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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.

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

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!

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

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

English Words Used in French: Do You Speak Frenglish?

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

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

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

Menu at a Restaurant

At work, after work, Frenglish is everywhere!

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

1. Frenglish or Loanwords?

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

1 – Le Franglais

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

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

2 – English Loanwords

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

For example: 

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

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

2. Legit Loanwords

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

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

1 – About Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 – About Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 – About Movies

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

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

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

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


4 – More Loanwords

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shopping Center

Faire du shopping (“To go shopping”)

3. Fake Loanwords

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

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

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

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

Le footing“Jogging”

Un camping“Campsite”

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

Un smoking“Dinner jacket” or “Tuxedo”

Un break“Estate car” or “Station wagon”

Le catch“Wrestling”

Un planning“Schedule” or “Work plan”

Un flipper“Pinball machine”

4. Know Your Frenglish

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

1 – Frenglish in Business

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

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

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

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

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

Un meeting corporate (“A corporate meeting”)

2 – Semantic Frenglish

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

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

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

What do we end up with?

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

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

There are also some increasingly popular Frenglish expressions:

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

3 – Syntactic Frenglish

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

Here are a few examples:

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

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

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

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

Customer Relations

Les relations clients (“Customer relations”)

5. The French Resistance to Anglification

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Woman Sending an Email

Envoyer un mail (“To send an email”)

6. Le Mot De La Fin

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

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

If you enjoyed this lesson, keep in mind that FrenchPod101.com also has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings as well as free resources to boost your studies and keep your French learning fresh and entertaining!

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

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

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

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

An Overview of French Culture

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

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

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

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

1. French Values

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B- Core Values of the French Republic 

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

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

C- The French Mindset

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

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

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

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

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

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

The French Revolution

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

2. Religions and Cults

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

A- Freedom of Religion

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

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

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

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

B- Dominant Religions in France

According to a recent official poll by the French government:

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

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

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

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

Le Mont Saint Michel

Le Mont Saint Michel

3. Relationships

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

A- Family

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

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

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


B- Couples

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

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

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

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


C- Friendship

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

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

A Happy Family Eating Together

La famille (“Family”)

4. Lifestyle

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

A- Work 

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

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

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


B- Hobbies

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

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

Other popular hobbies among French people include:

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

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


C- Tobacco and Drugs

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

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

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

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

Cycling Race

Le Tour de France (Most famous French cycling race)

5. Art and Entertainment

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

A- Centuries of Art

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

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

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

B- Music, Cinema, and Literature

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

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

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

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

6. Food and Wine

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

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

A- The Top 5 French Dishes

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

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

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

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

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

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

B- Unique French Products

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

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

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

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

L’apéro

L’apéro

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

7. French Holidays 

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

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

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

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

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

8. Le Mot De La Fin

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

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

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

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching. Your private teacher will help you with any topic you’re curious about or struggling with. Along with giving you assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples, your teacher will review your work and help you improve your pronunciation. 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

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

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

A Finger-Licking Guide to French Food & Cuisine

Food

If you were asked about the most delicious cuisine in the world, what countries would come to mind? According to most of the rankings I’ve read, France is often placed second, with Italy as the solid winner. 

In 2010, UNESCO paid a gracious tribute to French gastronomy by inscribing it on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. Let’s try to understand why French cuisine is held in such high regard around the world, and what makes it special.

In this article, I will present you with a list of eight French foods you must try, a French cuisine overview, the top words and expressions for talking about food and cooking in French, and much more.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Let's Cook in French Table of Contents
  1. Must-Try French Dishes
  2. Unique French Products
  3. Food Vocabulary
  4. Frogs and Other Misconceptions
  5. Le Mot De La Fin

1. Must-Try French Dishes

To begin with, here are the top eight dishes you should definitely try in France or in an authentic French restaurant. Some of these can be cooked just about anywhere with local ingredients but, especially for the cheesy meals, you often need the original imported product to make it taste and feel right.

1 – Tartiflette

Tartiflette is one of the classic French dishes (and a personal favorite of yours truly), originating from mountainous regions such as the northern Alps. It has everything you could dream of: potatoes, fried onions, lardons (sliced bacon), a hint of white wine and garlic, and an unhealthy amount of reblochon, one of the tastiest cheeses ever conceived.

As long as you get the right ingredients, you cannot fail at cooking a Tartiflette. Just put everything but the cheese in a tray, slice a big reblochon in half along the width, and place each part on top of everything else. Put it in the oven until it looks glorious and golden.

Tartiflette

Une tartiflette (Photo by David Harris under CC BY 2.0)

2 – Steak Tartare

Do you trust your butcher? Are you convinced their meat is fresh, high-quality, and kept refrigerated at all times? If that’s the case, then it’s time to experience the very best way to enjoy beef: raw.

The meat can either be prepared with a grinder (the lazy and lesser option) or minced with a knife (the flavorful yet tedious option—but good things come at a price, right?). Then, mix it with a bunch of herbs and condiments, a fresh egg yolk, capers, minced shallots, and I promise you the time of your life.

Steak Tartare

Un steak tartare (Photo by insatiablemunch under CC BY 2.0)

3 – Cassoulet

Cassoulet is a specialty from the Languedoc region based on white beans and slow-cooked meat. The name comes from the traditional cooking pot called cassole where the cassoulet simmers for over seven hours, through a very specific and controlled process.

It’s something that I’d recommend you try in a good French restaurant before you try it at home, because of the wide variety of ingredients and difficult cooking methods involved.

When cooked properly, the duck leg confit is slow-cooked in duck fat which tenderizes the meat until it just melts in your mouth. It’s nothing like chicken—it’s just on a whole different level.

Cassoulet

Un cassoulet

4 – Crêpes

Let’s start off with an important disclaimer: Crêpes are NOT pancakes (and vice-versa). The list of ingredients is very similar, but American-style pancakes are thick and fluffy while French crêpes are thin and delicate.

You can eat crêpes with sweet ingredients (jam, chocolate, brown sugar) or savory ingredients (bacon, spinach, mushrooms). We even have a special holiday for crêpes called La chandeleur (originally a Christian celebration that lost its religious meaning for most French people over the years).

Crêpes

Des crêpes

5 – Endives au jambon

Being a specialty from my home region, this recipe has always been close to my heart. It’s based on steam-cooked endives (“endives” or “chicory”) wrapped in cooked ham, bathed in béchamel sauce, and topped with grated cheese.

Belgian Endives

Des endives au jambon (Photo by Jeremy Keith under CC BY 2.0)

6 – Coq au vin

Are you looking for French cuisine classics with sophisticated ingredients to impress your friends? Look no further.

Coq au vin is a timeless classic: a casserole of chicken legs slowly stewed in red wine with herbs, spices, olive oil, and tons of fancy stuff that make for a rich and deep flavor.

Coq au Vin

Du coq au vin (Photo by Steven Depolo under CC BY 2.0)

7 – Moule marinières

Often found in the northern regions of France and in Belgium, moules marinières are usually served with fries and simply called moules frites (“mussels and fries”).

The eponymous marinière sauce is made with white wine and shallots (add some cream for a rich and delicious twist). This is a classic dish often found in inexpensive brasseries (simple French restaurants with a cheap lunch menu) in the Hauts-de-France region.

8 – Fondue savoyarde

Take a ton of mountain cheese (typically Comté, Beaufort, or Emmental) and melt it with white wine, garlic, and a bit of kirch. Serve it with bread, charcuterie (cold meat cuts) and more white wine, and there you have it: the most decadent of French specialties!

But how do you eat that? It’s simple enough: stick a piece of bread on a spike and dip it into the cheese right in the cooking bowl. Try not to lose your bread!

Fondue Savoyarde

La fondue savoyarde (Photo by Camille Gévaudan under CC BY-SA 3.0)


2. Unique French Products

Now that I’ve teased you with French recipes, let’s talk about another important aspect of French cuisine that doesn’t involve spending two hours in the kitchen or juggling five pans and long lists of bizarre ingredients.

France is famous for a lot of unique products, many of which feature various region-specific twists: le vin (“wine”), le fromage (“cheese”), le pain (“bread”), and la charcuterie (“cold cuts”).

