the waiter’s dubious English when ordering delicious French food in a restaurant?


The Saone River at Night in Lyon, France

French architecture rarely disappoints.

2 – You’ll be able to make real connections with French people.

When you learn a language, even if you’re just focusing on practical topics such as grammar and vocabulary, you’ll get to learn more about the culture and way of thinking of its native speakers.

Without getting too philosophical, let’s just say that our thoughts are shaped by our language, and vice-versa. As a result, simply learning the language is an open window to the French culture and way of life!

More prosaically, learning French will help you make genuine connections with native French speakers, whether you meet them in your country or as you travel and spend time with the locals.

You’ll get a better understanding of how they think, what drives them, and what all the fuss over this Art de Vivre (“Art of Living”) is about. Okay, I can answer that one for you: Our boundless love for tasty food and good wine. Sounds interesting, right?

3 – You’ll start to enjoy the French culture in its original version.

One of the best reasons to study French—especially if you have a deep appreciation of world cultures and world-class entertainment—is that France has a whole lot of both. 

A- Timeless classics

Sure, France is a rather small country. It’s not the biggest superpower in terms of its economy or military. But when it comes to soft power and international aura, it’s a cultural superpower with outstanding contributions to art, fashion, cuisine, and entertainment.

France is the birthplace of some of the most fascinating and influential artists of the last few centuries.

Just to name a few, from classic French literature:

And in the visual arts, we have eminent painters including:


B- Cinema, music, comics

What better way to learn a language than to immerse yourself in its entertainment industry? By watching movies, reading comics, or listening to music in French, you’ll combine study with pleasure and make progress faster! 

And you’re in luck because the French entertainment industries are thriving. There are lots of new interesting French movies and series released every single year, French music record companies are booming, and 2020 was proclaimed “The Year of Comics” by our local ministry of culture.

You could start watching movies with original French audio and English subtitles. Then, as you get more and more comfortable with the language, you could turn the subtitles to French, and later turn them off entirely.

A Couple Paying for Tickets at a Movie Theater

Why not take your French date for a movie night?

4 – Learning French will give you a deeper understanding of English.

Did you know that around 30% of English words come directly from French?

British and French histories have been intertwined for a good thousand years, and it shows. You wouldn’t believe how many common English words are actually derived from French. They’re sometimes slightly modified or just kept identical but with a different pronunciation.

  • Bureau – from the French Un bureau (“Desk” / “Office”)
  • Salad – Une salade
  • Utensil – Un ustensile
  • Soup – Une soupe

And there are so many more: 

  • Restaurant (Un restaurant)
  • Television (Une télévision)
  • Hotel (Un hôtel)
  • Debris (Un débris)
  • Gallery (Une galerie)

I couldn’t possibly list all of them.

Many of these words are used in specialized or technical fields. For example:

  • Military: Army (Une armée), Cavalry (Une cavalerie), Soldier (Un soldat), Captain (Un capitaine)
  • Art: Music (Une musique), Dance (Une danse), Theatre (Un théâtre), Rhythm (Un rythme)
  • Cuisine: Confit (Un confit), Mustard (Une moutarde), Sauce (Une sauce), Sausage (Une saucisse)

As a result, learning French will also benefit your English, as you’ll learn new words as well as the etymology of words you already know. It will help you expand your vocabulary and better understand borrowed French words.

5 – France is known for its cheap (yet high-quality) studies.

Speaking French opens up lots of opportunities for education, as France has some of the best renowned universities (La Sorbonne, Pierre Marie Curie) as well as first-class Grandes écoles (HEC, Polytechnique, ESSEC).

Grandes écoles (literally: “big schools”) is what we call our most prestigious schools. You know, the ones with highly selective admissions, top-notch teachers, and big fancy degrees.

French universities are internationally known for the outstanding quality of their education—but did you know they’re also cheap as dirt? Especially compared to the price of attending big universities in the U.S., it’s much cheaper to get your education in France!

