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Let’s Talk! French Conversation Starters for Any Situation


It’s not always obvious how to start a conversation in French. Well, I guess it’s tough in any language, actually! It comes naturally to some people: they just go with the flow, follow their instincts, and say whatever goes through their heads. But when you’re dealing with a foreign language, it’s a different story.

Once you are talking to someone, and you’re both engaged in an interesting topic, it’s easier to keep it going. But just like a slow and cold engine, the difficult part is to get it started and find the right conversation starter suited for the context.

It’s hard to be spontaneous when you don’t speak French fluently if you’re nervously looking for your next sentence. If you’re not comfortable with French grammar, you may want to memorize some basic conversational starters as well as the most common French greetings.

Conversation starters in French depend on the situation: are you in a bar or at a friend’s party? At work or at the university? Maybe you’re on a date or meeting a beautiful girl or handsome guy that caught your interest? In any case, we got you covered!

A Guy at a Bar being Funny

Break the ice with the best opening lines!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Meeting New People
  2. Meeting People you Already Know
  3. Conversation Starters at Work
  4. Conversation Starters at School
  5. Conversation Starters for a First Date
  6. Le mot de la fin

1. Meeting New People

Depending on your personality, meeting new people can be an exciting or stressful prospect, but however you feel about it, there are a few rules that will always help you make the best of the first contact: 

  1. Make the other people talk about themselves.
  2. Ask follow-up questions.
  3. Be sure you actually want to know the answer.
  4. Find something to inquire about that you’re genuinely curious about.

I’m stressing the “genuine interest” part of the equation because if you’re not actually invested, it will likely fall flat, and you should probably ask something else or talk to someone else.

“How do you know the host?” is a classic, but it has no direct French equivalent, as we’d rarely call someone “the host,” even when they’re effectively organizing and hosting the event. 

Instead, you can use the person’s name:

    Comment tu connais Julien ? / Comment vous connaissez Julien ?
        (“How do you know Julien?”)

    Tu es un ami de Julien ? / Vous êtes un ami de Julien ?
        (“Are you a friend of Julien?”)

    Tu es un collègue de Julien ? / Vous êtes un collègue de Julien ?
        (“Are you one of Julien’s colleagues?”)

As you can see, all these sentences can be used with the casual TU or the formal VOUS.
In the rest of this guide, I’ll stick to the TU because it is more common and arguably better at breaking the ice. However, in a strict workplace environment or among older people, you might want to use the VOUS.

And speaking or which, here are a few other icebreakers:

    Qu’est-ce que tu bois ? Ça a l’air sympa. (“What are you drinking? It looks nice.”)
    Qu’est-ce que tu manges ? Ça a l’air bon. (“What are you eating? It looks good.”)
    Je vais me resservir. Tu veux quelque chose ? (“I’m going to get more food. Do you want something?”)
    Je vais reprendre un verre, je te prends quelque chose ? (“I’m going for another drink. Can I get you something?”)
    Tu viens souvent ici ? (“Are you coming here often?”)
    C’est la première fois que tu viens ici ? (“Is it your first time here?”)
    On s’est pas déjà croisés quelque part ? (“Did we meet somewhere before?”)

Of course, if you want to make for a stronger first impression, you could ditch the usual conversation starters, be creative, and ask any random questions, such as:

    Si tu pouvais avoir un super-pouvoir, ce serait quoi ? (“If you could have a superpower, what would it be?”)
    Pour ou contre la pizza Hawaïenne ? (“Are you for or against Hawaiian pizza?”)
    Si les zombies débarquent demain, tu te caches où ? (“Zombies are coming tomorrow, where do you hide?”)
    Si tu pouvais te réincarner en n’importe quel animal, tu choisirais quoi ? (“If you could reincarnate as any animal, what would you choose?”)

A Barmaid Handing a Drink to Someone

Prendre un verre (“To have a drink”)

2. Meeting People you Already Know

When you already know someone, you don’t need to be so careful with your opening words. A good idea is generally to bounce on something you know about them. Did they have some vacation recently? Why not ask about it? What about their significant other, pet, or kids? They’ll be happy to talk about it.

