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Archive for the 'French Phrases' Category

100 Must-Know French Verbs

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Did you get the chance to read our previous articles on 100 Nouns and 100 Adjectives? In that case, I guess you saw this one coming! To complete your French arsenal, I present you with the most common and useful French verbs. 

They’ll greatly expand your capacity to build interesting phrases, as well as enhance your reading and listening skills. More importantly, they’ll get you through most of your daily interactions and you’re not likely to be caught off-guard once you’ve mastered them.
In this article, we’ll cover everything from French verb conjugation—including -er and -ir verbs—reflexive verbs, and of course, a list of the top 100 verbs for you to add to your vocabulary.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in French Table of Contents
  1. Mastering French Verbs
  2. The 100 Most Useful French Verbs
  3. How FrenchPod101 Can Help You Learn More French

1. Mastering French Verbs

Je visite Paris - Tu visites Paris - Il visite Paris

1- French Tenses are Scary

If you know a bit about French verb conjugation, you know it can be intimidating, with many groups, tenses, and exceptions. However, once you start understanding the logic underneath, you’ll soon brush this first impression off.

Of course, coming from the English language, even the Présent tense can seem a bit overwhelming, with distinct endings for each pronoun:

  • Je pense
  • Tu penses
  • Il / Elle pense
  • Nous pensons
  • Vous pensez
  • Ils pensent

This is not an article about tenses, and we’ll stick to the Présent for most of the examples, with occasional notes on the Passé composé (one of the three most common tenses in spoken French, alongside Present and Near Future).

And for all your conjugation needs, I suggest that you bookmark this website (or any similar online resource): https://la-conjugaison.nouvelobs.com/. Also keep in mind that FrenchPod101 will soon have another article dedicated to French verb conjugation rules! 

2- The Curse of Irregular Verbs

One important thing to keep in mind is that, like in most languages, the most prominent verbs are also the most irregular ones. People have been using these verbs so much over the centuries that they had plenty of opportunities to evolve, mutate, and twist in mysterious ways, to the point where some of their conjugated forms differ wildly from the infinitive. 

You shouldn’t be put off by the first verbs you’ll learn, such as être (“to be”) or aller (“to go”). Just like in English, these verbs are highly irregular. But I still recommend that you learn them first, as they’re also some of the absolute most useful French verbs you’ll encounter.

3- The Bliss of Regular Verbs

Top Verbs

In the meantime, many other verbs will show similarities, and from them, you’ll get a grasp of how regular verbs work. 

Understanding regular French verbs early on will allow you to navigate through this list with much more ease, so here’s everything there is to know about conjugating French verbs:

Penser (“to think”) ← This is the infinitive form

Pens ← This is the “stem”

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 penseTu pensesElle penseNous pensonsVous pensezIls pensent

4- Should You Care About Verb Groups?

Short answer: No.

Oh well, let me elaborate a little. It’s very common when learning French verbs to start with a lesson on verb groups. There are three groups based on verb endings:

  • French ER verbs
  • French IR verbs
  • French RE verbs

Each of these groups follows a given set of rules that you can use as guidelines to conjugate virtually any French verb. Pretty cool, right? Except it doesn’t work.

The first group is somewhat regular…let’s say for the most part. Then, the other two groups are such a giant mess of irregularities that it doesn’t make sense to try and rely on groups at all. You’ll see that many of the IR and RE verbs from this very list don’t abide by any fixed set of rules. For that reason, I won’t talk about it any further.

French Kid Trying to Make Sense of Verb Groups.

5- How to Effectively Learn French Verbs

Understanding French verbs in their entirety may seem like an impossible task, and you’re probably wondering how to memorize French verbs easily and effectively. 

To quickly pick up on French verbs and conjugation, I recommend jumping right into it! Don’t clutter your memory with countless rules and conjugation tables. Instead, read the examples from this article’s verbs list and try to figure out for yourself the inner workings of their conjugation. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • How does the infinitive end?
  • How does it end now that it’s conjugated with this pronoun?
  • Is it working like similar verbs I’ve seen before or could it be irregular?

The more you figure out by yourself, the more confident you’ll become with verbs and the quicker you’ll be able to handle them without overthinking it and dwelling on textbook rules. Only then can you consider reviewing what you’ve learned with some more academic material and get a better idea of the big picture.

Now, let’s review our French verbs list for beginners! 

2. The 100 Most Useful French Verbs

More Essential Verbs

These are French verbs used in daily life that you’ll hear over and over again in France. What are you waiting for? Get cracking!

1

être
“to be”
Je suis Français.
“I am French.”

2

avoir
“to have”
Tu as une maison à Paris.
“You have a house in Paris.”

Être and avoir are auxiliary verbs, which makes them the two most important French verbs. We use them to form compound conjugations in tenses such as passé composé and past subjunctive.

Here’s an example of passé composé with the verb manger (“to eat”):

  • Présent: Je mange (“I eat”)
  • Passé composé: J’ai mangé (“I have eaten”)

Here’s another example with the verb tomber (“to fall”):

  • Présent: Je tombe (“I fall”)
  • Passé composé: Je suis tombé (“I have fallen”)
/! When should I use the French auxiliary verbs être or avoir?

We use avoir in most situations, except for these two cases:

1) We use être for all pronominal verbs (those starting with se)

For example: se lever (“to stand up”)
  • Présent: Je me lève (“I stand up”)
  • Passé composé: Je me suis levé (“I have stood up”)
2) We also use être for a few other verbs, most of them reflecting a change of direction, state, or movement.

Some examples: monter, rester, retourner, descendre, passer, venir, aller, entrer, sortir, arriver, partir, tomber
French Irregular Verbs - Volumes 1 to 24

Now that our auxiliaries are under control, let’s get back to our list!

3

aller
“to go”
Vous allez à l’école le lundi.
“You go to school on Mondays.”
Aller is used to form one of the most important tenses of spoken French: Near Future.
  • Tu vas voir ! (“You will see!”)
  • Ils vont s’amuser. (“They will have fun.”)

4

vouloir
“to want,” “to wish”
Vous voulez du café ?
“Do you want some coffee?”

5

pouvoir
“can,” “to be able”
Il peut venir ce soir.
“He can come tonight.”

6

devoir
“must,” “to have to,” “to owe”
Nous devons y aller.
“We need to go.”
Devoir is also a noun, meaning “duty.”

7

falloir
“to have to”
Il faut le voir pour le croire.
“You have to see it to believe it.”

8

faire
“to do,” “to make”
Ils font la paix.
“They are making peace.”

9

dire
“to tell,” “to say”
Tu dis ce que tu penses.
“You say what you think.”

10

parler
“to speak”
Nous parlons souvent.
“We speak often.”

11

aimer
“to like,” “to love”
J’aime le fromage.
“I love cheese.”
It’s interesting to notice that “to like” and “to love” translate into the same French verb.

So, when I say: J’aime ma femme (“I love my wife”) and J’aime le fromage (“I love cheese”), it conveys a similar intensity.

Not so romantic now, are we?

12

mettre
“to put,” “to place”
Je mets le rôti au four.
“I put the roast in the oven.”

13

remettre
“to put back”
Tu remets ton chapeau.
“You’re putting your hat back.”

14

poser
“to put down,” “to ask”
Il pose son sac dans la chambre.
“He’s putting his bag in the bedroom.”

Elle pose trop de questions.
“She’s asking too many questions.”

15

prendre
“to take,” “to catch,” “to capture”
Il prend le bus tous les jours.
“He takes the bus everyday.”

16

donner
“to give”
Nous donnerons bientôt notre réponse.
“We will give our answer shortly.”

17

savoir
“to know”
Je ne sais pas.
“I don’t know.”

18

voir
“to see”
Les chats voient dans le noir.
“Cats can see in the dark.”

19

entendre
“to hear”
Ils ont entendu un bruit.
“They have heard a noise.”

20

demander
“to ask,” “to request”
Tu as demandé l’addition ?
“Did you ask for the check?”

21

répondre
“to answer,” “to reply”
Il répond à un email.
“He’s answering an email.”

22

chercher
“to look for”
Nous cherchons un appartement.
“We are looking for a flat.”

23

trouver
“to find,” “to discover”
Il trouve toujours une solution.
“He always finds a solution.”

24

retrouver
“to regain,” “to meet up”
On se retrouve devant la gare.
“We’re meeting in front of the train station.”

25

rendre
“to return,” “to give back,” “to make”
Tu vas rendre cet argent.
“You will give this money back.”

26

venir
“to come”
Nous venons en paix.
“We come in peace.”

27

passer
“to pass,” “to go,” “to come”
Il est passé par ici.
“He came this way.”

28

croire
“to believe,” “to think”
Je crois qu’il est là.
“I think he’s here.”

29

montrer
“to show”
Montrez-moi vos mains.
“Show me your hands.”

30

commencer
“to begin,” “to start”
Le film commence maintenant.
“The movie is starting now.”

31

continuer
“to continue,” “to keep going”
Continuez tout droit.
“Keep going straight.”

32

penser
“to think”
Je ne pense pas.
“I don’t think so.”

33

comprendre
“to understand,” “to include,” “to comprehend”
Ils ne comprennent rien.
“They don’t understand anything.”

34

rester
“to stay,” “to remain”
Restez calme.
“Remain calm.”

35

attendre
“to wait”
J’attends mon bus.
“I’m waiting for my bus.”

36

partir
“to leave”
Tu pars demain ?
“Are you leaving tomorrow?”

37

arriver
“to arrive,” “to happen”
Il est arrivé en retard.
“He arrived late.”

Ça arrive tous les jours.
“It happens everyday.”

38

suivre
“to follow”
Suivez cette voiture !
“Follow this car!”

39

revenir
“to come back”
Nous revenons de vacances.
“We are coming back from vacation.”

40

connaître
“to know”
Ils connaissent ce restaurant.
“They know this restaurant.”

41

compter
“to count”
Je vais compter jusqu’à 10.
“I will count to 10.”

42

permettre
“to permit,” “to allow”
Ils nous permettent d’entrer.
“They allow us to enter.”
French idiom time!
  • Tu permets ? (“Do you mind?”) [Casual]
  • Vous permettez ? (“Would you mind?”) [Polite]

43

s’occuper
“to take care of”
Il s’occupe des enfants.
“He’s taking care of the kids.”

44

sembler
“to seem”
Cela semble certain.
“It seems certain.”

45

lire
“to read”
Elle lit le journal.
“She’s reading the newspapers.”
Mother and Son Reading Books

Nous lisons un livre. (“We are reading a book.”)

46

écrire
“to write”
Nous écrivons sur un blog.
“We are writing on a blog.”

47

devenir
“to become,” “to turn into”
Je veux devenir pilote.
“I want to become a pilot.”

48

décider
“to decide”
Vous avez décidé de venir ?
“Did you decide to come?”

49

tenir
“to hold”
Je te tiendrai la main.
“I will hold your hand.”

50

porter
“to carry,” “to wear”
Il est interdit de porter des bretelles.
“It is forbidden to wear suspenders.”

51

servir
“to serve”
Ils servent de la soupe.
“They are serving soup.”

52

laisser
“to leave,” “to allow,” “to let”
Laissez-moi tranquille !
“Leave me alone!”

53

envoyer
“to send”
Ils vont l’envoyer par la poste.
“They will send it by mail.”

54

recevoir
“to receive”
Elle ne l’a pas encore reçu.
“She didn’t receive it yet.”

55

vivre
“to live”
Nous vivons en Russie.
“We live in Russia.”

56

appeler
“to call”
Je t’appelle plus tard.
“I’ll call you later.”

57

rappeler
“to remind,” “to call back”
Je te rappelle dans un moment.
“I’ll call you back in a moment.”

58

présenter
“to introduce,” “to present”
Je te présenterai ma fiancée.
“I’ll introduce you to my fiancée.”

59

accepter
“to accept”
Nous acceptons Visa et Mastercard.
“We accept Visa and Mastercard.”

60

refuser
“to refuse”
Il a refusé de travailler là.
“He refused to work there.”

61

agir
“to act”
Tu agis bizarrement.
“You’re acting weird.”

62

jouer
“to play”
Vous jouez à quoi ?
“What are you playing?”

63

reconnaître
“to recognize,” “to acknowledge”
Je ne l’avais pas reconnue.
“I didn’t recognize her.”

64

choisir
“to choose,” “to select”
Choisis bien !
“Choose well!”

65

toucher
“to touch”
Je peux toucher ?
“Can I touch?”

66

expliquer
“to explain”
Expliquez moi comment y aller.
“Explain to me how to go there.”

67

Se lever
“to stand up,” “to get out of bed”
Je me lève tous les jours à 8h.
“I get out of bed everyday at 8 o’clock.”

68

ouvrir
“to open”
Il ouvre son cadeau.
“He’s opening his present.”

69

gagner
“to win,” “to earn”
On a gagné !
“We won!”

70

perdre
“to lose”
Tu perds la tête.
“You’re losing your mind.”

71

exister
“to exist”
Ça existe encore ?
“Does it still exist?”

72

réussir
“to succeed,” “to manage”
J’ai réussi à le réparer.
“I managed to fix it.”

73

changer
“to change”
Il va changer de coiffure.
“He will change his haircut.”

74

travailler
“to work”
Nous travaillons dans l’informatique.
“We work in IT.”

75

dormir
“to sleep”
Elle dort sur le canapé.
“She’s sleeping on the couch.”

76

marcher
“to walk”
Ils marchent très rapidement.
“They walk really fast.”
Negative Verbs

77

essayer
“to try,” “to attempt”
J’essaye une nouvelle technique.
“I’m trying a new technique.”

78

empêcher
“to prevent,” “to stop”
Ca ne t’empêche pas d’essayer.
“It doesn’t stop you from trying.”

79

reprendre
“to resume,” “to take back”
Il reprend sa partie.
“He’s resuming his game.”

80

cuisiner
“to cook”
Vous cuisinez du cassoulet.
“You’re cooking cassoulet.”

81

appartenir
“to belong”
Cette maison appartient à ma famille.
“This house belongs to my family.”

82

risquer
“to risk”
Il risque sa vie tous les jours.
“He’s risking his life everyday.”

83

apprendre
“to learn,” “to teach”
Vous apprenez le Français sur FrenchPod101.
“You’re learning French on FrenchPod101.”

84

rencontrer
“to meet”
On s’est rencontrés sur Internet.
“We met on the Internet.”

85

créer
“to create”
Les écrivains créent des mondes imaginaires.
“Writers create imaginary worlds.”

86

obtenir
“to obtain,” “to get”
Il a obtenu son diplôme.
“He got his degree.”

87

entrer
“to enter”
Elle entre par la porte de derrière.
“She’s entering through the back door.”

88

sortir
“to exit,” “to go out,” “to leave”
Tu sors, ce soir ?
“Are you going out tonight?”

