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A Finger-Licking Guide to French Food & Cuisine

Food

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

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

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

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

1. Must-Try French Dishes

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

1 – Tartiflette

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

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

Tartiflette

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

2 – Steak Tartare

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

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

Steak Tartare

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

3 – Cassoulet

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

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

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

Cassoulet

Un cassoulet

4 – Crêpes

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

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

Crêpes

Des crêpes

5 – Endives au jambon

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

Belgian Endives

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

6 – Coq au vin

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

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

Coq au Vin

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

7 – Moule marinières

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

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

8 – Fondue savoyarde

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

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

Fondue Savoyarde

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


2. Unique French Products

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

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

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

1 – “Wine is bottled poetry.”

(Robert Louis Stevenson)

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

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

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

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

Wine

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

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

(Avery Aames)

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

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

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

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

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

Cheese and Wine

Un plateau de fromages (“A cheese platter”)

3 – “Tout est bon dans le cochon.

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

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

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

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

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

4 – Happiness is a Fresh Baguette

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

Here are the golden rules of baguetiquette:

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

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

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

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

Des baguettes (“Baguettes”)

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

3. Food Vocabulary

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

1 – Talking About Food

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

2 – All About Cooking

Ingredients

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

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

Utensils

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

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

Cooking verbs

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

3 – Ordering in a Restaurant

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

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

Restaurant with Lots of Costumers

Un restaurant français (“A French restaurant”)

4. Frogs and Other Misconceptions

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

1 – The Frog Fallacy

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

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

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

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

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

2 – The Croissant Conspiracy

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

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

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

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

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

Croissants

Des croissants (“Croissants”)

3 – French Toast, French Bread, French Whatever

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Le Mot De La Fin

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

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

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

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching. Your private teacher will use assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples to help you excel in your studies. He or she will also review your work and help you improve your pronunciation. 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

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Inspiration On Demand: 25 Famous French Quotes

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

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

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

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

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

1. Quotes About Wisdom

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

#1

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

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

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

#2

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

#3

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

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

#4

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

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

#5

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



A Woman Thinking about the Future of Science

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

2. Quotes About Love

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

#6

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

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

#7

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

#8

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

#9

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

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

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

#10

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

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



A Man Carrying His Girlfriend Near a Waterfall

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

3. Quotes About Time

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

#11

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

#12

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

#13

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

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

#14

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

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

#15

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


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

A Man Panicking because He’s Late for Work

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

4. Quotes About Relationships

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

#16

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

#17

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

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

Here is the full quote: 

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

#18

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

#19

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

#20

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


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

A Girl Comforting Her Friend, Who’s Crying

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

5. Quotes From French Movies

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

#21

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

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

#22

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

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

#23

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

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

#24

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

#25

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


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

Two Women Watching Movies

Time for watching some French movies.

6. Le Mot De La Fin

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

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

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

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

Happy learning on FrenchPod101!

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Get Down to Business in French

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

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

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

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

1. Getting Started

Jobs

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

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

1 – Greetings and Goodbyes

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

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

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

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

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

2 – “Tu” or “Vous”?

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

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

2. Business Words and Phrases

Business Phrases

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

1 – The Company

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

  • Une entreprise
  • Une société

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

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

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

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

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

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

Une entreprise (“Company”)

2 – To Work

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

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

3 – Top Business Words

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

Let’s start with the workforce:

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

The management:

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

And now some departments and geographical terms:

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

Le PDG (“The CEO”)

4 – Talking About Money

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

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

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

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

  • Le chiffre d’affaire (“Turnover”)

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

3. Coworkers and Meetings

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

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

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

1 – Asking a Colleague for Help

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

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

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

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

2 – Thanking or Congratulating

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

3 – Raising Concerns

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

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

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

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


4 – Making Apologies

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

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

It’s all about working through your differences.

5 – Afterwork Mingling

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

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

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


4. Nail a Job Interview

Job Interviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Emails and Letters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Business Calls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Le Mot De La Fin

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

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

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

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

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

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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!

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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!

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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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Speak from Day 1 – The Top 10 French Sentence Patterns

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What’s the best way to learn a foreign language? To speak it as early as you can! Are you going to achieve this by stuffing yourself with tedious grammar rules, barren conjugation tables, or endless vocabulary lists? Not likely.

A smarter approach is to quickly pick up on the most common and useful French sentence patterns—the kind that will allow you to communicate effectively in most day-to-day situations with your local friends or colleagues. Sure, it won’t allow you to express subtle thoughts on complicated topics. But it should cover a wide range of interactions and help you practice on a regular basis without being frustrated when you can’t say something as vital as “I like cheese.”