    Comment ça va ? (“How are you doing?”)
    Tu vas bien ? (“Are you doing well?”)
    Comment ça va depuis la dernière fois ? (“How is it going since the last time?”)
    Ça faisait longtemps ! (“It had been a while!”)
    Tu as passé de bonnes vacances ? (“Did you have a good vacation?”)
    Comment étaient tes vacances ? (“How was your vacation?”)
    Comment va Julien ? (“How is Julien?”)
    Julien ne pouvait pas venir ce soir ? (“Julien couldn’t come tonight?”)

You can also ask general questions about what they’ve been up to, but in my experience, it’s rarely effective in starting the conversation, and you’ll have to quickly follow up:

    Quoi de neuf ? (“What’s up?”)
    Tu fais quoi de beau dernièrement ? (“What have you been up to recently?”)

A Group of Friends

Un groupe d’amies (“A group of friends”)

3. Conversation Starters at Work

Meeting new people at work is often easier than in the ‘outside world’ because you already have something in common and shared acquaintances. You can use this to your advantage and ask more specific questions.

    Je m’appelle Sophie. C’est mon premier jour ici. (“My name is Sophie. It’s my first day here.”)
    Je travaille aux ressources humaines. Et toi ? (“I’m working in human resources. What about you?”)
    Tu travailles dans quel service ? (“In which service are you working?”)
    Tu travailles avec Julien ? (“Are you working with Julien?”)
    Tu travailles dans quoi ? (“What job are you doing?”)
    Tu travailles sur quel projet ? (“Which project are you working on?”)
    Tu travailles ici depuis combien de temps ? (“For how long have you been working here?”)
    Tu faisais quoi avant de travailler ici ? (“What did you do before working here?”)

When meeting people you already know at work, you could virtually ask them anything, depending on your level of intimacy. Here are a few ‘classic’ workplace conversation starters:

    Tu bosses sur quoi en ce moment ? (“What are you working on at the moment?”)
    Ton projet avance bien ? (“Is your project progressing well?”)
    C’est pas trop dur en ce moment ? (“It’s not too rough, lately?”)

When you’re on a friendly basis, you might want to start conversations unrelated to work, especially when you meet during lunch or coffee break and wish to take your mind off the job.

    Tu manges où ce midi ? (“Where do you go for lunch?”)
    Je peux me joindre à vous ? (“Can I join you?”)
    Tu as fait quoi ce weekend ? (“What did you do for the weekend ?”)
    Tu as des projets pour tes vacances ? (“Do you have plans for your vacation?”)
    Je t’offre un café ? (“Can I offer you a coffee?”)
    On va prendre un verre après le boulot ? (“Shall we have a drink after work?”)

Four Coworkers Standing Around and Talking

Tu travailles sur quel projet ? (“What project are you working on?”)

4. Conversation Starters at School

First days at school are rather similar to first days at work, but they come with their own specific vocabulary. Whether you start in high school, university, or a private school, here are a few conversation starters to make new friends:

    Je m’appelle Paul, je suis en première année d’Allemand. (“My name is Paul, I’m in my first year of German.”)
    Je viens de commencer ici. Et toi ? (“I’m just starting here. What about you?”)
    C’est mon premier jour. Je suis encore un peu perdue. (“It’s my first day, I’m still a bit lost.”)

You can also as people about their situation in the school:

    Tu es en quelle année ? (“What grade are you in?”)
    Tu étudies quoi ? (“What are you studying?”)
    Tu es dans la même classe que Julien ? (“Are you in the same class as Julien?”)
    Tu as bientôt des examens ? (“Are you having exams soon?”)

When you don’t know your way around the place, one way to establish contact is to ask for directions:

    Tu sais où sont les salles de TP ? (“Do you know where I can find the lab rooms?”)
    Tu connais un bon endroit pour manger le midi ? (“Do you know a good place to eat for lunch?”)
    Tu sais dans quel bâtiment est la bibliothèque ? (“Do you know in which building the library is?”)