They all play a big role in the so-called Art de Vivre (“Art of Living”) that we pride ourselves on cultivating. The French sure love their wine, cheese, bread, and charcuterie, especially when all four are combined to make for the happiest apéro (“happy hour”).

1 – “Wine is bottled poetry.”

(Robert Louis Stevenson)

French wine is produced across the entire country in large quantities (around sixty million hectoliters per year, or about eight billion bottles), making France one of the biggest wine producers in the world. 

Most wines are made to accompany food and this is where it gets tricky. Even though there are some general rules, such as “red wine is for red meat, white is for white meat and fish,” it’s more complex than that.

With thousands of different bottles of all shapes and colors, the wine department in a French supermarket is intimidating. Truth be told, it takes lots of research or serious oenology classes before you can choose the right bottle at the right moment. But don’t sweat it too much; unless you’re dining with experts, nobody will notice if the pairing isn’t perfect.

With so many styles, grape types, terroirs, and labels, it’s a whole world of rich and interesting flavors begging to be explored. You can sip it, drink it, share it, gift it, or even cook with it. Wine is a pillar of French culture.

Wine

Du vin (“Wine”) (Photo by PRA under CC BY-SA 3.0)

2 – “Life is great. Cheese makes it better.”

(Avery Aames)

I’ll do my best not to get too emotional in this section, as cheese is my personal weakness and I could praise it for hours.

There are around 1600 distinct French cheeses, each with a unique shape, texture, aroma, flavor, and other properties. They can be made from various kinds of milk and all have different levels of humidity, fat, and calcium.

French President Charles de Gaulle once said: “How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?” Fair enough, but we can simplify it by placing them into only eight categories.

French cheese is not for the faint of heart. They range from the easy-going and fairly mainstream Brie to the robust and divisive Roquefort. But the most intense experience lies with the smelliest and most repulsive-looking pieces of the Plateau de fromages (“Cheese platter”).

Cheeses with a lot of character may not be for everyone but once you fall in love, you’re in for a treat. Nothing can compare to the hypnotizing scent of a Munster, and the rich texture of melted Reblochon will make you reach new heights of foodgasm.

Cheese and Wine

Un plateau de fromages (“A cheese platter”)

3 – “Tout est bon dans le cochon.

(“Everything is good in a pig.” – French proverb)

Another classic French apéro, often served alongside wine and cheese, is charcuterie.

It covers a wide range of cold cuts, from ham to saucisson (dry-cured sausage), mortadella, smoked ham, cured ham, and much more.

The word charcuterie originally comes from chair cuite (“cooked flesh”). It can be cooked or raw and comes mostly (but not exclusively) from pork, with salt used as a preservation agent. It’s especially popular in southern France and in the mountains, but still widely enjoyed in the rest of the country.

An all-time classic of charcuterie is the saucisson sec: a thick dry-cured sausage eaten cold in thin slices, and best enjoyed with bread, wine, and friends.

4 – Happiness is a Fresh Baguette

We’ve all heard of the iconic French baguette, and as you walk through the streets of any city in France, you’ll realize that there’s truth in the cliché. The French do stroll around with bread under their arm.

Here are the golden rules of baguetiquette:

  • You can wipe your plate with it.
    Yeah, you can hold it with your fingers and dip it in sauce. It’s fine. (And it makes washing dishes easier. Everybody wins.)

  • Don’t put it on the plate.
    In restaurants, bread is usually served in a basket. In general, you might notice that French people never place bread on their plate but rather next to it on the table.

  • Cover it with cheese…
    …or whatever you like, really. Paté is a prime choice; chocolate spread or crème de marrons (“chestnut paste”) are also highly recommended. Oh, yeah, don’t forget to try sticking squares of chocolate bars into a baguette, especially when it’s still warm.

  • Bite the end of the baguette.
    It is scientifically proven that resisting the urge to bite the crunchy end of a freshly cooked baguette is impossible. It usually happens right in the street, seconds after you’ve left the bakery.
Fresh Baguette

Des baguettes (“Baguettes”)

    → Make sure to stop by our free vocabulary list on Famous French Food, with recordings to perfect your pronunciation!

3. Food Vocabulary

Now that your taste buds are all fired up, let’s go over some French food vocabulary you’ll need for your everyday food-related encounters.

1 – Talking About Food

  • J’ai faim. (“I’m hungry.”)
  • Je n’ai plus faim. (“I’m full.” – Literally: “I’m not hungry anymore.”)
  • Je suis affamé(e) ! (“I’m starving!”)
  • J’ai la dalle ! (“I’m really hungry!”) [Casual slang]
  • J’aime le fromage. (“I like cheese.”)
  • Je n’aime pas les champignons. (“I don’t like mushrooms.”)
  • Je ne mange pas de viande. (“I don’t eat meat.”)
  • Je suis allergique au soja. (“I’m allergic to soy.”)
  • Mon plat préféré est la tartiflette. (“My favorite dish is tartiflette.”)

2 – All About Cooking

Ingredients

  • Du sel (“Salt”)
  • Du poivre (“Pepper”)
  • Du sucre (“Sugar”)
  • De l’eau (“Water”)
  • Du lait (“Milk”)
  • De l’huile (“Oil”)
  • Des œufs (“Eggs”)
  • De la farine (“Flour”)
  • Des fruits (“Fruits”)
  • Des légumes (“Veggies”)
  • De la viande (“Meat”)

When reading recipes, knowing the basic fruit and veggie vocabulary will come in handy!

Utensils

  • Une casserole (“A sauce pan”)
  • Une poêle (“A frying pan”)
  • Un four (“An oven”)
  • Un couteau (“A knife”)
  • Une planche à découper (“A cutting board”)

You can find much more vocabulary on utensils and tableware on our free word list at FrenchPod101.com.

Cooking verbs

  • Faire cuire (“To cook”)
  • Mijoter (“To stew”)
  • Faire frire (“To fry”)
  • Faire revenir (briefly fry in a really hot pan with oil or butter)
  • Couper (“To cut”)
  • Éplucher (“To peel”)
  • Râper (“To grate”)
  • Trancher (“To slice”)

3 – Ordering in a Restaurant

  • Le menu (“The menu”)
  • Une table pour deux (“A table for two”)
  • Une carafe d’eau, s’il vous plaît. (“A jug of water, please.”)
  • Une entrée (“A starter”)
  • Un plat (“A main course”)
  • Un dessert (“A dessert”)
  • L’addition (“The bill”)
  • Un pourboire (“A tip”)

For more vocabulary, tips, and phrases for dealing with restaurants in France, be sure to check out our guide on Travel Phrases on FrenchPod101.com.

Restaurant with Lots of Costumers

Un restaurant français (“A French restaurant”)

4. Frogs and Other Misconceptions

The worldwide popularity of French cuisine comes with a fair share of mistakes and misconceptions. Here are a few you might have heard about:

1 – The Frog Fallacy

There’s a common belief, especially among the British, that the French are avid frog eaters. Some people even refer to French people as “Frogs.”

Frog legs are indeed eaten in France but they’re not nearly as popular as you might think. I have lived in various regions of France for most of my life and not once have I encountered frog legs. Sure, I could have gone out of my way to find them and give it a try, but I’ve never seen it as a plat du jour (“dish of the day”) in a restaurant.

It seems to be more popular in the eastern regions where they are usually ordered as a delicacy in restaurants, or for special occasions. The legs are often grilled or deep-fried, but are occasionally boiled, baked, or stir-fried.

Interestingly, they’re also eaten in Southeast Asia, parts of Europe, and the southern U.S. Archeologists found proof of frog-eating in the UK, dating back to 8000 years ago, which makes them the historical first frog eaters in Europe. Just sayin’.

It is true, however, that we eat escargots (“snails”). Then again, it’s a delicacy and absolutely not a common meal, but they’re still rather affordable and presumably delicious. Personally, I never got beyond the psychological barrier and I intend to keep on living a snail-free life.

2 – The Croissant Conspiracy

There is a common belief that the French are eating a lot of croissants and usually having them for breakfast.