In this article, you’ll learn everything about the 10 most useful French sentence patterns, from making the most basic statement to asking questions, as well as expressing what you want or what you’ve done. And I promise you that once you’re comfortable with just these 10 basic French sentence patterns, you’ll be able to communicate more efficiently than after a hundred pages of grammar books!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. A is B
  2. It Is
  3. I Want
  4. I Need To
  5. I Like, I Love
  6. I’m Doing it Right Now
  7. I’ve Just Done It
  8. I’m Going to Do It
  9. Asking Questions
  10. Asking for Permission
  11. Le Mot De La Fin

An Architect Sketching a Design

Be the architect of your French sentences!

1. A is B

First on our French sentence list is how to describe something or someone, using nouns or adjectives to give it substance. To do this, we simply use the verb être (“to be”). You can find details about its conjugation right here.

  • Paul est mon ami. (“Paul is my friend.”)
  • Ce vin est un Saint Emilion. (“This wine is a Saint Emilion.”)
  • Julie est ma copine. (“Julie is my girlfriend.”)
  • Bastien était mon patron. (“Bastien was my boss.”)
  • Les tomates sont des fruits. (“Tomatoes are fruits.”) – But are they, really? The jury is still out.

Now, here’s how it looks when we describe something or someone using an adjective:

  • Paul est beau. (“Paul is handsome.”)
  • Cette journée est importante. (“This day is important.”)
  • Julie est très gentille. (“Julie is really kind.”)
  • Bastien était jeune. (“Bastien was young.”)
  • Cette voiture est neuve. (“This car is brand-new.”)

    → Learn many more useful adjectives in our article about the Top 100 most common French adjectives. It’s available for free on FrenchPod101.com.

Vegetables on Shelves

Les tomates sont des légumes. (“Tomatoes are veggies.”)

2. It Is

Now that we’ve talked about “A is B,” there won’t be anything shockingly difficult here. But it is such a common French sentence structure that we need to see it in more detail.

C’est (“it is”) uses the verb être, and it can be used in a wide range of situations to describe either a thing, a situation, or an action.

  • C’est super ! (“It’s great!”)
  • C’est très intéressant. (“It’s very interesting.”)
  • C’est gentil, merci. (“It’s kind, thank you.”)
  • C’est assez dangereux. (“It’s rather dangerous.”)
  • C’est trop tard. (“It’s too late.”)


3. I Want


Sentence Patterns

Anyone will tell you how important it is that you know what you want, but how do you talk about it in French? Let’s find out.

We use the verb vouloir (“to want”), and it works very similarly to how it does in English, with the indicative mood for something you WANT and the subjunctive mood for something you WOULD LIKE.

  • Je veux (“I want”)
  • Je voudrais (“I would like”)

You’ll find the full conjugation table for vouloir right here.

  • Je veux un café. (“I want a coffee.”)
  • Je veux te voir. (“I want to see you.”)
  • Je veux que tu sois là. (“I want you to be there.” Literally: “I want that you would be there.”)
  • Elle voudrait une bière. (“She would like a beer.”)
  • Je voudrais venir demain. (“I would like to come tomorrow.”)
  • Je voudrais que tu chantes. (“I would like you to sing.” Literally: “I would like that you would sing.”)

And let’s not forget “I don’t want,” as the French have no problem saying they don’t want something!

  • Je ne veux pas venir. (“I don’t want to come.”)
A Woman Holding Her Hands Out to Say No

Je ne veux pas venir. (“I don’t want to come.”)

4. I Need To

What’s more important than the things you want? The things you need!

Expressing your needs is something you’re likely to do on a daily basis: at work (I need more time; I need a new computer; I need friendlier customers), at home (I need a nap; I need to wash the dishes; I need an enormous fondue savoyarde and a bottle of pinot noir), or with friends (I need a beer; I need a cigarette; I need to kiss that girl tonight).

There are several ways to express your needs:

  • J’ai besoin de (“I need,” or literally “I have need of”)
J’ai besoin + NominalJ’ai besoin d’un café. (“I need a coffee.”)
J’ai besoin + Infinitive verbJ’ai besoin de boire un café. (“I need to drink a coffee.”)
  • Je dois (“I must,” “I need to”)
Je dois + Infinitive verbJe dois boire un café. (“I need to drink a coffee.”)
  • Il me faut (“I need”) 

This one doesn’t really have a literal translation. It uses the verb falloir (“to have to”), conjugated with il (“he”). In a sentence like this, il is used as an impersonal pronoun, just like in the sentence Il pleut (“It rains”).

