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

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

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

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

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

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

The Speedometer and Gear Indicator of a Car

Speed up your French studies!

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

1. The Many Factors Involved

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

1 – Your Native Language vs. French

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

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

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

2 – Your Language Learning Experience 

How strong are your language learning muscles?

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

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

3 – Your Motivation

Why are you learning French?

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

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

Someone Buying Pastries at a Shop

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

4 – How Are You Learning?

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

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

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

2. From Beginner to Advanced

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

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

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

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

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

1 – Beginner Level

Let’s start at the beginning, A1.

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

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

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

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

  • Word order
  • Present tense
  • Basic conjugation

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

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

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

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

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

A Woman Studying at Her Laptop

Studying online can be fun with the right tools.

2 – Intermediate Level

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 – Advanced Level

Let’s finish with an advanced level, C1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. French Learning Tools for Every Level

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

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

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

1 – Online Lessons

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

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

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

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

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

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


2 – Private Teachers and Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 – Soft Immersion

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

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

Are you into movies or series?

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

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

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

Are you a gamer?

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

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

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

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

4 – Deep Immersion

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

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

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

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

Someone Walking through an Airport with Their Luggage

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

Le mot de la fin

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

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

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

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

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

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

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French Proverbs – An Insider Look at French Wisdom

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

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

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

An Owl Perched on a Wood Stump

Be wise as a French owl!


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

1. Proverbs About Wisdom

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

#1

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

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

#2

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

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


#3

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

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

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

#4

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

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

#5

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

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

#6

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

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

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

An Old Man Pointing to His Temple

The old dog knows all the tricks.

2. Proverbs About Success

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

#1

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

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

#2

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

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

#3

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

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

#4

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

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

#5

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

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

#6

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

#7

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

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


A Silhouette of Someone Leaping from One Cliff to Another

« À cœur vaillant rien d’impossible. »

3. Proverbs About Life

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

#1

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

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

#2

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

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

#3

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

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

#4

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

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

Firemen Putting Out a Fire

« Il n’y a pas de fumée sans feu. »

4. Proverbs About Family & Friends

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

#1

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

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

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

#2

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

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

#3

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

#4

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

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

#5

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

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

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

Or it can be used pejoratively:

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


Best Friends Hanging Out on the Couch

« Qui se ressemble s’assemble. »

5. A Few More Proverbs for the Road?

#1

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

#2

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

#3

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

#4

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

#5

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

#6

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

#7

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

#8

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

6. Le mot de la fin

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


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

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching and have your private teacher practice with you. They’ll use assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples to help you improve your French skills like never before. Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

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

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10 Places to Visit in Paris, the City of Lights

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

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

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

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

Explorer Paris (“Exploring Paris”)

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

1. Travel Tips

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

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

When?

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

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

Getting Around

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

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

Language

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

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

Sleeping

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

Eating

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

A French Restaurant Called Le Cafe Gourmand

Un restaurant français (“A French restaurant”)


2. The Top 10 Must-See Places in Paris

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

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

1 – Tour Eiffel

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

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

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

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

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

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

La Tour Eiffel, or the Eiffel Tower

La Tour Eiffel

2 – Notre-Dame & Saint Michel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notre-Dame in Paris, France

Notre-Dame de Paris

3 – Musée du Louvre

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

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

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

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

Le Musée du Louvre

Le Musée du Louvre

4 – Jardin du Luxembourg

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

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

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


5 – Montmartre

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

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

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

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

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

Le Moulin Rouge

Le Moulin Rouge
(Photo by Keven LawCC)

6 – Cimetière du Père Lachaise

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

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

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

Le cimetière du Père Lachaise

Le cimetière du Père Lachaise

7 – Le Marais

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

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

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

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

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

8 – Catacombes de Paris 

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

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

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

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

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

Les Catacombes de Paris

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

9 – Parc de Sceaux

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

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

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

Le Domaine de Sceaux

Le Domaine de Sceaux

10 – La Seine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

La Seine

La Seine

3. Places You Might Want to Skip

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

  • L’Arc de Triomphe

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

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

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

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

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

4. Survival French for Travelers

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

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


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


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

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

Le Mot De La Fin

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

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

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

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

Happy learning on FrenchPod101!

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

English Words Used in French: Do You Speak Frenglish?

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

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

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

Menu at a Restaurant

At work, after work, Frenglish is everywhere!

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  1. Frenglish or Loanwords?
  2. Legit Loanwords
  3. Fake Loanwords
  4. Know Your Frenglish
  5. The French Resistance to Anglification
  6. Le Mot De La Fin

1. Frenglish or Loanwords?

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

1 – Le Franglais

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

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

2 – English Loanwords

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

For example: 

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

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

2. Legit Loanwords

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

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

1 – About Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 – About Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 – About Movies

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

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

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

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


4 – More Loanwords

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shopping Center

Faire du shopping (“To go shopping”)

3. Fake Loanwords

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

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

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

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

Le footing“Jogging”

Un camping“Campsite”

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

Un smoking“Dinner jacket” or “Tuxedo”

Un break“Estate car” or “Station wagon”

Le catch“Wrestling”

Un planning“Schedule” or “Work plan”

Un flipper“Pinball machine”

4. Know Your Frenglish

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

1 – Frenglish in Business

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

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

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

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

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

Un meeting corporate (“A corporate meeting”)

2 – Semantic Frenglish

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

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

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

What do we end up with?

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

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

There are also some increasingly popular Frenglish expressions:

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

3 – Syntactic Frenglish

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

Here are a few examples:

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

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

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

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

Customer Relations

Les relations clients (“Customer relations”)

5. The French Resistance to Anglification

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Woman Sending an Email

Envoyer un mail (“To send an email”)

6. Le Mot De La Fin

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

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

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

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

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

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

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

Inspiration On Demand: 25 Famous French Quotes

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

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

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

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

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

1. Quotes About Wisdom

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

#1

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

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

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

#2

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

#3

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

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

#4

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

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

#5

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



A Woman Thinking about the Future of Science

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

2. Quotes About Love

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

#6

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

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

#7

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

#8

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

#9

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

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

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

#10

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

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



A Man Carrying His Girlfriend Near a Waterfall

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

3. Quotes About Time

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

#11

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

#12

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

#13

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

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

#14

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

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

#15

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


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

A Man Panicking because He’s Late for Work

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

4. Quotes About Relationships

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

#16

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

#17

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

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

Here is the full quote: 

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

#18

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

#19

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

#20

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


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

A Girl Comforting Her Friend, Who’s Crying

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

5. Quotes From French Movies

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

#21

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

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

#22

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

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

#23

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

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

#24

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

#25

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


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

Two Women Watching Movies

Time for watching some French movies.

6. Le Mot De La Fin

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

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

Going further, FrenchPod101 also has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings and free resources to boost your studies and keep your French learning fresh and entertaining. Quotes are even better when you can translate them yourself.

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

Happy learning on FrenchPod101!

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.

Get Down to Business in French

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

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

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

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

1. Getting Started

Jobs

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

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

1 – Greetings and Goodbyes

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

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

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

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

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

2 – “Tu” or “Vous”?

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

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

2. Business Words and Phrases

Business Phrases

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

1 – The Company

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

  • Une entreprise
  • Une société

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

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

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

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

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

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

Une entreprise (“Company”)

2 – To Work

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

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

3 – Top Business Words

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

Let’s start with the workforce:

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

The management:

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

And now some departments and geographical terms:

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

Le PDG (“The CEO”)

4 – Talking About Money

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

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

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

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

  • Le chiffre d’affaire (“Turnover”)

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

3. Coworkers and Meetings

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

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

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

1 – Asking a Colleague for Help

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

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

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

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

2 – Thanking or Congratulating

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

3 – Raising Concerns

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

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

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

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


4 – Making Apologies

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

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

It’s all about working through your differences.

5 – Afterwork Mingling

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

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

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


4. Nail a Job Interview

Job Interviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Emails and Letters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Business Calls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Le Mot De La Fin

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

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

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

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching. Your private teacher will help you practice your business French and more, using assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples for you (they can review yours, too, to help improve your pronunciation). 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Business Words and Phrases 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.

22 Ways to Say Goodbye in French

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Do you want to leave a dashing and lasting impression after you’ve met someone? It’s time to work on your grand exit and make sure you choose the right words when leaving the room.

Earlier on this blog, you learned the various ways to say hello and how to introduce yourself. Now it’s time to study how to say goodbye in French when it’s time to part ways. Overall, French really isn’t complicated in that regard, and you could get by using only two expressions. But there’s more to learn if you’re willing to expand your horizon and want to impress your friends with typical French expressions.

