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Archive for the 'French Culture' Category

The French National Anthem: La Marseillaise

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Have you ever heard La Marseillaise, the French national anthem? The music is beautiful, but the lyrics are not easy to decipher, full of old-fashioned words and unusual turns of phrases. 

Play it in front of a French audience, and suddenly, everybody starts singing along. We all know the lyrics, and there is something strangely captivating in its ferocity. I’ve seen the most reserved people start to raise their voices like there was no tomorrow just from hearing the first notes of our national anthem.

Moving and emotional for some, thrilling and vibrant for others, the Marseillaise was also called racist and xenophobic, anachronistic and obsolete, a bloodthirsty call to arms. Opinions vary, and this is also what makes it such an interesting piece of French history and a fascinating object of study.

In this article, we will begin by discussing the history and creation of the French national anthem. We’ll then talk about its lyrics, contemporary uses, and the criticisms it has received.

La Marseillaise

“La Marseillaise”, by François Rude, on the Arc de Triomphe.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. From Military Song to National Anthem
  2. Lyrics of La Marseillaise
  3. When is it Played?
  4. Should France Find a New National Anthem?
  5. Le mot de la fin

1. From Military Song to National Anthem

Contrary to what is often believed, the Marseillaise was not born in the city of Marseille but in the region of Alsace, during the war against Austria.

As the king saw his power slipping away, Louis XVI hoped that a French military defeat would allow him to restore his authority. He declared war on the king of Bohemia and Hungary on April 20, 1792. Little did he know that it would be fatal to him, nor that it would generate the rallying song of the French for generations to come. 

After two months of chaotic skirmishes, the Baron de Dietrich, mayor of Strasbourg, realized that the French troops lacked a unifying song. He turned to his friend, the officer Rouget de Lisle, a musician and poet in his spare time. Rouget de Lisle was inspired by a propaganda poster, and composed an energetic tune by drawing from other known marches and hymns.

He worked on it during the night of June 25, 1792, and the next day, Le Chant de guerre pour l’armée du Rhin (“War song for the army of the Rhin”) was born.

Rouget de Lisle, Singing La Marseillaise

Rouget de Lisle, singing La Marseillaise

At the end of July, the French troops were forced to retreat in front of Prussia, who had come to the aid of Austria. French volunteers were called in from all over France to reinforce the ranks. In August, the federates from Marseille landed in Paris, taking with them this now revolutionary song. It was only later that it was renamed La Marseillaise

It was a pivotal moment for the country and the genesis of the Republic, since on August 10 the federates invaded the Tuileries and locked up the king and his family, thus putting an end to almost a thousand years of absolute monarchy. On July 14, 1795, the Marseillaise was recognized as one of the “airs and civic songs that have contributed to the success of the Revolution.”

Then came Napoleon, and – Plot twist! – he banned the song in 1815, because of its Revolutionary association. It remained banned for nearly thirty years. The second revolution of 1830 put it back in the spotlight, before it was decreed national anthem under the Third Republic (1879).

The French Revolution

The French Revolution

2. Lyrics of La Marseillaise

For the longest time, there was no official version of La Marseillaise, which regularly provoked some awkward musical disturbances during its performance. The original manuscript has 6 verses. A 7th verse, often called le couplet des enfants (“The children’s verse”), was added later.

Additional lesser-known verses have been omitted from the national anthem. It brings the total number of verses to a whopping 15. But as you’re not likely to ever hear these added verses, let’s stick to the official 7.

Verse 1

Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L’étendard sanglant est levé ! (bis)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats ?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Égorger nos fils et nos compagnes !
Let us go, children of the fatherland,
Our day of glory has arrived!
Against us, the bloody flag of tyranny
is raised!
Can you hear in the countryside
The roar of these savage soldiers?
They come right into our arms
To slit the throat of our sons and our wives.

Chorus

Aux armes, citoyens !
Formez vos bataillons !
Marchons ! Marchons !
Qu’un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !
To arms, citizens!
Form your battalions!
Let us march! Let us march!
May their impure blood
Water our furrows!

Verse 2

Que veut cette horde d’esclaves,
De traîtres, de rois conjurés ?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves,
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ? (bis)
Français, pour nous, ah ! Quel outrage !
Quels transports il doit exciter !
C’est nous qu’on ose méditer
De rendre à l’antique esclavage !
What does this horde of slaves
traitors and conspiring kings want?
For whom these vile chains,
These long prepared irons?
French, for us, ah! What outrage!
What strong emotions it must arouse!
It is to use they dare to scheme
A return to antique slavery!

Verse 3

Quoi ! Ces cohortes étrangères
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers !
Quoi ! Ces phalanges mercenaires
Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers ! (bis)
Grand Dieu ! Par des mains enchaînées
Nos fronts sous le joug se ploieraient !
De vils despotes deviendraient
Les maîtres de nos destinées !
What! Foreign cohorts
would rule in our homes!
What! Those mercenary phalanxes
Would strike down our proud warriors!
Great God! By chained hands
Our heads under the yoke would bend!
Vile despots would become
The masters of our destinies!

Verse 4

Tremblez, tyrans et vous perfides,
L’opprobre de tous les partis,
Tremblez ! Vos projets parricides
Vont enfin recevoir leurs prix ! (bis)
Tout est soldat pour vous combattre,
S’ils tombent, nos jeunes héros,
La terre en produit de nouveaux,
Contre vous tout prêts à se battre !
Tremble, tyrants and perfidious ones,
The shame of all parties,
Tremble! Your parricidal schemes
Will finally receive their prices!
Everyone is a soldier to fight you,
If they fall, our young heroes,
New ones will rise from the earth,
Ready to fight against you!

Verse 5

Français, en guerriers magnanimes,
Portez ou retenez vos coups !
Épargnez ces tristes victimes,
À regret s’armant contre nous. (bis)
Mais ces despotes sanguinaires,
Mais ces complices de Bouillé,
Tous ces tigres qui, sans pitié,
Déchirent le sein de leur mère !
French, as magnanimous warriors,
Strike or hold your blows!
Spare these sad victims,
Regretfully arming against us.
But these bloodthirsty despots,
But these accomplices of Bouillé,
All these tigers who, without mercy,
Tear apart their mother’s breast!

Verse 6

Amour sacré de la Patrie,
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs !
Liberté, Liberté chérie,
Combats avec tes défenseurs ! (bis)
Sous nos drapeaux, que la victoire
Accoure à tes mâles accents !
Que tes ennemis expirants
Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire !
Sacred love of the fatherland,
Guide and support our vengeful arms!
Liberty, cherished liberty
Fight with your defenders!
Under our flag, may victory
Rush to your manly accents!
May your dying enemies
See your triumph and our glory!

Verse 7

Nous entrerons dans la carrière
Quand nos aînés n’y seront plus ;
Nous y trouverons leur poussière
Et la trace de leurs vertus. (bis)
Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre
Que de partager leur cercueil,
Nous aurons le sublime orgueil
De les venger ou de les suivre !
We will enter the career
When our elders are no longer there;
There, we shall find their dust
And the trace of their virtues.
Much less keen to survive them
Than to share their coffin,
We will have the sublime pride
To avenge or to follow them!

Liberty Leading the People

Liberty Leading the People, by Eugène Delacroix

3. When is it Played?

La Marseillaise is played on very specific occasions, typically for important speeches or ceremonies. You can hear it when the President is addressing the nation on TV, for example on new year’s eve, or for major announcements.

Military parades also sometimes resound with the fierce melody of our national anthem. It can be heard in small local events, as well as major parades such as the one on the 14th of July, when we celebrate the revolutionary Jour de la Bastille (“Bastille day”), our National day.

It is also traditionally played and sung during sport events. Football or rugby teams sing it before important games, during championships and you can hear it during Olympic games.

The most famous arrangement of the Marseillaise was written by French composer Hector Berlioz in 1830. It is often considered the ‘official’ version.

Other notable versions include:

And my personal favorite, by French electronic musician Worakls.

La Parisienne, by Worakls

4. Should France Find a New National Anthem?

The Marseillaise is the reflection of a troubled time, of a bitter and merciless struggle against oppression, and the symbol of the union of a people to abolish the monarchy and take back control of its destiny. At its core, it is a war hymn used to galvanize the troops before the fight.

Is it violent, racist, or an outdated and embarrassing war song? The Marseillaise is one of the world’s most controversial songs. Even back in 1792, its original writer, Rouget de Lisle, almost lost his head and was thrown in jail under suspicion of being a royalist. He made it through, and his song survived the discredit, but that was just the beginning.

After being banned by Napoleon, the Marseillaise regained its influence during the Second World War, when it was sung by the resistance. The song had been banned by the collaborating Vichy government. Afterwards, it kept its momentum and became a rallying cry to rebuild a deeply wounded country.

However, in early 2000, the song became somewhat uncomfortable and was the target of frequent criticism. One of the main reasons comes from its use during France’s occupation of Algeria and its brutal and bloody war of independence in the middle of the 20th century. 

As a result, in 2001, it was booed by French-Algerians during a soccer match that degenerated into a riot when hundreds of supporters took to the field. More incidents occurred with Corsicans in 2002 and pretty much every year between then and 2008.

It remains somewhat controversial today but not nearly as much as it used to be. Opportunistic politicians still occasionally criticize it or use it to gain attention and publicity, but there has been no serious polemics recently.

Original Score of the Marseillaise

Original score of the Marseillaise

5. Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you have learned everything about La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, from its history to its lyrics, most notable arrangements and controversies. Do you know of any interesting anecdotes about the song, or chapters in its history that we forgot to mention? Don’t hesitate to share them in the comments!

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 service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching and have your own private teacher to practice with. 

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!

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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60 Classroom Phrases for Studying or Teaching in France

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Are you planning on studying or teaching in France? Do you know the most common classroom phrases in French for students or teachers alike? Whether you’re about to join a university as a foreign student or to teach your native language as a teacher in a French school, you will have to learn how to communicate in the classroom.

If you’re a student, not only will you need to learn how to address your teachers, but also to understand their instructions. And vice versa if you’re in the teacher’s shoes! You will also need to learn some basic vocabulary, such as school subjects and supplies, as well as infrastructure.

In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know as a teacher or a student, from common phrases to vocabulary, instructions, and a list of school subjects. It will teach you how to ask questions or give instructions and allow you to focus solely on the topic at hand rather than struggling with the common classroom interactions. Get your pencil case ready, and let’s jump straight into it!

Children Raising Their Hands Before Answering

Levez la main avant de répondre. (“Raise your hand before answering.”)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. School Vocabulary
  2. Teacher’s Phrases
  3. Student’s Phrases
  4. Subjects’ List
  5. Tests Instructions
  6. Le mot de la fin

1. School Vocabulary

Before we get to the common french phrases, let’s get some basic school vocabulary. To get your way around the schoolyard or the campus, you will need to know about the infrastructure as well as the stationaries.

1- Educational Infrastructures

Une salle de classeClassroom
Un bâtimentBuilding
Un amphithéâtreAmphitheater
La cantineCanteen
Le restaurant universitaireUniversity canteen
La cafétériaCafeteria
Une salle d’examenExam room
Le secrétariatSecretariat
La salle des professeursTeachers’ room
La bibliothèqueLibrary

2- School Supplies

Un cahierNotebook
Un classeurBinder
Une feuilleSheet of paper
Un livreBook
Un styloPen
Un crayonPencil
Une troussePencil case
Une gommeEraser
Un cartableSchoolbag
Un sac à dosBackpack
Une calculatrice, Une calculetteCalculator
Des ciseauxScissors
Une règleRuler
Un taille-crayonPencil sharpener


School Supplies

Des fournitures scolaires (“School supplies”)

2. Teacher’s Phrases

Whether you’re a student or a teacher in a French class, this section is for you! As a teacher, you need to know how to address your class, and as a student, you’d better understand what the teacher is saying. Let’s see some of the most common French teacher’s phrases.

