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French Phone Phrases for Smooth Calls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Phone Vocabulary

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

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


Someone Picking Up Their Work Phone

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

2. Greeting

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

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

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

1 – Calling

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

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

2 – Answering

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

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

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

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

[Company name], bonjour.

Or:

[Company name], [Your name] bonjour.

For example: 

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

Then, you could add something like:

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

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

A Man Receiving a Wakeup Call in His Hotel Room

Oui, allo ? (“Hello?”)

3. Checking

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

1 – Calling

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

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

Here are a few other options:

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

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

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

2 – Answering

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

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

Qui est à l’appareil ? (“Who is it?”)

4. Transferring

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

1 – Calling

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

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

2 – Answering

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

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

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

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

5. Stating Your Business

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

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

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

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

6. Problems

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

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

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

Two Kids Talking through Tin Can Phones

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

7. Ending

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

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


8. Le mot de la fin

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

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

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

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

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com

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

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

Start Strong with These French Words for Beginners

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

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

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

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

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

A Man and a Woman Chatting on a Date with Drinks

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

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

1. Pronouns

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

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

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

1 – Personal Subject Pronouns

Personal subject pronouns replace the subject of a sentence.

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

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

2 – Impersonal Pronouns

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

ça, ce, c’ (“it”)

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

il (“it”)

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

3 – Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are used with reflexive verbs. For example:

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

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

4 – Interrogative Pronouns

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

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

5 – Indefinite Pronouns

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

A Woman Stretching Upon Waking Up in the Morning

Elle se réveille. (“She wakes up.”)

2. Verbs

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

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

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

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

3. Numbers

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

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

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

4. Nouns

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 – Time

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

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

2 – Places

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

3 – Technology & Internet

un téléphonephone
un écranscreen
un ordinateurcomputer
internetinternet

4 – Home

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

5 – City & Transport

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

6 – People

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

7 – Body

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

8 – Food

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

9 – Work & Studies

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

10 – Conversation

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

A Man at the Subway Station Reviewing Vocabulary on His Tablet

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

5. Conjunctions

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

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

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

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

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

A Cat and a Dog

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

6. Adjectives

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

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

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

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

A Woman Biting into a Tart

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

7. Adverbs

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

1 – When

tardlate
tôtearly
bientôtsoon
hieryesterday
aujourd’huitoday
demaintomorrow
avantbefore
aprèsafter

2 – How Often

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

3 – Where

icihere
there
partouteverywhere
dedansinside
dehorsoutside

4 – How

bienwell
malbadly / poorly
vitequickly

5 – How Much

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

A Zombie Coming Toward the Camera

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

8. Le mot de la fin

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

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

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

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

Happy learning on FrenchPod101!

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

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

Top 10 French Filler Words: Maximum Frenchness!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Why Do We Use Filler Words?

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

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

French filler words can have various functions:

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

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

2. Top 10 French Filler Words

#1

FrenchLiterallyEnglish equivalent
Euh…“Uh…”

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

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

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

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

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

#2

FrenchLiterallyEnglish equivalent
Quoi“What”“You know”

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

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

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

#3

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

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

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

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

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

#4

FrenchLiterallyEnglish equivalent
Ben / Bah / Beh“Well”

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

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

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

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

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

#5

FrenchLiterallyEnglish equivalent
En fait“In fact”“Actually”

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

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

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

A Woman Ordering from the Meat Section of a Store

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

#6

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

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

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

#7

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

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

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

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

#8

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

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

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

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

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

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

#9

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

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

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

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

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

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

#10

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

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

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

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

3. Pros and Cons of Filler Words

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

1 – Sound Like a Local

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

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

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

2 – Why You Shouldn’t Overuse Them

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voyons voir… (“Let’s see…”)

4. Le mot de la fin

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

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

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

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

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

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

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

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How to Say “I Love You” in French

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

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

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

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

Four People Making Heart Signs with Their Hands

All you need is love!

1. First Contact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Guy Trying to Talk to a Girl at a Bar

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

2. Keep in Touch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Number with the Name Sarah

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

3. Take it to the Next Level

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Couple being Intimate

J’ai envie de toi. (“I want you.”)