Not only do these schools accept foreign applicants, but students who are fluent enough in French can also apply for a French government grant on the course of their choice in France. In a nutshell, you can have the French government pay for your studies.

Sure, this isn’t for everyone, as it will take an advanced proficiency level to be comfortable in a French classroom (especially in classes on complicated or technical topics). But if you can manage, a French degree will open lots of doors in France and beyond.

Six Friends Standing in a Group Circle

Studies are the best opportunity to make friends AND build your network.

6 – Once you’ve worked in France, there’s no going back.

As if you needed any more reasons to learn French, get this: Working in France comes with a list of benefits that might just make it the most employee-friendly country in the world. This is all thanks to a set of labor laws aimed at protecting employees over the company and not the other way around.

  • Double health insurance
    By default, as soon as you’re legally living in France, you can enroll for our free healthcare system and have most of your medical bills paid for. Many employers also offer a complimentary insurance system to make sure you’re not paying anything for your health.

  • Paid holidays
    You can expect: A minimum of 5 weeks of paid vacation per year + 11 days of national holidays and some special time off for major life events (wedding, child, etc.).

  • Job security
    French workers are generally well-protected by labor laws. Permanent contracts offer job security and make it difficult for a company to fire you without good reasons. Short-term contracts come with a nice financial bonus at the end of the period.

  • Unemployment allowance
    If you lose your job or reach the end of your contract, you can benefit from the Allocation chômage and get a fair portion of your former salary for about a year. It’s more than enough time to find a new job.
  • Vouchers, coupons, discounts
    Your employer will pay at least 50% of your public transport card, provide you with restaurant vouchers, and offer some other perks and discounts.

On top of all that, France is a fairly developed country and salaries are not half bad. Sure, you have to consider the cost of living and rather high taxes, but all in all, even a small salary should allow you to live comfortably.

7 – French is one of the top languages for business.

Learning French to work in France is one thing, but it doesn’t end there. Today, French stands on the same podium as English and Chinese, as one of the three most important languages for conducting business.

The economical and cultural influence of France at an international level makes French one of the most wanted languages in the business world.

Based on numbers by Bloomberg Rankings, French is the second most useful language for business. This means that if you’re looking for a job, speaking both English and French is a major asset on your resume that will help you stand out.

But why, exactly? First of all, French is widely used in international relations. It’s an official language of major international groups such as the Red Cross, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the United Nations (U.N.), Olympics, UNESCO, and of course the European Union (E.U.).

What’s more, learning French will provide you with opportunities to work for companies that either have ties with French groups or use French as their working language. These companies operate in a number of sectors, but most notably in luxury, cosmetics, aeronautics, and automotive.

A Woman Dressed in a Long Red Dress and Black Heels

French holds its status as the World Capital of Fashion and Luxury.

8 – French is growing faster than you think.

What is the language of the future that we’ll all be speaking by the end of the century? Sure, Mandarin is the new boss in town and many studies place it at the top of the podium. But these studies don’t take into consideration how excruciatingly hard it is for Western students to learn. That’s definitely going to limit its spread in the long-run. 

On the other hand, French is currently growing so fast that studies indicate it could be a major player in years to come. Forbes reports that Natixis Investment Bank went as far as claiming that French will be the most spoken language in the world by 2050.

To be fair, this study seems rather questionable and it does go a little overboard with speculations, but it got a fair amount of attention. In similar projections, France usually sits comfortably somewhere in the top 5.

In any case, French is growing fast, especially in Africa. Now, when you consider that Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, with the potential to become a major economic powerhouse, it really makes you think.

9 – Get ready to show off at dinner parties. 

But enough with business and world economics. Let’s cut to the real reason why YOU should start learning French today!

A- To be a better lover

First of all, it’s common knowledge that learning French will make you a better kisser. Mastering the weird French [R] and [U] will be just the tongue workout you need to shine at French kissing, and practicing nasal vowels will improve your breathing by 72%. Numbers don’t lie.