1- Instructions

Aujourd’hui, nous allons apprendre la conjugaison.
(“Today we are going to learn conjugation.”)
Ouvrez votre livre à la page 12.
(“Open your book on page 12.”)
Prenez une feuille de papier.
(“Take a sheet of paper.”)
Levez la main si vous avez la réponse.
(“Raise your hand if you have the answer.”)
Ecoutez et répétez après moi.
(“Listen and repeat after me.”)
Regardez l’image à l’écran / Regardez l’image au tableau.
(“Look at the picture on the screen.” / “Look at the picture on the board.”)
Écrivez cette phrase.
(“Write this sentence.”)
Épelez ce mot.
(“Spell this word.”)
Faites une phrase avec le mot “demain”.
(“Make a sentence with the word “tomorrow.””)
Comment dit-on “tomorrow” en français ?
(“How do you say “tomorrow” in French?”)
Travaillez deux par deux.
(“Work in pairs.”)
Nous allons former de petits groupes.
(“We will form small groups.”)

2- Questions

Vous comprenez cette phrase ?
(“Do you understand this sentence?”)
Qu’est-ce que ça veut dire ?
(“What does that mean?”)
Qui peut répondre à cette question ?
(“Who can answer this question?”)
Quelle est la bonne réponse ?
(“What is the correct answer?”)
Qui veut lire à voix haute ?
(“Who wants to read aloud?”)

3- Discipline

Asseyez-vous.
(“Take a seat.”)
Un peu de silence.
(“Silence, please.”)
Faites attention.
(“Be careful.”)
Taisez-vous au fond.
(“Shut up in the back.”)

    ➜ Would you like to live on a French campus? Never get lost with our free vocabulary list on School campus, complete with examples and recordings, on FrenchPod101.

Three People Working Together

Travailler en petits groupes (“To work in small groups”)

3. Student’s Phrases

France is renowned for its high education and affordable studies, making it one of the 5 most popular destinations for foreign students. For more information on the various programs, financing options, and campus sites, the website Campus France is the most official online resource you’ll find.

1- Talking About Teachers

In primary school, school teachers are referred to as:

  • [Male] Un maître (Literally: “Master”)
  • [Female] Une maîtresse (Literally: “Mistress”)

In University and High school, they are called Professeur (“Professor”)
There is also a short casual version: Prof

You can use these words when talking about teachers:

  • La maîtresse est absente jusqu’à demain. (“The teacher is away until tomorrow.”)
  • Je suis professeur à l’université de la Sorbonne. (“I am a professor at the Sorbonne University.”)
  • Mon prof d’anglais a un accent Écossais. (“My English teacher has a Scottish accent.”)

2- Addressing Teachers

At every level, unless told otherwise, students address their teachers using the words:

  • [Male] Monsieur (“Sir”)
  • [Female] Madame (“Madam”)

Here are a few examples:

  • Madame, j’ai une question. (“Madam, I have a question.”)
  • Monsieur, est-ce que je peux utiliser un crayon ? (“Sir, can I use a pencil?”)

As a teacher, whether it’s your colleagues or your students, you can simply call them by their names.

3- I have a Question

What is the most important information to convey during a class? When you don’t understand something. Whenever it happens, you shouldn’t wait until it magically clicks. It’s best to be proactive and talk about it right away.

Similarly, you will probably have some questions along the way, and being able to articulate them clearly is a valuable skill.

Je ne comprends pas.
(“I don’t understand.”)
Je ne comprends pas la terminaison de ce mot.
(“I don’t understand the ending of this word.”)
J’ai du mal à conjuguer ce verbe.
(“I have trouble conjugating this verb.”)
Vous pouvez répéter s’il vous plaît ?
(“Could you repeat that please?”)
Vous pouvez répéter plus lentement ?
(“Can you repeat slower?”)
Je ne sais pas dire ça.
(“I don’t know how to say that.”)
Comment ça se prononce ?
(“How do you pronounce it?”)
Quelle page ?
(“What page?”)

4- I have a Problem

We’re spending so much time in the classroom that we’re bound to face some trouble. It is not much of a problem to have an unforeseen event or an accident, as long as you know how to explain it.

J’ai oublié mon livre.
(“I forgot my book.”)
Je n’ai pas de stylo.
(“I don’t have a pen.”)
J’ai perdu mon cahier.
(“I lost my notebook.”)
J’ai un problème.
(“I have a problem.”)
Est-ce que je peux emprunter une gomme ?
(“Can I borrow an eraser?”)
J’ai besoin d’un peu plus de temps.
(“I need a little more time.”)
J’ai presque terminé !
(“I’m almost done!”)
Je peux aller aux toilettes ?
(“Can I go to the bathroom?”)
Je m’excuse pour le retard.
(“I apologize for the delay.”)
Je ne pourrai pas venir au prochain cours.
(“I won’t be able to come to the next class.”)
Je n’ai pas fait mes exercices.
(“I didn’t do my exercises.”)
J’ai oublié mes devoirs
(“I forgot my homework.”)
Le chat a vomi sur mes devoirs et mon cartable a pris feu.
(“The cat threw up on my homework and my schoolbag caught fire.”)


A Woman Feeling Confuse

Je ne comprends rien. (“I don’t understand anything.”)

4. Subjects’ List

You probably already know how to talk about what you’re studying or teaching, but whenever you’re chatting with your fellow students or teachers, a variety of other subject matters may come up.

Les mathématiquesMath
La biologieBiology
La chimieChemistry
L’informatiqueComputing
La physiquePhysics
L’artArt
Le dessinDrawing
Le françaisFrench
L’anglaisEnglish
L’allemandGerman
La littératureLiterature
La philosophiePhilosophy
Le latinLatin
La poésiePoetry
L’éducation civiqueCivics
L’économieEconomy
La politiquePolitics
La comptabilitéAccounting
La psychologiePsychology
La sociologieSociology
L’anthropologieAnthropology
L’histoireHistory
La géographieGeography
Le commerceBusiness
La musiqueMusic
Le solfègeMusic theory
L’EPS (éducation physique et sportive)Physical education (PE)

And here’s how to talk about these subjects:

Je vais en cours d’histoire.
(“I’m going to history class.”)
Ma matière préférée est la philo.
(“My favorite subject is philosophy.”)
J’ai de bonnes notes en biologie.
(“I have good grades in biology.”)
Passer un examen
(“To take a test”)
Je dois réviser le dernier cours de solfège.
(“I need to review the last music theory class.”)

    ➜ To practice your pronunciation, be sure to stop by our free vocabulary list on School Subjects, with recorded words and example phrases, on FrenchPod101.

A Physics Teacher Lecturing

Un cours de physique (“A physics course”)

5. Tests Instructions

When you pass an exam in a foreign country, the last thing you want is to be stressed about the instructions and simple interactions, instead of focusing on the content of the exam itself. Even if you’re well prepared, you have to understand how the exam will take place and exactly what you have to do.

1- Basic Vocabulary

Passer un examen
(“To take an exam”)

Réussir un examen
(“To pass an exam”)

Rater un examen
(“To fail an exam”)
You should not confuse Passer un examen with “To pass an exam”

These 2 sentences are false friends. In this sentence, the French verb passer means “To take” and has no implication on the outcome.

“To pass” would translate to Réussir (“To succeed”)
Passer un examen
(“To take a test”)
Un examen oral / Un oral
(“Oral exam”)
Un diplôme
(“Degree”)
Une salle d’examen
(“Exam room”)
Un surveillant d’examen
(“Test supervisor”)
Un formulaire
(“A form”)

2- Instructions

Lisez le texte
(“Read the text”)
Lisez les phrases
(“Read the sentences”)
Cochez la bonne réponse
(“Check the right answer”)
Cochez les cases
(“Check the boxes”)
Remplissez les blancs
(“Fill in the blanks”)
Complétez ces phrases
(“Complete these sentences”)
Mettez ces images dans le bon ordre
(“Put these images in the right order”)
Soulignez la bonne réponse
(“Underline the correct answer”)
Barrez les mauvaises réponses
(“Cross out the wrong answers”)
Écoutez l’exemple
(“Listen to the example”)
Décrivez cette image
(“Describe this image”)
Écrivez environ 200 mots
(“Write about 200 words”)
Résumez ce texte en 100 mots
(“Summarize this text in 100 words”)
Remplissez la grille ci-dessous
(“Fill in the grid below”)

A Man Studying

Il révise pour son examen. (“He is studying for his exam.”)

6. Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you have learned all the most common classroom words and phrases in French, for students and teachers alike. From school vocabulary to test instructions, how to address your teacher or to conduct your class, this guide should provide you with a solid foundation for your daily life in a French school.

Did we forget any important French classroom phrases, or some specific topic you’d like to read about? Make sure to share with your fellow students in the comments below!

To go deeper into the topic, you can 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 classroom words 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!

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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The Only Guide to French Restaurant Phrases You’ll Ever Need

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Going to a restaurant in a foreign country when you don’t speak the language fluently can be unnecessarily stressful for several reasons: 

  • You don’t know French etiquette: how should I behave? How do things work? How do I address the waitress? Should I leave a tip?
  • You don’t know the language: How do I ask for a drink? How do you say “Main course?” What’s the phrase to ask for more bread?

Knowing the basic French restaurant phrases is one thing, but learning about the ins and outs of French dining beforehand will truly take you to the next level.

In this article, we’ll go through the six steps of going to a restaurant, and, for each phase, we’ll list the most common and useful French phrases, as well as the restaurant etiquette and unwritten rules you need to know. Fasten your napkin, and let’s dive right into it.

A Restaurant with Friends

Un restaurant entre amies (“A restaurant with friends”)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Booking a Restaurant
  2. Entering a Restaurant
  3. Time for Drinks
  4. Food on the Table
  5. During the Meal
  6. Here Comes the Bill
  7. Conclusion

1. Booking a Restaurant


A- Should I book? Can I book?

Booking a restaurant is rarely an obligation in France, and you can almost always show up unannounced. Without booking, there’s no guarantee you’ll find a table, though, and in the most popular joints, you may be in for some discouragingly long lines.

There must be some upper-class restaurants that only accept customers with a booking, but I’ve never seen it myself. On the other hand, don’t be surprised if some restaurants don’t take reservations. They prefer to stick to the “first come, first served” rule and won’t block tables.

B- When should I book?

Cheap brasseries and mid-range restaurants with strategic locations can get extremely packed for lunch during the week, as workers from the neighboring companies all flock there at the same time during their synchronized lunch breaks. As a result, booking for lunch is generally a good idea.
Other restaurants, especially in the city center, are very popular dinner options and can attract long lines. If you know that you’re aiming at some sort of iconic or renowned place, it’s better to book in advance.

C- How do I book?

Some restaurants have their own booking system on their official website. Some use thefork.fr or other similar third-party services. In most cases, you can simply make a phone call. Booking information and phone numbers are usually available on Maps.