4. Let’s Meet Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Boy and Girl Dating

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

5. You’re in Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Middle-aged Couple Embracing Each Other Romantically

Je t’aime. (“I love you.”)

6. Bonus: The Worst French Love Phrases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man and Woman Staring Each Other

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

7. Le mot de la fin

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

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

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

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

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

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Negation in French: How to Say No and Deny Everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non, pas du tout. (“No, not at all.”)

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

1. The Basics of Negation

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

A- Non (“No”)

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

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

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

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

B- Ne… pas (“Don’t”)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Je + aime =
Je aime
J’aime (“I like”)

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

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

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

C- Ne… plus (“Don’t… anymore”)

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

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

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

D- Ne… que (“Only”)

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

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

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

What we’re really saying is: 

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

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

A Woman Holding a Plate and Refusing a Sausage

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

2. More Negative Words

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

A- Ni… ni (“Neither… nor”)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B- Common Negative Words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C- Old-fashioned Negation Words

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

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

Point is the equivalent of “not at all.”

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

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

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

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

3. Important Negation Rules

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

A- Compound Tenses

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

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

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

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

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

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

B- Undefined Articles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Someone Refusing a Mug of Beer

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

C- Negation of the Infinitive

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

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

D- Oral Shortcuts

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

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

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

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

4. Negative Questions

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

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

Normal / Casual:

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Negative Phrasebook

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

  • De rien (“You’re welcome”)

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

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

  • Pas du tout (“Not at all”)

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

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

  • Pas encore (“Not yet”)

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

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

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

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

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

6. Le mot de la fin

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

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

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

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

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Couple Traveling with a Guidebook and Backpacks

Travel opportunities are a good reason to learn a language.

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

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

A- French is everywhere…

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

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

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

B- Especially in France!

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

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

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

Oh, and one more thing…

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

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


The Saone River at Night in Lyon, France

French architecture rarely disappoints.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A- Timeless classics

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

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

Just to name a few, from classic French literature:

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


B- Cinema, music, comics

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

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

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

A Couple Paying for Tickets at a Movie Theater

Why not take your French date for a movie night?

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

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

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

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

And there are so many more: 

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

I couldn’t possibly list all of them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Six Friends Standing in a Group Circle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Woman Dressed in a Long Red Dress and Black Heels

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

8 – French is growing faster than you think.

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

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

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

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

9 – Get ready to show off at dinner parties. 

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

A- To be a better lover

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

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

B- To impress your friends

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

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

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

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

A Couple Ordering Food at a Nice Restaurant

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

10 – French is pretty easy to learn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 – Le mot de la fin

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

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

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

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

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

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

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French Tenses Made Simple

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

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

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

A Woman Kissing a Gray Kitten

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

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

1. French Conjugation in a Nutshell

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

How Many Tenses Do You Really Need to Speak French?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Set the Mood

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

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

Simple Tenses vs. Compound Tenses

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Present Tenses

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

[Indicatif] Présent (Present)

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

Here are a few examples of its various forms:

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

[Subjonctif] Présent (Present Subjunctive)

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

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

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

[Impératif] Présent (Present Imperative)

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

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

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

[Conditionnel] Présent (Present Conditional)

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

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

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

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

3. Future Tenses

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

[Indicatif] Futur Simple (Future)

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

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

[Indicatif] Futur Proche (Near Future)

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

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

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

[Indicatif] Futur Antérieur (Anterior Future)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Common Past Tenses

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

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

[Indicatif] Passé Composé (Compound Past)

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

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

[Indicatif] Imparfait (Imperfect)

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

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

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

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

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

[Indicatif] Plus-que-parfait (Pluperfect)

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

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

[Subjonctif] Passé (Past Subjunctive)

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

Il est important que j’aie caressé un chat avant demain.“It’s important that I have petted a cat before tomorrow.”
Elle veut que j’aie fini mon verre.“She wants me to have my drink finished.”

It sounds pretty awkward once translated, because, in English, we would normally use the present in cases like that:

  • “It’s important that I pet a cat before tomorrow.”

And the same goes for French. In most cases, and in any conversation, you would say: 

  • Il est important que je caresse un chat avant demain. (Present subjunctive)

[Conditionnel] Passé (Past Conditional)

Le conditionnel passé refers to a condition or a possibility set in the past.