In this article, you’ll learn how to say goodbye in French, from fun casual words to formal expressions. Together, we’ll go through the twenty-two most useful ways to say goodbye, with explanations and examples. By the end of this guide, you’ll be ready to walk away with style! Start with a bonus, and download the Must-Know Beginner Vocabulary PDF for FREE!(Logged-In Member Only)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Two Expressions to Rule Them All
  2. Various Ways to Say Goodbye
  3. French Culture: Goodbye Gestures
  4. Le Mot De La Fin

People Waving Goodbye

Ce n’est qu’un au revoir. (“This is not really goodbye.”)

1. Two Expressions to Rule Them All

Do you remember how to say “Hello”? There are many ways to say it, but you can get by with only two words without ever having to use any of the others. Luckily, it’s exactly the same with “Goodbye.”

For almost any formal or informal situation, you can use one of these two expressions:

Au revoir.[Formal](“Goodbye”)
Salut ![Casual](“Bye!”)

When you’re among strangers, at a job interview, in a shop, or leaving a restaurant, you can say: Au revoir. If you’re among friends, family, colleagues, or people you’re generally casual with, you can say: Salut.

But of course, you wouldn’t be reading a complete guide on how to say goodbye if you were looking for the easy way! So let’s dive into the various ways to say goodbye so you’ll be prepared for just about any situation.

2. Various Ways to Say Goodbye

Most Common Goodbyes

1 – Casual Goodbye

In French, casual goodbyes abound. Feel free to use any of the words or phrases listed below with friends and family, or in other informal situations.

Salut ![Casual](“Bye!”)
Interestingly, Salut can be used to mean either “Hello” or “Goodbye.” It’s the Jack-of-all-trades when it comes to goodbyes, and as you interact with French-speakers, you’re bound to hear it often.

Now, let’s have a look at your alternatives when dealing with friends, relatives, colleagues, or other people you know pretty well.

Ciao ! / Tchao ![Casual](“Bye!”)
Both Ciao and Tchao are correct and can be found in French dictionaries, but Ciao is often considered the more correct form. Tchao is only the Frenchified version of the Italian greeting word.

Bye ! or  Bye bye ![Casual](“Bye!”)
Bye has also been integrated into the French dictionary, and is now rather common.

Bisous ![Very casual](“Kisses!”)
This is the most casual form, and it’s equivalent to ending a message with XXX for “Kisses.” We use it with family, partners, and close friends—and it’s gonna sound funny if you use it with people you’re not really intimate with.


A Man Peace Sign

Ciao!

2 – Have a Good One

These are the kind of French goodbye expressions you would use to wish someone a good day, evening, or vacation. 

Bonne journée.[Neutral](“Have a good day.”)
We use this phrase like its English equivalent, referring to the rest of the current day.

Bonne soirée.[Neutral](“Have a good evening.”)

Bon week-end.[Neutral](“Have a good weekend.”)

Bon ___. / Bonne ___.[Neutral](“Have a good ___.”)
This is the blueprint for a variety of custom goodbyes. You can adjust it by adding any day or part of the week, keeping in mind that the adjective bon / bonne (“good”) agrees with the object (the thing that is good). 
  • Bon dimanche. (“Have a good Sunday.”)
  • Bon week-end. (“Have a good weekend.”)
  • Bonne fin de semaine. (“Enjoy the end of the week.”)
    Here, une fin (“end”) is a feminine word, so we would say bonne.

3 – See You!

A tout à l’heure.[Neutral](“See you later.”)
If you translate à tout à l’heure word for word, it would be “to everything at the hour,” which doesn’t make much sense. This is a purely idiomatic expression and the most common way to say “See you later!” in French.

Tout à l’heure is a versatile expression that can be used to say “soon,” “later,” or “in a moment”:
  • Je la verrai tout à l’heure. (“I will see her later.”)
But it can also mean “earlier” / “a moment ago.” However, once placed in context, it’s never confusing:
  • Je l’ai vue tout à l’heure. (“I saw her a moment ago.”)

A toute ![Very casual](“See you!”)
This is a shortened and very casual version of à tout à l’heure.

In the full expression, there’s a liaison between tout and à, making tout sound like toute. To match this sound, we change the spelling to make à toute.

A plus tard.[Neutral](“See you later.”)
Plus tard means “later,” so this basically translates to “until later,” and it’s a mildly casual way to say “See you later.”

You could use it in semi-formal interactions (such as leaving a shop), but it may be a bit too relaxed for serious business and job interviews.

A plus ![Very casual](“See you!”)
This is a shortened and very casual version of à plus tard.

Note that in the full expression, the S at the end of plus is silent, while in à plus, we pronounce it.

A tout de suite.[Neutral](“See you in a bit.”)
Tout de suite means “right now,” so it’s a bit of an exaggeration, like when Spanish-speakers use ahora (“now”) to mean “very soon.”

A bientôt.[Neutral](“See you soon.”)

A demain.[Neutral](“See you tomorrow.”)

A une autre fois.[Neutral](“See you another time.”)

A la prochaine.[Casual](“See you next time.”)
Originally a short version of à la prochaine fois, this phrase has become much more popular than the extended cut, so I would advise using à la prochaine.

A la ___ prochaine.[Neutral](“See you next ___.”)
This template can be used for a variety of “see you” phrases, such as:
  • A la semaine prochaine. (“See you next week.”)
  • A l’année prochaine. (“See you next year.”)


Friends Waving Goodbye to Each Other

A plus ! (“See you!”)

4 – Farewell

Adieu[Vintage & Formal](“Farewell”)
This old-school expression is mainly seen in works of historical fiction or is used sarcastically.

Created around the thirteenth century, the French goodbye adieu comes from à Dieu (“to God”) and is meant to express the idea that you’ll only see each other again when meeting God.

In the professional world, it can also be used in the context of un pot d’adieu or une soirée d’adieu (“a farewell toast” or “a farewell party”) when someone is retiring.

5 – Good Luck

Bonne continuation.[Formal](“All the best.”)
This one doesn’t have a direct translation, but in English, it would look like “Good continuation.” Whatever you’re doing, may you continue it well.

It’s mainly used professionally, at the end of a working collaboration, for instance. The persons parting ways would wish each other bonne continuation for the next steps of their careers. However, you could use it in other situations after you’ve met someone that you’re not expecting to see anytime soon (a fellow tourist on a trip, for example).

Bonne chance.[Neutral](“Good luck.”)
Bon courage.[Neutral](“Best of luck.”)
In English, we use the translation “Good luck” for bonne chance and bon courage, but they’re different.

Bonne chance is literally “Good luck” and implies that there’s an element of chance involved, such as external factors you can’t control.
  • Bonne chance pour ton examen ! (“Good luck for your exam!”)

    When taking an exam, you don’t know what the exact topic will be and you’re not equally prepared for any potential topic that might come up. You’ll need some luck to achieve the best outcome.
Bon courage is based on the word “courage,” so you’re wishing someone strength and bravery. Maybe they’re working on something difficult or tedious, or they’re about to experience pain and discomfort.
In any case, it’s more about them being strong than lucky.
  • Bon courage pour ton opération. (“Best of luck for your surgery.”)
In practice, they tend to be pretty interchangeable, so you could use either one in a given situation.


Man and Woman Chatting Each Other

Bonne chance pour ton entretien ! (“Good luck with your interview!”)

3. French Culture: Goodbye Gestures

Like in many other countries, the most common gesture in France for saying goodbye is to wave. Raise your hand, tilt it left and right, and you’re good to go! But what if you want to get more personal?

1 – “La Bise” : The French Can Also Kiss Goodbye

Have you heard about la bise? The typical air-kissing technique the French are famous for can also be used when saying goodbye.

    ❖ HOW?
    To do la bise (faire la bise), lean forward and touch cheeks with the other person while mimicking a kiss. There’s no actual lips-to-cheek contact during the typical bise, just a slight brush of the cheeks. Then, change cheeks and repeat on the other side.
    ❖ WHO?
    If you’re a woman, you can do the bise with friends, family, or peers, no matter their gender, and vice-versa. It doesn’t mean that you have to, though.

As a man, you can do the bise with female friends, family, peers, or female strangers met in informal contexts. You can also do the bise with your male friends and family, but it usually takes a higher level of intimacy and some people just don’t do it.

Doing la bise when saying goodbye is not as common as it is when saying hello, and if you’re not comfortable, feel free to skip it!

    → If you want to know all about la bise, be sure to check our blog article on How to Say Hello in French. In the last chapter, “The Secret Art of French Kissing,” you’ll find all the details on why, when, and how to do la bise.