Il me faut + NominalIl me faut un café. (“I need a coffee.”)

Technically, you could also say: Il me faut boire un café, but it’s overly sophisticated and would make people smile. You can use it in writing, though.

Here are some more French sentence examples for expressing needs:

  • J’ai besoin de me reposer. (“I need to rest.”)
  • Je dois te parler. (“I need to talk to you.” / “I must talk to you.”)
  • Il me faut plus de temps. (“I need more time.”)
  • Nous avons besoin d’une réponse. (“We need an answer.”)
  • Il nous faudrait une nouvelle télé. (“We would need a new TV.”)


A Man Yawning While Working Llate at Night

J’ai besoin de dormir. (“I need to sleep.”)

5. I Like, I Love

Our desires and needs being satisfied, let’s talk about things we love.

The main thing you should know about “I like” and “I love” in French, is that we have one verb for both. You heard me: aimer can translate as “like” or “love,” depending on the context, and we have different ways to express them.

J’aime bien (“I like”)

Literally: “I like well,” this is for what you find quite enjoyable. You’re not crazy about it or ready to do anything to have it. You just like it, plain and simple.

  • J’aime bien la bière, mais je préfère le cidre. (“I like beer, but I prefer cider.”)
  • J’aime bien ce film. (“I like this movie.”)

J’aime (“I like” / “I love”)

This is the gray area. You can use aimer for things you “love” or “like” in English. It’s often in the middle, but not always; you’ll sometimes have to read the situation to find out.

  • J’aime le fromage. (“I like cheese.”)

Here, I’m not saying it’s my favorite thing and I love it so much, but it’s stronger than j’aime bien.

  • Je t’aime. (“I love you.”)

J’adore (“I love”)

When j’aime isn’t enough—when you’re talking about something you’re really fond of, like one of your favorite foods or a movie you could watch over and over—then you could use the verb adorer.

  • J’adore la tartiflette ! (“I love tartiflette!”)
  • J’adore cet album. (“I love this album.”)

What about people? 

When it comes to people, should you say j’aime or j’aime bien? The answer is rather simple:

  • Family, best friend, and romantic partner: J’aime.
  • Friends and acquaintances: J’aime bien.

Here are a few examples to help you make sense of it:

  • J’aime mes parents. (“I love my parents.”)
  • Elle aime Nicolas. (“She loves Nicolas.” / “She’s in love with Nicolas.”)
  • J’aime bien Kévin, il est sympa. (“I like Kévin, he’s nice.”)
A Baker Holding a Large Tray of Croissants

J’aime les croissants. (“I like croissants.”)

6. I’m Doing it Right Now

This French sentence construction uses a verb equivalent to the English participle: verb + ING, in sentences like “I’m eating” or “She’s sleeping.”

In many cases, you could simply use the indicative present:

  • Je mange. (“I’m eating.”)
  • Elle dort. (“She’s sleeping.”)

But if you want to stress the fact that this is an ongoing process, the structure is a little bit more complicated. For this, we use: être en train de (literally: “to be in the process of”).

  • Je suis en train de manger. (“I’m eating now.”)
  • Elle est en train de dormir. (“She’s sleeping now.”)
  • Nous sommes en train d’emménager. (“We are moving in now.”)

And before you ask, it doesn’t mean that I’m eating in the train or she’s sleeping in a train. None of this has to do with the railway network!


Sentence Components

7. I’ve Just Done It

Another hugely popular French sentence pattern is Je viens de (“I’ve just”). Literally, it means “I come from” / “I’m coming from,” and indeed, you’re just “coming from” this last action, in a way.

  • Je viens de dormir. (“I’ve just slept.”)
  • Je viens de manger. (“I’ve just eaten.”)

You can make it even more immediate by adding juste (“just”) or even tout juste (literally: “all just”).

  • Je viens juste de dormir. (“I’ve just slept now.”)
  • Je viens tout juste de manger. (“I’ve just eaten right now.”)

8. I’m Going to Do It

Similarly, you’ll want to know how to talk about something you’re about to do. Luckily, there won’t be anything complicated here, as this sentence is formed exactly like in English, with the verb aller (“to go”).

  • Je vais dormir. (“I’m going to sleep.”)
  • Elle va manger. (“She’s going to eat.”)
  • Nous allons bientôt partir. (“We’re going to leave soon.”)

Just like in English, it has this double meaning of “I’m about to” and “I’m moving toward,” but with context, it never creates any confusion.