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

    → Make sure to put all that knowledge into practice! FrenchPod101 has plenty of lessons on future, past, and present tense comparisons.
A Gray Tabby Kitten in a Grassy Field

Je caressais un chaton. (“I was petting a kitten.”)

5. Literary Past Tenses

Now, let’s have a look at these marginal or literary tenses. You’re not likely to hear them in many conversations, but if you’re at an advanced level of French, it might be a good time to learn about them.

Otherwise, feel free to skip this section. You can always revisit it later at your leisure.

[Indicatif] Passé Simple (Past Simple)

Le passé simple describes actions set in the past, but unlike l’imparfait, these are one-time, completed, unrepeated actions. 

While the passé composé is mostly a spoken tense, the passé simple is its literary equivalent and is almost never used orally.

Elle ouvrit la porte et caressa le chat.“She opened the door and petted the cat.”
Je finis mon verre et en commandai un autre.“I finished my drink and ordered another one.”

[Indicatif] Passé Antérieur (Anterior Past)

This is a purely written tense that is used to express what happened right before another event in the past.

Quand elle eut ouvert la porte, elle caressa le chat.“When she had opened the door, she petted the cat.”
Quand j’eus fini mon verre, j’en commandai un autre.“When I had finished my drink, I ordered another one.”

[Subjonctif] Imparfait (Imperfect Subjunctive)

This tense started disappearing in the middle of the nineteenth century and is almost completely gone from today’s French. You can still find it in classic literature if you dig deep enough.

It’s used pretty much like the present subjunctive, but follows some of the most complicated past tenses. It expresses something possible or uncertain. Nowadays, we could simply replace it with subjonctif présent.

Il avait été important que je caressasse un chat.“It had been important that I had petted a cat.”
Elle voulait que je finisse mon verre.“She wanted me to finish my drink.”

[Subjonctif] Plus-que-parfait (Pluperfect Subjunctive)

A couple of centuries ago, the subjonctif plus-que-parfait would replace the subjonctif passé in a subordinate clause, when the main clause was conjugated in the past and the action of the subordinate clause was set before the action of the main clause.

Nowadays, nobody’s using it, even in writing.

Il était important que j’eusse caressé un chat avant demain.“It was important that I had petted a cat before tomorrow.”
Elle voulait que j’eusse fini mon verre.“She wanted that I would have finished my drink.”

[Impératif] Passé (Past Imperative)

This is a weird tense that has almost disappeared. Take the imperative (Pet this cat. / Finish your drink.) and put it in the past. 

You’re instructed to have done something in the past, which is a bit difficult to translate. It would be the equivalent of: “Make sure you have done that at this point in the future.”

Aie caressé un chat avant demain !“Make sure you have petted a cat before tomorrow.”
Aie fini ton verre quand elle arrivera !“Make sure you’ve finished your drink when she arrives.”
A Woman Drinking a Large Mug of Beer

Elle finit son verre. (“She’s finishing her drink.”)


Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about French verb tenses: past, present, and future…simple vs. conditional…even the six different moods! Do you feel ready to impress your friends with your flawless pluperfect conditional?

If you’re a beginner, I really suggest that you first focus on the présent and passé composé. You’ll be amazed by how far they can take you! And if you have more good tricks to quickly learn tenses, make sure to share them in the comments below.

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

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching. Your private teacher can help you with tenses, conjugation, and more. In addition to giving you assignments, providing you with personalized exercises, and recording audio samples just for you, your teacher will review your work and help improve your pronunciation. 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101!

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

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How Long Does it (Realistically) Take to Learn French?

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This is the most frequently asked question about the language, and yet it has no definite answer. It depends on many things, such as your native language, education, experience with languages, exposure, and motivation.

Beyond that, how long it takes to learn French depends heavily on the proficiency level you want to achieve. Do you want to… 

  • …reach a beginner level? 
  • …be able to make and understand very basic phrases related to everyday life? 
  • …achieve an intermediate level that would allow you to get by in simple conversations on familiar topics? 
  • …get to an advanced level, so you could have meaningful interactions and read or listen to virtually anything? 