Heck, just type “French breakfast” into your usual search engine and you shall find a sneaky croissant in almost every single photo! By the way, you’ll also see a LOT of food on the table, which is another fallacy.

First of all, croissants are not that popular. Sure, it’s a classic viennoiserie (“pastry”) and I wouldn’t mind waking up with one of these buttery babies on the table. However, at best, we’d buy them on a Sunday to celebrate the day off and make breakfast special. Or maybe bring some to work in order to buy our coworkers’ good graces.

Oh, and by the way: Why would anyone buy croissants when you can have pains au chocolat (chocolate croissants) for roughly the same price?

Second of all, in France, breakfast is the least important meal of the day and you’ll rarely see tables full of cereals, bread, fruits, pastries, juices, and whatnot. Why is that? Because we put much more emphasis on lunch, so we wouldn’t want to be full when the time comes for the apéro.

Croissants

Des croissants (“Croissants”)

3 – French Toast, French Bread, French Whatever

French kiss? French lover? Yeah, we invented that, I’m fine with it.

But French fries? No. I have to give credit where it’s due and celebrate Belgium for their love of greasy food, amazing chocolate, and a mindblowing number of different beers! 

If you want to have a good time with deep-fried chunks of potatoes dipped in a thick homemade Dallas sauce, Belgium is the place to be.

We simply call them frites (Literally: “fried”) and every educated French person knows they’re from Belgium.

What about French toast? Nope. That’s actually Italian, dating back from ancient Rome. All credit goes to Apicus, a Roman from the fifth century, for this delightful recipe. 

In France, we call it pain perdu (Literally: “lost bread” or “wasted bread”). How “wasted” became “French” is a mystery I’m not sure I want to solve.

5. Le Mot De La Fin

In this French cuisine guide, you’ve learned everything about French food, from the top must-try recipes to the unique French specialties such as wine and cheese. 

Did we forget any important recipe that you know? Make sure to share your favorite French dishes in the comments below; I might learn a thing or two!

FrenchPod101 also has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings as well as a free resources page 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. Your private teacher will use assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples to help you excel in your studies. He or she will also review your work and help you improve your pronunciation. 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Let's Cook in French

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

A French Grammar Pocket Book

Thumbnail

Are you starting out in French and wondering what to study first? Or maybe you’re already learning French and getting a bit lost in French grammar? 

Regardless of your experience or background, you’ve come to the right place. You’ll always need a concise summary of French grammar at hand as you explore the language’s ins and outs, and that’s exactly what this guide is about.

In this article, you’ll find a general overview of French grammar, from basic sentence structure to conjugation, agreement rules, and negation.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Vocabulary
  2. Sentence Structure
  3. Verbs & Tenses
  4. Nouns & Articles
  5. Adjectives
  6. Negation
  7. Le mot de la fin

1. Vocabulary

Let’s start with some good news: French has a lot in common with English. It has similar types of words, as well as a fair amount of common vocabulary and grammatical structures.

Although eighty percent of French vocabulary comes directly from Latin and Greek, we also use many words from other languages, including English

You’d be surprised how many common French words have been taken straight from English, such as Boss, Remake, Jet, Weekend, Babysitter, Manager, Pullover, and countless more.

Similarly to most Latin languages, French has the following types of words:

1 – Nouns

  • French nouns almost always need an article in front of them.
    You can say le chat (“the cat”) or un chat (“a cat”), but just chat is incorrect.

  • French nouns have a gender.
    Le soleil (“the sun”) is masculine; la lune (“the moon”) is feminine.

  • French nouns have a number.
    Le chat (“the cat”) is singular; les chats (“the cats”) is plural.

  • There are common nouns and proper nouns.
    Un chat (“a cat”) is a common noun. Jupiter, Miyazaki, and Nietzsche are proper nouns.

Don’t forget to stop by our article on the 100+ Must-Know Nouns in French to learn much more about nouns and expand your vocabulary!

2 – Articles

  • Articles are mandatory in French.

  • They agree with the noun in gender and number.

    • Un arbre (“A tree”)
    • Une fleur (“A flower”)
    • Des fleurs (“Flowers”)

  • There are three types of articles:

    • Indefinite articles (Not specific): Un, Une, Des
      Un oiseau (“A bird”), Une loutre (“An otter”), Des papillons (“Butterflies”)

    • Definite articles (Specific): Le, L’, La, Les
      We use them when talking about a specific, previously mentioned noun: Le parc (“The park”)
      When there is only one: Le soleil (“The sun”)
    • Or for a general notion: La vie (“Life”), L’art (“Art”), Le sport (“Sport”)

    • Partitive articles (Some / A certain amount): Du, De La, Des
      Du fromage
      (“Cheese”), De la farine (“Flour”), Des fruits (“Fruits”)

Flowers

Des fleurs (“Flowers”)

3 – Adjectives

Adjectives are used to describe a noun. In French grammar, adjectives agree in gender and number with the noun.

For example:

  • Un petit chemin (“A small path”)
  • Une petite route (“A small road”)
  • Deux petites routes (“Two small roads”)

Here’s our list of the 100 Must-Know French Adjectives, as well as the few grammar rules you need to know!

4 – Possessive Adjectives

Possessive adjectives define whom the noun belongs to. Of course, like everything related to nouns, they agree in gender and number.

For example:

  • Mon jardin (“My garden”)
  • Ma maison (“My house”)
  • Mes affaires (“My belongings”)
  • Ton adresse (“Your address”)
  • Sa faute (“His / Her fault”)
  • Ses fleurs (“His / Her flowers”)
  • Leur voiture (“Their car”)

5 – Demonstrative Adjectives

Demonstrative adjectives are used to point at something or emphasize its importance (this / that / these / those). In French, we have: ce / cet, cette, ces.

For example:

  • Ce jardin (“This / That garden”)
  • Cet arbre (“This / That tree”)
  • Cette maison (“This / That house”)
  • Ces villes (“These / Those cities”)

6 – Adverbs

Adverbs don’t agree in gender or number; they’re invariable. They describe a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. They define how something is done (slowly / violently), how much (a bit / a lot), or more information about when and where (often / yesterday).

For example:

  • Je mange lentement. (“I eat slowly.”)
  • Elle a beaucoup de fromages. (“She has a lot of cheese.”)
  • Je ne dors jamais l’après-midi. (“I never sleep in the afternoon.”)
  • Nous partirons demain. (“We will leave tomorrow.”)

In our 100 Must-Know French Adverbs, you’ll find everything you need to know about adverbs, as well as a massive list of the 100 most useful ones.

A Woman Watching Her Alarm Clock in Bed

Elle ne dort jamais. (“She never sleeps.”)

7 – Verbs

  • French verbs are split between three groups, depending on the spelling of their infinitive form and their behavior. The three types of verbs are:

    • ER (manger, parler, toucher)
    • IR (dormir, partir, venir)
    • RE (répondre, prendre)

  • In French grammar, conjugation takes place for a variety of tenses (past, future, etc.).
    More on French conjugation later in this article!

  • Some verbs are reflexive and start with se, as in: se réveiller (“to wake up”), se lever (“to stand up”), and s’arrêter (“to stop”).
    They are often used to describe things you do regularly or changes of state (such as “to wake up,” “to fall asleep,” “to sit down”) that have an effect on oneself.

The best way to start learning verbs? Our article on the 100 Must-Know French Verbs, with valuable insight on conjugation and an exhaustive guide on tenses.

8 – Pronouns

French pronouns come in many shapes and sizes:

  • Personal pronouns
    • Personal subjects: Elle a faim. (“She’s hungry.”)
    • Stressed pronouns: C’est moi ! (“It’s me!”)
    • Direct pronouns: Nous le donnons. (“We give it.”)
    • Indirect pronouns: Ils vous parlent. (“They talk to you.”)
    • Reflexive pronouns: Je me lève. (“I stand up.”)

  • Impersonal pronouns
    • Impersonal subjects: Ça commence maintenant. (“It starts now.”)
    • Adverbial pronouns: Je veux y aller. (“I want to go there.”)
    • Relative pronouns: Je sais que tu es là. (“I know that you are here.”)
    • Demonstrative pronouns: Celles de gauche. (“These on the left.”)
    • Interrogative pronouns: Qui es-tu ? (“Who are you?”)
    • Indefinite pronouns: Tout est possible. (“Anything is possible.”)