Besides, French is known to be “the language of love.” It makes it the perfect language to serenade your special someone in. You can use sweet French words like, Parfait au chocolat (“You are so beautiful”) or Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir ? (“Can I buy you a drink?”). You might wanna double-check that, just in case.

B- To impress your friends

In addition to being the official language of love, French is also called the “language of reasoning and debate” and “the language of enlightenment.” (I’m not even making that up, it’s all over the internet.)

Impress your friends with your linguistic knowledge by randomly dropping fancy words and existential quotes from French philosophers in their original version. If they’re not speechless already, you could imply that you started learning yesterday, but you’re a natural.

Another fail-proof technique to leave your audience in awe is to take them to a French restaurant (make sure you split the bill, though; elegance doesn’t come cheap) and start dropping sophisticated French terms to the waiter.

If you’re not comfortable enough with your current level, you could just read through the wine menu with an air of thoughtful confidence. And for once, you’ll have good reasons to say, “Pardon my French.”

A Couple Ordering Food at a Nice Restaurant

Une glace au Chardonnay, s’il vous plaît. (“A Chardonnay ice cream, please.”)

10 – French is pretty easy to learn.

For someone who already knows English (that’s you, if you’re reading this), French is generally considered a fairly easy language to pick up. 

Both the FSI (Foreign Service Institute) and ELC (European Language Center) rank French as one of the most accessible languages for English speakers. Why is that? Let’s break it down quickly:

  • French is a Romance language
    As such, it has a LOT in common with other Romance languages such as Spanish, Romanian, and Portuguese. Although English is not part of this exact family, it shares many aspects of it in terms of syntax and vocabulary, which will give you a huge head-start.

  • You already know a ton of French words
    As mentioned earlier, nearly 30% of English words are of French origin. This is essentially free vocabulary that you don’t have to study.

  • Structures are oddly similar
    Many grammar structures are so similar that you can often translate French to English word for word. No need to twist your brain in awkward positions. For example: Elle a un beau jardin. (“She has a beautiful garden.”)

  • Internet and mobile apps to the rescue
    Living in the 21st century is a beautiful thing for language learners. Never before has it been easier to pick up and master a language.

    What used to take years can be achieved within mere months, with a level of ease and flexibility our parents couldn’t even imagine when they were grinding their way through foreign languages, old-school-style.

If you’d like to know more about why learning French is easier than you might think, make sure to visit our full article titled How Hard is it to Learn French?

11 – Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you’ve learned the main reasons why you should learn French, from the vast number of French-speaking countries to the culture- and business-related opportunities. If you want to work, study, or move to France, learning this language is an obvious choice—but showing off is also a fair reason, isn’t it? Why do you want to learn French? 

Learning a new language used to be a painful grind, but nowadays, it’s a much faster and more streamlined experience when done right.

With our integrated approach, a metric ton of free content, and quality premium coaching, FrenchPod101 is just what you need to get started. Make sure to explore all of our free resources to get a feel of what we have to offer!

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching with a private teacher who can help you practice wherever you are. Your teacher will be able to offer you personalized assignments and exercises, record audio samples to help you practice your pronunciation, and help you dive deeper into the French culture and language. 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon was bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

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French Tenses Made Simple

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Do you get tense when looking at French conjugation tables? Handling verbs in French can seem quite overwhelming at first: There are distinct endings for each pronoun, six different moods, and soooo many tenses!

But of course, there’s a trick. Once you take a closer look, it’s not nearly as complicated as you might think. These verb endings follow rules, only a fraction of French tenses are used in real life, and even fewer are useful in spoken French.

In this article, you’ll find a quick overview of the general rules concerning French verb conjugation. Then, we’ll dive right into the list of French tenses: present, past, and future. Oh, and there will be lots of cats involved because they generally make grammar more interesting.

A Woman Kissing a Gray Kitten

Elle embrasse un chaton. (“She’s kissing a kitten.”)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. French Conjugation in a Nutshell
  2. Present Tenses
  3. Future Tenses
  4. Common Past Tenses
  5. Literary Past Tenses
  6. Le mot de la fin

1. French Conjugation in a Nutshell

Before we get too far into the details, here’s some basic information about French tenses and conjugations you should know.