89

proposer
“to offer,” “to suggest”
Nous vous offrons un poste.
“We offer you a position.”

90

apporter
“to bring”
J’ai apporté du saucisson.
“I’ve brought saucisson.”

91

utiliser
“to use”
On utilise des engrais naturels.
“We use natural fertilizers.”

92

atteindre
“to reach,” “to achieve”
Ça a atteint de nouveaux sommets.
“It has reached new heights.”

93

préparer
“to prepare,” “to make”
Je prépare le déjeuner.
“I’m making lunch.”

94

ajouter
“to add”
Ajoutons un peu de sel.
“Let’s add a bit of salt.”

95

voyager
“to travel”
Je voyage en Europe.
“I travel in Europe.”

96

payer
“to pay”
Avez-vous payé l’addition ?
“Did you pay the check?”

97

vendre
“to sell,” “to distribute”
Je vends mon appareil photo.
“I’m selling my camera.”

98

acheter
“to buy”
Tu achètes un ordinateur.
“You buy a computer.”

99

pousser
“to push”
Nous devons pousser la voiture.
“We have to push the car.”

100

tirer
“to pull,” “to shoot”
Il faut tirer très fort.
“You have to pull real hard.”
Man Pushing the Couch

Il pousse le canapé. (“He’s pushing the couch.”)

3. How FrenchPod101 Can Help You Learn More French

In this French verbs guide, you’ve learned everything about French verbs, from conjugation to auxiliary, groups, and irregular French verbs. And of course, you now have a wide selection of the most useful French verbs, with examples to get you familiar with them.

Did I forget any important verb that you know? Do you feel ready to put them to work in your daily conversations with French speakers?


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

Remember that you can also use our premium service,  MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching. Your private teacher can help you practice with verbs and conjugation using assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples for you. They can also review yours to help improve your pronunciation. Happy learning on FrenchPod101!

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10 Types of French Pronouns to Keep Things Sleek and Smooth

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Do you feel like your French is awkwardly congested with unnecessary repetitions? Wish there was a way to make these go away, and replace them with…let me think…beautiful pronouns? Oh, hey, what a coincidence!

French pronouns are what keep you from repeating the same things over and over when it’s already been mentioned, or when it’s just plain obvious. For example, you wouldn’t call your friends by their names in every single sentence. It’s better to use personal pronouns, such as tu, il, or elle. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

In this article, we’ll talk about the ten main categories of French pronouns—direct and indirect object pronouns all the way to the relative pronouns. 

There’s a lot of French pronouns rules to process and a hefty load of vocabulary, so spend as much time as you need to read the examples or to practice making sentences on your own, and you’ll be a pronouns expert before you know it. =)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Personal Pronouns
  2. Impersonal Pronouns
  3. How FrenchPod101 Can Help You Learn More French

1. Personal Pronouns 

Introducing Yourself

Alright, it’s time to make it personal and start with the first thing you think about when you hear “pronouns.”

Personal pronouns are everywhere, in almost every sentence, and you won’t empower your French without a deep and thorough dive into the crux of that matter.

These are the different types of personal pronouns:

  • Subject
  • Stressed
  • Direct object
  • Indirect object
  • Reflexive

We’ll look into every one of these types, but before we do, here’s an overview of what they all look like:

SubjectStressedDirect objectIndirect objectReflexive
jemoimememe
tutoitetete
il; elle; onlui; elle; soile; laluise
nous; onnousnousnousnous
vousvousvousvousvous
ils; elleseux; elleslesleurse

Now, let’s have a closer look at these French pronouns and how to use them. We’ll also look at how they behave and how they compare to their English counterparts.

1- Personal Subject Pronouns

No matter your level of French, you already know these guys. They’re some of the most basic and common words in the language, featured in the very first sentences you ever learned.

These pronouns simply replace the subject of a sentence.

For example:

  • Marie a faim. 

“Marie is hungry.”

  • Elle a faim. 

“She is hungry.”

SubjectExample
je (“I”)Je suis Français. 
“I am French.”
tu (“you”)Tu as raison. 
“You are right.”
il (“he”)


elle (“she”)


on (*)
Il frappe à la porte. 
“He is knocking on the door.”

Elle frappe à la porte. 
“She is knocking at the door.”

On frappe à la porte. 
“Someone is knocking at the door.”
nous, on (“we”)Nous sommes mariés. 
We are married.
vous (“you”)Vous êtes de vrais amis. 
“You are true friends.”
ils, elles (“they”)Ils vont bien. 
“They are doing well.”

(*) On is an odd case. It can be used as an indefinite pronoun or as an alternative to nous.

Depending on the sentence and context, on can translate as “someone,” “one,” or “people.”

  • On pourrait croire que… 

“One could think that…”

  • A l’époque, on pensait que… 

“At the time, people thought that…”

In other cases, on translates into a slightly casual nous. Indeed, in most conversations, you’ll use on instead of nous.

  • On sera un peu en retard ce soir. 

“We will be a bit late tonight.”

  • On va prendre la voiture. 

“We will take the car.”

2- Stressed Pronouns

No need to bang your head anywhere, these pronouns are much more stressed than they are stressful. They’re even pretty straightforward, once you get to know them!

StressedExample
1st person [s]moiC’est moi
“It’s me!”
2nd person [s]toiJ’en ai un. Et toi
“I’ve got one. And you?”
3rd person [s]lui; elle; soiNous sommes différents, lui et moi
“We are different, he and I.”

Avec ou sans elle 
“With or without her”
1st person [p]nousIls sont plus fort que nous
“They are stronger than us.”
2nd person [p]vousNous sommes meilleurs que vous. 
“We are better than you.”
3rd person [p]eux; ellesNe fais pas attention à eux. 
“Don’t mind them.”
Woman Meditating

Don’t let the stressed pronouns get on your nerves!

3- Direct and Indirect Pronouns

Now it’s getting serious! Before we get to these French pronouns examples, we need to talk about how they work and how to place direct and indirect pronouns in a sentence.

First, you need to find out whether you need a COD (Complément d’Objet Direct, not Call of Duty!) or a COI (Complément d’Objet Indirect).

COD answers the question: “Who?” or “What?

COI answers the question: “To whom?” or “To what?

And here are the different forms:

Direct objectIndirect object
1st person [s]meme
2nd person [s]tete
3rd person [s]le; lalui
1st person [p]nousnous
2nd person [p]vousvous
3rd person [p]lesleur
  • Let’s take an example: 

Julie donne une pomme. 

“Julie gives an apple.”

Subject + Verb + ?

Julie donne quoi ? 

“Julie gives what?”

Une pomme. 

“An apple.”


Une pomme is our COD.

Now, we’ll replace une pomme with a direct pronoun and it changes the order of the words:

Subject + Direct Pronoun + Verb.

Julie la donne. 

“Julie gives it.”

  • Let’s take another example: 

Julie parle aux enfants. 

“Julie talks to the kids.”

Subject + Verb + ?

Julie parle à qui ? 

“Julie talks to whom?”

Aux enfants. 

“To the kids.”

Aux enfants is our COI.

Now, we’ll replace aux enfants with an indirect pronoun and change the order to:

Subject + Indirect Pronoun + Verb.

Julie leur parle. 

“Julie talks to them.”

  • And finally, let’s see how to use direct pronouns and indirect pronouns in one single sentence. What’s Julie up to?

Julie donne une pomme aux enfants.  

“Julie gives an apple to the kids.”

We already know that une pomme is COD and aux enfants is COI.

The sentence is built as follows: 

Subject + Direct PronounIndirect Pronoun + Verb

Julie la leur donne. 

“Julie gives it to them.”

Okay, that was heavy! Let’s relax a bit with some more examples to help you get familiar with the structures:

  • Julie donne une pomme à Cyril. (That’s me!)

Julie me la donne. 

“Julie gives it to me.”

  • Julie donne une pomme au lecteur. (She gives it to the reader, that’s you!)

Julie te la donne. 

“Julie gives it to you.”

  • Julie te les donne. 

“Julie gives it to you.”

(But it’s plural; there are several apples.)

  • Julie me les présente. 

“Julie introduces them to me.”

  • Julie te la présente. 

“Julie introduces her to you.”

  • Julie nous la présente. 

“Julie introduces her to us.”

Daughter Giving an Apple to Her Mother

Elle la lui donne. (“She gives it to her.”)

4- Reflexive Pronouns

I’d like to tell you that the worst part is behind us, but reflexive pronouns are still in the way!

Reflexive pronouns are used with reflexive verbs, such as:

  • Se laver
  • S’appeler
  • S’intéresser

While there’s nothing inherently complex about them, English-speakers can find them quite arbitrary. (Why are s’habiller or s’appeler reflexive verbs while manger is not?)

The general idea is that verbs that imply an action on yourself are reflexive, and can usually be translated using an additional “oneself.”

For example:

  • Nous nous lavons. 

“We wash [ourselves].”

  • Je m’appelle Bob. 

“I call [myself] Bob.” = “My name is Bob.”

  • Il se demande. 

“He asks himself.”

  • Elle s’habille. 

She dresses [herself].”

Many verbs involving a motion of some sort are also reflexive.

  • Il s’éloigne. 

“He moves [himself] away.”

  • Je m’assois. 

“I sit [myself].”

ReflexiveExamples
1st person [s]meJe me lève. 
“I stand up.”
2nd person [s]teTu te demandes. 
“You wonder.”
3rd person [s]seElle se promène. 
“She strolls.”
1st person [p]nousNous nous endormons. 
“We fall asleep.”
2nd person [p]vousVous vous rasez. 
“You shave.”
3rd person [p]seIls s’inscrivent. 
“They register.”

2. Impersonal Pronouns

Basic Questions

1- Impersonal Subject Pronouns

If you like to keep it to yourself and never show your true feelings, you have a lot in common with impersonal pronouns! Let’s see how to stay vague in French, starting with the impersonal subject pronouns:

  • Ça; ce; c’ 

“It”

  • Il 

“It”

What? Did you expect another big flashy tab, full of rows and colorful columns?

Now, here’s how to use them:

  • Ça commence maintenant. 

“It starts now.”

  • Ce n’est la première fois. 

“It is not the first time.”

  • C’est terminé. 

“It is over.”

  • Il est impossible d’entrer. 

“It is impossible to enter.”

  • Il est temps. 

“It is time.”

2- French Adverbial Pronouns

Not an overwhelming list either, but I can’t stress enough how important they are!

“there”; “about it”

  • en 

“one”; “some”; “of it”; “of them”

y is used to replace à [quelque chose] (“to [something]”; “about [something]”) or en [quelque chose] (“in [something]”)

This [something] is often a place, but not always, as long as it’s inanimate.

  • Je veux aller à Paris. 

“I want to go to Paris.”

Je veux y aller. 

“I want to go there.”

  • Je pense à mon avenir. 

“I think about my future.”

J’y pense. 

“I think about it.”

  • Je crois en la science. 

“I believe in science.”

J’y crois. 

“I believe in it.”

en is used to replace de(s) ____ (“some ____”; “of ____”)

You’ll see it a lot when talking about quantities.

  • J’ai une pomme. 

“I have an apple.”

J’en ai une. 

“I have one.”

  • J’ai deux frères. 

“I have 2 brothers.”

J’en ai deux. 

“I have two of them.”

  • J’ai beaucoup de cheveux. 

“I have lots of hair.”

J’en ai beaucoup. 

“I have a lot of it.”

  • Il a du temps. 

“He has time.”

Il en a. 

“He has some.”

A Colony of Penguins

Il y en a des milliers. (“There are thousands of them.”)

3- Relative Pronouns

I’ll keep these relatively simple, as they can easily be compared to English.

Of course, it’s never an exact translation, but it will give you a fairly good idea of how to use them in a variety of contexts.

que 
“that”
Tu penses qu’il va pleuvoir ? 
“Do you think that it will rain?”

Je sais que tu es là. 
“I know that you are here.”
qui 
“who”
J’ai un fils qui m’aime. 
“I have a son who loves me.”
où 
“where”; “when”
C’est la maison où je vis. 
“This is the house where I live.”

Le jour où je t’ai rencontrée 
“The day when I met you”
dont 
“whose”; “that”
L’homme dont c’est le chapeau 
“The man whose hat it is”

La personne dont tu parles 
“The person [that] you’re talking about”
lequel(s) 
laquelle(s)
“which”; “that”
Le lit sur lequel nous dormons
“The bed on which we sleep”

Les rues dans lesquelles nous travaillons
The streets in which we are working”

/! You can’t use these to talk about people.

4- Demonstrative Pronouns

The demonstrative pronoun celui replaces something that was mentioned earlier.

  • J’aime le café mais pas celui de Starbucks. 

“I like coffee, but not the one from Starbucks.”

Sure, you could also say: 

J’aime le café mais pas le café de Starbucks. 

“I like coffee, but not the coffee from Starbucks.”

But it sounds clumsy, doesn’t it?

This demonstrative pronoun has masculine, feminine, and plural forms:

Masc. [s]celui
“The” / “This” / “That one”
C’est celui que je préfère. 
“This is the one I prefer.”
Masc. [p]ceux
“These” / “Those”
Ceux du fond
“Those in the back”
Fem. [s]celle
“The” / “This” / “That one”
Je te donne celle que tu veux. 
“I give you the one you want.”
Fem. [p]celles
“These” / “Those”
Celles de gauche 
“These on the left”

You can’t end a phrase with these demonstrative pronouns in their base form, or put them right before a verb. They simply don’t like it!

Instead, you have to add a suffix. It can be either ci (here) or (there).

  • J’ai deux livres. Je te prête celui.
  • J’ai deux livres, je te prête celui-ci. 

“I have two books, I’ll lend you this one.”

  • J’aime ces deux histoires mais je préfère celle-là. 

“I love these two stories, but I prefer that one.”

Two Kids Reading in the Dark

C’est celui que je préfère. (“This is the one I prefer.”)

5- Interrogative Pronouns

In case your brain is already melting out of your ears, let’s keep this one as simple as possible. Nothing complicated about interrogative pronouns, really!

qui 
“who”
Qui es-tu ? 
“Who are you?”
où 
“where”
Où allons-nous ? 
“Where are we going?”
quand 
“when”
Quand partez-vous ? 
“When do you leave?”
quoi 
“what”
A quoi penses-tu ? 
“What are you thinking about?”
lequel


lesquels


laquelle


lesquelles
“which one”
Lequel tu préfères ? 
“Which one do you prefer?”

Lesquels sont les plus gros ? 
“Which ones are the biggest?”

Laquelle me va le mieux ? 
“Which one suits me best?”

Lesquelles veux-tu voir ? 
“Which ones do you want to see?”
quel
quels
quelle
quelles
“which”
Quelle heure est-il ? 
“What time is it?”