University Students Taking Notes during a Lecture

Une salle de cours. (“A classroom”)

5. Conversation Starters for a First Date

A date is likely to start like most conversations: getting to know each other, casually exchanging general information about your job, situation, place of birth, and whatnot.

It is what comes next that’s interesting: getting deeper into knowing the other person to really figure out what their tastes, hobbies, lifestyles, and values are. But first, let’s break the ice with some formalities:

    Tu es né(e) où ? (“Where were you born?”)
    Tu habites à Paris depuis longtemps ? (“Have you been living in Paris for a long time?”)
    Tu as des frères et sœurs ? (“Do you have brothers and sisters?”)
    Tu bosses dans quoi ? (“What’s your job?”)

Then, time to get more personal:

    Tu aimes faire du sport ? (“Do you like sport?”)
    Tu préfères les chiens ou les chats ? (“Do you prefer dogs or cats?”)
    Tu es branchée astrologie ? (“Are you into astrology?”)
    Tu fais quoi de tes soirées, habituellement ? (“What do you usually do in the evening?”)
    Tu écoutes quel genre de musique ? (“What kind of music are you listening to?”)
    Tu as voyagé dans d’autres pays ? (“Have you travelled in other countries?”)
    Qu’est-ce qui te fait le plus rire ? (“What is making you laugh the most?”)

A great way to spark conversations or debates is to ask about favorite things. You’re sure to get right to the other person’s passions, and it might be the opportunity to find common ground or ask yourself if you really want to date someone who’s in love with Ed Sheeran.

    Quel est ton film préféré ? (“What’s your favorite movie?”)
    C’est quoi ta série préférée ? (“What’s your favorite series?”)
    Tu as un plat ou une cuisine préférée ? (“Do you have a favorite dish or cuisine?”)
    Quel est le dernier livre qui t’a marqué(e) ? (What’s the last book you’ve read that really made an impression?”)

Then, you can also be creative and ask weird, awkward, or funny questions. If the other person is open-minded or has a sense of humor, your questions should be well received and might lead to interesting conversations.

    Tu peux te décrire en un mot ? (“Can you describe yourself in one word?”)
    Si tu pouvais faire absolument n’importe quel métier, tu choisirais quoi ? (“If you could do absolutely any job, what would you choose?”)
    Si tu pouvais vivre à n’importe quelle époque et dans n’importe quel pays, tu choisirais quoi ? (“If you could live in any period and country, what would you pick?”)
    Si on t’annonçait que tu n’as plus qu’une semaine à vivre, tu voudrais en faire quoi ? (“If you’d be told you have one week left to live. What would you want to do with it?”)
    Est-ce que tu peux me raconter le pire rendez-vous de toute ta vie ? (“Can you tell me about the worst date of your life?”)
    Quel est le plus grand accomplissement de ta vie ? (“What’s the greater accomplishment in your life?”)
    Quelle est la chose la plus dangereuse que tu as faite ? (“What’s the most dangerous thing you’ve done?”)

A Man Pulling Out a Chair for a Woman on a First Date

Un premier rendez-vous (“A first date”)

6. Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you have learned more than 70 conversation starters in French that you can use in a wide range of situations. From meeting new people to greeting friends, colleagues, and fellow students, or making a lasting impression on your date.

Did we forget any important topic you would like to read about, or do you feel ready to go and talk to those intriguing strangers?

Make sure to explore FrenchPod101, as it has plenty of Free resources for you to practice your grammar and learn new words. The Vocabulary lists are also a great way to revise the words and learn their pronunciation.

Remember that you can also use our premium service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching and have your own private teacher to practice with conversation starters and more.

Along with assignments, personalized exercises, and recording audio samples just for you, your teacher will review your work and help improve your pronunciation. Happy learning on FrenchPod101!

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