D- Conversation Example

Here is a phone conversation between a client and a restaurant employee:

Bonjour, Restaurant “Le Loup”, comment puis-je vous aider ?
(“Hello, “Le loup” restaurant, how may I help you?”)

Bonjour, je voudrais réserver une table pour demain soir.
(“Hello, I would like to book a table for tomorrow evening.”)

Bien sûr. Combien de personnes ?
(“Certainly. How many people?”)

Quatre personnes.
(“Four people.”)

Vous voudriez manger à l’intérieur ou en terrasse ?
(“Would you like to eat inside or on the terrace?”)

En terrasse, si c’est possible.
(“On the terrace if that’s possible.”)

D’accord. À quelle heure souhaitez-vous réserver ?
(“Okay. What time would you like to book?”)

À 20h30.
(“At 8:30 pm.”)

Pas de problème. Demain soir à 20h30, 4 personnes en terrasse. C’est réservé.
(“No problem. Tomorrow night at 8:30, 4 people on the terrace. It’s booked.”)

Parfait. Merci beaucoup ! Au revoir.
(“That’s fine. Thank you very much! Goodbye.”)

It is useful to know all possible questions, but with experience, you can cut through a lot of this back and forth and simply ask:

Bonjour, je voudrais réserver pour ce midi à 12h40, pour six personnes.
(“Hello, I would like to make a reservation for lunch at 12:40 for six people.”)

To Book a Table

Réserver une table (“To book a table”)

2. Entering a Restaurant

If you already know the menu and even booked a table, this part of the process will be as simple as introducing yourself at the entrance :

Bonjour, j’ai une réservation au nom de Jack Bauer.
(“Hello, I have a reservation under the name of Jack Bauer.”)

Bonsoir, j’ai réservé au nom de Jack Bauer, pour six personnes.
(‘Good evening, I have a reservation under the name of Jack Bauer, for six people.’)

And you will be shown your table.

If you’re not that prepared, there are a few things you need to know when choosing a restaurant:

  • What’s on the menu?
  • How much is the food?
  • Does it look pretty enough?

A- Can I See the Menu?

Many restaurants have their menu displayed outside, on a sign, or in the restaurant’s window. This is convenient if you want to quietly check your options before entering, as many people are too shy to leave once they set foot inside the premises.

If you can’t find any menu, I would simply advise that you ask for it before sitting down and, if you don’t like what you see, just give it back, thank them politely, and leave. No sane person will take offense, and it’s not considered bad etiquette.

Est-ce que je peux voir le menu, s’il vous plaît ?
(“Can I please see the menu?”)

Merci, bonne soirée !
(“Thank you, have a good evening!”)

B- Typical Questions and Answers

Once you enter a restaurant, the staff may ask you some questions:

Bonsoir, c’est pour manger ?
(“Good evening, are you here to eat?”)

Please, refrain from answering, “No, I’m here to play squash.” It’s not as stupid a question as it sounds. Most restaurants also serve drinks, and it’s customary to ask the question so they can place you accordingly.

Oui.
(“Yes.”)

Non, juste pour prendre un verre.
(“No, just to have a drink.”)

Vous souhaitez manger à l’intérieur ou en terrasse ?
(“Would you like to eat inside or on the terrace?”)

À l’intérieur, s’il vous plaît.
(“Inside, please.”)

Combien de personnes ?
(“How many people?”)

Pour deux personnes ?
(“For two people?”)

Once again, it might be tempting to answer, “No, the third one is hiding under my coat,” but this poor employee is merely doing their job! You might be expecting more friends to join, and the waiter needs to know what table size you need.

Pour trois personnes.
(“For three people.”)

    ➜ You can find more words and practice your pronunciation with our vocabulary list on Restaurants, on FrenchPod101.

The Menu

Le menu (“The menu”)

3. Time for Drinks

Now is the most exciting time! There’s delicious food on the menu, and you’re one order away from having it on your table. No time to get nervous: ordering is usually fairly simple as you can refer to the menu and ask for more information if you’re not familiar with some of the dishes.

But, first, more restaurants will ask you if you want an apéritif. This French word stands for the alcoholic beverage served before a meal to stimulate the appetite. It is usually dry rather than sweet and might come with dry nuts, olives, or breadsticks if you’ve picked a cool place. 

A- Ordering Apéritifs

The apéritif drinks are often listed in a specific section of the menu and are not mandatory. If you don’t feel like having one, simply decline it. It’s also perfectly fine not to have one when you’re among other people, and they order some apéritifs.

Also, keep in mind that restaurants generally make the most margin on drinks, so they’ll never fail to ask you whether you want apéritifs, wine, beer, bottled water, digestifs, and so on.

Est-ce que vous voulez des apéritifs ?
(“Do you want to order apéritifs ?”)

Je voudrais un pastis, s’il vous plaît.
(“I would like a pastis, please.”)

Non merci.
(“No, thank you.”)

B- Ordering Drinks

Some restaurants phrase it differently and ask if you want to order some drinks. This could happen as soon as you’re seated when you have no idea what’s on the drink menu. You could order an apéritif but also order something to drink with your food, such as table wine or beer.

Qu’est-ce que vous voulez boire ?
(“What do you want to drink?”)

Est-ce qu’il y aura des boissons ?
(“Will there be drinks?”)

Je voudrais un demi de blonde, s’il vous plaît.
(“I’d like a half-pint of blond beer, please.”)

Non merci.
(“No, thank you.”)

Rien pour moi.
(“Nothing for me.”)

Peut-être plus tard.
(“Maybe later.”)

C- Free Water Tastes Better

Whatever else you’re having, now is also the best time to order some water.

Tap water is always free in France (by law), and it’s drinkable all over the country. If you’re fine with simple water in a pitcher and not fancy bottled sparkling water, this is the way to go. Bottled water is sold at absurd prices in restaurants, so it’s never worth ordering it when you can have free tap water. 

This is an amazing feature of French restaurants, especially if you’re on a budget. And it’s also much more eco-friendly than drinking from a disposable bottle.

To ask for your free water, don’t just ask for water: sneaky waiters could interpret your order as mineral water and charge you for it. Instead, use this phrase:

Une carafe d’eau s’il vous plaît.
(“A jug of water, please.”)

Be sure to emphasize the word Carafe (“Jug”). This is what differentiates free water from a paid order of mineral water. And, if you run out, you can refill as much as you need.

Est-ce que je pourrais ravoir de l’eau, s’il vous plaît ?
(“Can I have more water, please?”)


To Have an Aperitif

Prendre l’apéritif (“To have an aperitif”)

4. Food on the Table

Ok, you’ve waited long enough. Let’s put some food on this table!

In most cases, you’ll have a menu right in front of you, but some restaurants do things differently. It may be on a blackboard somewhere on the wall or in the room, and I’ve been to places with digital menus where you scan a QR code and browse it on your phone.

Most inexpensive brasseries or mid-range restaurants have a Menu du jour (“Menu of the day”) or at least a Plat du jour (“Today’s special” but literally: “Dish of the day”), but some dodgy places could spot that you’re a tourist and decide to give you the regular menu that is usually more expensive.

Quel est le plat du jour ?
(“What is today’s special?”)

Je voudrais le plat du jour.
(“I would like today’s special.”)

Je voudrais le menu du jour.
(“I would like the menu of the day.”)

Je voudrais la formule du midi.
(“I would like the lunch menu.”)

If you need to know more about a specific dish, don’t hesitate to ask:

La tartiflette, qu’est-ce que c’est ?
(“The tartiflette, what it is?”)

C’est un plat à base de pommes de terre, avec du fromage et des lardons.
(“It is a potato-based dish with cheese and bacon.”)

Whether you’re ordering from the specials or à la carte, here are a few examples:

En entrée, je voudrais la salade composée.
(“As a starter, I would like the mixed salad.”)

Comme plat, je voudrais un steak au poivre.
(“As a dish, I would like a steak au poivre.”)

En dessert, je voudrais la mousse au chocolat.
(“For dessert, I would like the chocolate mousse.”)

If you have any allergy or a special diet, now is the time to talk about it:

Je suis allergique aux cacahuètes.
(“I’m allergic to peanuts.”)

Est-ce que ce plat contient des cacahuètes ?
(“Does this dish contain peanuts?”)

Avez-vous des plats végétariens ?
(“Do you have vegetarian dishes?”)

Avez-vous des plats végans ?
(“Do you have vegan dishes?”)


A Salmon Filet

Un filet de saumon (“A salmon filet”)

5. During the Meal

Food has come to the table and is currently traveling toward your stomach. Everything’s going well, but you may have some requests for the waiter, or worse: what if they ask you some questions?

A thoughtful waiter might ask you if everything is going well or if you need anything.

Est-ce que tout se passe bien ?
(“Is everything going well?”)

Tout va bien ?
(“Is everything okay?”)

Oui, très bien, merci !
(“Yes, very good, thank you.”)

Est-ce que je pourrais avoir plus de pain, s’il vous plaît ?
(“Could I have some more bread, please?”)

Je voudrais reprendre un verre de vin, s’il vous plaît.
(“I’d like another glass of wine, please.”)

Est-ce que vous avez des sauces pour les frites ?
(“Do you have some sauce for the fries?”)

If you need to call for a waiter, try to make eye contact or get their attention with a simple: Excusez-moi (“Excuse me”)

Now it’s time for dessert, isn’t it? You don’t want to miss out on the local delicacies!

Est-ce que vous prendrez des desserts ?
(“Will you have some desserts?”)

Vous voulez la carte des desserts ?
(“Do you want to see the desserts menu?”)

Je voudrais les profiteroles, s’il vous plaît.
(“I’d like the profiteroles, please.”)

Profiteroles are small balls of soft choux pastry filled with whipped cream or ice cream and covered with hot chocolate sauce. They’re served in heaven and in every good French restaurant.

It is common for the French to order a coffee after their meal and most waiters will ask if you’d like one:

Est-ce que vous prendrez un café ?
(“Will you have a coffee?”)


Profiteroles

Des profiteroles (“Profiteroles”) (Credit: Annie Smithers Bistrot, shared under CC BY-SA 2.0)

6. Here Comes the Bill

Once you’re done with the main course or with the whole meal, waiters will sometimes ask for your feedback. It’s often just protocol, but you may want to go the extra mile if you really had a great time.

Tout s’est bien passé ?
(“Did everything go well?”)

Très bien, merci.
(“Very well, thank you.”)

C’était délicieux, merci !
(“It was delicious, thank you.”)

C’était vraiment excellent. Mes compliments au chef.
(“It was really excellent. My compliments to the chef.”)

This last one is very formal and may sound awkward if you’ve just had a kebab.

A- Check Please

When it comes to the bill, there are mainly three types of restaurants:

  • Fast food restaurants where you pay at the counter when you order
  • Restaurants where you pay at the counter after the meal
  • Restaurants where you pay at your table after the meal

When in doubt, look around you for clues or simply ask a waiter:

Est-ce que je pourrais avoir l’addition, s’il vous plaît ?
(“Could I have the bill, please?”)

Je vous l’apporte tout de suite.
(“I’ll bring it to you right away.”)

Vous pouvez régler directement au comptoir.
(“You can pay directly at the counter.”)

Then, when it’s time to pay:

Vous voulez payer séparément ou ensemble ?
(“Do you want to pay separately or together?”)

Je vais régler pour tout le monde.
(“I will pay for everyone.”)

Séparément, s’il vous plaît.
(“Separately, please.”)