How Many Tenses Do You Really Need to Speak French?

Did you know that French has 17 tenses, 6 moods, and 2 voices? Wait, don’t run away!

You only need a fraction of that list to get by on a daily basis, and you’d be surprised how far you can get with only two tenses:

  • Présent (Present)
  • Passé composé (Compound past)

With the présent, you can describe anything happening right now as well as things that happen regularly—you can even use it to describe future events!

J’apprends le français.“I’m learning French.”
J’apprends le français tous les jours.“I learn French every day.”
J’apprends le français à partir de demain.“I will learn French, starting tomorrow.”
J’apprends le français l’année prochaine.“I will learn French next year.”

And with the passé composé, you can refer to any past event, unless you have a really complex chain of events to describe.

J’ai appris le français à l’université.“I have learned French at university.”
J’ai appris le français l’année dernière.“I learned French last year.”

As you get more comfortable with the language, you’ll slowly add more tenses to the mix. However, for daily conversations, we rarely use more than five or six tenses. Many of the others are not used anymore, not even in literature. So, you can relax!

How to Set the Mood

When we talk about le mode (the mood) in French conjugation, it refers to the attitude of the speaker toward the action of the verb. Are they stating a fact? Is it hypothetical? Are they giving orders?

  • L’indicatif (Indicative) is used to express facts and truth. This is the most common mood.
  • Le subjonctif (Subjunctive) describes something possible or uncertain.
  • Le conditionnel (Conditional) is used for conditions or possibilities.
  • L’impératif (Imperative) is the tense we use for giving orders or instructions.

Simple Tenses vs. Compound Tenses

Most French tenses are “simple tenses.” This means the verb is conjugated according to the person, mood, and tense and its ending changes accordingly.

For example, the verb parler (to speak; to talk) could be conjugated as follows:

  • Nous parlons (We speak)
  • Je parlerai (I will talk)
  • Ils parlaient (They were speaking)

Compound tenses, on the other hand, are formed using an auxiliary verb. It can be either être (to be) or avoir (to have). In the case of a compound tense, you need to conjugate the auxiliary:

  • Nous avons parlé (“We have talked”)
  • Je suis tombé / tombée (“I have fallen”) [Masculine / Feminine]
A Man Having a Panic Attack

Relax, you don’t need more than two tenses to get started!

2. Present Tenses

The most important French tenses for beginners to learn are those that deal with the present. Here are the four present tenses you need to know:

[Indicatif] Présent (Present)

Le présent is the equivalent of the English present tense. In French, it can be used to talk about recurring actions, events in progress, and even the future in some cases. 

Here are a few examples of its various forms:

Je caresse un chat.“I’m petting a cat.”
Je caresse des chats tous les jours.“I pet cats every day.”
Je t’appelle dans quelques jours.“I’ll call you in a few days.”
Je finis mon verre.“I’m finishing my drink.”

[Subjonctif] Présent (Present Subjunctive)

Le subjonctif présent is used to express something that’s possible or uncertain in the present.

Il est important que je caresse un chat.“It’s important that I pet a cat.”
It’s important for me to do that, but it’s not a fact that I’ve actually done so. It’s something possible that might happen.

Elle veut que je finisse mon verre.“She wants me to finish my drink.”
Similarly here, we’re not stating that we have finished our drink or that we’re going to. We have only stated that this is what she wants. Is it going to happen? At this point, we don’t know.

[Impératif] Présent (Present Imperative)

L’impératif présent is used to give orders, advice, or instructions that are effective immediately.

This is by far the most common tense for the imperative mood.

Caresse ce chat !“Pet this cat.”
Finis ton verre !“Finish your drink.”

[Conditionnel] Présent (Present Conditional)

Le conditionnel présent refers to a condition or a possibility set in the present.

Si je pouvais, je caresserais un chat.“If I could, I would pet a cat.”
Si j’avais le temps, je finirais mon verre.“If I had time, I would finish my drink.”