2 – A Handshake or a Hug?

The French don’t usually hug to say hello or goodbye. The fact that we don’t even have a word for it speaks volumes about our inclination toward hugging. It’s usually reserved for close family and romantic partners, but some friends might initiate it. Just follow their lead.

Shaking hands, however, is perfectly fine. When you’re not sure whether you should kiss or shake hands, you can’t go wrong with a firm and crisp handshake. Women on the giving or receiving end could be met with a bit of awkwardness, as this is still mainly a masculine habit, but there’s nothing wrong with it.

A Man Kissing a Woman's Hand

When you can’t decide whether you should kiss, hug, or shake hands.

4. Le Mot De La Fin

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about how to say goodbye in French in both casual and formal situations. You’ve also seen several variations of how to say “See you later” and “Have a good one.”

Did I forget any important goodbye words that you know? Do you feel ready to make a grand exit using what you’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. Your private teacher will help you practice your French goodbye phrases and more, using assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples for you—they’ll even review your own recordings to help you improve your pronunciation. 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

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

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

How Hard is it to Learn French (Really)?

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Is French hard to learn, or is it easy? Which parts are harder for foreign learners, and which are easier?  

Whether you’re just contemplating the idea of learning French, or are struggling with something and looking for comfort, you’ve come to the right place.

With 230 million speakers, French is the official language of twenty-eight countries. It’s also a very prominent language in the international business and cultural scenes, making it a must-learn language for anybody interested in foreign cultures.

Overall, French is generally considered to be mildly challenging, but to be honest, it greatly depends on your native language. Students from English-speaking countries will enjoy a big headstart for many reasons that we’ll explain shortly. And if you’re a native speaker of a Romance language (Spanish, Italian, etc.), it’s not even a head start—it’s an unfair advantage!

In this article, I’ll do my best to give the language a fair trial and examine what makes French difficult and what things are easy about it. This knowledge will allow you to assess how hard it truly is to learn French!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning French Table of Contents
  1. The Easy Parts of Learning French
  2. Challenging Parts of Learning French
  3. What are the Best Ways to Get Started?
  4. Why is FrenchPod101 Great for Learning French?
  5. Le Mot De La Fin

1. The Easy Parts of Learning French

A Trio of College Students Having Fun While Learning

It’s easier to learn when you’re having fun!

Is French really that hard to learn? Not according to the FSI (Foreign Service Institute) or the ELC (European Language Center). French consistently scores as “Easy” in these two rankings of the most accessible languages for native English-speakers.

In their language difficulty ranking, the Foreign Service Institute puts French in the top ten easiest languages to learn for English-speakers, alongside notoriously easy languages such as Spanish and Italian. The FSI determines that it should take around twenty-four weeks (~600 hours) for an average student to reach a general professional proficiency (speaking and reading).

Why is that? Let’s go through the main reasons why French is much easier than you might think.

1 – French is a Romance Language

If you’re reading this article, chances are your understanding of English is quite solid already. Good news: this gives you a huge headstart on many things that are typically difficult to learn, such as the Latin alphabet or the core grammatical structures.

And if you’re a native speaker of another Romance language such as Spanish, Portuguese, or Romanian (the list goes on), your luck keeps on coming! For example, the French language is so similar to Spanish that before I ever learned any of it, I was able to read some simple Spanish text and understand a good half of it.

Knowing a Romance language before beginning your French studies also allows you to show off your understanding of complicated technical terms you’d normally have no business knowing—just because these terms are almost identical across Romance languages.

As an English-speaker, if you try to learn an Asian language, such as Mandarin, you’ll be thrown into uncharted waters with nothing to hold on to. Believe me, I tried. The alphabet is different, there are no familiar words or sounds, and the grammar seems completely alien. Sentences can sometimes omit a verb or subject, and it takes a lot of persistence to assimilate the grammar logic. But when learning French, you’ll be on familiar ground.

2 – Lots of Words are Identical in English and French

Many linguists are still arguing about the exact origins of the English language, but you may have noticed how many French words can be found there. It’s all over the place! It’s believed that nearly thirty percent of English words have a French origin.

Any of these words look familiar?

  • Un lion
  • Un dragon
  • Un capitaine
  • La justice
  • Le commerce
  • La musique
  • Une terrasse
  • Une carotte

As you learn French, you’ll truly appreciate this wealth of free vocabulary that you don’t really have to learn. And believe me, there’s a hefty list. English vocabulary has more in common with French than with any other Romance language.

A bit of history?

To be honest, many of these words are technical terms that you’re not likely to use every day. This is because English began as a Germanic language, and as a result, many of English’s core elements are of German roots. These elements include its grammatical structures and the most crucial words (prepositions, auxiliaries, pronouns, and more).

Then, later on, during the reign of William the Conqueror, the first Norman King of England, French began being spoken in court and quickly became fashionable for the upper class to learn. It was spoken in schools and universities, which explains why many of the borrowed French words are scientific and technical terms.

Image of French Nobility with Wigs

Inexplicable vintage French fashion

3 – Grammar Structures are Similar

At first, you might find French grammar confusing, and this is mainly because the word order can differ. However, the basic structures are very similar in English and French!

The French language has subjects, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions, and all that good stuff. I used to take it for granted before I started studying languages from different roots (Asian, Slavic, etc.), and now, I really appreciate little things like having a subject and a verb in my sentences!

Just look at simple sentences like:

  • Je marche doucement.
    “I walk slowly.”
  • Elle a une grande maison.
    “She has a big house.”
  • Nous avons perdu un peu de poids.
    “We have lost a bit of weight.”

It’s no coincidence if you can translate these sentences word-for-word.

And as you can see, whether we’re looking at adjectives or adverbs, they behave in very similar ways. Only the word order will differ in some cases.

4 – Conjugation is Much Easier Than it Seems

Has your first contact with French conjugation been a shock? Did you get anxious looking at all the specific endings, as well as the plethora of convoluted tenses? I get it, it’s intimidating. But don’t let it scare you away!

Sure, the verb endings will be challenging at first, until you realize that a vast majority of them behave in the exact same way. 

Like in any other language, the most common verbs are also the most irregular (just think about “to be” or “to go” in English…it’s quite a mess). You’ll have to learn these irregular conjugations before you get to the easy ones, but at least you know there’s a nice and cozy plateau at the top of this hill. 🙂

And what about all the tenses? What if I told you that out of the seventeen French tenses, you only need five to deal with any situation on a daily basis (and even less in spoken French)! Almost all of the complicated stuff is for literary purposes.

So, what do you think? Is French hard for English-speakers to learn, after all?

2. Challenging Parts of Learning French

Now, let’s have an honest look at the more complex aspects of the French language and how you can soften the blow with some quick and dirty tricks.

1 – False Friends are Worse than Open Enemies

Remember those thirty percent of English words with a French origin? Well, it turns out that it’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s great to have this free vocabulary. But on the other hand, many similar—or even identical—words have different meanings! 

We call them faux-amis (“false friends”).

For example: J’aime le pain et le poisson. 

This doesn’t mean: “I love pain and poison.” It means: “I love bread and fish.”

Similarly, you should not confuse “Preservative” (Conservateur) with Préservatif (“Condom”) or you might make embarrassing mistakes at a fancy Sunday dinner.

Here are some of the worst offenders:

You should not confuse…With…
Une librairie (“A bookshop”)“A library” (Une bibliothèque)
Une fabrique (“A factory”)“Fabric” (Le tissu)
Sensible (“Sensitive”)“Sensible” (Raisonnable; Sensé)
Actuellement (“Currently”)“Actually” (En fait; Effectivement)
Attendre (“To wait”)“To attend” (Assister à)
Prétendre (“To claim”)“To pretend” (Faire semblant)

    → Do you want to know more? Here’s an extensive list of the French-English false friends.
Fish

“Hi, I’d like three pounds of poison, please!”

2 – Everything Has a Gender

If your native language has gendered nouns, like the majority of European languages, this aspect of French should not particularly frustrate you. However, this is something English-speakers often find confusing.

I mean, why is le soleil (“the sun”) masculine and la lune (“the moon”) feminine? What about une voiture (“a car”) being feminine while un vélo (“a bicycle”) is masculine? 

If you were to take a deep linguistic dive into the language’s history and its roots, you’d probably find a lot of good reasons for all of this. But for now, let’s just say it’s arbitrary.

Oh, and that’s not it. Gender has an influence on many parts of the language, such as the ending of verbs and adjectives, pronouns, or articles. For example:

  • Ma voiture est verte. (“My car is green.”)
  • Mon vélo est vert. (“My bicycle is green.”)