As you can imagine, these are very different goals with different time frames. But whatever you have in mind, there are some neat techniques you can use to learn French faster.

In this article, you’ll learn how to realistically estimate how long it will take you to learn French depending on your background and the proficiency level you have in mind. Then, we’ll see how to beat these estimates by choosing the right tools for the job.

The Speedometer and Gear Indicator of a Car

Speed up your French studies!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. The Many Factors Involved
  2. From Beginner to Advanced
  3. French Learning Tools for Every Level
  4. Le mot de la fin

1. The Many Factors Involved

Before we talk about how long you should expect to study in order to reach each level, there are a few factors you should keep in mind. These factors will impact how fast you can learn French and help you better estimate your total learning time.

1 – Your Native Language vs. French

Most time estimates on how long it takes to learn French are based on the assumption that your native language is English. If that’s not the case, it will clearly impact the numbers. Languages with similar roots as one’s own language are easier and quicker for that person to learn.

In any case, if you’re reading this article, it means your English level is already really strong. And this is great news! English and French both have strong Latin influences and share a lot of similarities in their vocabulary and grammar. If you know English, you already have a nice head-start on many things that would otherwise be long and difficult to learn, such as the Latin alphabet and the core structures.

And if you’re a native speaker from another Romance language such as Spanish, Portuguese, or Romanian (to name a few), it’s even better. Even before you start studying, you’ll be able to correctly guess the meaning of many complex technical words just because they look similar to their equivalents in your native language.

2 – Your Language Learning Experience 

How strong are your language learning muscles?

If you already speak a foreign language or were raised in a bilingual environment, you can shave quite a bit of time off your estimate. It’s usually faster to learn a third language than it is to learn a second one.

This is because your brain is already accustomed to the gymnastics of language learning and you already know how to study, memorize vocabulary, practice, and so on. Also, the more languages you’re exposed to, the easier it gets to decipher their logic and understand the inner workings of their grammar and structures.

3 – Your Motivation

Why are you learning French?

Do you need to be proficient to work in France? Are you dating a cute French girl or a handsome French guy? Is it a hobby or a necessity? Maybe you’re just passionate about linguistics and want to learn French for the sake of it?

There are many reasons one might learn French, and your motivation will impact your level of commitment and how much time and effort you’re willing to put into it. Motivation is also what makes or breaks most French learners. You’ll have to keep your motivation alive by frequently reminding yourself why you’re studying.

Someone Buying Pastries at a Shop

Being able to buy croissants at your French bakery is good motivation!

4 – How Are You Learning?

Are you learning at school or at university? Casually studying on your own? Or already in a French-speaking country and fully immersed in the language?

Your learning method will play a key role in how fast you make progress and reach your desired French level. And of course, it depends on how much time you’re willing to invest in your studies. For better results, I’d recommend using a mix of different techniques, such as academic learning + online self-teaching, or online lessons + full immersion.

Hold that thought—we’ll talk more about learning techniques in a moment!

2. From Beginner to Advanced

According to FSI (Foreign Service Institute) and ELC (European Language Center), French is one of the most accessible languages for native English speakers. It’s even on FSI’s list of the top ten easiest languages to learn for English speakers, alongside Spanish and Italian.

They evaluate that it should take around 24 weeks (~600 hours) for the average student to reach a general professional proficiency (speaking and reading). This is the equivalent of Level 3 on FrenchPod101.com and approximately DELF B2.

Now, let’s see what that means and talk about the different levels of French. 

I’ll use the DELF & DALF system, as it’s the most commonly used both academically and for French proficiency tests.

    → Speaking of which, if you’re indeed interested in the tests, we have a complete guide on how to pass the DELF / DALF exams with flying colors!

1 – Beginner Level

Let’s start at the beginning, A1.

At this level, you know how to use and understand everyday expressions as well as simple statements about practical needs. (I want this. Where is that?)

You can introduce yourself, ask questions about someone, and answer similar questions. 

Your conversation skills are rather basic, but if the other person is talking slowly and articulating enough, you can exchange simple information.