    → Do you need some practice with the present tenses? You’ll find 50 common verbs in this free vocabulary list, with recorded pronunciation examples.
A Woman Petting Her Dog in a Grassy Field

Elle caresse son chien. (“She’s petting her dog.”)

3. Future Tenses

Need to talk about your future plans or coordinate a schedule with a native French speaker? No worries! Next on our French tenses list is the future tense and its different moods. 

[Indicatif] Futur Simple (Future)

Le futur simple is the French equivalent of the classic “will”-based future in English. We use it to make predictions and talk about what will happen later.

Je caresserai un chat.“I will pet a cat.”
Je finirai mon verre.“I will finish my drink.”

[Indicatif] Futur Proche (Near Future)

Le futur proche is used for something set in the near future. We’re about to do it, it’s coming soon. It’s very close to the English [“going to” + verb] and even has a similar structure.

Just like in English, we use the conjugated verb aller (to go) + infinitive.

Je vais caresser un chat.“I’m going to pet a cat.”
Je vais finir mon verre.“I’m going to finish my drink.”

[Indicatif] Futur Antérieur (Anterior Future)

Le futur antérieur is used to talk about two different moments in the past, one after the other. The first one, chronologically, will be in the futur antérieur.

It’s built around the auxiliary être or avoir, followed by the past participle of the verb. The participle agrees in gender and number, as you’ll see in these examples:

Je serai parti avant la fin de la semaine.I will be gone before the end of the week.” [Masc]
D’ici la fin de la semaine, je serai partie.“By the end of the week, I will be gone.” [Fem]

You should keep in mind that what matters is not the order of the events in the sentence, but their order in time.

  • What happens first? My departure.
  • What happens next? The end of the week.

If there is another verb describing the second event, it will be in futur simple.

Quand tu rentreras, j’aurai caressé un chat.When you come back, I will have petted a cat.”
J’aurai fini mon verre quand tu arriveras.I will have finished my drink when you arrive.”
Five Glasses of Champagne being Clinked Together

Je vais finir mon verre. (“I will finish my drink.”)

4. Common Past Tenses

There are numerous past tenses in French, but luckily, very few of them are actually useful on a daily basis. In fact, many of them are either for literature or are downright outdated.

Let’s start with the most useful French past tenses:

[Indicatif] Passé Composé (Compound Past)

Le passé composé is the most common past tense in French. It’s the equivalent of the English simple past and it’s used to talk about a past event with a limited duration, that is now over.

J’ai caressé un chat.“I have petted a cat.”
J’ai fini mon verre.“I have finished my drink.”

[Indicatif] Imparfait (Imperfect)

L’imparfait is similar to the English past progressive. We use it to describe facts and actions from the past while focusing on their duration or repetition. 

This is what you’d use to talk about an action that was taking place (for a certain duration, or regularly) at some point in the past.

Je caressais un chat.“I was petting a cat.”
Je finissais mon verre.“I was finishing my drink.”

You can combine this tense with le passé composé when describing an action that was taking place in the past until another brief action happened (also in the past).

Je caressais mon chat tous les jours.“I was petting my cat every day.”
Je finissais mon verre quand elle est arrivée.“I was finishing my drink when she arrived.”

[Indicatif] Plus-que-parfait (Pluperfect)

This equivalent of the English past perfect is used to describe actions that were taking place before a certain moment in the past.

J’avais caressé un chat.“I had petted a cat.”
J’avais fini mon verre quand elle est arrivée.“I had finished my drink when she arrived.”

[Subjonctif] Passé (Past Subjunctive)

Le subjonctif passé is used to express something possible or uncertain in the past.

Il est important que j’aie caressé un chat avant demain.“It’s important that I have petted a cat before tomorrow.”
Elle veut que j’aie fini mon verre.“She wants me to have my drink finished.”

It sounds pretty awkward once translated, because, in English, we would normally use the present in cases like that:

  • “It’s important that I pet a cat before tomorrow.”