Look how the possessive pronouns ma and mon agree in gender with the noun. For the same reason, the adjective verte ends with an extra “e” in its feminine form.

3 – Pronunciation is Tough

Now, things are getting officially hairy. French pronunciation is tough, and there’s no way to sugarcoat it. One thing that might make you feel better about it is that it’s much easier than English pronunciation.

Yes, things like silent letters, the infamous guttural R, and there being around twelve ways to spell any given sound can make words in French hard to pronounce—but at least it’s consistent. For example, there are specific letter combinations that almost always create the same sound. Once you get used to the rules, you can start to rely on them.

  • Un chateau / Un bateau / Un blaireau / De l’eau
    All of these words end with the same letters AND the same [o] sound.

Sure, if you dig deep enough, you’ll always find some exceptions here and there, but nothing remotely close to the level of inconsistency found in English pronunciation. Just think about how many different sounds are produced using the letter combination “ough.” The answer is eleven.

  • “Cough” / “Though” / “Through” / “Plough”
    And the list goes on.

Check out this video if you’re not convinced yet.

Back to French, there are a few common pronunciation mistakes and pitfalls to avoid. It will take some practice and getting used to, but nothing you can’t handle. 🙂

  • The French guttural [R]
  • Our three infamous nasal sounds
  • The two “ay” sounds, each with countless possible spellings
  • The many traps and snares of silent letters
    → Don’t miss our complete French Pronunciation Guide to learn about these common mistakes, the thirty-six sounds of the French language, and how to produce them all, with lots of examples and study material.
A Woman Getting Her Mouth Checked by a Doctor

Careful not to hurt your tongue speaking French!

4 – Weird Spelling and Twisted Accents

As I mentioned earlier, the French way of spelling words is not exactly straightforward. Each sound can be spelled in several different ways, and we use a set of special characters that don’t exist in English, such as ç, é, ê, and à, just to name a few.

Here’s a list of all the special French characters:

  • Accent aigu: é
  • Accent grave: à, è, ù
  • Accent circonflexe: â, ê, î, ô, û
  • Tréma: ë, ï, ü
  • Cédille: ç

The good news is that out of the twelve possible combinations of accentuated characters (and this is already not an overwhelming number), only a few are commonly used, while the rest are rather marginal. 

On a regular basis, you’ll deal mostly with é, è, ê, and à, and that’s it!

    → If you’re not afraid of the more complex aspects of the language, jump right into our list of the most common mistakes you make while learning French!

3. What are the Best Ways to Get Started?

Have you decided it may not be that hard to learn French, after all? Are you ready to start your language-learning journey, but don’t know where to begin? 

Here’s a brief overview of where you can start and how to make your learning endeavors successful! 

1 – Where to Start?

When learning a new language, your priority should be to learn a tight package of useful words and structures that you can use in as many sentences and situations as possible. 

Quickly learning the core features of the language—such as pronouns, auxiliary verbs, and the most common adjectives—will help you get started with practical tools you can use in almost every sentence. Learning these things early on will also allow you to recognize some important keywords while listening.

For starters, you could check our Top 100 articles and make yourself some flashcards with your personal top twenty verbs, nouns, and adjectives. This will provide you with a solid foundation to play with.

2 – Practice Makes Perfect

There’s no need to stuff yourself with vocabulary if you don’t create the opportunities to use it. I would recommend that you start making sentences from day one, using whatever basic words you’ve learned.

You can start small, with a modest Subject + Verb + Object structure, and then keep building upon it. Simple sentences will serve as a base for countless more complex statements.

For example:

  • Elle aime. (“She loves.”)
  • Elle aime les chats. (“She loves cats.”)
  • Elle aime beaucoup les chats. (“She loves cats a lot.”)
  • Elle aime beaucoup les gros chats. (“She loves fat cats a lot.”)

Every new word is an opportunity to practice your sentence-building skills! Not only will building sentences this way help you remember the word by putting it into context, but you’ll also be practicing French grammar and conjugation at the same time.

Image of a Man Walking a Trail with a Backpack and Map

Learning is a journey, not a destination.

3 – Speak From Day 1

You should take every single opportunity to practice, whether you’re living or traveling in France, or learning from home. In case of the latter, we recommend that you find a teacher or tutor whom you can practice with (perhaps using our MyTeacher program!).

You don’t need many words or a thorough understanding of French grammar to communicate. It’s fine to speak dirty French for a few months, as long as you get to talk. You can always refine your French by learning the grammar later on, but you don’t need any of it to get started.

No native speaker ever learned their language using grammar books. First, we learn by imitation, trials, and errors. Only later can we truly learn about the rules and how they apply to what we already empirically know.

4 – Exposure is Key

Last but not least, I believe exposure is the most important aspect of learning French (or any language, really). Immerse yourself in the language by listening to music or podcasts, watching movies and series, and reading articles or books.

This will help you practice your reading and listening skills, and will also teach you loads of vocabulary. At first, most of this will be passive vocabulary: words you can understand but not use. But as you keep bumping into these words, structures, or expressions, you’ll get to the point where you internalize them and can use them yourself.

If you only learn the language academically, it will always seem cold and abstract. But if you expose yourself to it through thought-provoking articles or entertaining material, it will create emotional connections and help you solidify your knowledge much more effectively than by just repeating exercises.

    → Have a look at our list of the best French series on Netflix, and you’ll find many suggestions for a fun immersion experience into the French culture!

4. Why is FrenchPod101 Great for Learning French?

To summarize, I would say that French is rather easy to learn but hard to master, which makes it fun and interesting in the long run, yet not too frustrating for students. And whether you want to learn the basics or refine your advanced knowledge of the language, FrenchPod101 has a lot to offer.

1 – An Integrated Approach

First of all, we offer an integrated approach. Instead of artificially splitting lessons between reading practice and listening practice, and so on, we blend several skills into every lesson. 

This makes learning French more natural and more effective. You’ll practice your listening skills with podcasts and recordings while reading text materials and completing writing exercises—all in one conveniently tight package.

2 – A Massive Offering of Free Content

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced learner, FrenchPod101 offers a huge depth and breadth of content for all levels. From vocabulary lists to customizable flashcards, you’ll find a variety of free tools that can be tailored to your needs. Some of these resources can even be downloaded and used offline.

After you complete the assessment test, you’ll be directed to the level that matches your needs. From there, you’ll find a wide variety of pathways to follow, depending on the type of French you’re interested in (for casual encounters, professional interactions, romance, etc.).

3 – Premium Personal Coaching

As you go through the lessons on FrenchPod101.com, you’ll practice your reading, listening, and writing skills. Now, if you spice it up with the Premium MyTeacher service, you can also practice speaking and improve your pronunciation thanks to the feedback from your private tutor.

MyTeacher grants you the services of a French teacher to guide you through your journey of mastering the language of Love. You can send your teacher text or audio, get personalized exercises and assignments, and much more. Together, you’ll focus on the areas you need to work on the most and give your studies a serious boost.

A Woman Weightlifting While Being Spotted by a Coach

Flex these brain muscles with your personal coach on MyTeacher!

5. Le Mot De La Fin

In this guide, you’ve learned about the easiest and most challenging aspects of the French language and why it’s easier than you might think—from a common alphabet to a wealth of shared vocabulary, similar grammar structures, and only a few truly useful tenses.

Did we forget an important aspect of the language you’d like to know about? Do you feel ready to dive right in and start speaking right from the start using whatever few words you know?

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

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

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

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The Most Common French Mistakes to Avoid as a Learner

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Did you know that even native French speakers make lots of mistakes when using their own language? Some grammatical mistakes are so common that they become the new normal.

Idiomatic expressions such as au temps pour moi have been incorrectly spelled autant pour moi for so many decades that most people don’t even know they’re doing it wrong. And don’t get me started on speakers improperly using the conditional case instead of the indicative. 

My point is that it’s no big deal to make French mistakes, as long as you can express yourself. As you come closer to fluency, you’ll have time to figure out what mistakes you’re still making and how to address them. And this is exactly what this guide is about.

In this article, we’ll list the most common mistakes people make when learning French, as well as some more advanced French mistakes for experienced students. We’ll cover a wide range of categories, from false friends to gender agreement, pronunciation, and word order. By the end of this guide, you should be better able to spot and correct French mistakes, some of which are very easy to fix.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Gender and Agreement
  2. Faux-amis
  3. Conjugation
  4. Word Order
  5. Word Choice
  6. Pronunciation
  7. The Most Embarrassing French Mistakes
  8. Le Mot De La Fin

1. Gender and Agreement

What’s the most common mistake non-native speakers make? Gender agreement, without a doubt!