Curious about pronouns? You can learn much more about them by reading our article on the 10 Types of French Pronouns to Keep Things Sleek and Smooth

9 – Conjunctions

Conjunctions are these convenient little words that we use to connect things:

  • Listing things: Des fruits et des légumes (“Fruits and vegetables”)
  • Setting conditions: Je ne bois pas, sinon je m’endors. (“I don’t drink, otherwise I fall asleep.”)
  • Expressing causality: Je mange car j’ai faim. (“I’m eating because I’m hungry.”)
  • Objecting: Je mange du fromage mais pas de camembert. (“I eat cheese but not camembert.”)
  • Expressing purpose: Je médite pour me relaxer. (“I meditate to relax.”)

To learn more on conjunctions, I recommend that you stop by our extensive Guide to French Conjunctions on FrenchPod101.com.

10 – Prepositions

In French grammar, prepositions can be followed by…

  • …a noun:
    Le chat est dans le jardin. (“The cat is in the garden.”)
    Elle t’attendra devant la maison. (“She will wait for you in front of the house.”)
    Avec ou sans patates ? (“With or without potatoes?”)
  • …an infinitive verb:
    Je me prépare à partir. (“I’m getting ready to leave.”)
    Il essaye de partir. (“He’s trying to leave.”)
    J’étudie sur FrenchPod101 pour parler Français. (“I study on FrenchPod101 to speak French.”)
  • …or a stress pronoun:
    On va chez moi ? (“Are we going to my place?”)
    Elle vient avec moi. (“She’s coming with me.”)

Apple and Banana

Une pomme et une banane (“An apple and a banana”)

2. Sentence Structure

The first thing you need to learn to build sentences in French is the word order. Otherwise, even if you learn a lot of vocabulary, it will always be difficult to identify the keywords and the general meaning of what you hear or read.

French follows the SVO pattern (Subject Verb Object). It means that the default word order is: Subject Verb Object.

  • Je bois du vin. (“I drink wine.”)

Unlike other Latin languages, such as Spanish or Italian, where the subject pronouns can be omitted, we almost never skip the subject of a sentence.


A Man Arranging a Big Puzzle

One piece at a time, they all fit nicely.

3. Verbs & Tenses

Conjugation in French has a lot in common with English conjugation, but it adds a hairy layer of complexity; the verb ending changes depending on the person, mood, voice, and tense.

At first, it may seem overwhelming. But luckily, most verbs follow a set of rules and patterns that you can learn rather quickly.

1 – Conjugation Basics

Singular pronouns:
  • je / j’ (“I”)
  • tu / vous (Casual “you” / Formal “you”)
  • il / elle (“he” / “she”)
Plural pronouns:
  • nous (“we”)
  • vous (“you”)
  • ils / elles (Male “they” / Female “they”)

The ending of the verb depends on the person (or pronoun):

  • Je marche (“I walk”)
  • Nous marchons (“We walk”)
  • Elles marchent (“They walk”)

Just like English, French has simple tenses and compound tenses.

Simple tenses are conjugated by changing the verb ending, while compound tenses also add an auxiliary together with the verb.

  • Nous marchons (“We walk”) – Simple tense: Présent.
  • Nous avons marché (“We have walked”) – Compound tense: Passé composé.

At first glance, the list of all seventeen French tenses seems intimidating, but most of them are only ever used in literature. On a daily basis, you won’t need more than five or six to deal with any kind of situation.

2 – Regular & Irregular Verbs

Like in most languages, including English, the most useful and common French verbs are the most irregular. Verbs like être (“to be”), avoir (“to have”), or faire (“to do”) are highly irregular.

However, it’s important to quickly learn how to conjugate the regular verbs, as their conjugation rules will help you deal with the majority of verbs that you’ll encounter. So, let’s start with that.

Regular verb: Marcher (“To walk”) ← This is the infinitive form of a 1st group verb.

March ← This is the “stem.”

Here’s how it looks in present tense:

1st sg (I)2nd sg (you)3rd sg (she)1st pl (we)2nd pl (you)3rd pl (they)
Stem + eStem + esStem + eStem + onsStem + ezStem + ent
Je marcheTu marchesElle marcheNous marchonsVous marchezIls marchent

Now, if you follow this simple pattern, you can conjugate countless similar French verbs:

  • Parler (“To talk”)
    Je parle, Tu parles, Elle parle, Nous parlons, Vous parlez, Elles parlent

  • Penser (“To think”)
    Je pense, Tu penses, Elle pense, Nous pensons, Vous pensez, Elles pensent

  • Aimer (“To love”)
    J’aime, Tu aimes, Elle aime, Nous aimons, Vous aimez, Elles aiment

  • Demander (“To ask”)
    Je demande, Tu demandes, Elle demande, Nous demandons, Vous demandez, Elles demandent

  • Utiliser (“To use”)
    J’utilise, Tu utilises, Elle utilise, Nous utilisons, Vous utilisez, Elles utilisent

3 – The Two Most Important Verbs

Now that you know the basics of French conjugation, let’s have a look at two crucial verbs that don’t follow the rules: 

  • Être (“To be”)
    Je suis, Tu es, Elle est, Nous sommes, Vous êtes, Elles sont
    For example: Je suis heureux. (“I’m happy.”)

  • Avoir (“To have”)
    J’ai, Tu as, Elle a, Nous avons, Vous avez, Elles ont
    For example: Nous avons un chat. (“We have a cat.”)

These two verbs are not only useful in themselves, but also as auxiliaries to form the compound tenses we mentioned earlier.

  • Elle est revenue de vacances. (“She has returned from vacation.”)
  • Tu es allé au cinéma. (“You have gone to the movie theater.”)
  • J’ai rencontré Julien. (“I have met Julien.”)
  • Nous avons fini de manger. (“We have finished eating.”)

We’re just scratching the surface, but you can learn much more about this in our extensive guide on
French Conjugation and on our free French Verbs resource page.

Woman Holding a Popcorn Inside Movie Theater

Elles sont au cinéma. (“They are at the movie theater.”)

4. Nouns & Articles

    Rule #1: Nouns have a gender.

In French grammar, gender is applied to each and every noun. French nouns are either masculine or feminine.

For example, un mois (“a month”) is masculine, while une semaine (“a week”) is feminine.

    Rule #2: Nouns have an article.

Unlike those in English, French nouns always have an article and cannot be used without one.

You can say un chien (“a dog”) or le chien (“the dog”), but never chien.

    Rule #3: Nouns and articles agree in gender.

How they change when put in the feminine form depends on their initial spelling.

  • Un boulanger / Une boulangère (“A baker”)
  • Un fermier / Une fermière (“A farmer”)
  • Un chanteur / Une chanteuse (“A singer”)
  • Un acteur / Une actrice (“An actor” / “An actress”)
  • Un chien / Une chienne (“A dog”)
    Rule #4: Nouns and articles agree in number.

Like with gender, there are certain changes an article goes through to agree with the noun in number.

  • Un chat (“A cat”) / Des chats (“Cats”)
  • Le chat (“The cat”) / Les chats (“The cats”)

But there are also a bunch of special cases:

  • Un cheval (“A horse”) / Des chevaux (“Horses”)
  • Un hibou (“An owl”) / Des hiboux (“Owls”)
  • Un bateau (“A boat”) / Des bateaux (“Boats”)
  • Une souris (“A mouse”) / Des souris (“Mice”)
Toy Cat

Des chats (“Cats”)

5. Adjectives

    Rule #1: Adjective placement may vary.

The majority of French adjectives are placed AFTER the noun they’re describing.

  • Un mur épais (“A thick wall”)
  • Une voix douce (“A soft voice”)
  • Des assiettes sales (“Dirty plates”)

However, some of the most common adjectives come BEFORE the noun.

  • Un bon film (“A good movie”)
  • Une petite fille (“A little girl”)
  • Un nouveau livre (“A new book”)
    Rule #2: Adjectives agree with the noun in gender. 