In spoken French, this structure is very often used to talk about the future, much more often, actually, than the future tense itself. As a result, this might be the most important pattern on this list!


A Tired Man Drinking Coffee

Je viens de me lever. (“I’ve just got out of bed.”)

9. Asking Questions

Especially as a foreigner, we can’t stress enough the importance of learning how to form questions. 

Whether you’ll be looking for a place, a person, or a word, chances are you’re gonna spend a lot of time asking questions. Let’s see the most popular French patterns for that.

We’ll start from this simple declarative sentence:

  • Tu aimes les chats. (“You love cats.”)

There are mainly three ways to turn this into “Do you love cats?”

  1. Aimes-tu les chats ?
  2. Est-ce que tu aimes les chats ?
  3. Tu aimes les chats ?

#1 is barely ever used in spoken French, but is popular in writing.

#2 and #3 are equally common, and you should ideally master both. There’s not much difference in meaning, except that #2 makes clear from the start that you’re gonna ask a question, while #3 only expresses it at the end (thanks to the intonation).

  1. Aimes-tu les chats ?

Nothing difficult here. We’re simply inverting the verb and the pronoun.

It would be the same with any verb or pronoun, but it only works when the subject is a pronoun.

  • Voulez-vous du vin ? (“Do you want wine?”)
  • Allons-nous dormir ? (“Are we going to sleep?”)
  • Est-elle partie ? (“Is she gone?”)
  • Mange-t-il ici ? (“Is he eating here?”)

Did you notice this weird t- in the last sentence? We use it with the pronouns that start with a vowel sound, such as il, elle, ils, and elles, to make the sentence flow smoothly and avoid having an awkward transition from vowel to vowel.

  1. Est-ce que tu aimes les chats ?

Est-ce que literally means “is it that.” So, our sentence would translate to: “Is it that you love cats?” It’s invariable regardless of the verb or subject, and it works with anything, not just pronouns.

  • Est-ce que vous voulez du vin ? (“Do you want wine?”)
  • Est-ce que nous allons dormir ? (“Are we going to sleep?”)
  • Est-ce qu’elle est partie ? (“Is she gone?”)
  • Est-ce qu’il mange ici ? (“Is he eating here?”)
  1. Tu aimes les chats ?

This one is really straightforward. Simply take the declarative sentence and end it with an interrogation mark. We don’t use it in formal writing, but very often in spoken French with the right intonation.

A Gray Kitten with Blue Eyes

Of course I love cats. Who could resist these eyes?

Now, what if I want to ask questions about What, Where, When, How, or Why?

Let’s take a look at each of the three forms with the simple sentence: Tu manges. (“You eat.”)

“What are you eating?”Que manges-tu ?Qu’est-ce que tu manges ?Tu manges quoi ?
“Where are you eating?”Où manges-tu ?Où est-ce que tu manges ?Tu manges où ?
“When are you eating?”Quand manges-tu ?Quand est-ce que tu manges ?Tu manges quand ?
“How are you eating?”Comment manges-tu ?Comment est-ce que tu manges ?Tu manges comment ?
“Why are you eating?”Pourquoi manges-tu ?Pourquoi est-ce que tu manges ?Pourquoi tu manges ?

And last but not least, here’s how you can stress a question, like you would do in English with “Right?” or “Isn’t it?”

  • Tu aimes les chats, non ?
  • Tu aimes les chats, n’est-ce pas ?
  • Tu aimes les chats, hein ?

This is a declarative phrase, followed by a short question. Non ? is probably the most common.


10. Asking for Permission

And finally, going to France, you might want to work on your first impression by following the well-known French etiquette. 

Luckily, being polite isn’t rocket science, and with only a few set French phrases, you’ll get through any daily situation! These phrases are:

  • “Can I ____?”

Just like we explained in section #9, there are three ways you can ask this question. The first one is only for written French, while the other two are equally common. We use the verb pouvoir (“can”).

1. Puis-je avoir un verre d’eau ? (“Can I have a glass of water?”)
2. Est-ce que je peux avoir un verre d’eau ?
3. Je peux avoir un verre d’eau ?

  • “Please”

S’il vous plaît (“please”) literally means: “If it pleases you.” It might sound very fancy, but it’s actually the simplest way we have to say “please.” With vous (formal “you”), it’s the formal way to address strangers, the elderly, or business partners.

S’il te plaît (“please”) uses tu (casual “you”), and it’s the casual form to address kids, family, friends, or colleagues.

For example, in a restaurant:

  • Je peux avoir un verre d’eau, s’il vous plaît ? (“Can I have a glass of water, please?”)