/! These aren’t technically pronouns (they’re interrogative adjectives) but it felt wrong not to include them. And they were crying.

6- Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns are these vague fellows who don’t want to be too specific about what’s going on or who’s involved. There are many of them, and they prove to be very useful.

Here are a few of the most common ones:

tout 
“everything”; “anything”; “all”
Tout est possible. 
“Anything is possible.”
rien 
“nothing”
Rien n’est impossible. 
“Nothing is impossible.”
personne 
“nobody”
Personne n’est parfait. 
“Nobody’s perfect.”
chacun 
“everyone”; “every man”
Chacun pour soi 
“Every man for himself”
tout le monde 
“everybody”
Tout le monde est là ? 
“Is everybody here?”
quelqu’un 
“someone”
Quelqu’un va venir. 
“Someone will come.”
quelque chose 
“something”
Quelque chose te tracasse ? 
“Is there something bothering you?”
certains 
“some [people]”
Certains sont venus. 
“Some people came.”

3. How FrenchPod101 Can Help You Learn More French

Improve Listening

In this French pronouns guide, you’ve learned everything about French pronouns, from direct to indirect object pronouns, French relative pronouns, and many more! 

Did we forget any important pronouns? Do you feel ready to come up with impressive sentences using all of these new tools? Or do you need more French pronouns help?

I’m gonna say it again, but the key is to take it one step at a time. Understanding French pronouns doesn’t happen overnight. Start making sentences with personal subject pronouns, then keep building from there! 

  • Sophie a acheté des pommes pour Nicolas.
  • Elle a acheté des pommes pour Nicolas.
  • Elle a acheté des pommes pour lui.
  • Elle en a acheté pour lui.

Make sure to explore FrenchPod101, as it has plenty of free resources for you to practice your grammar and learn new words. The vocabulary lists are also a great way to review the words and learn their pronunciation.
Remember that you can also use our premium service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching. Practice using French pronouns with your private teacher so they can give you personalized feedback and advice, and help you with your pronunciation.

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

French Word Order: From Basic Sentences to Writing Laws

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Do you ever get this feeling when speaking French? You have all the words you need to make the perfect sentence, but they just don’t fit together. This is what happens when you’re not comfortable with the word order and need to learn about the specifics of the correct French sentence structures.

It may seem confusing at first, but bear with me for a moment and I trust that you’ll find it to be quite simple. Except for a few tricky exceptions, the structures are always the same and are often very similar to English. With all the tips and tricks from this article and a bit of practice, it will come naturally in no time!

In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about the French sentence structure, from basic sentences for beginners to impressive complex statements for sophisticated talkers.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Ordering Words in French
  2. Simple Sentences with Subject, Verb, and Object
  3. How to Build Complex Sentences
  4. Asking Questions
  5. Negative Sentences
  6. Practical Cases
  7. Le Mot De La Fin

1. Ordering Words in French

Improve listening

Rule #1: French is SVO

Like many other languages throughout the world, French is what we call an SVO language. This means that the default word order is: Subject Verb Object.

  • {Je mange une pomme.} (“I eat an apple.”)

Rule #2: Don’t Skip the Subject

And unlike similarly rooted languages, such as Spanish or Italian, we don’t usually drop the subject of the sentence, even when it’s a pronoun.

  • I speak French.
  • (Yo) hablo Frances. (Spanish)
  • (Io) parlo Francese. (Italian)
  • Je parle Français.

Rule #3: Rules are Meant to be Broken

These are mainly the French word order rules of simple declarative sentences, but as soon as we enter imperative, interrogative, or negative sentences territory, it gets a bit wilder. I mean…it’s French we’re talking about.

And one more thing: Master Yoda is allowed to use OSV sentences and still sound cool, but it’s forbidden to the rest of us.

An Image of Yoda

Le Français je parle. (“French I speak.”)

2. Simple Sentences with Subject, Verb, and Object

In the following sections, we’ll work with the most common type of sentences: declaratives.

A declarative sentence is used to make a statement. It declares or states something, and ends with a period. We can’t use declarative sentences to ask questions or give orders.

Let’s get back to our basic declarative sentence: Je parle Français. (“I speak French.”)

In this sentence, I’m stating that I speak French.

Like we mentioned before, there are mainly two things you need to know about declarative sentences and their basic word order in French:

  1. The word order is Subject + Verb + Object.
  2. We don’t drop the subject, even when it’s a pronoun.

To these basic rules, I would also add:

  1. Verbs are conjugated. Their ending depends on the subject.
  • Ils parlent Français. (“They speak French.”)
  • Nous parlons Français. (“We speak French.”)
  1. Objects must agree with the subject. Their ending also varies.
  • Il est Américain. (“He is American.”)
  • Elle est Américaine. (“She is American.”)

/! The main exception to the S+V+O rule is the imperative mood, where the structure becomes: V+O.

  • Vous parlez Français. (“You speak French.”) → Parlez Français. (“Speak French.”)
  • Nous mangeons des pommes. (“We eat apples.”) → Mangeons des pommes. (“Let’s eat apples.”)
A Girl Choosing between a Green Apple and Red Apple

Elle mange des pommes. (“She eats apples.”)

3. How to Build Complex Sentences

Now that we have the basics covered, it’s time to add more ingredients into the mix and spice it up with adverbs, adjectives, and pronouns to gradually make our sentence more exciting!

1 – Adding Adjectives:

Adjectives describe nouns to make them more interesting. Let’s see where to place them in a sentence.

According to French word order, adjectives usually go AFTER the noun they describe.

  • Une pomme verte (“A green apple”)

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

  • Une grosse pomme (“A big apple”)

Put in a sentence, it looks like this:

  • Il mange une pomme verte. (“He’s eating a green apple.”)

2 – Adding Adverbs:

Adverbs work together with and describe verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs to modify their meaning or make a sentence more precise.

When the adverb modifies a verb, it usually comes AFTER this verb. The word order is: S + V + Adv.

  • Je parle lentement. (“I speak slowly.”)

Then, if we have an object, it would be: S + V + O + Adv.

  • Je parle Français couramment. (“I speak French fluently.”)

When the adverb modifies an adverb or adjective, it usually comes AFTER the verb and BEFORE the adverb or adjective. The word order is: S + V + Adv + Adv.

  • Je parle très lentement. (“I speak very slowly.”)

When we get to this level of complexity, things start becoming a bit more flexible.

For instance, both sentences are correct:

  • Je parle Français couramment. (“I speak French fluently.”)
  • Je parle couramment Français. (“I speak French fluently.”)

However, it comes with exceptions, such as the very common bien (“well”) which is placed BEFORE the object.

  • Je parle bien Français. (“I speak French well.”)
  • Je parle vraiment bien Français. (“I speak French very well.”)
  • Je parle Français bien.
A Blackboard Drawing of a Person with Colored Sticky Notes

Not too confused with the colors, are you?

3 – Adding Pronouns

Brace yourself, this is where French language word order gets tough. Understanding the word order of pronouns in French isn’t always a walk in the park, and we’ll really just scratch the surface here. 

Subject pronouns don’t move:

  • Nicolas mange une pomme. (“Nicolas eats an apple.”)
  • Il mange une pomme. (“He eats an apple.”)

Same thing for stressed pronouns:

  • Il mange une pomme avec ses amis. (“He eats an apple with his friends.”)
  • Il mange une pomme avec eux. (“He eats an apple with them.”)

However, direct and indirect pronouns are not as well-behaved.

  • Nicolas donne une pomme. (“He gives an apple.”)
  • Nicolas la donne. (“He gives it.”)
  • Il donne une pomme à ses amis. (“He gives an apple to his friends.”)
  • Il leur donne une pomme. (“He gives them an apple.”)
  • Il la leur donne. (“He gives it to them.”)

And what happens when we put everything together?

  • Je leur parle Français très lentement. (“I speak French with them very slowly.”)
  • Il leur donne gentiment une pomme verte. (“He gently gives them a green apple.”)

4 – Adding Prepositions

Prepositions are words that usually precede a noun or pronoun and express a relationship to another element of the sentence. Prepositional phrases often answer questions such as:

  • Where? Il mange une pomme dans la cuisine. (“He eats an apple in the kitchen.”)
  • When? Il mange une pomme après le dîner. (“He eats an apple after dinner.”)
  • How?
    • Il mange une pomme avec eux. (“He eats an apple with them.”)
    • Il mange une pomme sans se presser. (“He eats an apple without rushing.”)
    • Il mange une pomme avec soin. (“He eats an apple with care.”)

Prepositions can be placed BEFORE or AFTER the verb. In some cases, you can freely choose, and in other situations, only one option will make sense.

  • Après le dîner, je mange une pomme. (“After dinner, I eat an apple.”)
  • Je mange une pomme après le dîner. (“I eat an apple after dinner.”)
  • Il mange une pomme sans se presser. (“He eats an apple without rushing.”)
  • Sans se presser, il mange une pomme. (“Without rushing, he eats an apple.”)

In these two examples, both versions are correct.

But sometimes, you need to know the verb for the preposition to be relevant:

  • Je rentre à la maison. (“I go back home.”)

You would not say “Home, I go back,” and it would sound equally awkward in French.

  • Je donne une pomme à mon ami. (“I give an apple to my friend.”)

Similarly, it wouldn’t make sense to mention the recipient before the action is stated.

To combine prepositions, you can simply apply the same logic when choosing where to place them:

  • Après le dîner, je rentre à la maison sans me presser. (“After dinner, I go back home without rushing.”)
  • Sans me presser, je mange une pomme avec eux dans la cuisine. (“Without rushing, I eat an apple with them in the kitchen.”)
A Man Complaining about His Food at a Restaurant


These are not the words I ordered!

4. Asking Questions

The word order in French questions isn’t always SVO.

Questions can take several different forms in French, depending on whether you’re talking or writing, as well as how formal you want to be.

Let’s go back to our apple-eating example: Tu manges une pomme.

Here’s how to say: “Do you eat an apple?”

1. Tu manges une pomme ? (SVO)

2. Est-ce que tu manges une pomme ? (Est-ce que + SVO)

3. Mangestu une pomme ? (VSO)

Now I guess the last one is confusing: Why do we suddenly invert the subject and verb?

This form is used only in writing or in very formal speech. Among friends, with random strangers, or in most business settings, you would stick to one of the first two options. I’d say both are equally common.

Now, what if we add some interrogative pronouns and adverbs?

Let’s see how to use words like: Quand (“When”), Qui (“Who”), Comment (“How”), (“Where?”).

“Where do you eat?”

1. Tu manges ?

2. est-ce que tu manges ?

3. mangestu ?

“When do you eat?”

1. Tu manges quand ?

2. Quand est-ce que tu manges ?

3. Quand mangestu ?

5.  Negative Sentences

Luckily, this is the last case, because I’m seriously running out of colors!

In this section, we’ll have a look at the word order in negative sentences.

Negative structures are placed around the verb and before the preposition or object.

  • Je ne mange pas de pommes. (“I don’t eat an apple.”)
  • Je ne mange pas dans la cuisine. (“I don’t eat in the kitchen.”)
  • Je ne mange pas vite. (“I don’t eat fast.”)

The same thing goes for other negative structures:

  • Je ne mange plus dans la cuisine. (“I don’t eat in the kitchen anymore.”)
  • Je ne mange jamais dans la cuisine. (“I never eat in the kitchen.”)
Girl Writing

That’s how I learned negative sentences!

6. Practical Cases

Now, it’s time to practice everything we’ve been learning today! We’ll take it slow and do it step-by-step. At any time, feel free to go back through the article if you’re having doubts. 

Try to come up with the French translations for these sentences. You can use a conjugation table if you’re not sure how to deal with parler (“to speak”).

1. “We speak.” – _________________

2. “We speak French.” – _________________

3. “We speak French slowly.” – _________________

4. “We speak French slowly with her.” – _________________

5. “We speak with her in the kitchen.” – _________________

6. “After dinner, we speak with her in the kitchen.” – _________________

7. “We never speak with her in the kitchen.” – _________________

8. “Do you speak with her in the kitchen?” – _________________


“Where do I put these verbs again?”

Kid Stacking Colored Wooden Blocks

“Where do I put these verbs again?”

[SPOILER] And here are the translations:

  1. “We speak.” – Nous parlons
  2. “We speak French.” – Nous parlons Français.
  3. “We speak French slowly.” – Nous parlons Français lentement.
  4. “We speak French slowly with her.” – Nous parlons Français lentement avec elle.
  5. “We speak with her in the kitchen.” – Nous parlons Français avec elle dans la cuisine.
  6. “After dinner, we speak with her in the kitchen.” – Après dîner, nous parlons avec dans la cuisine.
  7. “We never speak with her in the kitchen.” – Nous ne parlons jamais avec elle dans la cuisine.
  8. “Do you speak with her in the kitchen?” – Est-ce que tu parles avec elle dans la cuisine ?

7. Le Mot De La Fin

In this guide, you’ve learned a lot about French word order and the correct French sentence structures, from the basics to the most advanced parts such as French pronoun order.

Did we forget any important structure you would like to learn about? Do you feel ready to assemble ambitious sentences, using everything you’ve learned today?

As we’ve seen with the exercises, a good way to practice French word order is to start easy and slowly build up to complex sentences, one piece at a time.

Make sure to explore FrenchPod101.com, as we have plenty of free resources for you to practice your grammar and learn new words. Our vocabulary lists are also a great way to review the words and learn their pronunciation.
Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching. Practice talking about word order in French with your private teacher so they can give you personalized feedback and advice, and help you with the pronunciation.

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

“Time Will Tell” – Telling Time in French

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Do you sometimes get the impression that time is flying away, riding a winged clock out of your reach, or is it just me? Flying or not, time is the single most precious thing we have, and being able to discuss it will prove useful within your first few days in France.

Whether you want to talk about your day, plan something, talk about schedules, or just answer someone on the street asking you for the time, learning about telling time in French is essential. You’ll have to know the basic vocabulary for “hour” or “minutes” in French, some numbers, and a variety of valuable time-related phrases and keywords.

In this article, you’ll learn everything about telling the time in French, from the units to the AM / PM system, common questions & answers, and much more!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Time Phrases in French Table of Contents
  1. What Time is it?
  2. Time Units
  3. AM or PM?
  4. How to Give the Time
  5. Hour Divisions
  6. From Dusk till Dawn
  7. Expressions and Proverbs about Time in French
  8. How FrenchPod101 Can Help You Learn More French

1. What Time is it?

Surreal Scene with a Large Clock

Le temps presse ! (“Time is of the essence!”)

Before you learn how to tell the time in French, you’ll need to understand when someone is asking you for it. And in the process, you’ll learn how to ask for the time yourself. As you can expect, there isn’t only one way of asking about time in French, but the most popular, by far, is:

  • Quelle heure est-il ? [Formal]

“What time is it?”