This is one of those typical French mistakes that allow us to pick out foreign learners, because these are mistakes that natives don’t usually make.

As you probably already know, French nouns—including inanimate objects, ideas, and abstract concepts—are either masculine or feminine.

For example, une chaise (“a chair”) is feminine, while un banc (“a bench”) is masculine.

Why is la route (“the road”) feminine but le trottoir (“the sidewalk”) masculine? It’s just plain arbitrary, but what really matters is: How do you know which gender a noun is?

Feminine endings:
Most words ending in -e or -ion
  • Une mine, une journée, une centaine
  • Une fusion, une addition
Except words ending in -age, -ege, , -isme
Masculine endings:
Words ending in -age, -ege, , -isme
+ Everything else
  • Un bandage, un thé, un séisme
  • Un soleil, un porc, un bain

How can you avoid making gender mistakes? I recommend that you always learn new nouns with their article.

  • Soleil Un soleil, Le soleil (“A sun”)
  • Lune Une lune, La lune (“A moon”)

2. Faux-amis

The origin of the English language is still fiercely debated among linguists, but you’ve probably noticed that there are many French words in English. If you start digging, you’d be surprised how many you can find! Nearly thirty percent of English words could be of French origin.

In a way, this is really convenient when you learn the language, because you can understand lots of words before you even study them:

  • Un prince (“a prince”)
  • Une giraffe (“a giraffe”)
  • Un régime (“a regime”)
  • Une salade (“a salad”)

And the list goes on!

On the other hand, you should be extra careful about “false friends”: Similar words with wildly different meanings. These words might make you really confused when you see the French shopping for pain and poison! 

  • Un pain (“a loaf of bread”)
  • Un poisson (“a fish”)

Want to avoid making inconvenient French word mistakes? Here are some of the trickiest false friends you should keep in mind:

You should not confuse…With…
Actuellement – CurrentlyActually – En fait / Effectivement
Effectivement – Actually / IndeedEffectively – Efficacement
Eventuellement – PossiblyEventually – Finalement
Sensible – SensitiveSensible – Raisonnable / Sensé
Compréhensif UnderstandingComprehensive – Complet
Grave SevereA grave – Une tombe

There are also false friends among verbs!

You should not confuse…With…
Attendre – To waitTo attend – Assister à
Demander – To askTo demand – Exiger
Achever – To complete / To finishTo achieve – Atteindre
Décevoir – To disappointTo deceive – Tromper
Injurier – To insultTo injure – Blesser
Prétendre – To claimTo pretend – Faire semblant
Supplier – To begTo supply – Fournir
Retirer – To withdrawTo retire – Prendre sa retraite
Résumer – To summarizeTo resume – Reprendre
Rester – To stayTo rest – Se reposer


And of course, beware of faux-amis among nouns!

You should not confuse…With…
Le pain – BreadPain – La douleur
Une librairie – A bookshopA library – Une bibliothèque
Un store – A blind / A window shadeA store – Un magasin
Un habit – ClothesA habit – Une habitude
Le hasard – ChanceHazard – Danger
Une fabrique – A factoryFabric – Le tissu
Une issue – An exitAn issue – Un problème
Le pétrole – OilPetrol – L’essence
Une cave – A cellarA cave – Une grotte

Do you want more? Here’s a massive list of the French-English faux-amis.

A Boy about to Punch Another Boy in the Face

Nobody likes false friends!

3. Conjugation

This is another set of mistakes French learners make regularly. Conjugation is not the easiest part of French, and has its fair share of traps. Let’s shed some light on the most common offenders.

1 – Reflexive Verbs

Are you familiar with reflexive verbs? They’re the verbs starting with se:

  • Se lever (“To stand up”)
  • Se souvenir (“To remember”)

For example, to use the verb se dépêcher (“to hurry”), you’d say: Je me dépêche. (“I hurry.”) Literally, this means “I hurry myself.”

Here are some more conjugation examples:

  • Elle s’habille. (“She dresses.” – Literally: “She dresses herself.”)
  • Nous nous asseyons. (“We sit.” – Literally: “We sit ourselves.”)

A common mistake among students of French is to skip the pronoun (me, te, se, nous, vous, se) and directly attach the subject to the verb:

  • Ils dépêchent Ils se dépêchent. (“They hurry.”)
  • Vous habillez Vous vous habillez. (“You dress.”)

Most of the time, it just sounds incorrect. But in some cases, it can mean something different and lead to misunderstandings:

  • Je me lave. (“I wash.”)
  • Je lave. (“I clean.”)

2 – Passé Composé: Être or Avoir?

The passé composé is one of the most useful tenses in spoken French. It’s used to express things that happened in the past and are over now. It’s formed using an auxiliary + a conjugated verb.

PrésentPassé composé
Je pars. (“I leave.”)Je suis parti. (“I have left.”)
Je dors. (“I sleep.”)J’ai dormi. (“I have slept.”)

But wait… In the first example, we formed it using the auxiliary verb être, while in the second example, we used avoir. How do you know which one to choose?

We generally use avoir, except in these two cases:

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

For example: se calmer (“to calm down”)

  • Présent: Je me calme. (“I calm down.”)
  • Passé composé: Je me suis calmé. (“I have calmed down.”)

2) We also use être for a few other verbs, mostly those that reflect a change of direction, state, or movement.

Some examples: 

  • venir
  • aller
  • entrer
  • sortir
  • arriver
  • partir
  • tomber
  • monter
  • rester
  • retourner
  • descendre
  • passer


4. Word Order

Many common French language mistakes have to do with using the incorrect word order. Here are a few of the errors you should watch out for: 

1 – Misplacing Adjectives

French adjectives can be placed before or after the noun they describe, and a common mistake is to place them on the wrong side of the noun. 

The majority of French adjectives are placed AFTER the noun:

  • Une maison bleue (“A blue house”)
  • Un objet bizarre (“A strange object”)

However, some of the most common French adjectives are placed BEFORE the noun:

  • Une grande maison (“A big house”)
  • Un bel object (“A beautiful object”)

In most cases, if you misplace an adjective, the sentence will simply sound “off.” But it can also create confusion in situations where an adjective’s position changes its meaning: 

  • Un ancien hôpital (“A former hospital”)
  • Un hôpital ancien (“An ancient hospital”)


2 – Inverting the Verb and Subject When Speaking

Do you know how academic teaching and old-school grammar books keep promoting a weird vintage style that makes you sound like a dusty vinyl? The kind of teaching program that makes you say “Excuse me sir, would you please be so kind so as to fetch me the check, please?” when locals just say “Check please.”

In French, we have various ways to ask questions. One for oral interactions, one for writing only, and one for both. The written form consists of inverting the verb and pronoun, as in:

  • Voulez-vous du café ? (“Do you want coffee?”)
  • As-tu bien dormi ? (“Did you sleep well?”)

Sadly, many French teachers keep promoting this form without warning their students that they’ll often sound awkward if they use it in oral conversations. The following lines sound much more natural:

  • Vous voulez du café ? (This is just as polite, as it also uses the formal vous.)
  • Tu as bien dormi ?

    → Do you want to know more about questions? Check out our complete guide on the most useful French questions and how to answer them!

A Butler Carrying a Tray with Flowers and Dishes

Only if you dress like this guy, should you invert verbs and subjects.

3 – Misplacing Pronouns

To keep it simple, let’s just say that French pronouns have the unpleasant habit of moving around the sentence instead of sticking to the position of what they’re replacing.

  • David mange cette pomme. (“David is eating this apple.”)
  • David la mange. (“David is eating it.”)
  • David parle aux voisins. (“David is talking with the neighbors.”)
  • David leur parle. (“David is talking to them.”)

It gets pretty rough when you have multiple pronouns in one sentence. They all need to be in the right place, otherwise the sentence will make no sense.

  • Sophie donne une pomme à David. (“Sophie gives an apple to David.”)
  • Elle la lui donne. (“She gives it to him.”)
  • Elle lui donne la.
  • Elle lui la donne.

    → The placement of pronouns is a very complicated topic, so I won’t go too far into the specifics. But feel free to dive into our comprehensive guide on French pronouns on FrenchPod101.com.

5. Word Choice

As you get more and more comfortable with the language, picking the right word for any situation is what will get you from mastery to fluency.

1 – Jour vs. Journée

Here, it’s a matter of time unit versus duration.

In a nutshell, we use jour when we’re talking about a specific moment or counting the days:

  • C’est le jour de Noël. (“It is Christmas day.”)
  • Je t’appellerai dans deux jours. (“I’ll call you in two days.”)