Adjectives must also agree in gender with the noun they’re describing.

Most French adjectives have different feminine and masculine forms.

  • Un garçon intelligent (“A smart boy”)
  • Une fille intelligente (“A smart girl”)

But some adjectives are invariable:

  • Un train rapide (“A fast train”) 
  • Une voiture rapide (“A fast car”)
    Rule #3: Adjectives agree with the noun in number. 

Finally, adjectives must agree in number with the noun they’re describing.

Most of them simply take a final -s:

  • Un petit chien (“A small dog”)
  • Des petits chiens (“Small dogs”)
  • Des petites chiennes (“Small dogs” – Feminine)

Adjectives ending with -s or -x are invariable.

A Girl Solving Math Problem in the Board

Une fille intelligente (“A smart girl”)

6. Negation

French negative sentences are built using the particle Ne + one or more negative words.

In French grammar, negation is achieved by placing these two parts around the verb, as follows: 

[Subject] ne [verb] pas.

  • Je mange. (“I eat.”)
  • Je ne mange pas. (“I don’t eat.”)

There’s a collection of negative words you can use:

  • Je ne mange jamais. (“I never eat.”)
  • Je ne mange rien. (“I don’t eat anything.”)
  • Je ne mange personne. (“I don’t eat anyone.”)
  • Je ne mange plus. (“I don’t eat anymore.”)
  • Je ne mange nulle part. (“I’m not eating anywhere.”)
  • Je ne mange aucune viande. (“I don’t eat any meat.”)
  • Je ne mange que de la viande. (“I eat nothing but meat.”)

Negation follows the exact same pattern with any verb…

  • Je ne vais nulle part. (“I’m not going anywhere.”)
  • Nous ne parlons jamais. (“We never talk.”)
  • Elle ne fume plus. (“She’s not smoking anymore.”)
  • Tu ne sais rien, Jon Snow. (“You know nothing, Jon Snow.”)

…except when the verb starts with the vowel and Ne is shortened to N’:

  • Je n’ai rien à dire. (“I have nothing to say.”)
  • Tu n’aimes pas. (“You don’t like.”)
  • Nous n’essayons pas. (“We are not trying.”)

You can also build sentences using several negative words:

  • Je ne dirai jamais rien à personne. (“I will never tell anything to anyone.”)
  • Elle n’est plus allée nulle part après cela. (“She didn’t go anywhere anymore after this.”)

It’s also possible to start a sentence with a negative word:

  • Rien n’arrive sans raison. (“Nothing happens without a reason.”)
  • Personne ne bouge. (“Nobody moves.”)
A Man Whispering Something to His Fellow Man

Ne le dis à personne ! (“Don’t tell anyone!”)

7. Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you’ve learned all of the essential French grammar guidelines, from basic structures to conjugation, agreement rules, and negation.

Whether you’re just getting started in your French studies or consolidating your knowledge, you can use this overview as a small grammar pocket book whenever you need quick access to the basic French grammar rules. Did we forget any important rule you’d like to learn about?

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

Feel like you need more French grammar help? Remember that you can use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching. Practice these grammar basics with your private teacher so they can give you personalized feedback and advice.

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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Inspiration On Demand: 25 Famous French Quotes

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Do you know why people love inspirational quotes so much? A quick look at any Instagram feed is enough to be convinced that there’s something universally compelling about them. We print them on T-shirts, display them on our walls or fridges, and even tattoo them on our skin.

I love to learn interesting quotes about a language I’m studying. Not just to memorize them and impress locals (although it can be a neat trick!), but to learn what they tell me about their culture and values. 

This article on famous French quotes aims to give you the same immersive learning experience…”Tell me who you quote, I will tell you who you are.” We’ve gathered for you the best and most famous French quotes about life, love, and much more. Consider it a concentrate of French wisdom. 

P.S.: Be sure to stick with us until the end for a bonus list of some timeless classic quotes from French cinema.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Quotes About Wisdom
  2. Quotes About Love
  3. Quotes About Time
  4. Quotes About Relationships
  5. Quotes From French Movies
  6. Le Mot De La Fin

1. Quotes About Wisdom

If you’re looking for some French quotes to live by, you may discover something valuable in the wise words of these notorious people from France’s past.

#1

FrenchLa difficulté de réussir ne fait qu’ajouter à la nécessité d’entreprendre.
Literally“It is so hard to succeed that it makes it even more necessary to take action.”
Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, the author of this quote, is quite the character.

Born in Paris in 1732, he was a writer, playwright, musician, and businessman. He created the Société des Auteurs, the first official organization for the protection of authors and copyright.

When he wasn’t busy managing four careers, he was also working for the King as both a spy and arms dealer. He was instrumental in the American and French revolutions. This man’s life was so full of action and adventures that it probably served as an inspiration for the dramatic stories he’s famous for.

#2

FrenchLa vérité vaut bien qu’on passe quelques années sans la trouver. 
Literally“Truth is more valuable if it takes you a few years to find it.”
This is a quote from Jules Renard, a French writer from the eighteenth century.

#3

FrenchIl faut bonne mémoire après qu’on a menti. 
Literally“A liar should have a good memory.”
This is a quote from the play Le menteur (1644) by Pierre Corneille, one of the most famous playwrights and poets of his generation.

His five-act tragicomedy, Le Cid, is considered his finest work. It’s written entirely in rhyming couplets with alternating masculine and feminine rhymes, as was typical of French dramas at the time.

#4

FrenchQui craint de souffrir, il souffre déjà de ce qu’il craint.
Literally“He who fears suffering is already suffering that which he fears.”
One of the most influential thinkers of his time, the very quotable French writer Jean de la Fontaine was a widely famous poet and fabulist in the seventeenth century.

His most notorious work is Les Fables, a collection of short tales that features animals as characters and illustrates various moral lessons.

#5

FrenchScience sans conscience n’est que ruine de l’âme.
Literally“Science without conscience is nothing but the ruin of the soul.”
This quote by Rabelais from the novel Pantagruel could be considered the beginnings of bioethics, a discipline that tries to reconcile scientific capabilities and their moral acceptability.



A Woman Thinking about the Future of Science

Science sans conscience n’est que ruine de l’âme.

2. Quotes About Love

Are you in love? A hopeless romantic? A poet at heart? Then you’ll certainly appreciate the beauty of these French quotes about love.

#6

FrenchLe cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point.
Literally“The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.”
This is a quote from the French mathematician, physicist, inventor, philosopher, moralist, and theologist Blaise Pascal.

Yes, that’s quite an impressive resume. The man has left such a wealth of insightful research and writings in all of these fields that it’s only fair to give him all due credit.

#7

FrenchUn seul être vous manque et tout est dépeuplé.
Literally“Only one person is missing, and the whole world seems empty.”
This is a quote from Alphonse de Lamartine, a French poet, writer, and politician. Lamartine is considered to be the first Romantic poet.

#8

FrenchLa vie est une fleur dont l’amour est le miel.
Literally“Life is a flower of which love is the honey.”
Here’s a quote from Victor Hugo, a French poet and novelist of the aforementioned Romantic movement.

#9

FrenchAimer sans être aimé, c’est comme allumer une cigarette avec une allumette déjà éteinte.
Literally“To love without being loved is like lighting a cigarette with a matchstick that has gone out.”
This is a quote from George Sand, one of the most prominent writers of the Romantic movement in the nineteenth century.

Don’t be fooled by her pen name, “George”: Aurore Dupin was a woman, and what we would call a feminist in today’s day and age. She was primarily known for the exceptional quality of her writing, but also made a name for herself by wearing male clothes (in a time where it was not exactly socially acceptable) and smoking in public.

You’ve heard this quote a few times if you ever had the chance to watch the excellent Moulin Rouge from Australian director Baz Luhrmann.

#10

FrenchAimer, ce n’est pas se regarder l’un l’autre, c’est regarder ensemble dans la même direction.
Literally“Love doesn’t mean gazing at each other, but looking, together, in the same direction.”
This is a quote from Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, comte de Saint-Exupéry, but you may just say Saint-Exupéry.

Internationally, he’s mainly remembered for his novel Le Petit Prince (“The Little Prince”).