If you have some experience with polite sentences, you may have noticed the inverted subject (est-il instead of il est). Indeed, this is the formal sentence that most French lessons teach you, but there are several other ways you can ask (or be asked) for the time:

  • Quelle heure il est ? [Casual]
  • Il est quelle heure ? [Casual]


Both of these phrases mean “What time is it?”

Let’s have a look at other popular alternatives:

  • Est-ce que vous avez l’heure ? [Formal]
  • Est-ce que tu as l’heure ? [Casual]
  • T’as l’heure ? [Very casual]

These translate to “Do you have the time?”

And of course, if you’re asking some stranger in the street or anyone you’re not yet familiar with, don’t forget to add some honey by starting with a polite Excusez-moi (“Excuse me”), and maybe a nice s’il vous plaît (“please”) at the end!

  • Excusez-moi, est-ce que vous avez l’heure, s’il vous plaît ? [Very formal]

“Excuse me, do you have the time, please?”

2. Time Units

Time

Before we get to the juicy part, let’s talk vocabulary for a moment. Obviously, to give the time in French, you’ll have to be in the clear about numbers. At the minimum, you need to be able to count up to fifty-nine, but don’t worry if you can’t do that yet—we also have some magic words to save you the trouble! 

However, I would say that counting up to 12 is an absolute minimum, so just in case, let’s review this quickly:

1. un2. deux3. trois4. quatre5. cinq6. six
7. sept8. huit9. neuf10. dix11. onze12. douze

Now, here are our time units:

  • une heure (“hour”)
  • une minute (“minute”)
  • une seconde (“second”)

So, what happens when you combine these words with numbers?

  • Trois heures (“three hours”)
  • Dix minutes (“ten minutes”)
  • Trente secondes (“thirty seconds”)

And here’s a glimpse of how to tell time in French with minutes, though we’ll go more into this later.

  • Cinq heures vingt (“five hours twenty minutes”)

In most cases, when the number of minutes closely follows the hour, like above, you can omit the word minutes (“minutes”). 

    → You’ll find these words, as well as the numbers, in our free vocabulary list on Talking about Time with audio recordings to practice your pronunciation!
A Sundial

Un cadran solaire (“A sundial”)

3. AM or PM?

Frequently asked question: Should I use the twelve- or twenty-four-hour system in French?

Answer: As you wish! (But there is a twist.)

The twelve-hour system used to be popular in northern Europe, but nowadays, it’s slowly losing the battle against the objectively superior twenty-four-hour system. Let’s see how it looks.

  • Il est 5 heures du matin. (“It is 5 AM” or literally “It is five hours in the morning.”)
  • Il est 5 heures de l’après-midi. (“It is 5 PM” or “It is five hours in the afternoon.”)
  • Il est 8 heures du soir. (“It is 8 PM” or “It is eight hours in the evening.”)

Dealing with twelve hours makes it easily confusing when you’re talking to someone from the same time zone, but it gets ridiculous with globalization and our tendency to communicate and schedule events with people from all around the world.

Now, if you also consider that AM (which stands for “Ante Meridiem,” as opposed to “Post Meridiem”) could possibly be the abbreviation for après-midi (French for “afternoon”), you’ll understand why it’s losing in popularity.

Let’s see what the twenty-four-hour system looks like:

  • Il est 5 heures. (“It’s 5 AM.”)
  • Il est 17 heures. (“It’s 5 PM.”)
  • Il est 20 heures. (“It’s 20 PM.”)

Now that being said, there are still MANY people using the twelve-hour system. It’s not even old-fashioned yet and you should be ready to understand it, even if you choose not to use it yourself.

And as tempting as it was to add a lecture on the Latin origin of meridiem, I’m all about self-control and will keep my sophisticated pedantism in check. Hey, did you know “pedant” comes from the Italian “pedante,” derived from the Latin “paedogogus?” Oh no, I did it again!

Woman Looking at a Clock

Most hated object in the house: The alarm clock!

4. How to Give the Time

Alright, I’ve kept you waiting long enough. Here’s how to tell the time in French:

  • Il est _____. (“It is _____”).

Did it feel anticlimactic? I feel like it’s not quite the big reveal.

Okay, but that’s not all of it! Here’s how you can make it more interesting:

  • Il est 8 heures. (“It is 8.”)
  • Il est bientôt 8 heures. (“It is 8 soon.”)
  • Il sera bientôt 8 heures. (“It will be 8 soon.”)
  • Il est presque 8 heures. (“It is almost 8.”)
  • Il est 8 heures passées. (“It is past 8.”)
  • Il est encore 8 heures. (“It is still 8.”)
  • Il n’est pas encore 8 heures. (“It is not 8 yet.”)
  • Vers 8 heures. (“Around 8.”)
  • Aux environs de 8h. (“Around 8.”)
  • Il est 8 heures pile. (“It is 8 sharp.”)

Il est 8 heures pétantes. (“It is 8 sharp.”)

Hold on, these two are interesting!

Pile or tout pile is rather straightforward. When it’s not used for the time, you can find it as an equivalent of “sharp,” “exactly,” or “right,” as in:

A midi pile. (“At noon sharp.”)
On a pile 10 mètres carrés. (“We have exactly ten meters square.”)
Il a visé pile au centre. (“He aimed right at the center.”)

Il est 8 heures pétantes literally means “It is eight blasting hours,” or “It is eight farting hours.”

In 1786 in Paris, there used to be a small canon next to the Palais-Royal. It was only forty centimeters long and was equipped with a magnifying glass to concentrate the sun’s rays. Every sunny day at noon sharp, it would set the gunpowder on fire and BOOM!

And if you’re dealing with the twelve-hour system, don’t forget about the trinity of matin, après-midi, and soir:

  • Il est 4 heures du matin. (“It is four in the morning.”)
  • Il est 4 heures de l’après-midi. (“It is four in the afternoon.”)
  • Il est 9 heures du soir. (“It is nine in the evening.”)
Woman Pointing at an Alarm Clock

Il est 8 heures pile. (“It is 8 sharp.”)

5. Hour Divisions

I promised you a magic workaround if you don’t know all the numbers from 13 to 59. Here we are!

  • Il est 8 heures et demi. (“It is half past 8.”) Literally: “It is 8 hours and half.”
  • Il est 2 heures et quart. (“It is quarter past 2.”) Literally: “It is 2 hours and quarter.”
  • Il est 3 heures moins le quart. (“It is quarter to 3.”) Literally: “It is 3 hours minus quarter.”
  • Il est 9 heures moins 10. (“It is 10 to 9.”) Literally: “It is 9 hours minus 10.”

/! This only works in the twelve-hour system:

  • Il est 8 heures et demi.
  • Il est 20 heures et demi.
  • Il est 20 heures 30.

6. From Dusk till Dawn

Improve Listening

Now that we know how to ask for the time and tell the time in French, let’s get more vocabulary on the various moments of the day. Describing time in French becomes much simpler when you know how to say the general time.
Unless you’re living in Saint-Petersburg and partying throughout the endless white nights, or hiding from vampires during the thirty days of night in Utqiaġvik, Alaska, your typical day should start with a sunrise and end with a sunset.

Morning
  • Le lever du soleil (“Sunrise”)
  • L’aube (“Dawn”)
  • Le matin (“Morning”)
  • Le début de matinée (“Early morning”)
  • La matinée (“Morning”)
  • La fin de matinée (“Late morning”)
Afternoon
  • Le midi (“Noon”)
  • Le début d’après-midi (“Early afternoon”)
  • L’après-midi (“Afternoon”)
  • La fin d’après-midi (“Late afternoon”)
  • La fin de journée (“Late afternoon”)
Evening & Night
  • Le début de soirée (“Early evening”)
  • La soirée (“Evening”)
  • La fin de soirée (“Late evening”)
  • Le crépuscule (“Dusk”)
  • Le coucher du soleil (“Sunset”)
  • La nuit (“Night”)
  • Minuit (“Midnight”)
Sunset Near a Church

Un coucher de soleil (“A sunset”)

7. Expressions and Proverbs about Time in French

Did you notice that the French don’t ask “What time is it?” but “What hour is it?”

Many time-related French expressions are surprisingly similar to their English equivalent, but it’s interesting to see the differences:

  • La nuit des temps [Literally: “The night of times”]

(“The dawn of times”)

  • Ces derniers temps  [“Those latest times”]

(“Lately”)

  • En temps normal [“In normal time”]

(“Under normal circumstances”)

  • En temps utile [“In useful time”]
  • En temps voulu [“In desired time”]

(“In due time”)

  • Chercher midi à quatorze heures. [“To look for noon at 2 PM”]

(“To look for unnecessary complications”)

And of course, we do have the infamous proverb: Le temps, c’est de l’argent. (“Time is money.”)

Even though we’re as deep into capitalism as any of our European neighbors, the average French doesn’t live by this proverb and people tend to think of time as a commodity and not just something they convert into cash. 

And even without pondering about the things money can’t buy, there’s an Epicurean component to the French Art de vivre (“Art of Living”) that keeps people from being swallowed by their working life and helps them prioritize what they work for.

Spiralling Clock

Passed time never comes back.

8. How FrenchPod101 Can Help You Learn More French

Basic Questions

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about telling the time in French, from the common questions and answers to time units, vocabulary, and expressions. Did I forget any important time-related word or expression that you know? Do you feel ready to ask random French strangers for the time, or to answer when you’re asked for it?

Understanding time in French may take time. A good exercise to practice telling the time is simply to try and think in French when you look at your watch. Try to form the sentence in your head using what you’ve learned today, and you’ll soon become more comfortable. Just take it easy and go at your own pace. =)

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

Remember that you can also use our premium service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching and practice with your private teacher. Using assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples —and by reviewing yours—they can help you improve your pronunciation much faster. 
Happy learning on FrenchPod101!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Time Phrases in French

Be the GPS with French Directions: Left in French & More



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Have you ever been lost in a big capital city, without batteries in your phone or credit on your SIM card? And when was the last time you’ve bought one of these unfoldable paper maps? Luckily, there’s one thing you can always rely on when you’re completely lost in France: helpful locals!

But it comes at a price. Outside of Paris, it can be difficult to find English-speaking help and you’ll have to be ready to break the language barrier. Asking directions in French is easy. Understanding the answer is a different story (but “left” and “right” in French aren’t hard). Don’t worry, we’ll get you there. =)

First, you’ll need to know the basic vocabulary, such as right, left, North, or South in French. But you’ll also need to know the usual movement verbs and the most common structures. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to find your way around France, from the landmarks to the transportation, taxi phrases, and polite greetings. Time to hit the road!

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Table of Contents
  1. On the Map: Compass Directions in French
  2. Simple Directions in French Using Landmarks
  3. On the Road: Driving Directions in French
  4. Must-Know Phrases: Asking for Directions
  5. Must-Know Phrases: Giving Directions in French
  6. The French vs. Directions
  7. How FrenchPod101 Can Help You Learn More French


1. On the Map: Compass Directions in French


Directions

Whether you prefer the modern conveniences of a GPS or ever-reliable paper maps, and whenever you’re navigating through unknown regions or talking about the French territory with your local friends, you’ll need to know the basic cardinal directions and how to use them in sentences.

So, before we dive into anything more complex, let’s start with that!

Le nord
“North”
Nous irons vers le nord.
“We will head north.”
Le sud
“South”
Elle habite au sud de Paris.
“She’s living south of Paris.”
L’est
“East”
Annecy est à deux heures à l’est de Lyon.
“Annecy is two hours east of Lyon.”
L’ouest
“West”
L’europe de l’ouest
“Western Europe”
Le nord-est
“Northeast”
Ils vivent au nord-est de la Russie.
“They are living northeast of Russia.”
Le nord-ouest
“Northwest”
Le nord-ouest des Alpes est une belle région.
“The northwest of the Alps is a beautiful region.”
Le sud-est
“Southeast”
Il fait toujours beau dans le sud-est.
“It’s always sunny in the southeast.”
Le sud-ouest
“Southwest”
Je ne suis jamais descendu dans le sud-ouest.
“I’ve never been down southwest.”


Now that you know how to navigate map directions in French, here are a few more useful words to talk about the French territory:

Région
“Region”
La région Hauts-de-France
“The Hauts-de-France region”
France is divided into thirteen regions whose names changed recently, in 2016.
Département
“Department”
Le Pas-de-Calais est un département Français.
“Pas-de-Calais is a French department.”
Each region is subdivided into smaller departments.

There are currently 101 departments on the French territory, including overseas departments.
La côte
“The coast”
On va sur la côte pour l’été.
“We’re heading to the coast for the summer.”
La frontière
“The border”
Elle habite près de la frontière Belge.
“She’s living near the Belgium border.”


    → Make sure to visit our vocabulary list about Direction Words, with audio recordings to practice your pronunciation. It’s freely available on FrenchPod101.


A Treasure Map

Une carte aux trésors (“A treasure map”)



2. Simple Directions in French Using Landmarks


Time to fold your map and get down to business! You’ve arrived at your destination, but there’s still a lot of unknown ground to cover. You’ll need some serious vocabulary to navigate through this new city and ask locals for directions.

In this chapter, we’ll cover all the essential city landmarks, from transport hubs to city buildings, streets, and key indoor locations.

1- Transports



Un aéroport
“Airport”
Je voudrais aller à l’aéroport d’Orly.
“I would like to go to the Orly airport.”
Une gare
“Train station”
Mon train part de la gare Montparnasse.
“My train is leaving from the Montparnasse station.”
Une gare routière
Une gare de bus
“Bus station”
Pouvez-vous m’indiquer la gare routière ?
“Could you tell me where the bus station is?”
Une station de métro
“Metro station”
Je cherche la station de métro la plus proche.
“I’m looking for the closest metro station.”
Un parking
“Parking”
J’ai laissé ma voiture au parking.
“I left my car at the parking.”


2- In the City



Un hotel
“Hotel”
Une nuit d’hotel
“A hotel night”
Un parc
“Park”
Je me promène au parc de Fontainebleau.
“I’m strolling at the Fontainebleau park.”
Une banque
“Bank”
Je dois aller à la banque pour un retrait.
“I need to go to the bank for a withdrawal.”
Un magasin
“Shop”
Un petit magasin d’antiquités
“A small antique shop”
Une poste
“Post office”
Je vais déposer mon colis à la poste.
“I will drop my parcel at the post office.”
Un marché
“Market”
Je fais mes courses au marché le samedi.
“I shop at the market on Saturdays.”