B- What About the Tip?

In France, the 15% service fee is always included in the prices as they appear on the menu. Unlike other countries such as Canada or the US, the tip is not seen as something mandatory, and many French don’t tip or only tip when they feel like they have a good reason to do so (outstanding service or amazing food).

French waiters don’t survive on tips, but they’re rarely paid well for a physical and often stressful job, making the tip a welcome bonus to their wage.

Tips are usually left on the table in the form of coins or a bill or in a dedicated tip box at the counter. The average tip would be around 5% of the bill, but there are no strict rules about it, and you should not feel forced. On the other hand, a higher bill is always appreciated.


The Bill Please!

L’addition s’il vous plaît ! (“The bill please!”)

7. Conclusion 

In this guide, you have learned everything you need to know when eating in a French restaurant, from making a reservation to apéritifs, drinks, ordering food and desserts, as well as handling the check.

For each step, you need to know the tricks and secret rules, as well as the basic French restaurant phrases. Did we forget some specific situations you’d like to learn more about?

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 restaurant phrases 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!

About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon jumped around from job to job 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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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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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.

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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 Proverbs – An Insider Look at French Wisdom

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Why are proverbs so popular? As old-fashioned as they can be, you read, hear, and use them on a daily basis. They reflect who we are and the values we stand for. They’re timeless and comforting, never seem to age, and always bring this old magical wisdom that helps us go through life.

Personally, what I find fascinating about proverbs is how they serve as a window to different cultures. When I hear Chinese, Russian, or Indian proverbs, I feel like I’m entering a whole new world with a wildly different culture and mindset to learn from.

French proverbs are no different, and this is what I’m offering you in this article: a window to popular French wisdom, made up of common proverbs and old sayings. They might not instantly make you wiser, but I’m hoping they’ll get you curious to learn more about the culture and history of France.

An Owl Perched on a Wood Stump

Be wise as a French owl!


Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Proverbs About Wisdom
  2. Proverbs About Success
  3. Proverbs About Life
  4. Proverbs About Family & Friends
  5. A Few More Proverbs for the Road?
  6. Le mot de la fin

1. Proverbs About Wisdom

Speaking of wisdom, let’s begin by looking at some proverbs in French that touch on how to live life wisely. 

#1

FrenchIl ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué.
Literally“Don’t sell the bear’s hide before you’ve killed the bear.”
EquivalentDon’t count your chickens before they hatch.
This traditional saying comes from Old French. It means that you should wait to act until you know that something is certain.

Ne vendons pas la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué, on ne sait pas encore si elle va gagner. “Let’s not count our chickens before they hatch; we don’t know yet if she will win.”

#2

FrenchL’argent ne fait pas le bonheur.
Equivalent“Money cannot buy happiness.”
Nearly identical to its English counterpart, this expression means that although money lets you buy things, it’s not enough to achieve happiness.

The most materialistic people often follow it with mais il y contribue (“but it contributes to it”). Benjamin Franklin would argue: “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants.”


#3

FrenchIl n’y a que les imbéciles qui ne changent pas d’avis.
Literally“Only fools never change their minds.”
EquivalentA wise man changes his mind, a fool never will.
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. (Emerson)
Our opinions may vary, and people clinging to their believes or decisions when they have every reason not to are being stupid.

We use this proverb to point out stubbornness or to justify changing our minds.

A: Je pensais que tu ne voulais pas lire ce livre. (“I thought you didn’t want to read that book.”)
B: Il n’y a que les imbéciles qui ne changent pas d’avis. (“Only fools never change their mind.”)

#4

FrenchOn n’apprend pas au vieux singe à faire la grimace.
Literally“We don’t teach the old monkey to make a face.”
EquivalentThis old dog knows all the tricks.
You don’t need to teach something to someone who has much more experience than you have.

We typically use this expression when someone with less experience or knowledge is trying to explain something we find obvious or easy. 

#5

FrenchIl n’y a que la vérité qui blesse.
Literally“Only the truth hurts.”
EquivalentTruth hurts.
If you feel offended by a statement or reproach, it only proves that it was true. The most hurtful comments are the ones we deserve.

This expression is often used as a taunt, or when someone is denying their fault or wrongdoing and acting offended by the accusation.

#6

FrenchLa vengeance est un plat qui se mange froid.
Equivalent“Revenge is a dish best served cold.”
Vengeance is more satisfying when delayed and exacted with a clear head.

You’ll take more pleasure if you wait until the heat of anger has cooled off, rather than take revenge as an immediate act of rage.

There’s a common misconception about the origin of this quote, with many people claiming that it’s from the French novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses (“Dangerous Liaisons”) by Choderlos de Laclos. But the phrase actually appears in none of De Laclos’ work. As it stands, its origin remains unknown.

An Old Man Pointing to His Temple

The old dog knows all the tricks.

2. Proverbs About Success

We all have our own definitions of success, defined by our personal goals and our outlook on the world. Here are a few French proverbs and sayings that speak on success in its many forms—and how to attain it! 

#1

FrenchÀ vaincre sans péril, on triomphe sans gloire.
Literally“To win without risk is a triumph without glory.”
EquivalentNo guts, no glory.
Success won’t come if you’re not brave enough to take risks.

This is a quote from Le Cid, a five-act French tragicomedy written by Pierre Corneille. The whole book is written in alexandrines (lines of verse always composed of twelve syllables), which is quite impressive! 

#2

FrenchIl ne faut pas mettre la charrue avant les bœufs.
Literally“You should not put the cart before the oxen.”
EquivalentDon’t put the cart before the horse.
This expression from the fifteenth century means that you shouldn’t go so fast that you fail to do things in the right order. Literally, it means that it makes no sense to have the cart placed before the oxen if the oxen are supposed to pull the cart.

It’s often used to temper someone’s enthusiasm by reminding them to take their time and start at the beginning.

#3

FrenchOn n’est jamais mieux servi que par soi-même.
Literally“You are never served better than by yourself.”
EquivalentIf you want something done right, do it yourself.
If you want something done exactly the way you want it, you should just do it yourself.

This is a quote from the play Bruis et Palaprat (1807) by Charles-Guillaume Étienne.

#4

FrenchQui ne risque rien n’a rien. 
Literally“Who’s not risking anything gets nothing.”
EquivalentNothing ventured, nothing gained.
One must take risks to achieve something. If you don’t risk anything, you won’t get anything good.

Quit that boring nine-to-five job, grab your backpack, and chase your dreams! Success is never guaranteed, but laying still will never take you anywhere.

#5

FrenchNe remets pas à demain ce que tu peux faire aujourd’hui.
Equivalent“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” (Benjamin Franklin)
No time like the present! You shouldn’t delay doing something if you can do it right now.

This quote is a powerful mantra for serial procrastinators. I should get it as a tattoo.

#6

FrenchC’est en forgeant qu’on devient forgeron.
Literally“It is by forging that you become a blacksmith.”
EquivalentPractice makes perfect.
To really become proficient at something, you need practice and not just theory.

#7

FrenchÀ cœur vaillant rien d’impossible.
Literally“To a valiant heart, nothing is impossible.”
Equivalent
A brave heart can accomplish anything. With enough courage, one can do the impossible.

This quote was the motto of Jacques Cœur (1395 – 1456), silversmith for the French king Charles VII.


A Silhouette of Someone Leaping from One Cliff to Another

« À cœur vaillant rien d’impossible. »

3. Proverbs About Life

We could all use a little guidance now and then as we navigate this thing called life. And more often than not, we end up looking to the wisdom of our predecessors for that extra insight. Here are a few common French proverbs about life that offer just that! 

#1

FrenchChat échaudé craint l’eau froide.
Literally“A scalded cat fears cold water.”
EquivalentOnce bitten, twice shy.
This is what you’d say if you were scared of doing something again because you previously had an unpleasant experience doing that thing.

Bad experiences make us cautious, and sometimes even overly cautious. Likewise, the cat that got splashed with hot water will be scared of water, whether it’s hot or cold.

#2

FrenchOn ne change pas une équipe qui gagne.
Literally“One does not change a winning team.”
EquivalentIf it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.
The English equivalent is pretty self-explanatory: There’s no need to make any changes to something that’s already working well.

Le prochain John Wick sera encore réalisé par David Leitch et Chad Stahelski. On ne change pas une équipe qui gagne !
 “The next John Wick movie will again be directed by David Leitch et Chad Stahelski. You don’t change a winning team!”

#3

FrenchIl vaut mieux prévenir que guérir.
Literally“It is better to prevent than to heal.”
EquivalentBetter safe than sorry.
You might use this proverb when it seems wiser to be careful and protect yourself instead of taking unnecessary risks.

Je sais qu’il fait beau mais je vais prendre mon parapluie. Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir !
“I know it’s sunny, but I’ll take my umbrella anyway. Better safe than sorry!”

#4

FrenchIl n’y a pas de fumée sans feu.
Literally“There is no smoke without fire.”
EquivalentWhere there is smoke, there is fire.
If there’s any sign of something being true, then it must be at least partly true.

Je ne crois pas aux théories du complot mais il n’y a pas de fumée sans feu.
 “I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, but where there is smoke, there is fire.”

Firemen Putting Out a Fire

« Il n’y a pas de fumée sans feu. »

4. Proverbs About Family & Friends

Wherever you live in the world, relationships are an essential part of everyday life. Gain some extra perspective on the topic with these French proverbs about family and friends. 

#1

FrenchQui aime bien châtie bien.
Literally“Who loves well, punishes well.”
EquivalentSpare the rod and spoil the child.
This proverb is originally translated from Latin: “Qui bene amat, bene castigat.” It’s sometimes attributed to classical Greek philosopher Socrates.

This is a bit different from the English equivalent. “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” implies that if you don’t punish a child when they do something wrong, they will never learn what’s right.

In the French expression, we mean that when you love someone, you’ll punish them proportionally to their wrongdoing instead of being too harsh or ignoring their fault. If you don’t like someone, you’re more likely to be indifferent when they do wrong—but the behavior of your loved ones matters to you.

#2

FrenchQui se ressemble s’assemble.
Literally“Those who look alike get together.”
EquivalentBirds of a feather flock together.
People with similar interests or character tend to gather and spend time with each other.

This proverb is often used pejoratively when disapproving of a shared characteristic or interest.

#3

FrenchMieux vaut être seul que mal accompagné.
Equivalent“Better to be alone than in bad company.”
Identical to its English equivalent, this quote by Pierre Gringore reminds us that it’s pointless to seek company at all cost. If you can only be in bad company, you should rather be alone and enjoy yourself in the comfort of your mind palace.

#4

FrenchLes bons comptes font les bons amis.
Literally“Good accounts make good friends.”
EquivalentFast pay makes fast friends.
To preserve friendship, quickly pay your debts. 

Friendship and money never combine gracefully, so as Benjamin Franklin would say: “Never keep borrowed money an hour beyond the time you promised.” (Yes, I’m a Ben Franklin fan, he’s so quotable!)

#5

FrenchLes chiens ne font pas des chats.
Literally“Dogs don’t breed cats.”
EquivalentThe apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Children usually have similar characteristics or qualities to those of their parents.