And we use journée when we’re talking about a duration of time:

  • J’ai dormi toute la journée. (“I’ve slept all day.”)
  • C’est une très belle journée. (“It’s a very beautiful day.”)

This same rule of thumb applies to An / Année, Matin / Matinée, and Soir / Soirée.

2 – Pour vs. Par

Many learners confuse pour and par, and for good reasons! It’s not always easy to pick the right one, so let’s summarize what each one is used for:

► POUR

  • Intention: C’est pour toi. (“It is for you.”)
  • Destination: Nous partons pour le Canada. (“We’re leaving for Canada.”)
  • Duration: Nous partons pour deux semaines. (“We’re leaving for two weeks.”)
    Here, we could also say: Nous partons pendant deux semaines.
  • Instead of: Je paye pour toi. (“I’m paying for you.”)
  • Percent: Dix pour cent. (“Ten percent.”)

In most cases, if you’re translating a sentence using “for,” you should probably use pour:

  • Merci pour ton aide. (“Thank you for your help.”)
  • Merci de m’aider. (“Thank you for helping me.”)

► PAR

  • During: Ne sortez pas par ce temps. (“Don’t go out with that weather.”)
  • To start/end with: Je commence par toi. (“I’m starting with you.”)
  • Frequency: Trois fois par mois. (“Three times a year.”)
  • Distribution: Deux cookies par personne. (“Two cookies per person.”)

In many cases, you’d translate “by” as par:

  • Je le prend par la main. (“I take him by the hand.”)
  • Par hasard (“By change”)
A Group of Coworkers Having Champagne at a New Year’s Party

Nothing like an awkward party on New Year’s Day! (Le jour de l’an)

3 – Y vs. EN

Ready for more pronouns? There are two that just keep confusing students!

Y

Y is used to replace: 

  • à [quelque chose] (“to [something]” / “about [something]”) 
  • 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’m thinking about my future.”)
    = J’y pense. (“I’m thinking about it.”)
  • Je crois en la science. (“I believe in science.”)
    = J’y crois. (“I believe in it.”)

EN

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 two 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.”)

4 – C’est vs. Il est

C’EST

To identify a thing or a person, we use c’est (or the plural ce sont) + noun.

  • C’est un livre. (“That’s a book.”)
  • Ce sont des amis. (“These are friends.”)
  • C’est un cousin. (“He’s a cousin.”)
  • C’est Sophie, ma voisine. (“This is Sophie, my neighbor.”)

IL EST

To describe a thing or a person, we use il est / elle est (ils sont / elles sont in plural) + adjective or profession.

  • C’est un livre. Il est cher. (“This is a book. It’s expensive.”)
  • Ce sont des livres. Ils sont chers. (“These are books. They are expensive.”)
  • C’est un bon ami. Il est très gentil. (“This is a good friend. He’s really nice.”)
  • C’est Sophie. Elle est belge. Elle est professeur. (“This is Sophie. She’s from Belgium. She’s a teacher.”)

5 – Connaître vs. Savoir

Connaître is about knowledge, and it refers to being acquainted with a place or a person:

  • Je connais cet endroit. (“I know this place.”)
  • Je connais cette personne. (“I know this person.”)
  • Je connais cette théorie. (“I know this theory.”)

Savoir is more like “to know (a fact),” such as things you know by heart or abilities:

  • Je sais que tu es là. (“I know that you’re here.”)
  • Je ne sais pas ce que je fais. (“I don’t know what I’m doing.”)
  • Je sais danser. (“I know how to dance.”)
Matrix

Je connais le Kung Fu. (“I know Kung Fu.”)

6. Pronunciation

French is full of challenging sounds for foreign students, such as the French guttural [R], the [U], and a collection of difficult nasal sounds. However, these are not what I would call the trickiest aspects of French. They just take time and practice to master.

For now, I’ll focus on three seemingly trivial things that I’ve seen many students struggle with: the final silent letters, the liaisons, and the French words for “more” and “not anymore.” These are some of the most common French pronunciation mistakes, so you should definitely pay attention here.

1 – Final Letters

French words often end with consonants. Some are silent, others are not, and it’s hard to predict whether you should pronounce them or not.

Let’s talk about the CaReFuL letters.

If a French word ends with C, R, F, or L (consonants from the word CaReFuL), the final letter is usually pronounced. Otherwise, the final letter is silent. This rule is not without exceptions, but when in doubt, you can rely on this trick.

Here are some examples of words where the final letter is pronounced:

  • Un truc (“A thing”)
  • Un dortoir (“A dormitory”)
  • Le chef (“The boss”)
  • Avril (“April”)

There’s one big exception to the CaReFuL rule: verbs ending with the letters “ER” have a silent R:

  • Aimer (“To love”)
  • Manger (“To eat”)
  • Tuer (“To kill”)

All other consonant letters are usually not pronounced:

  • Froid (“Cold”)
  • Le poing (“The fist”)
  • Un coup (“A hit”)
  • Le marais (“The swamp”)

2 – The Art of Liaison

When one word ends with a consonant and the next starts with a vowel sound (but not necessarily a vowel), we sometimes do what we call a liaison (linking). This link between two words is what makes the sentence “flow.”

  • Vous avez (“You have”) is pronounced [vou zavé]
  • Ils ont (“They have”) is pronounced [il zon]
  • Les enfants (From the letter S to the sound [en], we do the liaison)
  • Les hommes (Hommes starts with a consonant but with a vowel sound, so we do the liaison)

And sometimes, you don’t make the liaison, as in:

  • Les chiens ont aboyé. (“The dogs have barked.”)
    We don’t make the first liaison between chiens and ont. However, you link ont and aboyé. It’s pronounced : [Lé chien on taboyé].
  • David et Alain (“David and Alain”)
    There is never a liaison with et.

→ Everything you need to know about silent letters, liaison, and more, is explained in all its detailed glory in our Full Guide on French Pronunciation!

A Woman Examining Lipstick Marks on a Man’s Shirt

Il a une liaison. (“He’s having an affair.”)

3 – Plus vs. Plus

Depending on the context, plus means either “more” or “not anymore.”

You generally pronounce the S when it has a positive meaning (more):

  • J’ai besoin de plus de temps. (“I need more time.”)
  • J’en veux toujours plus. (“I always want more.”)
  • Servez-nous plus de vin. (“Serve us more wine.”)

And you don’t pronounce the S when it has a negative meaning (not anymore):

  • Je n’en peux plus. (“I can’t take it anymore.”)
  • Je ne veux plus dormir. (“I don’t want to sleep anymore.”)
  • Il n’est plus là. (“He’s not here anymore.”)

With some exceptions! (It wouldn’t be French, otherwise.)

1) When positive plus is directly followed by an adjective that starts with a consonant sound, the S is not pronounced:

  • C’est plus drôle. (“It’s more fun.”)
  • C’est plus fort. (“It’s stronger.”)

2) When positive plus is directly followed by an adjective that starts with a vowel sound, the S is pronounced like a [Z]:

  • Elle est plus intelligente. (“She’s more intelligent.”)
  • C’est plus intéressant. (“It’s more interesting.”)

7. The Most Embarrassing French Mistakes

To finish on a lighter note, here are some of the worst cases of mistranslation that could put you in a shameful situation. Save yourself the embarrassment and try to remember them!

You should not confuse…With…
She’s good. – Elle est douée.Elle est bonne. – She’s really hot.
Literally, “good” translates to bonne in the feminine form.

However, French is full of graphic slang and bonne, in the specific context of describing a woman, actually means “hot,” but in a much more sexual way than its English equivalent.

As a result, if you hear your friend’s sister playing the violin and want to say that she’s really skilled, don’t say: Ta soeur est vraiment bonne ! (“Your sister is hot as hell!”)

You should not confuse…With…
I envy you. Je t’envie.J’ai envie de toi. – I want you.
“To envy” simply translates to envier.

However, “to want” translates to avoir envie de.

The difference is as subtle as it is important!

If your friend is showing you his new shirt, describing how nice and cozy it feels, and you comment with J’ai envie de toi, your relationship might take an unexpected turn.

You should not confuse…With…
Preservative ConservateurPréservatif – Condom
This is a prime example of faux-ami, lurking in the dark, waiting to put you in embarrassing situations!

When having dinner with your French hosts, you should probably NOT say: 

Dans mon pays, on met beaucoup de préservatifs dans la nourriture. (“In my country, we put lots of condoms in the food.”)

One Woman Looking in Confusion at Another Woman, Who’s Covering Her Mouth

Wait, what did you just say?