And if you’re visiting a friend:

  • Je peux avoir un verre d’eau, s’il te plaît ? (“Can I have a glass of water, please?”)
A Woman Thinking in Front of a Blackboard

10 French sentence patterns, endless possibilities.

11. Le Mot De La Fin

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about the most useful French sentence patterns, from basic French sentences to questions, polite requests, and expressing what you love or want.

Did we forget any important pattern you would like to know about? Do you feel ready to start talking to random strangers using everything you’ve learned today?

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

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

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

100 Must-Know French Adverbs

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Could you imagine a novel written without any adverbs? It would feel terribly bland and boring, devoid of flavor and lacking substance. You wouldn’t have characters walking awkwardly or talking softly; they couldn’t stare suspiciously or ambiguously. They could only gaze upon the world with flat eyes.

Luckily, writers as well as speakers have a wide collection of adverbs at their disposal to spice things up. French adverbs describe where, when, how, and much more. They can express the feelings and perspective of the speaker and make any description tremendously more lively and colorful, just like adjectives do in their own way—starting with this very sentence!

French adverbs are not particularly tricky, but they still hold a few secrets which we’ll unfold together. In this article, we’ll cover French adverb placement, their formation, and most importantly, we’ll give you an extensive list of the 100 most useful French adverbs to know.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in French Table of Contents
  1. French Adverbs User Manual
  2. The 100 Most Useful French Adverbs
  3. How FrenchPod101 Can Help You Learn More French
Woman Enchanted with a Book She’s Reading

Can you feel the magic of adverbs washing over you?

1. French Adverbs User Manual

1 – What are they?

Adverbs are a type of word that works together with a verb, an adjective, or another adverb to change its meaning or make it more precise. Basically, they describe verbs, adjectives, or fellow adverbs.

Here are some examples of French adverbs:

  • Doucement (“Softly”)
  • Sérieusement (“Seriously”)
  • Furieusement (“Furiously”)

And here’s how they combine with the verb parler (“to speak”):

  • Je parle doucement. (“I speak softly.”)
  • Je parle sérieusement. (“I speak seriously.”)
  • Je parle furieusement. (“I speak furiously.”)

With just one word, you completely change the tone of the sentence and create a whole different mood.

2 – What are they made of?

In French, just like in English, adverbs are often based on adjectives. More specifically, they’re based on the feminine form of the adjective. 

Do you remember how French adjectives have masculine and feminine forms? If not, be sure to check our previous article on the 100 Must-Know French Adjectives!

Here’s an example of the masculine vs. feminine forms of French adjectives: 

  • Doux / Douce (“soft”)
  • Sérieux / Sérieuse (“serious”)

Now, here’s how to go about forming French adverbs from adjectives: 

Feminine adjective + ment = Adverb

  • Douce (“Soft”) >> Doucement (“Softly”)
  • Sérieuse (“Serious”) >> Sérieusement (“Seriously”)
  • Rapide (“Quick”) >> Rapidement (“Quickly”)

Then, like in English, there are a few exceptions to this rule.

Adjectives ending with -i are formed like this:

Masculine adjective + ment = Adverb
  • Vrai (“Real”) >> Vraiment (“Really”)
Adjectives ending with -ent or -ant are formed with:

Masculine adjective – nt + mment = Adverb
  • Fréquent (“Frequent”) >> Fréquemment (“Frequently”)

And of course, there are the rebellious ones that don’t follow any rules:

  • Bon (“Good”) >> Bien (“Well”)
  • Mauvais (“Bad”) >> Mal (“Badly”)

Finally, many common adverbs in French are not created from adjectives. You’ll find plenty of them in our list.

Scientists Working in a Lab

What are these mysterious adverbs? Let’s find out!

3 – Where do they live?

Now, where do adverbs go in French sentences? Luckily, this is very similar to English.

When adverbs modify verbs, they usually come AFTER the verb.

  • Je parle doucement. (“I speak softly.”)
  • Elle mange lentement. (“She eats slowly.”)
  • Nous travaillons sérieusement. (“We work seriously.”)

When adverbs modify adjectives or adverbs, they come AFTER the verb and BEFORE the adjective / adverb.

  • C’est vraiment bien. (“It’s really good.”)
  • Il est souvent absent. (“He’s often absent.”)
  • Ils sont plutôt intelligents. (“They are rather intelligent.”)

Top Verbs

2. The 100 Most Useful French Adverbs

1. French Adverbs of Time (When?)

1

Tard
“Late”
C’est trop tard.
“It is too late.”

2

Tôt
“Early”
Je me lève tôt.
“I wake up early.”