This expression can be used to highlight the parents’ talents:

Elle joue déjà très bien de la guitare. Les chiens ne font pas des chats.
“She’s playing guitar very well. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Or it can be used pejoratively:

Il a un sale caractère. Les chiens ne font pas des chats.
“He’s got a bad temper. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”


Best Friends Hanging Out on the Couch

« Qui se ressemble s’assemble. »

5. A Few More Proverbs for the Road?

#1

FrenchRien ne sert de courir, il faut partir à point.
Literally“It’s useless to run. You should start on time.”
EquivalentSlow and steady wins the race.

#2

FrenchIl n’y a que celui qui ne fait rien qui ne se trompe jamais.
Literally“Only those who do nothing never fail.”
This is sometimes used as a motivational quote when starting a new business or career.

#3

FrenchChassez le naturel, il revient au galop.
Literally“Chase away the natural and it returns at a gallop.”
EquivalentA leopard cannot change its spots.
If you go against your nature, it will never last.

#4

FrenchA cheval donné, on ne regarde pas les dents.
Literally“When given a horse, don’t look at its teeth.”
EquivalentNever look a gift horse in the mouth.
This is said to advise someone not to refuse something when it’s offered.

#5

FrenchIl n’est pire aveugle que celui qui ne veut pas voir.
Literally“There is no worse blind man than the one who doesn’t want to see.”
EquivalentYou cannot reason with someone who’s not interested in the truth.

#6

FrenchVouloir, c’est pouvoir.
Literally“To want is to be able to.”
EquivalentWhere there is a will, there is a way.

#7

FrenchAprès la pluie, le beau temps.
Literally“After the rain, the good weather.”
EquivalentEvery cloud has a silver lining.

#8

FrenchOn ne fait pas d’omelette sans casser d’oeufs.
Literally“You don’t make omelets without breaking some eggs.”
EquivalentNo pain no gain.
You cannot achieve great things without making sacrifices.

6. Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you’ve learned about the most important French proverbs on a variety of topics, from wisdom to relationships. Did I forget any important proverb that you know? Or maybe you know some cool saying on a different topic? Make sure to share them with our community in the comments below!


If you enjoyed this lesson, 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 one-on-one coaching and have your private teacher practice with you. They’ll use assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples to help you improve your French skills like never before. 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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10 Places to Visit in Paris, the City of Lights

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Have you ever been to Paris? Few cities around the world have aroused as much passion as the French capital. Locals often grow to hate it for its heavy traffic, pollution, and hectic lifestyle. Visitors love it for its high-class shopping and stunning architecture. Lovers from all over the world choose it as their honeymoon destination.

Whether you love it or hate it, Paris is a city like no other. Centuries of history, countless museums, enough sights and activities to keep you busy for weeks, and several contrasting districts to explore…these are but a few of the city’s most charming qualities.

What’s the best time to visit Paris? And what are the most amazing places to visit? You will know it all by the end of this guide.

A Woman Taking a Photo of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France

Explorer Paris (“Exploring Paris”)

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Table of Contents
  1. Travel Tips
  2. The Top 10 Must-See Places in Paris
  3. Places You Might Want to Skip
  4. Survival French for Travelers
  5. Le Mot De La Fin

1. Travel Tips

Paris is the capital—and by far the most populated—city of France, with more than two million people living in around 100 square kilometers. It lies at the center of the Île-de-France or Paris region, which has a population of twelve million.

Since the seventeenth century, Paris has been one of Europe’s most important centers for finance, business, science, fashion, and the arts. It received around 17.5 million visitors in 2018, ranking as the sixth most visited city in the world (after Hong Kong, Bangkok, London, Macao, and Singapore).

When?

March and May are usually the best months to visit Paris. If you can’t visit during the spring, autumn is another good option.

Winters are mild, but with school holidays in December and February, the streets get unpleasantly crowded. Summer, especially the month of August, can be really hot and wet. This is also when most Parisians go on vacation, and many shops and restaurants are closed for the month.

Getting Around

It’s very easy to navigate the capital and you’ll be offered many options, from strolling on foot (most of the center is beautiful and pedestrian-friendly) to using the Metro, buses, trains, trams, or bicycles. 

Unlike its large metropolitan area, the inner city is rather small and packed with amazing architecture and sight-seeing. If you can afford the time, it’s well worth walking around.

Language

You can visit Paris without speaking French, but the more you learn before your trip, the better. It will allow you to interact with locals, read the signs and menus, and immerse yourself deeper into the culture.

Anyone who deals with tourists in Paris will speak some measure of English. As for the common folks, their level of English literacy is somewhat better than our national average (but still not great), and many Parisians are still completely helpless with English.

Sleeping

At the time of this writing, the cheapest dorm bed in Paris is 23€, and luckily, you can find several more relatively cheap hostels (23-30€) in the inner city. Double rooms can be found from 40€ if you’re adventurous, but it may be better to plan for a minimum of 60€ for something reasonably clean and comfortable.

Eating

You can find cheap meals starting at around 6€ (typically kebab or Chinese menus). A hearty and typical plat du jour (dish of the day) should be around 10-15€, and 15-20€ will buy you a three-course meal. Then, for more sophisticated food, you can find restaurants accommodating the highest budgets. The finest dining in world-class restaurants, such as Le Meurice, will cost you around 500€.

A French Restaurant Called Le Cafe Gourmand

Un restaurant français (“A French restaurant”)


2. The Top 10 Must-See Places in Paris

Whether you’re a culture vulture, a nature-lover, a shopping addict, or a patron of the arts, you’ll find plenty of excitement in Paris. 

In this list, I’ll give you a summary of the sights and attractions in Paris that should not be missed—not because they’re highly touristic, but because I believe they all offer something unique and remarkable.

1 – Tour Eiffel

I bet you didn’t see that one coming! And surprisingly, as cliché as this popular landmark in Paris may appear, the Eiffel Tower is probably the most controversial item on this list. Many Parisians find it ugly or unappealing, and more and more visitors prefer to stay away from its army of tourists, trinket-sellers, and endless waiting lines.

Did you know it was originally meant to be destroyed after serving its purpose?

Towering 300 meters over the Champs de Mars, this colossus of over 10,000 tons of iron was built specifically for the Exposition Universelle in 1889 and was supposed to be destroyed twenty years later. It was only saved by scientific experiments regarding radio transmission and telecommunications.

100 years later, the tower is still standing. It has become the stage for numerous international events, quickly rising to the top of the list of the most-visited monuments in the world.

I keep reading that you can get equally striking sights from the Montparnasse Tower, but would you rather see them from the top of a skyscraper or from this unique four-legged iron monster?

At night, it has to be seen to be believed. Lit up from head to feet, it brightens the city skyline as it gets illuminated with a ten-minute light show every hour, from dusk until one a.m.

La Tour Eiffel, or the Eiffel Tower

La Tour Eiffel

2 – Notre-Dame & Saint Michel

Nested at the heart of Paris, on a small islet called Île de la Cité (“Island of the City”), the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris (Literally: “Our Lady of Paris”) is the most iconic and touristic monument in the whole city. Yes, it gets almost twice as many visitors as the Eiffel Tower!

But then, on April 15, 2019, a ferocious accidental fire raged for around fifteen hours despite the sustained efforts of thousands of firemen. By the time it was extinguished, the spire had collapsed and most of the roof had been destroyed. Luckily, the outside of the structure remained largely intact and a lot of damage was prevented by its stone vaulted ceiling which contained the roof as it collapsed.

The restoration of the cathedral started almost immediately; one year later, the forecourt of Notre-Dame was reopened. It will take at least four more years to bring it back to its former glory, but it’s still worth seeing it from the outside!

Despite its fame, I’ve personally never been that impressed with Notre-Dame. It looks just like many other French Gothic cathedrals in smaller cities such as Reims, Amiens, Chartres, and Anvers.

However, visiting Notre-Dame, you’re right at the center of the most beautiful Parisian districts: 

North of Île de la Cité, you can reach the 4ème Arrondissement, one of the most iconic and sight-filled districts. You’re only one bridge away from another islet called Île Saint Louis, and just south of Notre-Dame, you can stroll through the Saint Michel neighborhood, which features countless restaurants, bookshops, and parks.

Notre-Dame in Paris, France

Notre-Dame de Paris

3 – Musée du Louvre

The Louvre is the world’s most popular museum, greeting ten million visitors every year. It’s home to more than 500,000 pieces of eclectic art, though only 35,000 are available to the public (for some mysterious reason).

Should you visit the Louvre? If you just want to see the Mona Lisa, please don’t and just buy a postcard. This is the single most-visited painting in the museum, and you won’t see much of her enigmatic smile while being ripped to shreds in a forest of selfie sticks.

Of course, there are plenty of other museums in Paris: Musée d’Orsay, Musée de l’Orangerie, Musée Rodin, Centre Pompidou. You could spend a good month just visiting them all. 

But obviously, the Louvre is special—not only for its extensive collection, but also for the monument and its surroundings. The Pyramide du Louvre, a large glass pyramid located in the main courtyard of the Louvre Palace, is a prime example.

Le Musée du Louvre

Le Musée du Louvre

4 – Jardin du Luxembourg

Located next to the Latin district of Paris, the Luxembourg Garden was created in 1612 at the request of Queen Marie de Médicis, to go along the new residence she was having built: the Luxembourg Palace

Spread over 25 hectares of green elegance and floral magnificence, it’s split into two parts with different styles: English and French, separated by a geometric forest and a large pond. There is also an orchard, an apiary, a rose garden, a stunning collection of orchids, more than 100 statues, an enormous fountain, the Orangerie, and of course, the palace itself.

The gardens are a very popular spot for locals and it can get a little crowded. There, you can play chess, bridge, or tennis, stroll through the alleys, or sit next to the pond. Even though it’s right in the middle of the city, it has a pretty relaxed atmosphere.


5 – Montmartre

No matter how touristic it is, you can’t leave Paris without visiting Montmartre, the art district of Paris.

Historically, it’s renowned for attracting painters, writers, musicians, and comedians. And to this day, it’s full of eccentric and interesting people, colorful cafés, art galleries, and way too many souvenir shops.

At the heart of this charming district lies the Butte Montmartre, a small hill at the top of which stands the Sacré-Coeur (“Holy Heart”) Basilica. Take the cheap funicular or climb the 220 steps to reach the top, and you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view of Paris’ rooftops.

But there’s more! From the top of Butte Montmartre, you’re only a short walk away from the world-famous Moulin Rouge. (If you haven’t watched the dazzling movie from Baz Luhrmann, it’s never too late.)

If you plan to visit Paris by night, are looking for the most iconic Parisian nightlife experience, and are ready to spend big, the Moulin Rouge is exactly what you need. This legendary cabaret has been running every night since 1889, with sparkling burlesque dancers adorned in rhinestones and feathers. (Due to the somewhat erotic nature of the show, it’s probably not the best place to take your kids, though.)

Le Moulin Rouge

Le Moulin Rouge
(Photo by Keven LawCC)

6 – Cimetière du Père Lachaise

Depending on where you’re from, it might sound weird or even disrespectful to visit a cemetery, but this is not the case in France—especially not in the large historical cemeteries in Paris, such as Père Lachaise, Montmartre, and Montparnasse.

Our cemeteries are an integral part of the city’s cultural heritage, visited by people from all around the world who want to see the tombs of the many celebrities buried there (such as Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and Edith Piaf). It also makes for an unusual and picturesque walk in a peaceful atmosphere.

Personally, what I love about Père Lachaise is the surreal and eclectic architectures of the graves and mausoleums. All funeral styles are represented and the Gothic crypts are especially impressive.