A Man Carrying His Girlfriend Near a Waterfall

Le seul vrai langage au monde est un baiser. (Alfred de Musset)
(“The only true language in the world is a kiss.”)

3. Quotes About Time

Time is what binds us to our own mortality. The following French quotes about life express the significance of time, how we use it, and how it affects us. 

#11

FrenchLe temps est un grand maître, dit-on. Le malheur est qu’il tue ses élèves.
Literally“We say that time is a great teacher. It’s too bad that it kills all its students.”
This is a quote from Hector Berlioz, a composer and conductor of the nineteenth century.

#12

FrenchIl y a des gens qui ne savent pas perdre leur temps tout seul. Ils sont le fléau des gens occupés.
Literally“Some people can’t waste time on their own. They’re the bane of the busy ones.”
Louis de Bonald, the author of this quote, was a philosopher and political figure of the nineteenth century. He’s remembered as one of the founders of sociology.

#13

FrenchIl ne faut avoir aucun regret pour le passé, aucun remords pour le présent, et une confiance inébranlable pour l’avenir. 
Literally“You should have no regrets about the past, no remorse about the present, and unwavering confidence in the future.”
This quote is from Jean-Jaurès, a major political figure from the late nineteenth century. Among other accomplishments, he’s one of the main contributors to the 1905 law on the separation of the churches and the state.

This law would then become the backbone of the French concept of laïcité (“secularism”), which is today a crucial part of our national identity.

#14

FrenchCeux qui font mauvais usage de leur temps sont les premiers à se plaindre de sa brièveté.
Literally“Those who make bad use of their time are the first to complain about its brevity.”
This is from Jean de La Bruyère, a French moralist from the seventeenth century.

His most notorious work, Les Caractères, is an essay on the mental traits of individuals and how they interact with each other.

#15

FrenchC’est un malheur qu’il y a trop peu d’intervalles entre le temps où l’on est trop jeune, et le temps où l’on est trop vieux.
Literally“It’s a shame that there is too little time between when we’re too young and when we’re too old.”
Montesquieu was a political thinker and philosopher born in the late seventeenth century. He’s known for his thoughts on the separation of powers that would later influence the development of Western democracies.


    → Whether you want to complain or philosophize about it, you’ll be glad you stopped by our free vocabulary list on Time, with examples and audio recordings.

A Man Panicking because He’s Late for Work

Ceux qui font mauvais usage de leur temps sont les premiers à se plaindre de sa brièveté.

4. Quotes About Relationships

The following French quotes on friendship and other relationships underline the simple truths and concepts behind one of life’s most crucial elements.

#16

FrenchUn homme seul est toujours en mauvaise compagnie.
Literally“A lone man is always in poor company.”
This is a quote from Paul Valéry, a French poet and philosopher who is best known for his glorious mustache.

#17

FrenchL’enfer, c’est les autres.
Literally“Hell is other people.”
This is one of the most famous quotes from Jean-Paul Sartre, from his play Huis Clos (1943).

Huis Clos tells the story of three damned souls who have just been brought to Hell. As they get acquainted and try to figure out how they ended up there, they realize that there’s no torturer nor medieval devices, and that their punishment is to endure each other for all eternity.

Here is the full quote: 

Alors, c’est ça l’enfer. Je n’aurais jamais cru… Vous vous rappelez : le soufre, le bûcher, le gril… Ah ! Quelle plaisanterie. Pas besoin de gril : l’enfer c’est les autres.
(“So, this is Hell. I would never have thought… Do you remember: the smell of sulfur, the stake, the grill… Ha! What a joke. No need for a grill: Hell is other people.”)

#18

FrenchIl est bon de traiter l’amitié comme les vins et de se méfier des mélanges.
Literally“It’s good to handle friendship like wine and to be wary of mixtures.”
This quote is from Colette, a French author, actress, and journalist born in the late nineteenth century.

#19

FrenchCe qui rend les amitiés indissolubles et double leur charme est un sentiment qui manque à l’amour : la certitude.
Literally“What makes friendships unbreakable and doubles their charm is a feeling that is missing from love: certainty.”
This is a quote from Honoré de Balzac, one of the most prominent writers of the nineteenth century with a huge biography of more than ninety novels.

#20

FrenchL’amitié fait deviner des choses dont on ne parle pas.
Literally“Friendship makes you guess unspoken truths.”
This is a quote from Les Pays Étrangers (1982) by Jean Ethier-Blais, a Canadian writer and professor of French literature.


    → For more insightful quotes on this topic, be sure to visit our list of quotes on Friendship. It’s freely available on FrenchPod101.com.

A Girl Comforting Her Friend, Who’s Crying

L’amitié fait deviner les choses dont on ne parle pas.

5. Quotes From French Movies

To close, let’s look at some famous quotes in French from top movies!

#21

FrenchUne femme sans amour, c’est comme une fleur sans soleil, ça dépérit.
Literally“A woman without love is like a flower without the sun, she will wither.”
Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (“The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain”), or Amélie (2001) in the U.S., is a fantastic movie full of memorable quotes, by director Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

With its unique tone and aesthetic, it’s a must-watch, especially if you’re looking for movies to practice your French.

#22

FrenchLes cons ça ose tout. C’est même à ça qu’on les reconnait.
Literally“Fools dare everything. That’s how you recognize them.”
Les tontons flingueurs (“The Gunslingers Uncles”), or Monsieur Gangster in the U.S., is a cult classic crime comedy from 1963 with more witty quotes than I can count.

It was written by Michel Audiard, who’s still considered one of the best dialogue writers in French cinema.

#23

FrenchOn ne peut pas faire l’amour du matin au soir. C’est pour ça qu’on a inventé le travail. 
Literally“You cannot make love all day long. That’s why we’ve invented work.”
This is from the movie L’Homme qui aimait les femmes, or The Man Who Loved Women in the U.S. (1977), by François Truffaut.

François Truffaut was one of the founders of the French New Wave or Nouvelle Vague, a French film movement that rejected traditional filmmaking convention in favor of a more experimental style.

#24

FrenchEt dites-vous bien dans la vie, ne pas reconnaître son talent, c’est favoriser la réussite des médiocres.
Literally“Not acknowledging your talent is to encourage the success of mediocre people.”
This is a quote from Le cave se rebiffe, or The Counterfeiters of Paris in the U.S., by Gilles Grangier, with legendary French actor Jean Gabin.

#25

FrenchMoi, Monsieur, je suis ancien combattant, patron de bistrot et militant socialiste, c’est vous dire si des conneries dans ma vie j’en ai entendu quelques-unes. 
Literally“I, sir, am a war veteran, bartender, and socialist activist. So you can imagine that in my life, I’ve heard my fair share of nonsense.”
This is from Un idiot à Paris (“An Idiot in Paris”), a 1967 movie from Serge Korber.


    → If my movie quotes made you itch for a big-screen experience in France, check out our Movie-Going vocabulary list to come prepared!

Two Women Watching Movies

Time for watching some French movies.

6. Le Mot De La Fin

In this guide, you’ve learned the best quotes from French authors in a variety of categories, from love quotes to quotes about life and time, and even some of the finest lines from classic movies.

Did we forget an amazing French quote you’ve heard about? Don’t hesitate to share it in the comments below!

Going further, 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. Quotes are even better when you can translate them yourself.

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching and practice new words and structures with a private teacher. In addition to providing assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples just for you, 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.

Get Down to Business in French

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Can you imagine going to a business meeting in France with no knowledge of business French? With a bit of reckoning and preparation, you can spare yourself a lot of embarrassment. All you need is a small set of business French phrases.

The world of work can be wildly different from one country to another, and when traveling somewhere for business—either permanently or as a visitor—you’ll have to quickly find your mark to make the best of your new business environment. 

In this guide to phrases for doing business in French, you’ll learn everything you need to work in France or conduct your business with French-speaking partners. We’ll cover everything from coworkers and meetings to job interviews, letters, and even professional phone calls. Let’s take care of business!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Business Words and Phrases in French Table of Contents
  1. Getting Started
  2. Business Words and Phrases
  3. Coworkers and Meetings
  4. Nail a Job Interview
  5. Emails and Letters
  6. Business Calls
  7. Le Mot De La Fin

1. Getting Started

Jobs

Before we dive into specific business French phrases, let’s cover the basics and work on your first impressions. 