And the same goes for French. In most cases, and in any conversation, you would say: 

  • Il est important que je caresse un chat avant demain. (Present subjunctive)

[Conditionnel] Passé (Past Conditional)

Le conditionnel passé refers to a condition or a possibility set in the past.

J’aurais caressé un chat.“I would have petted a cat.”
J’aurais fini mon verre.“I would have finished my drink.”

    → Make sure to put all that knowledge into practice! FrenchPod101 has plenty of lessons on future, past, and present tense comparisons.
A Gray Tabby Kitten in a Grassy Field

Je caressais un chaton. (“I was petting a kitten.”)

5. Literary Past Tenses

Now, let’s have a look at these marginal or literary tenses. You’re not likely to hear them in many conversations, but if you’re at an advanced level of French, it might be a good time to learn about them.

Otherwise, feel free to skip this section. You can always revisit it later at your leisure.

[Indicatif] Passé Simple (Past Simple)

Le passé simple describes actions set in the past, but unlike l’imparfait, these are one-time, completed, unrepeated actions. 

While the passé composé is mostly a spoken tense, the passé simple is its literary equivalent and is almost never used orally.

Elle ouvrit la porte et caressa le chat.“She opened the door and petted the cat.”
Je finis mon verre et en commandai un autre.“I finished my drink and ordered another one.”

[Indicatif] Passé Antérieur (Anterior Past)

This is a purely written tense that is used to express what happened right before another event in the past.

Quand elle eut ouvert la porte, elle caressa le chat.“When she had opened the door, she petted the cat.”
Quand j’eus fini mon verre, j’en commandai un autre.“When I had finished my drink, I ordered another one.”

[Subjonctif] Imparfait (Imperfect Subjunctive)

This tense started disappearing in the middle of the nineteenth century and is almost completely gone from today’s French. You can still find it in classic literature if you dig deep enough.

It’s used pretty much like the present subjunctive, but follows some of the most complicated past tenses. It expresses something possible or uncertain. Nowadays, we could simply replace it with subjonctif présent.

Il avait été important que je caressasse un chat.“It had been important that I had petted a cat.”
Elle voulait que je finisse mon verre.“She wanted me to finish my drink.”

[Subjonctif] Plus-que-parfait (Pluperfect Subjunctive)

A couple of centuries ago, the subjonctif plus-que-parfait would replace the subjonctif passé in a subordinate clause, when the main clause was conjugated in the past and the action of the subordinate clause was set before the action of the main clause.

Nowadays, nobody’s using it, even in writing.

Il était important que j’eusse caressé un chat avant demain.“It was important that I had petted a cat before tomorrow.”
Elle voulait que j’eusse fini mon verre.“She wanted that I would have finished my drink.”

[Impératif] Passé (Past Imperative)

This is a weird tense that has almost disappeared. Take the imperative (Pet this cat. / Finish your drink.) and put it in the past. 

You’re instructed to have done something in the past, which is a bit difficult to translate. It would be the equivalent of: “Make sure you have done that at this point in the future.”

Aie caressé un chat avant demain !“Make sure you have petted a cat before tomorrow.”
Aie fini ton verre quand elle arrivera !“Make sure you’ve finished your drink when she arrives.”
A Woman Drinking a Large Mug of Beer

Elle finit son verre. (“She’s finishing her drink.”)


Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about French verb tenses: past, present, and future…simple vs. conditional…even the six different moods! Do you feel ready to impress your friends with your flawless pluperfect conditional?

If you’re a beginner, I really suggest that you first focus on the présent and passé composé. You’ll be amazed by how far they can take you! And if you have more good tricks to quickly learn tenses, make sure to share them in the comments below.

FrenchPod101 also has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings as well as free resources to boost your studies and keep your French learning fresh and entertaining!

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching. Your private teacher can help you with tenses, conjugation, and more. In addition to giving you assignments, providing you with personalized exercises, and recording audio samples just for you, your teacher will review your work and help improve your pronunciation. 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101!

About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon has been bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

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