Le cimetière du Père Lachaise

Le cimetière du Père Lachaise

7 – Le Marais

If you want to take in a deep breath of typical Parisian style, head to one of the city’s oldest and coolest districts. Its typical cobblestone streets and small courtyards will make you feel like you’re strolling in Medieval Paris.

Le Marais (Literally “The Swamp”) was originally built on a swamp, but it’s hard to tell when strolling across its fancy streets and high-end fashion boutiques. It has numerous museums and art galleries, vintage shops, antiques, and nightlife ventures.

The district has become home to various communities over the last few centuries. Traditionally a Jewish quarter, it later became popular with Chinese emigrants after World War I. Nowadays, it’s famous for its thriving LGBT+ community. 

There are lots of small restaurants to choose from and if you’re not in a rush, you can trust the length of the line to locate the best places. For a taste of what Le Marais has to offer, you can’t go wrong with Florence Kahn or L’As du Falafel.

“Pavillon de la Reine”, in Le Marais
(Photo by Alex59300 – CC)

8 – Catacombes de Paris 

If the cemetery didn’t scare you away, how about we take it up a notch and dive into one of the most macabre and unsettling historical attractions Paris has to offer?

The Catacombs of Paris is an underground network beneath the streets of the city, with an ossuary hosting the remains of more than six million people. It was created in the eighteenth century to compensate for the city’s overflowing cemeteries.

There are a lot of creepy stories surrounding the catacombs, as you can probably imagine. But this hasn’t kept half a million visitors from heading down the dark tunnels each year since 1874, when it became open to public visitation. Upon entry, they’re greeted with the sign: “Stop. This is the empire of death.”

No one is certain of how large the catacombs really are, but they’re estimated to be around 320 kilometers. They’re largely inaccessible to date, but clandestine groups of catacomb enthusiasts (known as “Cataphiles”) frequently roam this underworld in search of thrills and uncharted sections.

Due to the illegal nature of these activities, it’s difficult to get in touch with any of these urban explorers. Unless you’re intimate with a member, you’ll have to opt for the organized tour. Just make sure you’re not claustrophobic!

Les Catacombes de Paris

Les Catacombes de Paris
(Photo by Vlastimil Juricek – CC)

9 – Parc de Sceaux

There are many parks in Paris, and some of them are really beautiful, like the Parc des Buttes Chaumont or the Parc Monceau. But as soon as the sun comes up, they get awfully crowded with locals and tourists alike. 

Le Parc de Sceaux is kind of a secret gem and attracts much more of a local crowd than the more central gardens do.

The Domaine de Sceaux is a vast expanse of grass, colorful trees, flowers, and ponds, spread around a typical Renaissance castle. It’s much bigger (and quieter) than other parks in Paris, but just as elegant and beautiful.

Le Domaine de Sceaux

Le Domaine de Sceaux

10 – La Seine

The Seine River splits Paris in half, and unless you’re blindly bus-hopping from one attraction to the next, you’re likely to spend a lot of your time strolling along its paved shores.

First of all, this is arguably the most romantic spot in Paris. Especially near Notre-Dame, strolling on its peaceful piers with the city lights reflecting on the canal is pure magic. (The water doesn’t look dirty at night!)

It’s so romantic indeed that you might have heard of the famous love-locks bridge, where lovers from all around the world attach a padlock as a symbolic way to “Lock their love forever.”

The trend started around 2008, and seven years later, the Pont des Arts (“Bridge of the Arts”) started to crumble under the weight of 700,000 locks for an estimated total of 93 metric tons of romance! At first, the city didn’t seem too keen on listening to grumpy locals calling it vandalism, but when it started threatening the bridge’s integrity, they had to replace the railing entirely.

On a less romantic note, did you know that Parisians used to drink the Seine’s water, use it to wash their laundry, and even swim in it? However, scientific analysis of the water in the 20s revealed that the water was highly toxic, polluted, and absolutely unsuitable for any water activity.

But none of this kept us from creating Paris Plage (“Paris Beach”). This oddity appeared in 2002, turning part of the banks of the Seine into a beach, with tons of sand as well as swimming pools, beach volley nets, ice cream stalls, tanning chairs—you name it! 

Initially meant for those who couldn’t take summer vacations on the coast, Paris Plage is now a popular spot for everyone. Nobody’s crazy enough to actually swim in the Seine, though.

La Seine

La Seine

3. Places You Might Want to Skip

After going through our Top 10, you may be surprised that some of the most iconic locations are missing. This is not an oversight, but rather a deliberate omission.

  • L’Arc de Triomphe

    This enormous piece of stone stands at the center of the Place de l’Étoile (“Star Plaza”). The monument itself is not especially pretty and it’s not tall enough to offer an interesting view of the city. More importantly, it’s right in the middle of one of the world’s busiest and noisiest roundabouts.
  • Les Champs-Élysées

    I never got the appeal of our “Elysian Fields.” This is nothing more than a glorified shopping street with thousands of tourists waiting in endless lines in front of luxury fashion shops. It’s also notorious for attracting pickpockets and scammers.

    Don’t expect to do any regular shopping here, as you’re gonna need very deep pockets to afford a bag from Louis Vuitton or the most expensive Macarons you’ve ever seen.
  • Le Château de Versailles

    This is another timeless classic you could easily avoid. The Versailles Castle is quite remote and will likely take you a full day. As a result, I would only recommend it if you’re spending a week or more in the capital.

    You can find better exhibitions in the central museums and equally interesting gardens in Jardin du Luxembourg or Jardin des Tuileries.

4. Survival French for Travelers

Even if you don’t speak much French, it’s generally recommended to greet people in French, as it will make for a much more positive first impression. Don’t worry, you can switch back to English as soon as you’ve greeted them. That said, they will appreciate you going the extra mile and learning a few more survival phrases. 

Bonjour !
Bonsoir !
“Hello!” / “Good morning!”
“Good evening!”
Au revoir.“Goodbye.”
Merci (beaucoup).“Thank you (very much).”
Non merci.“No, thank you.”
S’il vous plaît.“Please.”
Excusez-moi. “Excuse me.”
(Je suis) désolé(e).“(I am) sorry.”
Où sont les toilettes ?“Where are the toilets?”


    → For more useful travel phrases or pronunciation practice, please have a look at the following resources on FrenchPod101.com:


Pouvez-vous répéter (s’il vous plaît) ?“Can you repeat (please)?”
Un peu plus lentement, s’il vous plaît.“A bit slower, please.”
Je suis désolé(e), je ne comprends pas.“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
Vous parlez anglais ?“Do you speak English?”

    → These are just some basics to help you get by. For more resources on this topic, be sure to check out our survival guide on French Travel Phrases.

Le Mot De La Fin

In this guide, you’ve learned about the most amazing places to visit in Paris, from the obvious Tour Eiffel to some lesser-known gems like the Domaine de Sceaux or Père Lachaise. Did it get you excited about visiting the City of Lights? Or maybe you’ve been there already but missed some of its treasures?

Did we forget any important places you’ve seen or heard about? Don’t hesitate to share it with your fellow students in the comments!

Make sure to explore FrenchPod101.com, as we have plenty of free resources to help you practice your grammar and learn new words before you visit France. 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 one-on-one coaching with your own private teacher who will help you practice new travel phrases 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!

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

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.

English Words Used in French: Do You Speak Frenglish?

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Did you know that nearly 30% of English words might be of French origin? This is still a hot topic among linguists, but it speaks volumes about how languages influence each other, especially now that globalization is going full throttle.

Conversely, the English language has long been influential in the evolution of French, but with the rise of the internet, new technologies, and the uncontested power of Hollywood, English terms and expressions have been literally pouring into the French language in recent years. 

In this article, you’ll learn everything about English words used in French and this weird two-headed language called Frenglish. We’ll cover it all, from loanwords to the excesses of business Frenglish, mysterious syntax mutations, and how the French are reacting to all this.

Menu at a Restaurant

At work, after work, Frenglish is everywhere!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Frenglish or Loanwords?
  2. Legit Loanwords
  3. Fake Loanwords
  4. Know Your Frenglish
  5. The French Resistance to Anglification
  6. Le Mot De La Fin

1. Frenglish or Loanwords?

Before going any further, what are loanwords and how are they different from Frenglish?

1 – Le Franglais

Le Franglais (“Frenglish”) is a portmanteau word. It’s the combination of the words Français (“French”) and Anglais (“English”), and it describes the excessive mixing of French and English by French speakers. 

It is a derogatory word used to denounce the overuse of English words in the French language, though it has lost some of its negative connotations over time. At best, you could use it to show self-awareness of your linguistic shortcomings any time you realize you’re using too many English words in your speech.

2 – English Loanwords

A loanword is a word taken from one language and incorporated into another without translation. These are not just look-alikes from a common etymology, but actual copy-pastes of foreign words without translation. 

For example: 

  • Un sandwich (“A sandwich”)
  • Le suspense (“Suspense”)

Let’s dive deeper into English loanwords and see why they’re going to be your best friends!

2. Legit Loanwords

As you learn French, you’re gonna love English loanwords! Because they’re borrowed from English with little to no changes, they are easy for English speakers to understand. And there are so many of them in French that they represent a wealth of free vocabulary you don’t even have to study!

While English loanwords in French are ubiquitous, they’re especially common in certain fields, such as technology and entertainment. Here are some examples:

1 – About Food

Un sandwichUn sandwich au thon, s’il vous plaît. (“A tuna sandwich, please.”)

Un burgerUn burger au bleu. (“A blue-cheese burger.”)

Un steakJ’aime mon steak saignant. (“I like my steak rare.”)
You might come across the word bifsteck, the francization of “beefsteak,” and…what can I say? It looks pretty gross to me, but to be fair, it’s outdated and barely used anymore by the younger generations.

Un cocktailQuel est ton cocktail préféré ? (“What is your favorite cocktail?”)

Un cookieUn cookie au chocolat noir. (“A dark chocolate cookie.”)

Un chewing-gumJ’ai toujours des chewing-gums dans mon sac. (“I always have chewing gum in my bag.”)
If you ever come across the expression gomme à mâcher, know that it’s the French version of “chewing gum.” But it’s so old-fashioned that even my grandmother doesn’t remember about it.

Happy hourÀ quelle heure est l’happy hour ? (“At what time is happy hour?”)

    → If this section made you hungry, why not indulge for a minute and stop by our vocabulary list on French Food? Spoiler alert: It features the amazing chestnut purée.

2 – About Technology

Un mail, Un emailJe t’ai envoyé un mail la semaine dernière. (“I sent you an email last week.”)
The word un mail can be a bit tricky because we only use it for “email.” Paper mail is un courrier.

Also, the strongest advocates for French purity eventually came up with a French word for “email,” hoping to replace un mail. And so, the questionable un courriel was created. Nowadays, except on some official documents, nobody ever uses it.

Un bugIl y a un bug dans la base de données. (“There is a bug in the database.”)

internetJ’utilise internet tous les jours. (“I’m using the internet every day.”)
In writing, you might also read l’internet, but it sounds a bit silly and outdated. If you come across les internet, just take a deep breath and pretend you didn’t hear that. (It sounds old and snobbish.)

Un smartphoneJ’ai vendu mon smartphone. (“I have sold my smartphone.”)

Un chatJe vais lui poser la question sur le chat. (“I will ask him on the chat.”)
This has the same spelling as un chat (“a cat”), but we pronounce it like the English word “chat.”