3

Bientôt
“Soon”
Nous arriverons bientôt.
“We will arrive soon.”
Bientôt literally means “Well early.”

4

Déjà
“Already”
Tu as déjà mangé ?
“Have you eaten already?”

5

Hier
“Yesterday”
Je ne l’ai pas vu depuis hier.
“I haven’t seen him since yesterday.”

6

Aujourd’hui
“Today”
Il fait beau aujourd’hui.
“It’s sunny today.”
Why is this word so weird? It has a long and interesting story, but to keep it short:

Au +‎ jour +de +‎ hui, literally means “on the day of today.”

Hui isn’t used anymore and originally comes from the Latin word hodie.

7

Demain
“Tomorrow”
Il va pleuvoir demain.
“It’s going to rain tomorrow.”

8

Longtemps
“A long time,” “Long”
Ça ne prendra pas longtemps.
“It won’t take long.”
Longtemps is simply the combination of long (“long”) + temps (“time”).

9

Longuement
“At length”
Ils en ont parlé longuement.
“They talked about it at length.”

10

Brièvement
“Briefly”
Je vais expliquer brièvement les règles.
“I will briefly explain the rules.”

11

Maintenant
“Now”
Nous partons maintenant.
“We leave now.”

12

Avant
“Before”
C’était mieux avant.
“It was better before.”

13

Après
“After”
J’irai après le travail.
“I will go after work.”

14

Encore
“Again,” “Still”
Ils reviendront encore et encore.
“They will come back again and again.”

Elle vit encore à cette adresse ?

“She still lives at this address?”

15

Enfin
“At last”
J’ai enfin terminé !
“I’ve finished at last!”

16

Ensuite
“Then”
On va ensuite le mettre au four.
“Then, we’re going to put it in the oven.”
Another quick tip for this one: une suite means “sequel” or “follow-up.”

17

Précédemment
“Previously”
Revenons sur les problèmes mentionnés précédemment.
“Let’s go back to the previously mentioned issues.”

18

Actuellement
“Currently”
Vous ne pouvez actuellement pas acheter ce produit.
“You can’t currently buy this product.”
This is what we call a “false friend.” Although it looks like the English word “actually,” it has a different meaning. “Actually” would translate to en fait.

To make things even more confusing, “currently” comes from the same root as couramment which has yet a different meaning (“commonly”). I think I need an Aspirin!

19

Dernièrement
“Lately”
Je fume beaucoup dernièrement.
“I smoke a lot, lately.”
Dernièrement comes from the word dernier (“last”) but it doesn’t mean “lastly.” This would be enfin or finalement.

20

Soudain
“Suddenly”
Il a soudain arrêté de fumer.
“He has suddenly stopped smoking.”

21

Alors
“Then”
Il a alors commencé à boire.
“He then started drinking.”
People in Formal Work Clothes Crossing a Finish Line

J’ai enfin terminé ! (“I have finished, at last!”)

2. French Adverbs of Frequency (How Often?)

22

Jamais
“Never”
Je n’oublierai jamais.
“I will never forget.”

23

Parfois
“Sometimes”
Elle mange parfois dehors.
“She sometimes eats outside.”

24

Rarement
“Rarely”
Je vais rarement au cinéma.
“I rarely go to the cinema.”

25

Trop
“Too much”
J’ai trop mangé…
“I’ve eaten too much…”
It’s also very common to use trop with the meaning of “so,” either in a positive or negative context: 

C’est trop bien ! (“It’s so good!”)
C’est trop chiant… (“It’s so annoying…”)

26

Souvent
“Often”
Tu fais souvent la fête !
“You often have parties!”

27

Habituellement
“Usually”
Il se couche habituellement vers minuit.
“He usually goes to bed around midnight.”
Habituellement comes from une habitude (“a habit”), and describes something that happens routinely. We use it almost like “usually” for anything that keeps repeating until it becomes predictable.

28

Généralement
“Generally,” “Usually”
Ils commencent généralement à l’heure.
“They usually start on time.”

29

Couramment
“Commonly,” “Fluently”
C’est l’option la plus couramment utilisée.
“This is the most commonly used option.”

Vous parlez couramment Allemand.
“You speak German fluently.”

30

Toujours
“Always”
Je t’aimerai toujours.
“I will always love you.”

31

Tout le temps
“All the time”
Elle a tout le temps faim en ce moment.
“She’s always hungry lately.”

32

Quotidiennement
“Daily”
Il s’entraîne quotidiennement.
“He’s training daily.”