8. Le Mot De La Fin

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about the most frequent mistakes in French, from common word misplacement to pronunciation, conjugation, and more advanced French mistakes. Did I forget any important topic that you’d like to read about?

It’s no use trying to remember it all, but if you read this article once in a while, try to keep as many as you can in a corner of your mind. Try to spot the mistakes you keep making, so you can work on them prioritarily. Just take it at your own pace. =)

FrenchPod101 also has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings and other 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 correct these common mistakes (and more) using assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples. Your teacher can review your own recordings as well, to help you improve your pronunciation.  

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

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

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

A Complete Guide on Questions in French & How to Answer Them

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Just imagine: You’re going out with a group of native French-speakers. This is the perfect opportunity to make friends and practice your French in a real-life situation! But how do you break the ice? What should you say if you run out of topics, or if your French isn’t solid enough to fuel the conversation?

The universal answer is: ask questions! Among countless benefits, being able to ask questions in French will help you avoid awkward silences by keeping the conversation going. It will also make the other person feel like you want to know more about them or value their opinion, thus making you more likeable. Asking questions you’re genuinely interested in opens a world of new information and cultural insight! 

Another perk is that you don’t have to talk too much; just sit back and listen. Don’t think about your next question or how to steer the conversation back toward yourself. Just enjoy the ride and dive into whatever the other person has to say.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything about asking questions in French, from the question words to a collection of common topics with comprehensive examples. By the end of this article, you’ll not only know how to ask questions in French, but also how to answer them!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Golden Rules of French Questions
  2. The 8 Most Common Question Topics
  3. Le Mot De La Fin

1. Golden Rules of French Questions

A Meal with Friends

Insightful answers can take you a long way!

In our daily lives, we have plenty of opportunities to ask questions, all day long: “Can I have a coffee?” / “At what time is that meeting, again?” / “What’s up, Sophie?” / “Is that seat taken?” / “How much is that product?”

We don’t even think about it, but a hefty portion of our social interactions is based on questions and answers—and this portion grows out of proportion as a foreigner in a strange land, where you need to learn the rules and make sense of unusual things.

Before we go any further, let’s look at the basic rules of how to formulate questions in French.

1 – The 3 French Question Patterns

We’ll start with this simple declarative sentence:

  • Tu parles Français. (“You speak French.”)

Here are the three ways you can turn it into “Do you speak French?”

1. Parles-tu Français ?
This is mostly for written French, and it’s unlikely that you’ll hear it in spoken conversations. We simply invert the verb and the pronoun. This pattern only works with pronouns.

2. Est-ce que tu parles Français ?
This works fine in speaking or writing, making it the most polyvalent of the three forms. Est-ce que literally means “Is it that.” So, our sentence would translate to: “Is it that you speak French?”

3. Tu parles Français ?
This is the casual spoken form that you’ll rarely see in writing, and it’s super-easy to form. This is the exact same sentence as the declaration; we simply change the intonation (the pitch goes up at the end).


2 – French Question Words

When? / Where? / How? / Why? / How much? / How many? / What?

Let’s have a look at how these questions look in French!

In this table, I will put all possible question forms, but you can usually use any of the three structures.

Quand
(“When”)
Quand mangeons nous ?
Quand est-ce qu’on mange ?
On mange quand ?
(“When are we eating?”)

(“Where”)
Tu vas où ?
(“Where are you going?”)
Comment
(“How”)
Comment ça marche ?
(“How does it work?”)
Pourquoi
(“Why”)
Pourquoi est-ce qu’il fait ça ?
(“Why is he doing this?”)
Combien
(“How many,” “How much”)
Combien ça coûte ?
(“How much is it?”)
QueQu’Quoi
(“What”)
Que fais-tu ?
Qu’est-ce que tu fais ?
Tu fais quoi ?
(“What are you doing?”)


A Man Looking a Blueprint

Comment ça marche ? (“How does it work?”)

2. The 8 Most Common Question Topics

There’s such a wide range of basic French questions and answers that it would be impossible to list them all. But in this section, we’ll go through the most typical questions that you might be asked or want to ask your French pals. 

For each topic, you’ll find examples of possible answers so that you can start imagining how you would deal with it yourself. A good exercise is to try and come up with answers of your own, using the vocabulary and structures you’ll learn today.

First Encounter

1 – Personal Information

The French usually don’t go too far with intimate questions when meeting someone for the first time. Questions about marital status, for instance, could be deemed a bit too personal for a first encounter. 

That said, here are a few questions you can’t go wrong with:

How old are you?

  • Vous avez quel âge ?
  • Tu as quel âge ?

    J’ai 32 ans. (“I’m 32.”)

There’s no strict rule about it, but it’s commonly accepted in French etiquette that it’s a bit rude to ask a woman her age, just like you shouldn’t ask about her weight. It may not apply when the other person has no reason to feel insecure about it, but when in doubt, you’d better not ask.

The difference between the casual tu and formal vous is pretty much straightforward.

What’s your name?

  • Comment tu t’appelles ? [Casual]
  • Tu t’appelles comment ? [Casual]
  • Comment vous appelez-vous ? [Formal]
    Je m’appelle Sophie. (“My name is Sophie.”)

Do you have brothers and sisters?

  • Vous avez des frères et soeurs ?
  • Tu as des frères et soeurs ?
    J’ai un frère et deux soeurs. (“I have a brother and two sisters.”)
    J’ai une grande soeur et un petit frère. (“I have a big sister and a little brother.”)
Twin Sisters

J’ai une soeur jumelle. (“I have a twin sister.”)


2 – Where are You From?

Being a foreigner in France, you’ll often be met with this question. Some people might try to guess, and some will just ask you; it’s bound to spark some interest and follow-up questions.

Asking this question to a French native while in France also works. They’ll answer about their hometown or region, and you may learn about interesting local traditions or exciting dishes!

Where are you from?

  • Vous venez d’où ?
  • Tu viens d’où ?
  • Tu es d’où ?
  • Tu es de quelle nationalité ?

    Foreign answers
    Je suis Japonais. (“I’m Japanese.”) [Male]
    Je suis Japonaise. (“I’m Japanese.”) [Female]
    Je viens du Japon. (“I’m from Japan.”)

    Local answers
    Je viens de Paris. (“I’m from Paris.”)
    Je suis Parisienne. (“I’m a Parisian.”) [Female]
    Je viens d’Alsace. (“I’m from the Alsace region.”)

What country are you from? 

  • De quel pays venez-vous ?
  • Tu viens de quel pays ?
    Je suis Russe. (“I’m Russian.”)
    Je viens de Russie. (“I’m from Russia.”)

What city are you from? 

  • De quelle ville venez-vous ?
  • Tu viens de quelle ville ?
  • Tu habites dans quelle ville ? (“In what city are you living?”)
    Je suis de Toulouse. (“I’m from Toulouse.”)
    Je suis Toulousain. (“I’m a Toulousian.”)
    Je viens de Tokyo. (“I’m from Tokyo.”)
    J’habite à Niigata. (“I’m living in Niigata.”)

Where is it?

  • Où est-ce que ça se trouve ? (“Where is it located?”)
  • C’est où ? (“Where is it?”)
  • C’est par où ? (“Where about is that?”)
  • C’est dans quel coin ? (Literally: “In what corner is that?”)
    C’est sur la côte ouest. (“It’s on the West coast.”)
    C’est à côté de Londres. (“It’s near London.”)
    C’est près de la frontière Canadienne. (“It’s close to the Canadian border.”)
Children with Different Races

Tu viens d’où ? (“Where are you from?”)


Introducing Yourself

3 – Do You Speak ___?

Another foreigner-friendly topic. You may want to ask if the other person speaks English, just as you might be asked whether you speak French or not. This question can lead to a few potential follow-ups on studies, travels, and levels of proficiency.

Do you speak [Language]? 

  • Vous parlez Français ? (“Do you speak French?”)
  • Est-ce que tu parles Anglais ? (“Do you speak English?”)
    Je parle un peu Français. (“I speak a bit of French.”)
    Je parle Anglais couramment. (“I speak English fluently.”)
    Comme ci comme ça. (“So-so.”)
    J’ai des rudiments de Japonais. (“I have Japanese basics.”)

How long have you been studying French?

  • Vous étudiez le Français depuis combien de temps ?
  • Tu étudies le Français depuis combien de temps ?
    J’ai étudié 2 ans à l’université. (“I studied for two years at the university.”)
    J’ai commencé il y a 6 mois. (“I started six months ago.”)

What languages do you speak?