An Airport Terminal

Un aéroport (“Airport”)



3- In the Street



Un rue
“Street”
J’habite rue Saint Martin.
“I live on the Saint Martin street.”
Une avenue
“Avenue”
L’avenue Baltique est près du rond-point Albert II.
“The Baltique Avenue is near the Albert II roundabout.”
Un croisement; une intersection
“Intersection”
On te prendra à cette intersection.
“We’ll pick you up at the intersection.”
Un feu
“Traffic light”
Je m’arrête au feu rouge et j’attends le feu vert.
“I stop at the red light and wait for the green light.”
The literal meaning of Un feu is “Fire,” but we don’t actually use boric acid to make green fire at our intersections! You should probably not do it at home either.
Une station service
“Gas station”
On va faire le plein à la prochaine station service.
“We will refuel at the next gas station.”
Un passage piéton
“Crosswalk”
Il y a un passage piéton sur votre gauche.
“There is a crosswalk on your left.”


4- Key Indoor Locations



Les toilettes
“Toilets”
Excusez-moi, je cherche les toilettes.
“Excuse me, I’m looking for the toilets.”
Un ascenseur
“Elevator”
Prenez l’ascenseur si votre sac est lourd.
“Take the elevator if your bag is heavy.”
Un escalator
“Escalator”
Prenez l’escalator jusqu’au troisième étage.
“Take the elevator up to the third floor.”
Des escaliers
“Stairs”
Descendez les escaliers jusqu’au parking sous-terrain.
“Take the stairs down to the underground parking.”
L’entrée
“Entrance”
L’entrée principale
“The main entrance”
La sortie
“Exit”
La sortie de secours
“The emergency exit”
Les caisses
“Cashier”
Où sont les caisses, s’il vous plait ?
“Where is the cashier, please?”


    → Learn more about city locations with our free vocabulary list on the most useful words to navigate Around Town.


Exit Sign

La sortie de secours (“The emergency exit”)



3. On the Road: Driving Directions in French


When you’re asking for directions or explaining to somebody how to reach their destination, you’ll need to know how to say “left” and “right” in French, but that’s not it! There are many direction words you can use to precisely pinpoint a location or accurately describe a route.

Here are the most frequently used words for telling directions in French:

Devant
“In front of”
On se retrouve devant la gare.
“Let’s meet in front of the train station.”
Derrière
“Behind”
Mon taxi attend derrière la gare.
“My cab is waiting behind the train station.”
La gauche
“Left”
La première à gauche
“First on the left”
La droite
“Right”
La troisième à droite
“Third on the right”
Loin
“Far”
Est-ce que c’est loin d’ici ?
“Is it far from here?”
Près
“Near”
Je travaille près de la poste.
“I work near the post office.”
A côté de
“Next to”
A côté de l’arrêt de bus
“Next to the bus stop”
De l’autre côté de
“On the other side of”
De l’autre côté de la rue
“On the other side of the street”
En face de
“In front of”
En face de la cathédrale
“In front of the cathedral”
A l’opposé de
“Opposite”
A l’opposé de
“Opposite”


GPS on Top of a Map

Un GPS de voiture (“Car GPS”)



4. Must-Know Phrases: Asking for Directions


Now that you’re equipped with a solid vocabulary on directions and many example phrases, let’s take a moment to address what I call the “social lubricant”: a bit of gentle grease to polish your interactions with locals and make them pleasantly smooth.

In other words, let’s make your mom proud and learn how to be polite in French!

1- Making First Contact


Asking Directions

Here’s your bread-and-butter:

  • Bonjour
    “Hello” / “Good morning” / “Good day”


  • Bonsoir
    “Good evening”


  • Excusez-moi
    “Excuse me”


From these few words, you can make different combinations, the most polite (that I usually keep for an elderly audience) being:

  • Bonjour monsieur, excusez-moi…
    “Hello sir, excuse me…”


  • Bonjour madame, excusez-moi…
    “Hello madam, excuse me…”


2- Ask for Help


Here are a few variations on “where is”:

  • Est-ce que vous savez où est la Cathédrale Saint-Machin ?
    “Do you know where the Saint-Machin Cathedral is?”


  • Je cherche la place Dauphine.
    “I’m looking for the Place Dauphine.”


  • Pouvez-vous m’indiquer la rue Sainte-Bidule ?
    “Can you tell me where the Saint-Bidule street is?”


And a couple questions on distances:

  • Est-ce qu’on est loin de la gare Montparnasse ?
    “Are we far from the Montparnasse station?”


  • Est-ce que vous pouvez m’indiquer le métro le plus proche ?
    “Can you tell me where the closest metro station is?”


3- Wrap Things Up


  • Merci.
    “Thank you.”


  • Merci beaucoup !
    “Thank you very much!”


  • Merci pour votre aide.
    “Thank you for your help.”


Man Asking a Woman for Directions

Sometimes, it takes a wrong turn to get to the right place.



5. Must-Know Phrases: Giving Directions in French


There are a few situations where you’ll need to give directions:

  • When explaining to friends where you live
  • If you blend in so well that locals start asking you for directions (it will happen before you know it!)
  • While in a taxi, navigating your driver toward your destination


Here’s one last list of useful words, as well as the most common phrases in everyday situations.

1- Horizontal Directions



Tout droit
“Straight”
Marchez tout droit pendant 100 mètres.
“Walk straight for 100 meters.”
Faire demi-tour
“To double back”
Roulez jusqu’au prochain rond-point et faites demi-tour.
“Drive until the next roundabout and double back.”
Tourner
“To turn”
Après l’église, tournez à gauche.
“After the church, turn left.”


2- Vertical Directions



Un étage
“Floor”
J’habite au 7ème étage, sans ascenseur.
“I live on the seventh floor, without a lift.”
Un sous-sol
“Underground”
Un sous-sol
“Underground”
En haut
“Up”
En haut
“Up”
En bas
“Down”; “Downstairs”
Il y a une épicerie en bas de chez moi.
“There is a grocery store downstairs from my place.”


3- Taxi Directions in French



Continuer
“To continue”; “To keep going”
Continuez un peu, jusqu’au bout de la rue.
“Keep going a bit, until the end of the street.”
Plus loin
“Further”
Non, c’est plus loin sur cette avenue.
“No, it is further on this avenue.”
S’arrêter
“To stop”
Vous pouvez vous arrêter ici.
“You can stop here.”
Ralentir
“To slow down”
Vous pouvez ralentir un peu, s’il vous plaît ?
“Could you please slow down a bit?”


    → To learn more words and their pronunciation, check out our free vocabulary list on Position & Direction.


Plane cockpit

“Could you start going down? I live a few blocks from here!”



6. The French vs. Directions


Asking a random person for directions is like playing roulette. Sometimes, you’ll bump into another tourist who might very well know the surroundings. Or you’ll face a high-tech teenager, shocked at your inability to rely on a map app, or someone—like myself—who doesn’t know more than two or three street names in the city where they spent ten years.

1- The Lost Art of Knowing Street Names


Best case scenario? You’ll meet one of these old-timers who grew up without modern smartphones and don’t see the point in carrying a GPS outside of their car, if any. They’ve memorized the name of every single street, from center to suburb, and will be only too happy to share their nearly extinct knowledge with you.

Knowing the street names and the most optimized way to get from point A to point B without any GPS-driven help is definitely a matter of generation, and elderly French will be your best friends! Just don’t forget to address them respectfully, using your most humble Bonjour monsieur and Merci beaucoup.

2- I Don’t Know!


Basic Questions

What do people do when asked for directions to a place they don’t know? In some countries, they would simply admit they don’t know, but if you’re in one of the South-East Asian countries where saving face matters more than telling the truth, it’s more complicated. I once found myself helplessly wandering through the streets, looking for an embassy because every single local would describe me all kinds of random directions, only not to admit they didn’t have a clue.

In France, when people don’t know what you’re looking for, or aren’t sure how to describe the directions, they’ll simply tell you Je ne sais pas (“I don’t know”) or Aucune idée ! (“No idea!”) and it’s a blessing.

3- French Perception of Distances


Although cars are popular and as overused as in any wealthy country, the French still have the culture of walking, and it shows in their appreciation of distances.

On a trip abroad, I once asked for the nearest bakery and was told “Oh no, it’s way too far to walk there, you should take a taxi!” Having nothing but time, I walked there anyway and found it after five minutes of my long stride. In my personal perception of distances, it was absolutely within walking reach, but locals would take their bikes for shorter errands.

Most French wouldn’t take their cars for less than a kilometer and when they give you walking directions, keep this walking culture in mind. They won’t blink if you tell them you want to walk from the Eiffel Tower to Montmartre. Sure, go ahead, it’s just a one-hour walk!

Hikers Walking Across a Mountain

Typical French vacations. Better take your hiking poles!



7. How FrenchPod101 Can Help You Learn More French


In this guide, you’ve learned everything about asking and giving directions in French, from the most common structures to situation-specific vocabulary, polite greetings, and map navigation. Did I forget any important word or phrase that you know? Do you feel ready to get lost in Paris and valiantly ask your way around the capital?

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

Remember that you can also use our premium service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching and have your private teacher help you practice with directions and more. They’ll provide you with assignments and personalized exercises, and will record audio samples for you as well as review yours, to help improve your pronunciation.

Happy learning on FrenchPod101!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Around Town in French

Jeter Des Fleurs – French Compliments Guide

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Jeter des fleurs à quelqu’un. (“To compliment someone.” Or literally: “To throw flowers at someone.” )

Ever wonder how to compliment a guy in French or give your compliments to the chef after a delicious meal? If you haven’t heard compliments in French before, it may be because the French don’t do this much and tend to keep their praise a bit too much to themselves.

When I traveled to Japan with a bunch of French friends, we were stunned at how people would praise us for everything we were doing, laugh at our most wonky jokes, and compliment us at every corner on our accents, clothes, or even our choices of drinks. People would strongly react with round eyes, laughter, and what seemed to me like a general tendency to exaggerate their feelings.

I got a similar impression later about Americans, then about Colombians, and it got me thinking: Are we, Europeans, such emotionless logs, sitting in silence with a straight face and dead eyes, that we are unable to see beauty and excitement in the smallest of things like our foreign counterparts do? How deep does this phlegm of ours go?

The French are known to be sparing with their compliments, but they usually mean every single word when they do give one. You might not get much praise from them, but when you do, you’ll know it means something and it’s not overacted. It will convey just the level of enthusiasm they think it deserves, or probably less because we can also be emotionless logs. But don’t hold it against us!

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

  1. Good Job!
  2. Complimenting Someone’s Look
  3. Complimenting the Mind
  4. This is Amazing!
  5. What Comes After a Compliment
  6. Compliments and the French Culture of Seduction
  7. Le Mot De La Fin

1. Good Job!

Compliments

One situation where you’d compliment someone is to praise them for doing a good job on something.

Whether you’re at work or home, a job well done deserves some appreciation. Although more reserved than some in this department, your French colleagues or friends shouldn’t fail to reward the quality of your work with some nice words.

Here are some common French compliments for a job well done:

  • Bien joué ! (“Well done!” Literally: “Well played!” )
  • Bon travail. (“Good work.” )
  • C’est du bon boulot. / C’est du bon travail. (“It’s good work.” )
  • Excellent travail. (“Excellent work.” )

And here’s how to compliment them on their awards or achievements:

  • Félicitations ! (“Congratulations!” )
  • Toutes mes félicitations. (“My congratulations.” )
  • Tu l’as bien mérité ! (“You’ve earned it!” or “You deserve it!” )

You don’t have to blindly follow the average French mindset. I’m personally trying to follow Dale Carnegie’s precept: “Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.” By praising whenever you can, even for small wins, you’ll make a strong impression on the French people you’re socializing with, as they’ll get more appreciation from you than they’d expect.

A Businesswoman Giving a Thumbs-up Sign

Bon travail ! (“Good work!” )

2. Complimenting Someone’s Look

If there’s one situation where the French don’t keep their tongue in their pocket, it’s when it comes to flirting, seduction, or praising their partner. Whether seeking pleasure or romance, this is when we could actually over-express our feelings and get carried away.

For now, let’s be superficial and see how to compliment someone in French for their good looks:

  • Tu es beau. (“You are handsome.” ) [Male]
  • Tu es belle. (“You are beautiful.” ) [Female]

Don’t forget that French adjectives need to agree with the subject. In most cases, the adjective’s ending will simply change, as in:

  • Tu es charmant. (“You are charming.” ) [Male]
  • Tu es charmante. (“You are charming.” ) [Female]

But there are some cases, such as with beau and belle, where the two words are different.

    → You can find more on adjectives and how they work in our Complete Guide to French Adjectives on FrenchPod101.com.

With the same structure, you can make many more compliments:

  • Tu es magnifique / superbe / élégant(e) / classe.
    (“Wonderful,” “Superb,” “Elegant,” “Classy” )

We could go on for quite some time!

These are very general compliments, so let’s get more specific:

  • Tu as de beaux yeux. (“You have beautiful eyes.” )
  • Tu as de beaux cheveux. (“You have beautiful hair.” )
  • Tu as de belles mains. (“You have beautiful hands.” )

Technically, you can compliment on whatever you want, but some body parts are more popular targets and complimenting someone on their elbows or earlobes might raise a few eyebrows. Don’t let that keep you from doing it, though, if you ever meet someone whose amazing elbows leave you speechless!

It’s always nice to be complimented on your body, but unless it’s aimed at your hard-earned muscles or surgically fixed nose, chances are you haven’t done anything to deserve the praise. What about when we switch to something else?

  • J’aime bien tes chaussures. (“I like your shoes.” )
  • J’aime beaucoup ton maquillage. (“I really like your makeup.” )
  • J’adore ta robe ! (“I love your dress!” )
  • Ce chapeau te va très bien. (“This hat suits you very well.” )
  • Tes lunettes sont super cool ! (“Your glasses are super-cool!” )
  • Je veux le même t-shirt ! (“I want the same T-shirt!” )

Young and middle-aged French men are wearing lots of printed T-shirts where they can display their favorite comic characters, movie posters, video game artwork, as well as countless pop culture references. For example, if I’m wearing my Godzilla T-shirt and one of my coworkers comments on it with a subtle reference or clever remark, it instantly creates a connection, as we’re bonding over our common tastes in entertainment.

A Cat with Clothes, a Wig, and a Beard

Tu as une très belle barbe. (“You have a very beautiful beard.” )

3. Complimenting the Mind

Enough with the superficial compliments! Sure, everyone likes to be appreciated for their appearance, but we also want our minds to be praised! Let’s see some of the best French compliments regarding someone’s intellect or skills.