33

Mensuellement
“Monthly”
Vous serez prélevé mensuellement.
“You will be charged monthly.”

34

Fréquemment
“Frequently”
J’ai fréquemment envie d’un gros kebab.
“I frequently want a big kebab.”

35

Peut-être
“Maybe”
Elle viendra peut-être ce soir.
“Maybe she’ll come tonight.”
This weird contraption is the combination of peut (from the verb pouvoir, meaning “can”) and the verb être (“to be”). It literally means “can be” or “may be.” Quite fitting, right?

36

Aussi
“As well,” “Too,” “Also”
Tu veux venir aussi ?
“Do you also want to come?”

37

Egalement
“As well,” “Too,” “Also”
Tu viendras également ?
“Will you come as well?”
This is a slightly more sophisticated version of aussi, but they have the same meaning, really.

38

Même
“Same”
On a tous les deux la même coiffure.
“We both have the same haircut.”
Man Training for a Boxing Match

Il s’entraîne quotidiennement. (“He trains daily.”)

3. French Adverbs of Place (Where?)

39

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

40


“There”
Tu peux le mettre là.
“You can put it there.”

41

Partout
“Everywhere”
Je veux voyager partout !
“I want to travel everywhere!”

42

Nulle part
“Nowhere”
Ce chemin ne mène nulle part.
“This road is going nowhere.”

43

Quelque part
“Somewhere”
Si on continue de marcher, on arrivera quelque part.
“If we keep walking, we’ll end up somewhere.”

44

Ailleurs
“Somewhere else”
Si on ne peut pas rester ici, on ira ailleurs.
“If we can’t stay here, we’ll go somewhere else.”

45

Dedans
“Inside”
Tu vois ce qu’il y a dedans ?
“Do you see what’s inside?”

46

Dehors
“Outside”
Les enfants sont allés jouer dehors.
“The kids have gone outside to play.”

47

En haut
“Up,” “Above”
Elle a marché tout en haut de la montagne.
“She walked all the way up the mountain.”

48

En bas
“Down,” “Below”
Elle est revenue en bas pour camper.
“We went back down to camp.”

49

Dessus
“Over,” “On”
Les ingrédients sont écrits dessus.
“The ingredients are written on it.”

50

Dessous
“Under,” “Below”
Il est enterré en dessous de ce rocher.
“It is buried under this rock.”

51

Loin
“Far”
Nous avons marché plus loin que prévu.
“We have walked farther than planned.”

52

Près
“Close”
Le prochain camp est près du sommet.
“The next camp is close to the summit.”

53

Autour
“Around,” “Round”
Asseyez-vous autour du feu.
“Gather round the fire.”

54

Là-bas
“Over there”
Nous y arriverons avant midi.
“We will get there before noon.”
A Group of People Hiking Up a Mountain

Ils marchent loin. (“They walk far.”)

4. French Adverbs of Manner (How?)

55

Bien
“Well”
On mange bien ici !
“We eat well here!”

56

Mal
“Badly,” “Poorly”
Ce texte est mal traduit.
“This text is poorly translated.”

57

Doucement
“Softly,” “Quietly”
Parlez doucement, les enfants sont couchés.
“Speak softly, the kids are sleeping.”

58

Lentement
“Slowly”
Je pédale lentement car je suis fatigué.
“I pedal slowly because I’m tired.”

59

Vite
“Quickly”
Je pédale plus vite quand je suis en forme.
“I pedal faster when I’m in good shape.”

60

Rapidement
“Fast,” “Quickly,” “Shortly”
Dis moi si je parle trop rapidement.
“Tell me if I speak too fast.”

61

Calmement
“Calmly,” “Quietly”
J’attends calmement mon tour.
“I quietly wait for my turn.”

62

Joyeusement
“Joyfully,” “Happily”
Elle souriait joyeusement.
“She was smiling joyfully.”

63

Facilement
“Easily”
Tu apprends facilement de nouvelles langues.
“You easily learn new languages.”

64

Litttéralement
“Literally”
Il y a littéralement des centaines d’adverbes !
“There are literally hundreds of adverbs!”

65

Simplement
“Simply,” “Just”
Tu peux simplement le démonter avec cet outil.
“You can simply disassemble it with this tool.”

Je veux simplement t’aider.

“I just want to help you.”

66

Gentiment
“Gently”
Demande-moi gentiment.
“Ask me nicely (gently).”

67

Heureusement
“Luckily”
Heureusement, l’histoire se termine bien.
“Luckily, the story ends well.”
Beware of another false friend! Heureusement comes from heureux (“happy”), but it doesn’t mean “happily.” This would be joyeusement or volontiers.