  • Quelles langues parlez-vous ?
  • Tu parles quelles langues ?
  • Tu parles quelles autres langues ? (“What other languages do you speak?”)
    Je parle Espagnol, Polonais et Roumain. (“I speak Spanish, Polish, and Romanian.”)
    Je parle juste Anglais et un peu Français. (“I only speak English and a bit of French.”)

4 – Concerning Hobbies

The French are about working hard but partying harder, and we tend to think that our hobbies define us more than our jobs. As a result, you may be asked about your tastes and favorite artists early in a conversation. 

Asking these kinds of questions is a great way to show your interest in the other person and find common ground through shared interests. Following are some ways to ask and answer this type of question in French.

What are your hobbies? 

  • Quels sont vos loisirs ? 
  • Tu as quoi comme hobbies ?
  • Quel est ton passe-temps préféré ? (“What’s your favorite pastime?”)
  • Tu fais quoi pendant ton temps libre ? (“What do you do in your free time?”)
    J’aime aller au cinéma. (“I like going to the cinema.”)
    J’adore les jeux vidéos. (“I love video games.”)
    Je fais de la photo et du montage vidéo. (“I do photography and video editing.”)

Do you do sports? 

  • Vous faites du sport ?
  • Tu fais du sport ?
  • Tu fais quoi comme sport ? (“What sports are you doing?”)
    Je fais de l’escalade et de la plongée. (“I do climbing and diving.”)
    Je joue au Tennis. (“I play tennis.”)

What kind of [entertainment / art] do you like? 

  • Quel genre de film aimez-vous ? (“What kind of movies do you like?”)
  • Tu écoutes quel genre de musique ? (“What kind of music do you listen to?”)
  • Quel est ton acteur préféré ? (“Who’s your favorite actor?”)
    J’aime les films d’horreur. (“I love horror movies.”)
    J’écoute surtout du Blues et de la Deep House. (“I listen mostly to Blues and Deep House.”)
    Mon acteur préféré est Mads Mikkelsen. (“My favorite actor is Mads Mikkelsen.”)
A Man Painting

J’aime la peinture. (“I love painting.”)

    → You’ll find many more words to talk about your hobbies on our free vocabulary list, with audio recordings to practice your pronunciation.

5 – Let’s Talk Business

Even though we try to find a healthy balance between work and personal life, our professional dealings still take up an important part of our lives (and many hours during the week). As a result, don’t be surprised if it comes up early in a conversation when meeting strangers.

The French love to complain about their jobs: how they’re working too much for an insufficient salary, how their boss is a jerk and their company is a frustrating disarray. Please, don’t hold it against them!

What is your profession?

  • Dans quoi travaillez-vous ? (“In what field are you working?”)
  • Tu bosses dans quoi ? (“What’s your job?”)
  • Tu fais quoi ? (“What do you do?”)
  • Tu fais quoi dans la vie ? (“What do you do?” but literally “What do you do in life?”)

This last one sounds a bit silly and people use it with a smile, but it’s a great way to make sure your question is understood. 

If you’re in a bar and you just say Tu fais quoi ? the other person could be caught off guard and answer “Nothing, why?” or “Huh…drinking a beer?”

    Je suis programmeur. (“I’m a programmer.”)
    Je bosse dans l’informatique. (“I work in IT.”)
    Je travaille dans l’aviation. (“I work in aviation.”)
    Je travaille à Decathlon. (“I work at Decathlon.”)

What do you study?

  • Vous faites des études dans quel domaine ? (“In what field are you studying?”)
  • Tu étudies quoi ? (“What are you studying?”)
  • Tu étudies où ? (“Where are you studying?”)
  • Tu apprends quoi ? (“What are you learning?”)
    Je fais des études en sociologie. (“I study sociology.”)
    J’étudie le droit international. (“I study international law.”)
    J’étudie à l’université de la Sorbonne. (“I study at the Sorbonne University.”)
A Woman Solving Mathematics Problem

J’étudie les mathématiques. (“I study mathematics.”)

    → You don’t know how to talk about your profession in French? Stop by our free vocabulary list on Jobs.

6 – Do You Like ___?

What better way to get to know someone than to find out what they like and dislike?

As a visitor, you may get the regular questions on how you appreciate the country or city you’re visiting, but you can use the same structure with any topic, from trivial to intimate!

In France, it’s usually fine to say when you don’t like something. Obviously, out of respect for your hosts, you might want to refrain from throwing mud at what they offer, but overall, compared to other countries, we can be rather blunt when expressing our opinion.

How do you like this place? 

  • Comment trouvez-vous Paris ? (“How do you like Paris?”)
  • Comment tu trouves Toulouse ? (“How do you like Toulouse?”)
  • Tu aimes Paris ? (“Do you like Paris?”)
  • Tu te plais en France ? (“Do you enjoy France?”)
    Oui, j’adore Paris. (“Yes, I love Paris.”)
    Oui, mais c’est un peu bruyant. (“Yes, but it’s a bit noisy.”)
    C’est pas mal. (“It’s not bad.”)
    Non, pas trop. (“No, not so much.”)

Do you like that thing? 

  • Vous aimez la cuisine Française ? (“Do you like French cuisine?”)
  • Est-ce que tu aimes le vin rouge ? (“Do you like red wine?”)
  • Tu aimes les films avec des gladiateurs ? (“Do you like Gladiator movies?”)
  • Est-ce que tu aimes la musique Française ? (“Do you like French music?”)
    (It’s okay, you don’t have to say yes. I understand!)
    Oui, j’aime beaucoup ! (“Yes, I like it a lot!”)
    Non, je n’aime pas trop. (“No, I don’t really like it.”)
    Non, je déteste ça. (“No, I hate it.”)
    Oui, ça dépend. (“Yes, it depends.”)
    (The perfect vague, non-committal answer to get yourself out of trouble!)

7 – Have You Been There?

Other basic French questions to a traveler, visitor, or expat are those about where you’ve been. When people have been to exotic places, they’re usually eager to talk about it and discuss landscapes, climates, and customs. It’s an interesting and safe topic for when you want to know more about someone’s past adventures.

Have you been to this place? 

  • Êtes-vous allé à Lyon ? (“Have you been to Lyon?”)
  • Tu es déjà allé en Ecosse ? (“Have you ever been to Scotland?”)
  • Tu as voyagé en Amérique du sud ? (“Have you traveled to South America?”)
    Oui, je connais bien. (“Yes, I know it well.”)
    J’y suis allé l’année dernière. (“I went there last year.”)
    J’y suis allé il y a longtemps (“I went there a long time ago.”)
    Non, je n’y suis jamais allé. (“No, I’ve never been there.”)

Have you visited this place?

  • Tu as visité le musée du Louvre ? (“Did you visit the Louvre museum?”)
  • Tu connais le pont de l’Alma ? (“Do you know the Alma Bridge?”)
  • Tu es déjà allé sur les quais de Bercy ? (“Have you ever been to the docks of Bercy?”)
    Oui, j’y suis allé une ou deux fois. (“Yes, I have been there a couple of times.”)
    Non, pas encore. (“No, not yet.”)
    Je ne suis pas sûr. (“I’m not sure.”)

8 – How Much? 

The final set of basic questions and answers in French you’ll for-sure need are those about costs and prices.

How much is it?

  • Combien ça coûte ? (“How much does it cost?”)
  • C’est combien ? (“How much is it?”)
  • Je vous dois combien ? (“How much do I owe you?”)
    12 euros, s’il vous plait. (“12€ please.”)
    5 euros, s’il te plait. (“5€ please.”)

How much is this? 

  • La pinte est à combien ? (“How much is a pint?”)
  • Celui-ci coûte combien ? (“How much is this one?”)
  • Vous le faites à combien ? (“How much do you ask for this?”)
    Une pour 8€, deux pour 15. (“One is 8€, two for 15.”)
    Ça fait 20€, s’il vous plait. (“It will be 20€, please.”)

Man Calculating on Something

Combien ça coûte ? (“How much is it?”)

Le Mot De La Fin

In this guide, you’ve learned the bread and butter of asking questions in French, from the question words to the most common topics, with plenty of examples.

Did we forget any important topic you’d like to learn about? Do you feel ready to get out there and express yourself, using everything you’ve learned today?

A good way to practice is to take each of the questions we’ve covered today and imagine how you would answer them. Maybe you’ll need to do some research on the sentence structures or key words, but it will be a great way to learn how to talk about yourself. 

Learning how to talk about personal topics is always worth the time, as you can use this knowledge in any occasion, with your friends or people you’ve just met.

Make sure to explore FrenchPod101, as we have plenty of free resources to help you practice your grammar and learn new words. Our vocabulary lists are also useful for revisiting new words and practicing their pronunciation.

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

Happy 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.