    → You’ll find a few more of these loanwords on our free list of Technology vocabulary, with recordings for you to practice their pronunciation.

3 – About Movies

Un trailerTu as vu le trailer du dernier James Bond ? (“Have you seen the latest James Bond trailer?”)

Un teaserLe teaser de ce film est incroyable ! (“The teaser for this movie is incredible!”)

Un spoilerC’est difficile d’éviter les spoilers sur internet. (“It’s difficult to avoid spoilers on the internet.”)

Un cliffhangerIl y a un cliffhanger de fou à la fin de cet épisode ! (“There is a crazy cliffhanger at the end of this episode!”)


4 – More Loanwords

Un t-shirtJ’adore ton nouveau t-shirt. (“I love your new t-shirt.”)

Le week-endPasse un bon week-end ! (“Have a good weekend!”)

CoolCe jeu est tellement cool ! (“This game is so cool!”)

Un parkingIl y a un parking à côté du magasin. (“There is a parking lot next to the shop.”)

Du shoppingJe vais faire du shopping demain. (“I’m going shopping tomorrow.”)

Un challengeC’est un vrai challenge de se garer ici. (“It’s a real challenge to park here.”)

Shopping Center

Faire du shopping (“To go shopping”)

3. Fake Loanwords

Although loanwords are an incredible source of easy vocabulary, you should be aware that we’ve laid some traps along the way. A few English words have been improperly incorporated into the French language and have a different meaning.

They’re quite treacherous but not numerous, so all you need to do is keep them in a corner of your mind so you don’t get tricked.

Here are the most common ‘fake’ English loanwords in French:

Le zapping“Channel hopping” or “Channel surfing.” This refers to when you quickly browse TV channels.

Le footing“Jogging”

Un camping“Campsite”

Des baskets“Sneakers,” “Trainers,” or more generally, “Sport shoes”

Un smoking“Dinner jacket” or “Tuxedo”

Un break“Estate car” or “Station wagon”

Le catch“Wrestling”

Un planning“Schedule” or “Work plan”

Un flipper“Pinball machine”

4. Know Your Frenglish

By definition, Frenglish is an overly Anglicized French language. We’ve seen that there are plenty of common English words used in French which have become an official part of the language. But when French speakers start overusing these English terms, expressions, and structures, Frenglish happens.

1 – Frenglish in Business

This tendency to overuse English words is especially obvious in the business world. If you’ve worked in any big French companies—especially in anything related to technology or entertainment—you might have heard this uncanny mixture of French and English words. It can get confusing even for the French themselves.

Here are a few examples with the English words highlighted in red:

  • “I’m super-busy.”
    • French: Je suis très occupé.
    • Frenglish: Je suis super busy.
  • “Can you forward me the report ASAP?”
    • French: Tu peux me transférer le compte-rendu le plus vite possible ?
    • Frenglish: Tu peux me forwarder le reporting ASAP ?
  • “We’re going to debrief on the meeting’s bullet points.”
    • French: On va faire un bilan sur les points importants de la réunion.
    • Frenglish: On va debriefer sur les bullet points du meeting.
  • “Do you want to change the date of the call to attend the workshop?”
    • French: Tu veux changer la date de la conférence pour assister au séminaire ?
    • Frenglish: Tu veux switcher la date du call pour assister au workshop ?

I’m not even exaggerating! And there are still several more English words used by the French in business settings:

  • Burnout
  • Corporate
  • Brainstorming
  • Mainstream
  • Process
  • Management / Manager
  • Marketing
  • Business
A Corporate Meeting

Un meeting corporate (“A corporate meeting”)

2 – Semantic Frenglish

More insidious, semantic Frenglish is when we mimic English expressions using English words that look like French words.

For example, the French word agressive (the feminine form of agressif) really looks like the English word “aggressive.”

However, in French, it means “who is prone to attack” or “to look for conflict.” And in English, it can mean “behaving in a determined and forceful way.”

What do we end up with?

  • Cette société utilise une stratégie agressive sur les prix. 
    (“This company is using an aggressive pricing strategy.”)

This is an improper use of agressive that has become so common that nobody even raises an eyebrow anymore. It’s all over the newspaper and TV, and people have just gotten used to it. And there are many similar words out there.

There are also some increasingly popular Frenglish expressions:

  • “I’ll get back to you.”
    • French: Je vous recontacte.
    • Frenglish: Je reviens vers vous.
  • “I’m in charge of this project.”
    • French: Je suis responsable de ce projet.
    • Frenglish: Je suis en charge de ce projet.
  • “No chance!”
    • French: Aucun risque !
    • Frenglish: Aucune chance !

3 – Syntactic Frenglish

Another subtle effect of English’s influence on French is how it changes the syntax rules. It happens in various ways and it’s often sneaky enough that most people don’t realize it (myself included, for the most part).

Here are a few examples:

  • French adjectives can come either before or after the noun, but under English influence, we now tend to misplace them.

    For example: Actuel (“Current”) should be placed after the noun. However, it’s common to read l’actuel président instead of le président actuel (“the current president”).
  • We juxtapose substantives that should not be placed side by side.

    Les relations clients should be les relations avec les clients (“customer relations”).
  • We overuse the passive form instead of using the typical French active form. This is especially obvious in the French administrative style.

    Des mesures seront prises (“measures will be taken”) should be nous prendrons des mesures (“we will take measures”).

Customer Relations

Les relations clients (“Customer relations”)

5. The French Resistance to Anglification

How would you react if your language was rapidly mutating over the years, affected by globalization and the cultural influence of the biggest cultural superpowers?

In France, some people see it as a blessing. The language is evolving and getting richer with these new words and expressions. Others believe we should fight back, create new words, and reconquer the ones we’ve lost.

Since the 70s, official French committees have worked on creating new words, especially for modern technologies, in order to avoid using the English terms. In rare cases, it works well and the words become an actual part of the language for decades to come:

  • Logiciel (“Software”)
  • Informatique (“Computer science”)
  • Baladeur (“Walkman”)

But more often than not, it fails horribly. In 1994, Jacques Toubon, who was the Minister of Culture at the time, tried to establish a list of replacements for many borrowed English words. The Toubon Law made him infamous for its widely controversial content.

Among many others, it included vacancelles to replace weekend. This abomination of a word was never used but never forgotten.

Some other words have been mildly successful, but most of them sound old-fashioned and ridiculous:

  • Tchatche (“Chat”)
  • Courriel (“Email”)
  • Messagerie instantanée (“Messenger”)
  • Hameçonnage (“Phishing”)
  • Pourriel (“Spam”)
  • Webmestre (“Webmaster”)

A Woman Sending an Email

Envoyer un mail (“To send an email”)

6. Le Mot De La Fin

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about Frenglish, from loanwords to the crazy blend of business Frenglish, mysterious semantic mutations, and how the French are handling it. Did I forget any important Frenglish expressions that you know?

We’re just scratching the surface here, but as you start interacting with native French speakers, you’ll notice how many of these strange Frenglish verbs they’re using: poker (“to poke”), uploader (“to upload”), checker (“to check”), and many more.

If you enjoyed this lesson, keep in mind that FrenchPod101.com 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 one-on-one coaching and practice Frenglish terms and more with your personal teacher. In addition to providing you with assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples, your teacher will review your work and help you improve your pronunciation. 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

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

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.

An Overview of French Culture

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Are you planning on visiting France soon? Or even on settling down? Maybe you’re just curious about the country in general. Whatever the reason, you’ve come to the perfect place to learn about what makes France so special.

France is considered one of the most culturally influential countries in the world, and this is not surprising. This country has a lot to offer: a wealth of history and art, fine food, booming entertainment industries, a chic fashion scene, and strong values.

On this page, you’ll learn the most important French culture facts, from core values to general lifestyle.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. French Values
  2. Religions and Cults
  3. Relationships
  4. Lifestyle
  5. Art and Entertainment
  6. Food and Wine
  7. French Holidays
  8. Le Mot De La Fin

1. French Values

Understanding French culture begins with a working knowledge of the values and mindset of the French. 

A- Why is it Difficult to Define a “French Culture”?

While the concept of a “melting pot” is an integral part of the American culture, it has always been a bit more contentious in France. What is the French culture exactly? Should it be viewed as the culture from the mainland? But then what about Corsica and our five overseas regions?

Today, France is not the patchwork of local customs nor the disparate collection of communities it was only two centuries ago. However, it’s still home to numerous indigenous and foreign languages as well as multiple ethnicities and religions—and all of this on top of the regional diversity of the metropolitan territories.

Somehow, France managed to develop a certain shared “cultural identity.” It came not only from the education system, military service, and local politics, but also from profoundly influential historical events such as the French Revolution in 1789, the two World Wars, and the social revolution in 1968.

Despite some recent efforts to promote multiculturalism and communitarianism (through the preservation of regional languages and the decentralization of power), a number of events have put this fragile culture under a lot of pressure: 

  • the depopulation of the countryside
  • large waves of non-Christian immigrant communities
  • centralization
  • market forces
  • the globalization of the world economy

However, there is still a sense of pride in our national identity and in the achievements of France. The interracial blending also makes for a vibrant pool of talents, from popular music to literature, music, art, and more.

B- Core Values of the French Republic 

Liberty, equality, and fraternity have defined the French people since the eighteenth century (often called the Age of Enlightenment). The motto “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” first appeared during the French Revolution and was later written into the Constitution in 1958, officially becoming part of the French national heritage.

Do these values still hold true in France today? While French citizens are mainly concerned about social inequalities, loss of liberties, and abuses of power, this is a very delicate question. Nevertheless, it remains an ideal we want to hold on to.

C- The French Mindset

There are a few defining French culture characteristics concerning specific values and the French mindset. Of course, this varies a lot depending on one’s social circle and level of education, but there are some general trends.

Freedom is greatly valued and people are often defiant toward authorities: government and police alike. Suspicions of corruption or abuse of power easily arise and can have a huge impact on people’s perception of the current elected officials.

Freedom of speech is usually seen as essential. Nowadays, it is arguably impaired by a certain obsession with political correctness. Public expressions that are deemed inappropriate are even punishable by law as they can potentially foster hatred.

However, we still value critical thinking and education, and the French often try to appear knowledgeable about culture, literature, world events, science, or…well, basically everything. In France, you don’t need to look tough, have perfect hair, or possess amazing dance skills. If you want to stand out, you need to be educated and assertive.

Having an open mind is generally regarded as an important quality. Even though there is still a lot of work ahead of us, the French are rather progressive in their mentalities regarding different religions and are more willing to dive into new cultures. Gender inequalities are on the decline and LGBT rights have come a long way in recent years.

Social classes are still a thing, with the upper class rarely mingling with the ‘commoners,’ a general disconnect from the rural world, and increasing social inequality. On an encouraging note, the public opinion is showing more and more awareness of those issues. For example, when Presidents Sarkozy or Macron were displaying too much wealth or scorning the working class, their popularity quickly went down.

The French Revolution

La Révolution Française (“The French Revolution”) – 1789

2. Religions and Cults

In French culture, religion is a hot topic—making it an essential factor to mention in our overview.

A- Freedom of Religion

France is a secular country. This means that, by law, the French government remains neutral concerning religion; as such, it should neither enforce nor prohibit citizens’ free exercise of religion. French citizens are free to choose any religion (or none), and it’s a private matter that shall never interfere with official affairs.