Tu es intelligent. (“You’re intelligent.” )
Tu es malin / futé. (“You’re smart / clever.” )

There are many other words you can use, such as:

  • Intéressant (“Interesting” )
  • Perspicace (“Insightful” )
  • Drôle (“Funny” )
  • Cultivé (“Cultured” )
  • Gentil (“Kind” )
  • Sympa (“Nice” )
  • Adorable (“Adorable” )

You can also compliment people on their skills with simple structures like:

Tu _____ bien. (“You ____ well.” )

  • Tu chantes bien. (“You sing well.” )
  • Tu écris assez bien. (“You write rather well.” )
  • Tu cuisines très bien. (“You cook very well.” )
  • Tu dessines vraiment bien. (“You draw really well.” )

Tu as une bonne / belle ______. (“You have a good / beautiful ____.” )

  • Tu as une bonne conduite. (“You have a good driving style.” )
  • Tu as un bon style. (“You have a good style.” )
  • Tu as une belle écriture. (“You have beautiful writing.” )

An Old Couple Dancing Together at a Party

Tu danses bien ! (“You’re a good dancer!” )

4. This is Amazing!

When you compliment a thing, you’re often indirectly praising a person. When you’re in awe of the food, you’re praising the cook; when you fall in love with a song, all credit goes to the artist.

Here are the most useful words and sentences to share that you like something:

  • C’est bien. (“It’s good.” )
  • C’est bon. (“It’s good.” Mainly used to mean “it tastes good” or “it feels good.” )
  • C’est magnifique. (“It’s wonderful.” )
  • C’est magique ! (“It’s magical!” )
  • C’est intéressant / passionnant / divertissant. (“It’s interesting / fascinating / entertaining.” )

Don’t leave the cook hanging. Let’s see more French compliments for food:

  • C’était très bon. (“It was very good.” )
  • C’est délicieux. (“It’s delicious.” )
  • C’est vraiment excellent. (“It’s really excellent.” )
  • Ça a l’air délicieux. (“It looks delicious.” )
  • Ça sent très bon. (“It smells very good.” )
  • Mes compliments au chef. (“My compliments to the chef.” )

In France, we joke about the fact that burping is a way to show your appreciation for the food, but unless you’re among friends in a private environment, you should certainly refrain from letting it out.

    → Learn more about table manners in our Complete Guide on French Etiquette.

And here are some mild compliments for when you’re satisfied, but not impressed:

  • C’est sympa. (“It’s nice.” )
  • C’est pas mal. (“It’s okay.” )
  • C’est pas pire. (“It’s okay.” Quebec only.)
  • C’est pas dégueu. (“It’s not bad.” [Familiar] Originally about food, but we use it figuratively for any other thing.)

A Cheesecake Slice with Strawberry Topping

Ça a l’air très bon ! (“It looks delicious!” )

5. What Comes After a Compliment

Complimenting is often a two-way street and there are some social norms for the aftermath.

How should you say “thank you”? What do you answer after someone thanks you for your compliment? Should you deflect compliments? Everything will be answered in this chapter.

1 – Express Your Gratitude

The easiest thing you can do after a compliment is to accept it and thank the complimenter. Look the person in the eyes, smile, say “thank you,” and you’ll be fine! (Yes, I’m also teaching you how to look human, in case you’re an android or a disguised alien.)

  • Merci ! (“Thank you!” )
  • Merci beaucoup. (“Thank you very much.” )

What if you compliment someone and receive a merci?

  • De rien ! (“You’re welcome!” Literally: “of nothing” )
  • Je t’en prie. (“You’re welcome.” Literally: “I pray you for it.” )

2 – Answer with Another Compliment

This is the equivalent of answering “What’s up?” with “How are you doing?” but it’s still perfectly acceptable.

Complimenting someone back in French is the same as in English. You can either answer with a simple “you too” or try and be more creative.

For example:

  • Tu as de très beaux yeux. (“You have very beautiful eyes.” )
    Toi aussi. [Casual] / Vous aussi. [Formal] (“You too!” )
  • J’adore ton t-shirt ! (“I love your T-shirt!” )
    Merci, mais je ne peux pas rivaliser avec ta chemise. (“Thank you, but I can’t compete with your shirt.” )

3 – Don’t Deny Compliments or Demean Yourself

Another way to react to a compliment is to deny it by explaining why you don’t deserve it. It usually sounds awkward and may be insulting to the complimenter, so obviously, I would not recommend it. But here’s how it would sound in French:

  • J’adore ton t-shirt ! (“I love your T-shirt!” )
    C’est juste un vieux truc que je porte pour dormir. (“It’s just an old rag I sleep with.” )
  • Très bon travail, ton script. (“Very good work on your script.” )
    Je trouve ça plutôt ennuyeux, mais merci. (“I find it rather boring, but thank you.” )

In general, you should embrace the compliment and accept it with modesty. Don’t undermine the compliment with phrases such as:

  • Oh non, c’est rien. (“Oh no, it’s no big deal.” )
  • Non, ce n’était vraiment rien. (“No, but it was nothing.” )

4 – Share the Credit

If you ever answer with a compliment, do it genuinely, without entering a compliment battle.

However, you can give credit where it’s due, and accept the compliment while sharing the credit with your team or contributors. For example:

  • Rien de tout ça n’aurait été possible sans mon équipe. (“None of this would have been possible without my team.” )

Man and Woman Complimenting Each Other at a Piano

– Tu as de beaux cheveux. (“You have beautiful hair.” )
Toi aussi. (“You too.” )
– …

6. Compliments and the French Culture of Seduction

1 – Complimenting VS Showing Interest

It’s always nice to receive compliments, but what most of the French really want (besides eternal life and free cookies) is to generate interest and curiosity. If you’re hitting on a guy with a beautiful beard, don’t compliment him on his beard; he’s heard that one countless times.

You should go for something original and unpredictable, or even better: Skip the compliment entirely and just show your interest in whatever he’s doing, what he likes, his values, his core beliefs, or his favorite Star Wars characters. Anything, as long as it’s meaningful to both of you.

Especially in Paris, French girls get a lot of hassle from the sad crowd of wannabe Don Juans loitering in the streets and metro stations. As a result, compliments are just not as well-received as they used to be. Unspoken compliments, such as an eloquent stare, a smile, or a sincere show of interest can go a much longer way.

2 – The “Negs Hit,” a French Pickup Technique

Disclaimer: I’m not advocating pickup techniques in general, but I find this one culturally interesting.

Popularized by self-proclaimed “Pick-Up Artist” Erik Von Markovik, the Negs Hit is a negative comment aimed at your target (usually a girl you want to seduce) to destabilize her and get her to lower her guard.

It’s usually aimed toward girls with high self-esteem, if they get overly defensive at your approach. Using Negs Hits with someone who’s already into you and opening up would be counter-productive.

A Negs Hit is not supposed to be insulting or hurtful, and should not target any major flaw the person is likely to have a complex about. It’s a slightly embarrassing and seemingly innocent comment you’d make on a flaw in her looks or behavior. By doing so, you communicate that you’re not impressed with her desirability and that you’re not interested in her as a potential partner.

It’s supposed to create curiosity and interest toward you, as well as lower her guard for the moment you’d choose to switch to a more traditional seductive approach, should you decide to do so. I personally think it should just be called “having a sense of humor,” and it works wonders to filter people out who don’t have one, as they’ll get angry at your comment and walk away.

A Man Flirting with a Woman from a Window

Jolie coiffure ! C’est une perruque ? (“Nice hairstyle! Is it a wig?” )

7. Le Mot De La Fin

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about French compliments: how to compliment a guy or a girl, how to cheer the chef, and even how to flirt in French. You’ve also learned many praise words in French and how to put them together. Did I forget any important compliment you’d like to know about? Do you feel ready to express your appreciation and gratitude using everything we’ve learned today?

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

Remember that you can also use our premium service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching and have your private teacher help you practice compliments and more, using assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples for you. Your teacher can also review your audio recordings 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.

Celebrating Whit Monday in France

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The majority of France’s population (around sixty-five percent) identifies as Christian, with most of those Christians being Catholic. Considering the large Christian population, Christian holidays are a big deal here!

In this article, you’ll learn about the Whit Monday holiday in France. We’ll dive into the Whit Monday meaning, explore the most common traditions in France, and go over some important vocabulary you should know.

Let’s get started.

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1. What is Whit Monday in France?

The Shape of a Dove Against the Sun

Whit Monday is a Christian holiday that celebrates the descent of the Saint-Esprit (“Holy Spirit” ) onto Jesus’s disciples. The Holy Spirit’s descent is said to mark the “birthday” of the Christian church. Catholics celebrate this holiday as the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.

The name of this holiday is thought to stem from Pentecost’s other name (Whit Sunday or Whitsun), with “whit” referring to the white garments worn by those hoping to be baptized. Others speculate that “whit” could refer to the Anglo-Saxon “wit,” which refers to one’s understanding. After all, the Holy Spirit is thought to provide understanding and wisdom to Christians.

Whit Monday in France is a jour férié (“public holiday” ), which means that the majority of businesses are closed. However, due to an unprecedented canicule (“heatwave” ) that took place from 2005 to 2007, many people had to work during this holiday to help provide service de santé (“health services” ) for the older population. Today, Whit Monday is still considered a public holiday, though many French people do end up working.

    → See our vocabulary list on Religion to learn some useful vocab.

2. What Date is Whit Monday This Year?

A Rabbit in an Easter Basket

Whit Monday is a moveable holiday, meaning that its date changes each year according to the Christian calendar and the date of Pâques (“Easter” ). For your convenience, we’ve outlined this holiday’s date for the next ten years.

  • 2020: June 1
  • 2021: May 24
  • 2022: June 6
  • 2023: May 29
  • 2024: May 20
  • 2025: June 9
  • 2026: May 25
  • 2027: May 17
  • 2028: June 5
  • 2029: May 21

3. Whit Monday Traditions & Celebrations

Someone Having Their Baby Baptized

Whit Monday is a time to commemorer (“commemorate” ) the gift of the Holy Spirit, though this holiday doesn’t have quite the same religious connotation as Whit Sunday (Pentecost) does. The Whit Monday holiday is often considered a perfect opportunity for baptême (“baptism” ), with many Christians being baptized for the first time or re-baptized.

In addition to religious celebrations, a common French Whit Monday tradition is to visit with family and friends. This often involves eating a nice meal or going out together. Some people prefer to stay at home and enjoy their time off work, while others engage in outdoor activities if the weather permits.

As mentioned, on Whit Monday, France’s businesses are largely closed, though a few may be open for people’s enjoyment.

4. Shavuot

Shavuot is a major Jewish holiday, and it’s thought that the apostles were in the process of celebrating this holiday when the Holy Spirit descended on them.

During Shavuot, a holiday celebrating the wheat harvest, Jews offer bikkurim (first fruits) at the temple, read the Book of Ruth, and eat dairy products.

5. Must-Know French Vocabulary for Whit Monday

A Cemetery with White Crosses and Purple Flowers

Let’s review the most important words and phrases for Whit Monday in France!

  • Cinquante — “Fifty” [n. masc]
  • Jour — “Day” [n. masc]
  • Religion — “Religion” [n. fem]
  • Service de santé — “Health services” [n.]
  • Jour férié — “Public holiday” [masc]
  • Pâques — “Easter” [fem]
  • Messe — “Mass” [n. fem]
  • Jésus — “Jesus”
  • Commemorer — “Commemorate” [v.]
  • Saint-Esprit — “Holy Spirit” [masc]
  • Apôtre — “Apostle” [n. masc]
  • Venue — “Descent” [n. fem]
  • Baptême — “Baptism” [n. masc]
  • — “Elderly” [adj.]
  • Canicule — “Heatwave” [n.]

If you want to hear the pronunciation of each word and phrase, be sure to visit our French Whit Monday vocabulary list!

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about Whit Monday in France with us, and that you took away some valuable cultural information.

Do you celebrate Whit Monday in your country? If so, are traditions there similar or quite different from those in France? We look forward to hearing your answers in the comments.

If you want to continue learning about French culture and the language, FrenchPod101.com has many free resources for you:

This only scratches the surface of everything FrenchPod101.com can offer the aspiring French-learner. To make the most of your study time, create your free lifetime account today; for access to exclusive content and lessons, upgrade to our Premium or Premium PLUS plans.

We want to help you reach your goals in the most fun and straightforward way possible, and we’ll be here every step of your language-learning journey!

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Celebrating Mother’s Day in France

Did you know that people have been celebrating mothers and motherhood for a very long time? After all, what would the world be like without mothers? A lot bleaker than it is already, I imagine!

Like many countries around the world, France has a special holiday set aside to honor one’s mother. In this article, you’ll learn all about Mother’s Day, France’s take on this holiday, and some new vocab.

Let’s get started!

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1. What is Mother’s Day?

Mother’s Day is thought to have originated as far back as Ancient Greece, where the population organized springtime ceremonies for Rhea, the grandmother to the gods (and Zeus’ mother). The Ancient Romans had a similar holiday for celebrating mothers, called Matronalia. What we think of as Mother’s Day today, however, likely originated in the United States when Anna Jarvis publicly commemorated her deceased mother.

In 1929, the French government officially made Mother’s Day a holiday after many years of smaller celebrations throughout the country. The village of Artas refers to itself as the “cradle of Mother’s Day” due to a celebration it held in 1906 for mothers of large families. In 1920, this holiday was recognized, later becoming Mother’s Day as we know it today. In 1941, the Vichy Regime put this holiday on the calendar, and it was set to be the last Sunday of May; this took effect after the war.

In modern times, Mother’s Day is simply a holiday dedicated to honoring one’s mother and showering her with gifts.

2. When is Mother’s Day in France?

Mother’s Day is on a Sunday

Each year, the French celebrate Mother’s Day on the last Sunday in May (unless it falls on the same day as Pentecost, in which case it’s moved to the first Sunday of June). For your convenience, here’s a list of this holiday’s date for the next ten years.

  • 2020: June 7
  • 2021: May 30
  • 2022: May 29
  • 2023: June 4
  • 2024: May 26
  • 2025: May 25
  • 2026: May 31
  • 2027: May 30
  • 2028: May 28
  • 2029: May 27

3. Mother’s Day in France: Traditions & Celebrations

A Little Girl Holding Up a Handmade Mother’s Day Card

The most popular way to celebrate this holiday is by giving Mother’s Day gifts.

Starting from an early age, children make gifts for their mothers by hand; common items include cards and jewelry that were made in school. As children grow older, they may buy their mother things like clothes, perfume, or Mother’s Day flowers. Other popular gifts include chocolat (“chocolate”), a carte de vœux (“greeting card”), or a bon d’achat (“gift certificate”).

In addition, some children may give their mother a petit déjeuner au lit (“breakfast in bed”), and her husband may take the family out for a nice Mother’s Day dinner somewhere.

4. Médaille de la Famille

In France, there’s an honorary medal called the Médaille de la Famille that’s given out to families who have done well in raising a great many children.

Originally, this medal was created in hopes of giving mothers the honor and appreciation they deserve. Later on, however, fathers and other caregivers were allowed to receive this award as well.

