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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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