In this section, you’ll learn how to greet, how formal you should be, and what words and expressions you need to know if you want to work or conduct business in French.

1 – Greetings and Goodbyes

  • Bonjour (“Hello”) is the magic greeting that works for everybody at almost any time of day. Literally meaning “Good day,” it’s neither too formal nor too relaxed, so you really can’t go wrong with it.
  • Bonsoir (“Good evening”) is basically bonjour for evening and night.

When meeting someone for the first time, you might want to add a polite “Nice to meet you.” Here are a few options:

  • Enchanté(e). (“Delighted.”) 
    • This one can be used with anyone in any situation. It takes a final E in the feminine form.
  • Ravi(e) de vous rencontrer. (“Happy to meet you.”)
  • C’est un plaisir de vous rencontrer. (“It’s a pleasure to meet you.”)

Saying goodbye is even more straightforward. In any formal situation, always stick with Au revoir (“Goodbye”), and nothing else. Then, only once you become more casual with coworkers or business partners, you could use the relaxed Salut (“Bye”) or a similar alternative.

    → You’ll find everything on saying “Goodbye” and “See you later” in our blog article on Saying Goodbye in French.

2 – “Tu” or “Vous”?

The French have two distinct pronouns for “you”: vous and tu (formal and casual “you”). Whenever in doubt, you can’t go wrong with vous.

A simple rule: Follow your partners’ or coworkers’ lead. If they use tu when addressing you, answer with tu. Otherwise, just stick to the formal vous.

2. Business Words and Phrases

Business Phrases

Now we’ll introduce you to some of the most useful business French vocabulary. These are words and phrases that you’ll hear and use often in the French working world, so we recommend memorizing the ones that are most relevant to your situation. 

1 – The Company

We have two main words for “company” in French:

  • Une entreprise
  • Une société

There are some legal differences if you explore the working laws, but most people use both indiscriminately.

  • Yves Rocher est une entreprise de cosmétique. (“Yves Rocher is a cosmetics company.”)
  • Je travaille pour une société de transport. (“I work for a transport company.”)

In a more relaxed context, the casual word for “company” is une boite (literally, “a box”).

  • Je bosse pour une boite d’informatique. (“I work for an IT company.”)
    Note that I’m using the verb bosser, which is the casual slang term for travailler (“to work”).

Here are a few technical business French terms you might want to learn:

  • Le bureau (“The office”)
  • Un open space (“An open space” / “A bullpen”)
  • Une société par actions (“A joint-stock company”)
  • Une multinationale (“A multinational company”)
  • Une PME (Petite et moyenne entreprise) (“SMB – Small and medium-sized business”)
  • Une association (à but non lucratif) (“A non-profit organization”)
People Inside the Company

Une entreprise (“Company”)

2 – To Work

Now, here are some useful words and expressions for talking about work and employment.

  • Travailler (“To work”)
  • Bosser [Casual] (“To work”)
  • Gérer (“To manage”)
  • Recruter (“To hire”)
  • Chercher un emploi (“To look for a job”)
  • Un métier (“Occupation”)
  • Le travail (“Work”)
  • Un boulot [Casual] (“Job”)
  • Un taf [Slang] (“Job”)
  • Un poste (“Position”)
  • Une carrière (“Career”)
  • Un stage (“Internship”)
  • Un contrat (“Contract”)

3 – Top Business Words

You’ll notice that some words have a feminine form and some words don’t. I’m only adding the feminine form when it’s relevant and commonly used. This is because, in many cases, it’s still customary to use the masculine form for any gender.

Let’s start with the workforce:

  • Le personnel (“The staff”)
  • Un employé [Male] / Une employée [Female] (“An employee”)
  • Un stagiaire / Une stagiaire (“An intern”)
  • Un apprenti / Une apprentie (“An apprentice”)
  • Un cadre (“An executive”)

The management:

  • Le patron (“The boss”)
  • Le PDGPrésident-directeur général (“The CEO”) 
  • Un directeur / Une directrice (“A director”)
  • Un manager (“A manager”)
  • Un employeur (“An employer”)
  • Le comité de direction (“Top management”)

And now some departments and geographical terms:

  • Le siège social (“Head office”)
  • Une succursale (“A branch”)
  • Une filiale (“A subsidiary”)
  • Les ressources humaines or RH (“Human Resources”)
  • Le service marketing (“The marketing department”)
  • Le service des ventes (“The sales department”)
  • Le service technique (“The technical department”)
  • La comptabilité (“The accounting department”)
The CEO

Le PDG (“The CEO”)

4 – Talking About Money

If you’re doing business, chances are you’ll eventually find yourself talking about money.

Let’s start with the basics before we move on to some technical financial vocabulary:

  • L’argent (“Money”)
  • Un salaire (“Salary”)
  • Un bulletin de salaire (“Payslip”)
  • Une avance (“An advance payment”)
  • Une retenue sur salaire (“A payroll deduction”)

  • Les impôts (“Taxes”)
  • Les charges salariales (“Wage costs”)
  • Un RIB (“Bank details”)
    • Veuillez joindre votre RIB à ce formulaire. (“Please, attach your bank details to this form.”)
  • Les bénéfices (“Revenue” / “Profit”)
    Le bénéfice net (“The net revenue”)
    Le bénéfice brut (“The gross revenue”)

  • Le chiffre d’affaire (“Turnover”)

  • Les actions (“Stocks”)
    • Mes actions sont en hausse. (“My stocks are rising.”)
    • Mes actions sont en baisse. (“My stocks are declining.”)

3. Coworkers and Meetings

Now that you have a large business vocabulary to talk about companies and money, let’s dive into more specific topics, starting with your coworkers’ meetings. Quite a program, right? No worries, we’ll keep it simple!

  • Un collègue (“Colleague” / “Coworker”)
  • Un partenaire (“Business partner”)
  • Un associé (“Associate” / “Partner”)

Now, onto the most useful French business phrases for interacting with coworkers and speaking up in business meetings.

1 – Asking a Colleague for Help

It’s perfectly fine in France to ask for assistance if you don’t understand something, if you’re lacking some important piece of information, or if you just think your current task should be tackled with outside help.

Below, I’ll write some example sentences using tu (casual “you”), as this is by far the most common way to address your coworkers unless you’re working in an unusually uptight work environment.

  • Est-ce que tu peux m’aider ? (“Can you help me?”)
  • Tu pourrais m’expliquer ça ? (“Could you explain this to me?”)
  • Je ne comprends pas ce document. (“I don’t understand this document.”)
  • Est-ce que tu sais utiliser ce logiciel ? (“Do you know how to use this software?”)
A Woman Helping Her Colleague

Est-ce que tu peux m’aider ? (“Can you help me?”)

2 – Thanking or Congratulating

  • Merci pour ton aide. (“Thank you for your help.”)
  • Merci pour le coup de main ! [Casual] (“Thanks for the help!”)
  • Bon travail. (“Good work.”)
  • Excellent travail ! (“Excellent work!”)

3 – Raising Concerns

You can have many reasons to voice your concerns, and in most places, French employees do so rather freely. If something is wrong, good managers will always prefer to know the hard facts than having you sugarcoat it and later find out the truth.

Ideally, you should express your concern in a polite and constructive manner, showing that you’re trying to solve a problem and not just complain for the sake of it.

  • Je n’ai pas été formé pour cela. (“I haven’t been trained for this.”)
  • Le délai est trop court. (“The deadline is too short.”)
  • Nous n’avons pas le budget pour ___. (“We don’t have the budget for ___.”)
  • Nous n’avons pas les ressources pour ___. (“We don’t have the resources for ___.”)
  • Nous n’aurons pas le temps de terminer. (“We won’t have enough time to finish.”)
  • Il faudrait reporter cette réunion. (“We should reschedule this meeting.”)
  • Il y a une erreur dans ce document. (“There is a mistake in this document.”)
  • Nous n’avons pas de documentation là dessus. (“We don’t have documentation on this.”)