5. Must-Know Vocabulary for Mother’s Day in France

A Family Eating Dinner Together

Ready to review some of the vocabulary words from this article? Here are the most important words and phrases for Mother’s Day!

  • Dîner — “Dinner” [n. masc]
  • Dimanche — “Sunday” [n. masc]
  • Chocolat — “Chocolate” [n. masc]
  • Aimer — “Love” [v.]
  • Fille — “Daughter” [n. fem]
  • Fils — “Son” [n. masc]
  • Cadeau — “Present” [n. masc]
  • Rose — “Rose” [n. fem]
  • Mère — “Mother” [n. fem]
  • Célébrer — “Celebrate” [v.]
  • Petit déjeuner au lit — “Breakfast in bed” [masc]
  • Carte de vœux — “Greeting card” [fem]
  • Bon d’achat — “Gift certificate” [n. masc]

To hear the pronunciation of each word and phrase, and to read them alongside relevant images, be sure to check out our French Mother’s Day vocabulary list!

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about French Mother’s Day celebrations with us, and that you took away some valuable information from this article.

How do you celebrate Mother’s Day in your country? We’d love to hear from you!

If you would like to learn even more about French culture and the language, FrenchPod101.com has several more great articles for you:

This just scratches the surface of all that FrenchPod101.com can offer the aspiring French-learner. Create your free lifetime account today and make the most of your study time, or upgrade to our Premium or Premium PLUS plans to gain access to exclusive content and lessons.

Wherever you are in your language-learning journey, we want to help you reach your goals with confidence and finesse.

Happy Mother’s Day! 🙂

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“Excuse My French” – Getting Angry in French, with Style!

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Did you know that anger is a sign of weakness? These intense emotions bursting out of us like a raging volcano can be intimidating and mistaken for a show of strength, but they’re quite the opposite. We get angry when we’re afraid or weak, when we feel overwhelmed or outsmarted. However, properly channeled, it can be a spark, igniting you with power and purpose.

If you get upset in France, better do it with flair and panache! It’s important that you know the various words and expressions for how to say “I’m angry” in French, because in the heat of the moment, you won’t have time to think it through!

You should know that profanity is far from being as much of a taboo in France as it is in the U.S., and it’s not uncommon to hear seemingly obscene swearing in public places or even at work. The French are quite open about it and, to be honest, are often oblivious to the actual meaning of our colorful expressions.

However, in this article, we’ll focus on the family-friendly angry French phrases that you can use just about anywhere without having to carefully assess the situation.

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Table of Contents

  1. Angry Orders
  2. Angry Questions
  3. Angry Blames
  4. Describing Your Frustration
  5. Culture: How to Make the French Angry
  6. How FrenchPod101 Can Help You Learn More French

1. Angry Orders

Negative Verbs

1- “Shut your trap!”

Whether you want the person to be quiet or you’ve lost the argument but won’t admit it, you might want to firmly ask someone to shut up. Here are a couple of ways to demand the silence you so dearly desire:

  • Tais-toi ! (“Shut up!” )

The verb se taire means “to keep quiet.”

Je me tais. (“I keep quiet.” )

Used in the imperative form, it’s a common way to request someone’s silence without being too harsh.

  • La ferme ! (“Shut up!” )
  • Ferme-la ! (“Shut up!” )

The verb fermer means “to close” or “to shut” and this is the closest expression to the English phrase “shut up.” Literally meaning “Shut it!” it’s a shortened and slightly more polite version of “Shut your trap,” but still more rude than tais-toi.

2- “Watch your tone!”

If someone is being aggressive, offensive, or raising their voice at you, it might be time to tell them to pipe down with a sharp: “Watch your tone, buddy!”

  • Surveille ton langage ! (“Watch your language!” )

This one can be used when unnecessary profanities have been put to the table. It’s a polite expression that can be used even in formal situations if you use the vous.

Surveillez votre langage. [Formal]

  • Ne me parle pas sur ce ton. (“Don’t you use that tone with me.” )

This second expression is more focused on the tone than the choice of words. It’s also perfectly suitable for a formal situation when things are heating up too much and you feel like you’re owed more respect.

Ne me parlez pas sur ce ton. [Formal]

Man Yelling at Someone

La ferme ! (“Shut up!” )

3- “Stop it!”

Whatever you want to stop, you need to be clear and articulated. Here are two variations that should get similar results:

  • Ça suffit ! (“That’s enough!” )

The verb suffire means “to be sufficient” or “to be enough,” so it’s hard to find more straightforward angry French expressions than ça suffit !

  • Arrête ! (“Stop!” )

Coming from arrêter (“to stop” ), this is the shortest and most explicit way to tell someone to stop whatever they’re doing. You might want to be a little more specific, depending on the context:

  • Arrête de me parler. (“Stop talking to me.” )
  • Arrête tes bêtises. (“Stop your nonsense.” )
  • Arrête de faire ça ! (“Stop doing this!” )
  • Arrête de chanter du Reggaeton. (“Stop singing Reggaeton.” )

4- “Get away from me!”

Sometimes, the best way to avoid getting even angrier at someone is to get them out of your sight. Let’s see how to handle that:

  • Dégage ! (“Get away!” )

This is a simple yet quite aggressive way to ask someone to get out of your face. You can spice it up a little with:

Dégage de là. (“Get away from there.” )

  • Fous le camp ! (“Get out of here!” )

Foutre le camp or Ficher le camp (the old-fashioned and more polite version) is an old expression from the XVIII century. Ficher used to mean “to take” and camp unsurprisingly translates to “camp.” The expression roughly means “to pick up your tent and leave camp.”

  • Va te faire voir ! (“Get lost!” )

Literally: “Go make yourself seen.”

Va te faire voir is a greatly watered down version of another popular expression using the French F-word, but this one is much more offensive: Va te faire foutre !

Conversely, a cute alternative would be:

Va voir ailleurs si j’y suis. (“Go somewhere else and see if you can find me.” )

Complaints

2. Angry Questions

These French angry phrases are ALL rhetorical questions. Let’s be clear about the fact that you’re not expecting an answer. Should you receive one anyway, it’s likely to anger you even more!

  • Et alors ? (“So what?” )

First of all, you should know that et alors is not always an angry phrase. It has two distinct meanings:

1- “Tell me more!”, “And then, what happened?”

    J’ai vu le dernier Tarantino hier. (“I’ve seen the latest Tarantino yesterday.” )
    Et alors ? (“Tell me more.” )

2- “So what?” is more of an exclamation than a question. It means that you don’t really care about the previous statement or objection.

    Ma mère est très malade. (“My mother is very ill.” )
    Et alors ? (“So what?” )
    T’es vraiment un con. (“You’re such an ass.” )
    Et alors? (“So what?” )
  • Qu’est-ce qui te prend ? (“What’s gotten into you?” )

Literally: “What is taking you?”

  • Qu’est-ce que tu fous ? (“What the hell are you doing?” )

F-word is back with a vengeance. You can soften it with Qu’est-ce que tu fiches ? or Qu’est-ce que tu fabriques ? However, this last variation is so innocuous that it should be said with a sharp tongue to convey your exasperation.

  • Et puis quoi encore ? (“And what’s next?” )

Literally: “And then, what again?”

I couldn’t find a satisfying English equivalent, but we use this phrase to express disapproval or exasperation. You can also use it when you feel like the other person is asking too much.

    Est-ce que je peux emprunter ta voiture, coucher avec ta femme et terminer ta bière ? (“Can I borrow your car, sleep with your wife, and finish your beer?” )
    Et puis quoi encore ? ( [Ironically] “And what’s next?” )
  • Tu veux ma photo ? (“What are you looking at?” )

Literally: “Do you want my picture?”

Use this when someone is staring at you to the point where it makes you upset.

Women might want to remember this one when they go out and attract unwanted stares from creepy weirdos.

  • Qu’est-ce que c’est que cette histoire ? (“What on earth are you talking about?” )

Literally: “What is this story?”

This can be said when someone tells you something crazy, difficult to understand, hard to believe, or tough to swallow.

    On m’a dit que je n’avais pas été recrutée à cause de ma coupe de cheveux. (“I’ve been told I wasn’t hired because of my haircut.” )
    Qu’est-ce que c’est que cette histoire ? (“Wait, what?” )
  • Tu te fous de moi ? (“Are you kidding me?” )

Softer versions are available: Tu te fiches de moi ? or Tu te moques de moi ?

They all express the same level of incredulity.

  • Ça va pas ? (“What’s wrong with you?” )

Literally: “Are you unwell?”

We use this phrase to express disbelief over what a person is doing or saying.

  • T’es malade ou quoi ? (“Are you crazy or what?” )

Literally: “Are you sick or what?”

Man Angrily Staring Over Sunglasses

You talkin’ to me? Well I’m the only one here.

3. Angry Blames

Weakness or not, la coupe est pleine (“enough is enough” ). You’re officially angry and ready to come down on someone like a ton of bricks. Heads will roll!

  • C’est n’importe quoi ! (“That’s bullsh*t!” )

Literally: “That’s anything!”

You can also shorten it to N’importe quoi ! (“Bullsh*t!” )

Note that you can use this n’importe quoi in other sentences like:

  • Tu fais n’importe quoi. (“You’re acting stupid.” )
  • Tu dis n’importe quoi. (“You’re talking nonsense.” )
  • Il ne manquait plus que ça. (“Just what we needed!” )

Literally: “We were only missing this.”

You’d say this when sh*t just keeps piling up, one annoyance after another.

  • Tu ne m’écoutes pas. (“You’re not listening to me.” )
  • C’est une honte. (“It’s a disgrace.” )
  • C’est inacceptable. (“It’s unacceptable.” )
  • Ce ne sont pas tes affaires. (“It’s none of your business.” )
  • T’occupes ! (“Not your business!” )

T’occupe is short for T’occupe pas, which comes from the imperative sentence: Ne t’occupe pas de ça. (“Do not worry about this.” or “Do not deal with this.” )

This isn’t necessarily an angry sentence. You could use it to refrain someone from helping you if you feel like you have everything under control, or when you don’t want to answer questions on something that you want to keep secret or private.

  • Tu es sûre que tu n’as pas besoin d’aide ? (“Are you sure you don’t need help?” )
  • T’occupe ! (“Stay out of it!” )
  • Tu me saoules ! (“I’m sick of you!” )

Literally: “You’re making me drunk!” (But in a bad way! )

We have many words in French for “to get drunk,” and se saouler is more often used in the context of being fed up and exasperated.

This is one of those angry things to say in French when someone has been pissing in your ear for a while and you just can’t take it anymore, or when a task is really tedious or unpleasant.

  • Ce mec m’a saoulée toute la matinée. (“This guy annoyed me all morning.” )
  • Ça me saoule, ce boulot ! (“I’m sick of this job!” )
  • Tu me gonfles ! (“You’re getting on my nerves!” )

Literally: “You are inflating me!”

The origin of this slang expression is unclear. Some see a sexual reference, but the most probable interpretation is that you feel like you’re slowly inflating with anger, close to the point of figurative explosion.

  • Tu me prends la tête ! (“You’re driving me crazy!” )

Literally: “You’re taking my head!”

I use this every time someone (or something) is busting my chops. IE: makes my life miserable, with useless complication or just plain nonsense.

  • Ce formulaire me prend la tête. (“This form is driving me crazy.” )
  • Cette fille me prend la tête. (“This girl is driving me crazy.” )

You can also do it to yourself:

  • Je me prends la tête sur ma compta depuis ce matin. (“I’ve been driving myself crazy on my accounting since this morning.” )

And finally, it can be used when people are complicating their lives for no reason, or spending too much time brooding over something.

  • Tu te prends encore la tête là-dessus ? (“Are you still losing your head over this?” )
    → Make sure to visit our vocabulary list about Curse Words, with audio recordings to practice your pronunciation. It’s freely available on FrenchPod101.

Man Holding Head in Hand

Ça me prend la tête ! (“It’s driving me crazy!” )

4. Describing Your Frustration

Negative Feelings

Now that you’ve let off some steam with angry French sayings, it’s time to tell people how you feel. Are you fed up? Sick and tired? Dazed and confused or violently furious?

  • J’en ai marre ! (“I’m tired of it!” )

Literally: ..?

The literal meaning is hard to tell because the very origin of this expression is still debated. Does it come from old French’s marrir (“to afflict” ), from the Spanish “mareo” (“sea-sickness,” but also “boredom” ), or from the 17th century expression avoir son mar (“to have enough” )?

  • J’en ai ras-le-bol ! (“I’ve had enough of this!” )

Literally: “I have my bowl full!”

What about the origin of this wildly popular expression? To be honest, I had to look it up and I believe most French have no idea that the bol (“bowl” ) is a slangy analogy for the butt.

Short of knowing about this, I’ve heard this expression in all kinds of circles, including professional contexts where people complain about their filled butt without second thought.

  • J’en ai assez ! (“I’ve had enough!” )
  • J’en peux plus ! (“I can’t take it anymore!” )
  • J’en ai jusque là ! (“I’ve had enough!” )

Literally: “I have it up to here!”

Once again, it’s difficult to trace the exact origin of this expression, but it implies that you’re full of whatever is upsetting you and you can’t take any more of it.

  • Ça me fait une belle jambe. (“A fat lot of good it does me.” )

Literally: “It makes me a beautiful leg.”

With this ironic expression, you’re answering to something that’s supposed to give you some comfort or satisfaction but really doesn’t. This “something” is useless, worthless, and doesn’t have the intended effect.

    Je sais que tu as perdu ton travail, mais au moins, il fait beau ! (“I know you’ve lost your job, but at least it’s a sunny day!” )
    Ça me fait une belle jambe. (“A lot of good it does me.” )

In the 12th century, French men started wearing tights. Yes, just like our modern-day superheroes, except that we didn’t wear our underwear over it. Then, in the 17th century, displaying muscular and elegant male leg became increasingly fashionable. You had to wear stylish tights on well-shaped legs, and this is where the expression faire la belle jambe (“to do the beautiful leg” ) appeared.

Fast-forward to the 19th century. After 200 years of evolution, we get to today’s ironic version of the original expression: Ça me fait une belle jambe.

Girl Frustrated with Homework

J’en peux plus… (“I can’t take it anymore…” )

5. Culture: How to Make the French Angry

“You’re making me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” (Bruce Banner)

1- “French are lazy!”

If you know something about the French working culture, you might have this mental image of us working five hours a day and enjoying months of vacations while being showered with social benefits and perks all year round.

It’s true that France is doing very well in the field of social welfare and that French workers benefit from a neat package of bonuses and protection. In many other countries, if you lose your job, you’re in serious life-threatening trouble.