At this point, you’re most likely not going to start watching French movies without subtitles, hoping it will eventually click. You need to build a foundation by learning how the language works. This means studying:

  • Word order
  • Present tense
  • Basic conjugation

At first, you won’t need much vocabulary because you can build lots of different sentences using just a few words. For now, you’ll only need some basic nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Feel free to add some new words when you need them, but there’s no need to clutter your brain with an unnecessarily long vocabulary list.

At this level, flashcards are your best friends. You can use them to remember words as well as simple phrases, conjugated verbs, and basically anything you want. 

I would recommend Anki for PC or Ankidroid on mobile phones, but a simple search for “flashcards” will give you plenty of options.

I would also recommend tackling the pronunciation from day one. To that end, it’s generally a good idea to focus on spoken French over written French.

    ★ How long to reach A1? Around 80-100 hours.

A Woman Studying at Her Laptop

Studying online can be fun with the right tools.

2 – Intermediate Level

The term “intermediate” is a bit vague, so we’ll talk about B1. (Intermediate intermediate? Sounds good!)

At this level, you understand the main topics of a conversation when the language is not too complicated and if you’re familiar with the topic (work, school, hobbies, yourself).

When traveling in a French-speaking country, you can get by and handle daily interactions. 

You can also make simple sentences about what you know and like, events, and experiences. 
Reaching this level also means you can explain basic projects or ideas.

There’s a lot of ground to cover between beginner (A1) and advanced beginner (A2), and even more on your way to intermediate (B1).

You’ll start learning more vocabulary, structures, and phrase patterns. For example, you’ll learn how to describe your routine or your surroundings in more detail.

This is also when you start learning new tenses and new types of words, such as conjunctions and adverbs. You’ll get a better grasp of pronouns, and learn how to make your sentences lighter and smoother using them.

Considering how long you’ll study to reach B1, you should make sure to nip your most common mistakes in the bud (especially when it comes to pronunciation), as it will be harder to fix them in the future. 

If you’re studying at school or university, be sure to make the most of any help your teachers can provide. If you’re studying on your own, this would be a good time to get at least a few hours of private lessons or more affordable online coaching to solidify your knowledge and make sure you’re on the right track.

    ★ How long to reach B1? Around 350 to 400 hours.

3 – Advanced Level

Let’s finish with an advanced level, C1.

At this level, you can understand long, complex texts and their implicit meaning. You can talk fluently without hesitating too much or searching for your words.

You can now use the language in an efficient and flexible manner, for both professional and personal conversations, and build sentences in varied ways. You’re also able to express your opinion on demanding topics in a clear and articulate manner.

This is getting really serious. Double the time, double the effort. But if you got as far as B1, nothing’s gonna stop you now. The sky’s the limit!

First, you’ll have to reach B2 and then C1 (Expert). Of course, this is not the end; as you keep learning, you’ll expand your vocabulary and improve your confidence. That said, there’s no need to aim specifically for C2, as most native speakers don’t even have this level.

You can keep learning academically or through various online frameworks, but to reach such a level of proficiency, nothing beats deep immersion in your target language. Start watching movies, reading books, and listening to French music. But most importantly, find native speakers you can interact with regularly.

At this point, living in the country or spending at least a few months in France is the best option. You’ll get a massive dose of real-life French, with new accents, slang terms, and idiomatic expressions you wouldn’t find in grammar books.

    ★ How long to reach C1? Around 850 to 900 hours.
A Man and Woman Socializing with Drinks at a Party

It takes an advanced level to be comfortable with group conversations.

3. French Learning Tools for Every Level

How long it takes you to learn French really depends on how much exposure you can get and how much time and sweat you’re willing to put into it—but that’s not to say you can’t speed it up with the right tools!

Like most things in life, quality beats quantity, and learning French in a smart way will often make up for not pouring ten hours a day into your studies. 

Wondering how to learn French effectively? Below are a few tools and resources you can use to make the most of your study time.

1 – Online Lessons

When it comes to learning French anywhere and anytime, online classes are your bread and butter. They’re usually fit for any level and are much more affordable than schools or private lessons. 

They’re also the most flexible option, as you can adapt them to your schedule. That said, you’ll have to carefully keep track of your progress and work consistently if you want to improve.