When the French complain about their hectic lifestyle, lack of leisure time, or how they’re having trouble balancing their professional and personal lives, they use the expression: Métro, boulot, dodo. (“Metro, work, sleep.”). This is the equivalent of talking about the rat race.


4 – Making Apologies

We all make mistakes, and as long as you’re not denying them and take accountability, you should be just fine!

  • Je suis désolé. (“I’m sorry.”)
  • Désolé pour tout à l’heure. (“Sorry about earlier.”)
  • Désolé de ne pas avoir pu t’aider. (“Sorry I couldn’t help you.”)
A Chaos Scene in the Office

It’s all about working through your differences.

5 – Afterwork Mingling

Getting to know your coworkers or business partners is important, and France has a well-established tradition of handling crucial decisions and agreeing on lucrative contracts over what we call déjeuner d’affaire (“business lunch”).

Among colleagues, it’s also common to have a drink after work or meet in informal settings to get to know each other better.

  • Tu travailles dans quel service ? (“In what department do you work?”)
  • Tu bosses sur quel projet ? (“On what project are you working?”)
  • Tu travailles dans l’équipe de Nicolas ? (“Are you working on Nicolas’s team?”)
  • Tu travailles ici depuis longtemps ? (“Have you been working here for a long time?”)
  • Tu faisais quoi avant de travailler ici ? (“What did you do before working here?”)


4. Nail a Job Interview

Job Interviews

If there’s one situation where you’ll need a lot of business phrases and vocabulary, it’s certainly a job interview. You may have done well with your letter, and nobody saw you sweat during the phone call, but can you make it through the actual interview? Now is your time to shine.

You’ll need some practice to bring your game to the next level, but once you’ve rehearsed what you want to say and how to answer the most common questions, you’ll do just fine!

And now, here are a few examples of common questions in a job interview and how to answer them:

    Pouvez-vous me parler de vos études ? (“Can you tell me about your studies?”)
    Quels sont vos diplômes ? (“What degrees do you have?”)
    Quel est votre parcours scolaire ? (“What is your education background?”)

      J’ai un master en gestion de projets. (“I have a masters degree in project management.”)
      J’ai un diplôme en comptabilité. (“I have a degree in accounting.”)
      J’ai étudié le droit à l’université de Toulouse. (“I studied law at the university of Toulouse.”)
    Quelle est votre expérience professionnelle ? (“What is your professional experience?”)
    Pouvez-vous me parler de votre parcours professionnel ? (“Can you tell me about your job history?”)

      J’ai travaillé chez Yves Rocher pendant 4 ans. (“I have worked for Yves Rocher for four years.”)
      Je travaille pour Remedy Software depuis 2 ans. (“I have been working for Remedy Software for two years.”)
    Quelles langues parlez-vous ? (“Which languages do you speak?”)

      Je parle couramment Anglais. (“I speak English fluently.”)
      Je parle un peu Français. (“I speak a bit of French.”)
      J’ai des notions d’Allemand. (“I have German basics.”)

If you didn’t understand the question, don’t hesitate to ask the other person to repeat:

  • Vous pouvez répéter, s’il vous plaît ? (“Could you repeat, please?”)
  • Pardon, je n’ai pas bien entendu. (“Sorry, I didn’t hear that.”)
  • Excusez-moi ? (“Excuse me?”)
    → For more details on how the interview is handled and many more question examples, make sure to stop by our full guide on How to Get a Job in France.
A Woman Interviewing A Man

Il passe un entretien d’embauche. (“He’s interviewing for a job.”)

5. Emails and Letters

Let’s face it, you’ll probably never send an actual letter for any business purpose in France. Surprisingly, we still use paper for a ridiculously big portion of our administrative procedures, but private companies moved to the digital era a couple of decades ago.

Nonetheless, you may read the word une lettre (“a letter”) in a business context. Just remember that we usually don’t mean a paper letter, and are rather referring to an email. This is the case for une lettre de motivation (“a cover letter”), for example, which nobody’s sending through the post office anymore.

When writing a French business letter, you’ll typically want to include three things before getting to the point:

1. Your personal details (name, address, phone number, email).

2. The other person’s details, to make sure it gets into the right hands. If you don’t know the person’s name, you can mention the name of the department. Another option is to write the name of the company and add à qui de droit (“to whom it may concern”).

3. [Optional] The topic of the letter, such as Candidature pour un poste de professeur d’Anglais (“Application for an English teaching position”) or Récapitulatif de nos conditions de distribution (“A summary of our distribution terms”).

Then, you should open the letter with a greeting. If you know the name of your reader, feel free to use it. For instance: 

  • Monsieur Morel, (“Mister Morel,”)
    You should always use the last name.
  • Cher Monsieur Morel, (“Dear Mister Morel,”) is not formal enough for a cover letter, but it’s fine for most business transactions. 

If you’re not sure, you can’t go wrong with: Madame, Monsieur, (“Madam, Mister,”).

There are tons of options for ending a French business email or letter, but you don’t want to be too submissive or old-fashioned. Here are a few timeless options:

  • Veuillez agréer, Madame, Monsieur, mes meilleures salutations.
    (“Please accept, Madam / Mister, my best salutations.”)
  • Veuillez recevoir, Madame, Monsieur, mes respectueuses salutations.
    (“Please receive, Madam / Mister, my respectful salutations.”)

6. Business Calls

In many big companies, Skype, Teams, or other similar audio conference solutions are already much more popular than phone calls. In the last company I worked for, I don’t believe I saw more than a couple of phones for 200 people.

However, in small businesses and administration, the phone is still alive and kicking. Luckily, the phrases and vocabulary are pretty similar to what we’ve covered already, except for a few added technical terms for online solutions.

Here’s some useful French for business phone calls and other long-distance interactions:

  • Allo ? (“Hello?”) is toned as a question, to make sure the other person can hear you. It can be used over the phone or in online calls, but never in person (unless you’re in Quebec). Most phone conversations start with Allo ?

Then, you may want to make sure you’ve dialed the right number or that you’re talking to the right person:

  • Bonjour, c’est bien le magasin Darty à Toulouse ? (“Hello, is this the shop ‘Darty’ in Toulouse?”)
  • Bonjour, monsieur Morel ? (“Hello, is it monsieur Morel?”)
  • Je cherche à joindre monsieur Morel, s’il vous plaît. (“I’m trying to reach mister Morel, please.”)
  • Pouvez-vous me mettre en relation avec le service financier, s’il vous plaît ? (“Could you please connect me to the finance department?”)

Should you be on the other side of the phone, here are a few useful sentences to handle calls:

  • Ne quittez pas. (“Hold the line.”)
  • Je vous le (la) passe. (“I will put you through to him [her].”)
  • La ligne est occupée. (“The line is busy.”)
  • Est-ce que je peux prendre un message ? (“Could I take a message?”)
  • Est-ce que vous voulez patienter ? (“Would you like to hold a moment?”)
  • Pourriez-vous rappeler plus tard ? (“Could you call back later?”)
A Woman Working Overtime

Allo, monsieur Morel ? (“Hello, is it mister Morel?”)

And finally, here are a few expressions for online calls specifically:

  • Est-ce que vous m’entendez bien ? (“Can you hear me well?”)
    Oui, on vous entend très bien. (“Yes, we can hear you very well.”)
  • La connexion est très mauvaise. (“The connection is very bad.”)
  • Je vous entends assez mal. (“I can hear you rather poorly.”)
  • La connexion a été coupée. (“The connection was lost.”)

And of course, remember the old trick you’ve learned talking to your mother-in-law:

  • Désolé, ça va couper. Je passe dans un tunnel ! (“I’m sorry, you’re breaking up. I’m going through a tunnel!”)

7. Le Mot De La Fin

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about business French phrases, from useful French vocabulary to business letters, emails, phone calls, and workplace interactions. Did I forget any important topic you’d like to learn about?

Do you feel ready to jump right in and start handling your French partners in their native languages, or go and apply for a French company?

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 one-on-one coaching. Your private teacher will help you practice your business French and more, using assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples for you (they can review yours, too, to help improve your pronunciation). 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

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