That being said, generations of French fought hard for these rights throughout several social revolutions, and we’re keeping the fight alive today. French workers are often considered by foreign employers to be hard and dedicated workers, and there are few things they hate more than being called lazy!

2- “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ?”

French women have a reputation for being easy. Where this is coming from is beyond me. Maybe because the French are comfortable with nudity, or not too prudish about public displays of affection. However, the fact that French women speak openly about sex and seem confident about what they want doesn’t make them any easier to seduce. In fact, the French dating scene is likely to feel very confusing for North Americans.

So please, don’t go quoting Lady Marmelade with a bold Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir ? (“Do you want to sleep with me tonight?” ) and expect French girls to fall in your arms like butter melts in the hot pan. They might find it funny or lame, but they hate when foreigners assume they’re just waiting to jump in their bed.

Couple Drinking Champagne on Christmas

No, one drink is not enough. You also have to be charming!

6. How FrenchPod101 Can Help You Learn More French

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about how to say “I am angry” in French, from bitter words and expressions to furious questions and outraged blames.

Did we forget any important expressions that you know? Do you feel ready to burst out in anger using everything you’ve learned today?

Besides getting angry yourself, which I wouldn’t wish for you, knowing how people express their anger in French may be useful when you’re taking the blame for something you did or didn’t do. Better prepared than sorry!

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

Remember that you can also use our premium service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching. Practice talking and listening in French with your private teacher so they can give you personalized feedback and advice, and help you with pronunciation.

Happy French learning!

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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.

French Life Event Messages: Happy Birthday in French & More

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Have you ever stopped to ponder on how much our lives revolve around defining moments? These could be happy or tragic, once-in-a-lifetime or recurring events, and depending on where you live, you might experience them in dramatically different ways.

If you live in France, have French friends, or have an interest in French culture, you need to know how major life events are handled there, and how to talk about them. You’ll need to know how to wish a happy birthday in French, a Merry Christmas or New Year, and how to offer condolences or wish for a swift recovery. Further, you’ll wish to know how to congratulate friends on their new degree, spouse, or offspring.

In this article, we’ll go through the ten major French life events and their cultural ins and outs. We’ll also provide you with a list of the most useful French phrases for congratulations (and condolences) so that you can take part in these pivotal moments, and as a result grow much closer to the people involved.

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Table of Contents

  1. Joyeux Anniversaire ! (Happy Birthday!)
  2. Bonne Fête ! (Happy Name Day!)
  3. Naissance (Birth)
  4. Remise de Diplôme (Graduation)
  5. Nouvel Emploi (New Job)
  6. Retraite (Retirement)
  7. Mariage (Wedding)
  8. Funérailles (Funerals)
  9. Convalescence (Recovery)
  10. Fêtes (Holidays)
  11. How FrenchPod101 Can Help You Learn More French

1. Joyeux Anniversaire ! (Happy Birthday!)

Happy Birthday

Just like in many other European countries and North America, French birthdays usually involve a party with friends or family, a cake, some optional singing, blowing out candles, and receiving presents.

  • There are no fixed rules on who should throw your fête d’anniversaire (birthday party). It could be friends, family, or even yourself. Most birthdays in France are celebrated either at home or a restaurant. In the latter case, you’re not expected to pay for everyone, but your friends might want to pay for you. It’s your special day, after all!
  • Le gâteau d’anniversaire (The birthday cake) can be absolutely whatever: fruits, cream, chocolate, nuts, you name it. The white frosting cliché isn’t really a thing in France. Some like to cook the cake, while others prefer to buy it at the pâtisserie (pastry shop). We put les bougies (the candles) on it.
  • Les cadeaux (The presents) are equally not codified and really depend on the person. For a kid, we usually go for a toy or book. Adults are tricky, but if you’re close enough to buy them a present, you should know what they like, right?
  • La chanson (The song) is the easy part, with lyrics as simple as: Joyeux anniversaire, joyeux anniversaire, joyeux anniversaire Nicolas ! Joyeux anniversaire ! (Assuming the birthday boy is called Nicolas). Or you could go for this nightmarish song from humorist and singer Patrick Sebastien.
  • Les cartes d’anniversaire (Birthdays cards) used to be a thing, and it never hurts to send one, but the younger generations go through social networks.

How to say Happy Birthday in French:

Joyeux anniversaire !
Bon anniversaire !
Heureux anniversaire !
“Happy birthday!”
(Postcard greetings)
Je te souhaite un joyeux anniversaire et plein de bonheur.
“I wish you a happy birthday and plenty of happiness!”

Older Woman Blowing Out Birthday Cake Candles

Don’t spit on the cake!

2. Bonne Fête ! (Happy Name Day!)

A tradition mainly in Europe and Latin America, name days are originally based on the Christian calendar of Saints, but everyone can celebrate it in France, even though we don’t make a big deal out of it.

Just locate your name on the calendar and you’ll know when your fête, or “name day,” is. You’re not featured there? Well, tough luck, but you won’t be missing much more than nice words and a pat on the shoulder. Presents and parties for a name day aren’t unheard of, but definitely not commonplace.

So, how do we celebrate a name day? More often than not, we don’t. Should you wish to do it, a small present or a postcard are safe bets, but buying a drink might work just as well.

Here’s how you can offer your congratulations in French to someone on their name day:

Bonne fête ! “Happy name day!”
Bonne fête, Nicolas ! “Happy name day, Nicolas!”
C’est la Saint Nicolas aujourd’hui, bonne fête ! “It’s Nicolas’ day. Happy name day!”

3. Naissance (Birth)

Talking About Age

We don’t do baby showers in France and have no pre-birth equivalent. This American tradition has been pushed through advertisement companies, but people are resisting, seeing it as consumerism or even something prone to bring bad luck. However, celebrations are held after birth with the regular shower of gifts.

Religious rituals have become unusual in France, and although biblical names are still popular, parents don’t choose the name of their newborn based on the Saint’s name of the birthday. Christian families can choose to baptize their children before their first anniversary, which leads to a Fête de baptème, or “Baptism party.”

Toutes mes félicitations !
Sincères félicitations !
“Congratulations!”
(Postcard greetings)

Bienvenue au petit Nicolas ! Meilleurs voeux de bonheur à tous les trois !

Félicitations pour la naissance de votre fille ! Puisse sa vie être faite de rires, de chansons, d’allégresse et de découvertes !

“Welcome to little Nicolas! Best wishes of happiness to all three of you!”

“Congratulations on the birth of your daughter! May her life be filled with laughter, songs, joy, and discoveries!”

Newborn Baby, Mother, and Doctor

Congratulations, it’s a baby!

4. Remise de Diplôme (Graduation)

Graduations are usually not cause for wide-scale celebrations in France, but we have nothing against it! Graduated students can celebrate among themselves over a drink or a party, while schools or universities can also organize festive events on graduation day.

Parents sometimes offer presents to their children to celebrate their success, but there are no conventions on what these gifts should be.

Félicitations !
Bien joué !
Bon travail !
“Congratulations!”
“Well done!”
“Nice job!”
Bravo pour ta réussite !
Bravo pour ton diplôme !
Félicitations pour ton examen !
“Congratulations on your success!”
“Congratulations on your degree!”
“Congratulations on your test!”
(Postcard greeting)

Bravo pour ton diplôme bien mérité après tout ce travail acharné.

“Congratulations on a well-deserved degree after all of your hard work.”
    → Learn more about education and degrees with our free vocabulary list on the Graduation Season.

5. Nouvel Emploi (New Job)

Basic Questions

Work isn’t as prominent in French mentality as it is in other countries. It’s generally accepted that you should work for a living but not live for your work, and as a result, the French are trying to strike the right balance between their professional and personal lives, without dedicating too much to their workplace.

Similarly, new jobs and promotions are usually not a big thing. Your new job can typically be celebrated with your partner, while promotions are a good excuse for a drink among colleagues.

[Casual] Bravo pour ton nouveau job !
Bravo pour ton nouveau poste !
“Congratulations on your new job!”
“Congratulations on your new position!”
[Formal] Félicitations pour ton nouvel emploi.
Félicitations pour ta promotion.
“Congratulations on your new position.”
“Congratulations on your promotion.”
(Postcard greeting)

Toutes mes félicitations pour votre promotion ! Etant donné la qualité de votre travail, une telle reconnaissance est amplement méritée.

“Congratulations on your promotion! Considering the quality of your work, such a recognition is well-deserved.”

Coworkers Celebrating

Embrace your new career with a cheesy smile.

    → Get ready to congratulate your friends on any new position with our free vocabulary list on Jobs.

6. Retraite (Retirement)

Most French retire between the ages of sixty and seventy, but l’âge de la retraite, or “the retirement age,” is steadily rising. This is a cause for concern and social unrest in the country.

The pension system is contribution-based. A retiree’s pension is proportional to the amount of contributions he paid during his working life. Those contributions are directly taken from the salary, in the form of a tax.

When their retraite, or “pension,” (yes, this is the same word as for “retirement” ) allows for it, it’s fairly common for the French to enjoy their retirement by traveling, either in the countryside or abroad.

Here are some ways to go about congratulating someone in French for their retirement:

[Professional] Bonne continuation ! “All the best!”
[Casual] Profite bien de ta retraite ! “Enjoy your retirement!”
(Postcard greeting)

Je te souhaite une heureuse et sereine retraite.

“I wish you a happy and peaceful retirement!”

7. Mariage (Wedding)

Marriage Proposal

Weddings in France can be celebrated in many different ways, depending on your religion, social status, and personality. The celebrations range from an unpretentious informal event to a fastuous large-scale banquet of expensive delicacies, with awe-inspiring choregraphies and expertly crafted speeches.

  • A French marriage is typically planned up to years in advance, and don’t leave much to improvisation (or spontaneity, for that matter). Hiring a wedding coach is a new trend for the wealthiest couples.
  • The tradition of enterrement de vie de garçon (“bachelor party,” but literally “Burial of boy’s life”)—enjoying your single life to the fullest, with heavy drinking and strippers, before shackling yourself to your spouse for the rest of your days—appeared recently and is gaining in popularity.
  • Mariage religieux, or “religious weddings,” have been on the decline for a while, and most people marry at their town hall. The PACS (civil union, that used to be the only option for same-sex unions before) is quickly becoming the most popular option.
  • We don’t do wedding rehearsals or rehearsal dinners.

Here are some of the most common French marriage congratulations:

Tous mes voeux de bonheur. “Best wishes of happiness.”
Toutes mes félicitations pour votre union
Toutes mes félicitations pour votre mariage.
“Congratulations on your union.”
“Congratulations on your wedding.”
(Postcard greeting)

Sincères félicitations et meilleurs voeux de bonheur.

“Sincere congratulations and best wishes of happiness.”

Bouquet on the Ground

“Wait, did you bring the bouquet?”

    → Practice your romantic fluency with our free vocabulary list on Quotes about Love.

8. Funérailles (Funerals)

Some peoples around the world see death as a cheerful event, cause for celebration and rejoicing. French funerals, however, are as grim and depressing as you can expect them to be if you grew up in a western country.

  • Enterrement, or “burial,” is the most common way to go, but crémation, or “cremation,” is also an option.
  • The tradition of veillée funèbre, or a “wake,” is on the decline but still going strong in villages. The modern version is often held in a dedicated rented place (and not in the house of the deceased, like it used to be), and usually not through the night.

Here’s some French condolences messages and French phrases for condolences:

Repose en paix.
Paix à son âme.
“Rest in peace.”
“May he/she rest in peace.”
Toutes mes condoléances. “My condolences.”
(Postcard condolence)

Nous partageons votre douleur et sommes de tout coeur avec vous.

“We share your pain and our hearts go out to you.”

9. Convalescence (Recovery)

Serious illnesses or grave injuries are tragic yet important events for anyone. In France, it’s fairly common for friends and family to visit someone at the hospital, to keep them company or bring them gifts in the hope of helping with their recovery by lifting their spirit.

At the workplace, when someone is away on a long sick leave, their coworkers can write a group card with greetings and wishes.

Bon rétablissement ! “Get well soon!”
[Casual] Prends soin de toi ! “Take care!”
[Formal] Je te souhaite un prompt rétablissement. “I wish you a swift recovery.”

Kids Giving Their Sick Mother a Gift

“Look mom, we found you a new kidney on Craigslist!”

10. Fêtes (Holidays)

Classic French holidays include:

  • Noël (Christmas).
    Most French celebrate it without any religious connotation, but this is still arguably the biggest holiday of the year. Our traditions involve un arbre de Noël (Christmas tree), une crêche (a small nativity scene) in Christian families, une bûche de Noël (log-shaped Christmas cake), and lots of cadeaux de Noël (Christmas gifts), especially for kids.
  • Nouvel an (New Year).
    This one comes a little too close after Christmas’ hangover, but it’s duly celebrated by most French anyway. It’s not as traditional, though, and may take any form, from a family dinner to a restaurant with friends, a romantic walk on the Seine, or a gathering of fireworks enthusiasts.
  • Pâques (Easter).
    Celebrating Easter in France involves bells, des oeufs de Pâques (Easter eggs), and most of all, LOTS of chocolate. It’s common to hide chocolate eggs around the house and/or garden and let the children go on a treasure hunt. Adults gift each other with fancy Belgian chocolate treats.

We have many more holidays! You can find them all on our French Calendar, on FrenchPod101.

A few more celebrations worth mentioning:

  • Halloween started growing in popularity roughly a decade ago, and is now widely celebrated throughout the country.

    Unsurprisingly, our most conservative fellow citizens see it as overly commercial and a threat to our traditions, but it doesn’t prevent the younger generation from throwing Halloween parties and wearing their ghoulish costumes in the street.

    The French Halloween is mainly for adults celebrating at home or in local bars, while children rarely go door-to-door for trick-or-treating.

  • Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in France, and most French don’t even know what it’s about. However, given our love for never-ending dinner and delicious food, I’m sure there’s hope for this tradition to eventually land on our shores.
Joyeux Noël ! “Merry Christmas!”
Bonne année ! “Happy New Year!”
Joyeuses Pâques ! “Happy Easter!”
Poisson d’avril “April’s Fool”
Saint Valentin “Valentine’s Day”

A Christmas Light Display

Joyeux Noël ! (“Merry Christmas!” )

    → Don’t let the Christmas season take you off-guard; learn more festive vocabulary with our free list on Christmas!

11. How FrenchPod101 Can Help You Learn More French

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about the main life events as experienced in France, from birth to birthdays, weddings, and funerals. You’ve also learned the most important French phrases of congratulations, condolences, and well-wishing.

Did I forget any important event that you’ve been through or heard about? Do you feel ready to take part in these defining moments of the lives of your French friends with all the right words and phrases?

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

Remember that you can also use our premium service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching and practice life event phrases with your private teacher. You’ll gain access to assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples, and an experienced tutor to 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.