No “God saves the President” or swearing on the Bible in France. When the loi sur la séparation de l’Église et de l’État (“Law on the Separation of the Church and State”) came into effect in 1905, so did the “freedom to practice religion.”

It’s important to understand that this set of laws is by no means a weapon against religion. It is only returning all religions to the private sector and guaranteeing state secularism in the public sphere. The French state does not favor any particular religion and should aim at maintaining their peaceful co-existence.

In the same spirit, the law of March 15, 2004, prohibits all religious clothing and accessories from being worn in schools (as children are considered more vulnerable to indoctrination). This specific law caused some outrage among part of the Muslim community and is still a hot topic.

B- Dominant Religions in France

According to a recent official poll by the French government:

  • 37% of French people identify with some religion
  • 31% are atheists and 15% agnostics
  • 10% are indifferent to religion

14% of French people take part in some religious practice at least once a month (religious office or events, group prayers, etc.).

Catholicism is by far the most dominant religion in the country, way ahead of Protestantism, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. It’s interesting to note how heavily Islam has weighed on the public debate, despite there being a very small number of Muslim believers in France.

Even though France boasts a glorious Catholic legacy, with numerous architectural masterpieces such as Notre-Dame and the Cathédrale de Reims, Christianity is on the decline and few people attend Mass anymore. This decline is especially prominent among the younger generations.

Le Mont Saint Michel

Le Mont Saint Michel

3. Relationships

Every culture has its own ways of perceiving and handling different relationships. Let’s take a look at French cultural norms when it comes to family, couples, and friends.

A- Family

The family is an important cohesive component of French society and each member has certain responsibilities. Gender equality hasn’t been fully achieved yet, but both parents are usually working and making important household decisions together.

Family members are generally close. They take meals together during the week and it’s common to gather with extended family on weekends. When they’re not living under the same roof anymore, they regularly keep in touch.

With 1.87 children per woman (a number that has been slowly but steadily going down since 2010), France remains the most fertile country in the European Union.


B- Couples

Since the 1960s, marriage has been on the decline and France has seen an increasing number of divorces. Getting married is not as popular as it used to be, and a lot of French couples now have a practical approach to it. 

Created in 1999, the pacs or PACS (Pacte Civil de Solidarité, for “Civil Solidarity Pact”) is, along with the classic civil marriage, one of the two forms of civil union in France.

It was originally created to give same-sex couples the same rights and legal protection as straight couples. However, the PACS is getting increasingly popular, especially for straight couples who find it more flexible and less bureaucratically heavy than getting married. They represent more than 95% of the total number of couples getting Pacsed. Numbers are also showing that the PACS is slowly taking over traditional marriage.

As of 2013, France legally recognizes same-sex marriage, thanks to a new law called Mariage pour tous (“Marriage for all”), passed by President François Hollande. The first French same-sex marriage took place on May 29, 2013, in Montpellier.


C- Friendship

When compared to Americans, the French can seem cold or distant at first glance, but it’s just a misunderstanding of their behavior. We show a bit more formality and reserve with strangers and it takes some time for us to open up.

Inviting someone to our home doesn’t come as fast and naturally as it does in other cultures, but once we’re good friends with someone, our door will always be open. Friends are expected to be loyal, help each other, and stay in touch on a regular basis. Loin des yeux, loin du coeur. (“Far from the eyes, far from the heart.”)

A Happy Family Eating Together

La famille (“Family”)

4. Lifestyle

French traditions and culture make for a unique lifestyle in terms of work and leisure time. Take a look.

A- Work 

The business culture in France varies greatly depending on the industry and the company you’re dealing with. It ranges from very casual to uptight and formal. In any case, we strictly adhere to the hierarchy, and the chain of command matters even in small organizations.

The French value their free time most of all, and work is usually considered a means rather than an end. As a result, we have a reputation for working hard and efficiently, without overcommitting. We try to preserve a satisfying work-life balance at all times.

French workers tend to keep their work environment as friendly and casual as possible. You’re likely to develop strong connections with your colleagues and hang out outside of working hours (but this is by no means mandatory).


B- Hobbies

97% of the French believe that hobbies, sports, and social or cultural activities contribute to their quality of life. On average, active French workers can dedicate around nine hours per week to their hobbies.

Le foot (“Football”) is the most-watched sport in France, followed by Rugby, cycling, and tennis. But however popular they are on TV or at school, few people actually practice these sports in their free time. Hiking (in France or abroad), jogging, and dancing are much more common physical activities.

Other popular hobbies among French people include:

  • listening to music
  • watching TV
  • browsing online
  • going out with friends
  • watching movies or series
  • playing video games
  • reading newspapers
  • messaging 

Creative hobbies are also on the rise. 71% of the French take part in at least one creative activity, such as cooking, bricolage (do-it-yourself crafts), painting, and more.


C- Tobacco and Drugs

The legal drinking age is 18, and alcohol can be bought in any supermarket or convenience store and it’s sold in most restaurants. Alcohol plays an important role in social gatherings, be it in bars, clubs, or at home. It’s also common to conduct business over a glass of wine during a déjeuner d’affaires (“business lunch”).

The cigarette smoking age is also 18 years. Contrary to the widespread cliché, France is pretty far down the list of the heaviest cigarette consumers (ranking 60 out of 181). 

Following a series of laws in 2007 and 2008, smoking in all public places (stations, museums, restaurants) is now banned. While it’s possible to have a smoking room in your bar, smoking is so restricted that it usually only happens in the streets or terraces.

Cannabis is still illegal but widely used in France. Around 45% of the French have tried it and 30% smoke it somewhat regularly. It makes France one of the top consumers in the world, even before countries where the substance is legal, such as the Netherlands. Other recreational drugs are often very expensive and are thus marginally used.

Cycling Race

Le Tour de France (Most famous French cycling race)

5. Art and Entertainment

Few things are as defining as a culture’s collective art and entertainment industries. Here’s what you should know about art and entertainment in France.

A- Centuries of Art

France has a long tradition of flourishing art, especially since the twelfth century. This was when Gothic art and architecture originated around Paris before spreading all over Europe. Shortly after, French craftsmen developed the stained glass painting techniques that you can see in so many European Christian buildings.

From Gothic to Baroque, then to Classicism, French art evolved over the centuries to reach a peak around the seventeenth century. This was when famous classical painters, such as Peter Paul Ruben and Nicolas Poussin, emerged—and when impressive works of architecture, such as the Château de Versailles (“Versailles Castle”), were created.

To think that such legendary artists as Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Van Gogh were all alive during the same period in the second half of the nineteenth century is mind-blowing. It’s no surprise that the Louvre museum is host to such an impressive collection.

B- Music, Cinema, and Literature

The music of France reflects the diversity of the country’s ethnicities and cultures, with a wide array of styles. We have the fifth largest music market in the world and have produced many internationally famous artists, especially in electronic music (such as Daft Punk or David Guetta).

France is the birthplace of cinema and home to some of its most important contributions. Today, most French movies don’t go anywhere beyond our borders. Is it deserved? Yeah, pretty much. Except for a vibrant scene in the horror genre, we’re stuck with the same rehashed family dramas and dumb comedies.

French literature is an important part of our cultural lives and is introduced early on in our educational system. This is reinforced by the French media’s focus on book fairs and prizes, such as the Prix Goncourt, Prix Renaudot, and Prix Femina. Reading is a popular pastime for many French people, but it’s losing ground to streaming and other online activities.

All around the world, video games are now bigger than movies, and France is no exception. Thanks to tax cuts from the French government and a fair number of talented studios (such as Arkane, Asobo, and Dontnod), the French gaming industry has recently produced internationally acclaimed titles.

6. Food and Wine

The French culture and cuisine go hand in hand. Food is one of the great passions of French people, who place great emphasis on refined cooking methods that involve careful preparation of fresh ingredients. The cuisine can be really different from one region to the next and relies heavily on what is locally grown.

In 2010, the French gastronomy was awarded the most prestigious award by UNESCO when it was added to the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

A- The Top 5 French Dishes

It would be impossible to list all of the delicious dishes France is famous for, but here are a few samples:

  1. Tartiflette
    This consists of potatoes, fried onions, and sliced bacon oven-cooked with wine, garlic, and a massive amount of reblochon (arguably the best mountain cheese France has to offer).

  2. Steak Tartare
    This is raw beef ground or sliced into tiny pieces and served with a mix of herbs, condiments, a fresh egg yolk, capers, and minced shallot.

  3. Cassoulet
    This is a casserole of white beans and slow-cooked meat, often served with duck leg confit cooked in duck fat for the most decadent and amazing results.

  4. Crêpes
    Unlike American-style pancakes, crêpes are thin and delicate, but they share the same list of ingredients. They can be eaten with sweet or savory fillings.

  5. Endives au jambon
    This northern recipe is based on steam-cooked endives (“chicory”) wrapped in cooked ham, bathed in béchamel sauce, and topped with grated cheese.

B- Unique French Products

French wine is one of our biggest national prides. It’s produced across the whole country in large quantities and exported all over the world. It has many styles, terroirs, and labels, and it’s mostly made to accompany the food. No meal is complete without a good bottle of wine.

Short for apéritif, the apéro is a set of pre-dinner drinks and finger food. It’s similar to a cocktail party that we can have before lunch at around 11 a.m. or in the evening from 6 p.m. The French take their apéro quite seriously and it’s an important part of meetings with friends and family.

Cheese is one of the apéro’s best friends, and with around 1600 different French cheeses, there is a lot to be excited about. They all have their unique shape, texture, aroma, and flavor, but as a general rule: the smellier the better. Some cheeses are better suited for cooking and others are eaten in slices, on fresh bread, or melted in sauces.

Another classic apéro item is the charcuterie. It can consist of a wide range of cold cuts, from ham to saucisson, mortadella, smoked ham, cured ham, and much more. It comes mostly from pork and is often smoked or dry-cured.

L’apéro

L’apéro

    → Did this section stimulate your appetite? Make sure to stop by our full guide to French Cuisine for more details on the meals and local delicacies!

7. French Holidays 

Many of the French holidays are of Christian origin. For the most part, their religious implications have been lost, but we still commemorate Ascension Day, Christmas, and Easter Monday. We also have a few French-specific and secular holidays:

  1. National Day (July 14)
    This is the most important national holiday. It commemorates the French Revolution, and more precisely, the fall of the Bastille as a symbol of the French Revolution victory.

  2. Labor Day (May 1)
    The premier mai (“first of May”) or fête du travail (“work holiday”) is Labor Day in France. Almost all companies and stores are closed on that day.

  3. New Year’s Day (January 1)
    Le jour de l’an (Literally, “The day of the year”) or Le premier de l’an (“First of the year”) is the first day of the year. Like many countries, France celebrates the New Year. 

    → Make sure you come prepared when attending a French holiday celebration. Here are a few useful words for the National Holiday with audio recordings on FrenchPod101.com.

8. Le Mot De La Fin

In this French culture overview, you’ve learned everything about the culture of France, from its core values to religion, relationships, lifestyle, art, cuisine, and more. Did we forget any important French culture topics or facts you’ve heard about?

I hope this will inspire you to dive even deeper—and what better way to do so than by learning the language? Learning a foreign language is a window wide open to a new culture if you’re bold enough to take the leap!

Make sure to explore FrenchPod101, as we have plenty of free resources to help you study key grammar points 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 one-on-one coaching. Your private teacher will help you with any topic you’re curious about or struggling with. Along with 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!

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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.