Many websites are entirely free and allow you to work at your own pace. But this can also be a double-edged sword. Personally, when I’ve paid any kind of fixed fee or subscription, I often find myself much more dedicated to making the best out of that investment.

You can visit FrenchPod101 to get an idea of what online lessons have to offer. Even without a paid subscription, you can access a wealth of free content, including vocabulary lists, a YouTube channel, and countless lessons for every level.

Take a look at this intermediate lesson, for example. You’ll find…
  • …a recorded lesson or dialogue
  • ….all key sentences recorded in French and English
  • ….all new words, also with audio recordings. (You can add these words to your customizable collection of flashcards.)
  • …extensive lesson notes with all the grammar points and new structures explained.

The recording and lesson notes can also be downloaded for use offline, allowing you to study them later from anywhere—even when you don’t have access to the website.


2 – Private Teachers and Schools

Private schools and teachers are the most effective resources, but also the most expensive. If you can afford to attend regular French classes or hire a private teacher (either in person or online), it will help a lot, whether for getting a reliable foundation or honing your proficiency.

In any case, however, I would recommend reading students’ feedback and reviews carefully before committing to anything. Stay away from lazy academic courses with too many students per teacher, and beware of scams.

For French classes, Alliance Française has been on the market for a while and can be found in many countries around the globe. They provide courses for all levels and can help you pass the DELF and DALF proficiency tests. 

They’re also shockingly expensive, in my opinion, so I’d advise you to check your local options. You might find something perfectly fine without having to sell a kidney.

For private teachers, you can find them online on your local equivalent of Craigslist. The French use Leboncoin, and other countries rely on Gumtree.

For online teachers, websites such as iTalki are a good resource. The trial lesson is usually rather cheap, and it will give you a good idea of whether or not you want to work with the tutor.

Finally, a cheaper and more flexible option is to subscribe to the Premium PLUS option on FrenchPod101.com. This will allow you to have one-on-one interaction with your personal teacher, who can help you with your studies, send you tests and exercises, give you feedback on your writing and pronunciation, and much more.

3 – Soft Immersion

As you become more comfortable with your French, it will become more and more important to get as much exposure to the language as possible. 

It’s all about immersing yourself in French, by any means necessary. 

Are you into movies or series?

Why not browse your favorite streaming platform for French content? You can safely start with great classics such as Amélie or Léon

Depending on your level, you might want to start with English subtitles, switch to French subtitles when you’re ready, and finally switch to no subs at all.

You can also find French movies on YouTube but they rarely have subtitles..

Are you a gamer?

Then why not try to play some amazing French titles in their original version?

Games such as Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Unity (which takes place during the French Revolution) or Asobo’s A Plague Tale would be a great place to start. 

Listening to French music is another great way to immerse yourself in the language. Once again, YouTube is a good place to start.

Once you’ve found a song you like, perform a new search with the name of the song + “paroles” or “lyrics” and you’re good to go.

4 – Deep Immersion

This is not going to be a big reveal, but the best way to immerse yourself in the French language and make quick progress is to jump out of your comfort zone and spend some time right in a French-speaking country where you’ll be forced to speak and listen to French on a daily basis.

Try to make local friends, preferably who don’t speak English or prefer speaking French. (They’re still really easy to find. We’re not the brightest in Europe when it comes to foreign languages.) Work locally and even try chatting with random people whenever you’re out and about.

That being said, unless your native language is very similar to French (like Spanish or Italian), this is not something I would recommend for a complete beginner.

A deep immersion will mainly be beneficial to intermediate students who want to reach a more advanced level, or C1 learners trying to sharpen their skills or broaden their linguistic horizon with idioms and slang.

Someone Walking through an Airport with Their Luggage

To learn as fast as possible, nothing beats deep immersion.

Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you’ve learned how long it takes to learn French, the many factors involved, the different levels of proficiency, and how to learn French fast using the right tools for every situation.

Did we forget any important tool from your learning arsenal? Do you feel ready to give it a go and kick your French into top gear?

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 new words and learn their pronunciation.

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching and practice with your private teacher. Your teacher will provide you with assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples; he or she will also review your work and help you perfect 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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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!

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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.