68

Poliment
“Politely”
On lui a demandé poliment de partir.
“We politely asked him to leave.”

69

Brusquement
“Suddenly”
Le sentier s’arrête brusquement.
“The trail suddenly stops.”

70

Naturellement
“Naturally”
Nous cherchons naturellement un autre chemin.
“We naturally look for another way.”

71

Précisemment
“Precisely”
Nous marchions depuis précisément une heure.
“We were walking for precisely one hour.”

72

Parfaitement
“Perfectly”
Je savais parfaitement où nous allions.
“I knew perfectly well where we were heading.”

73

Sérieusement
“Seriously”
Nous pensons sérieusement à revenir sur nos pas.
“We’re seriously considering backtracking.”

74

Ainsi
“As well as,” “Thus,” ?
On pourrait ainsi trouver notre chemin.
“It would allow us to find our way.”
This one is tough to translate. It often means “as a result,” but in a more subtle way… So subtle that it could often be omitted in most translations.
Man Making an Apology at Work

Je m’excuse poliment. (“I politely apologize.”)

5. French Adverbs of Quantity and Degree (How Much? To What Extent?)

75

Vraiment
“Truly,” “Really”
J’ai vraiment faim !
“I’m really hungry!”

76

Plutôt
“Rather”
Tu ne veux pas plutôt reprendre un verre ?
“Won’t you rather have another drink?”

77

Assez
“Enough”
Tu ne crois pas que tu as assez bu ?
“Don’t you think you’ve been drinking enough?”

78

Tout
“All,” “Everything”
Je veux tout essayer.
“I want to try everything.”

79

Rien
“Nothing”
Tu n’as encore rien vu.
“You haven’t seen anything yet.”

80

Surtout
“Especially”
J’aime surtout le vin.
“I especially love wine.”
Quick tip: Surtout literally means “above all.”

81

Beaucoup
“Many,” “Much,” “A lot”
Tu en bois beaucoup.
“You drink a lot of it.”

82

Seulement
“Only”
J’en ai bu seulement quatre verres.
“I only had four glasses.”

83

Presque
“Almost”
Tu as presque fini la bouteille.
“You almost finished the bottle.”

84

Quasiment
“Almost”
La seconde bouteille est quasiment pleine.
“The second bottle is almost full.”

85

Peu
“Little,” “Few”
Il en reste peu.
“There is little left.”

86

Très
“Very,” “Really”
Le fromage aussi est très bon !
“The cheese is very good as well!”

87

Nettement
“Clearly”
C’est nettement meilleur avec du pain.
“It’s clearly better with bread.”

88

Carrément
“Totally”
Ah oui, j’avais carrément oublié.
“Oh yes, I totally forgot.”

89

Absolument
“Absolutely”
Tu dois absolument essayer.
“You absolutely need to try.”

90

Franchement
“Frankly,” “Really,” “Truly”
C’est franchement délicieux.
“It’s really delicious.”

91

Certainement
“Certainly,” “Probably”
Celui-ci est certainement mon préféré.
“This one is certainly my favorite.”

92

Extrêmement
“Extremely”
Il est extrêmement cher.
“It’s extremely expensive.”

93

Terriblement
“Terribly,” “Badly”
J’en ai terriblement envie.
“I badly want it.”

94

Combien
“How,” “How much,” “How many”
Tu sais combien ça coûte ?
“Do you know how much it cost?”

95

Plus
“More”
J’en commanderai plus la prochaine fois.
“I will order more next time.”

96

Davantage
“More”
J’en commanderai davantage tout à l’heure.
“I will order more later.”
This is the sophisticated version of plus. Both have very similar meanings.

97

Moins
“Less”
Je dépenserais moins, si j’étais toi.
“I would spend less, if I were you.”

98

Tant
“That much,” “So much,” “So many”
J’ai tant d’argent que je peux payer ce soir.
“I have so much money that I can pay tonight.”

99

Tellement
“So,” “So much,” “So many”
Tu es sûr ? C’est tellement cher.
“Are you sure? It’s so expensive.”

100

Environ
“About,” “Approximately”
Il y en a pour environ 100€.
“It will be around 100€.”


Woman Upset at Her Drunk Colleagues

Ils boivent vraiment trop. (“They really drink too much.”)

3. How FrenchPod101 Can Help You Learn More French

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about French adverbs, from their formation to their placement in a sentence. You’ve also studied a list of the 100 most useful French adverbs. Did I forget any important adverb that you know? Do you feel ready to add them to your speech and impress your French-speaking friends with your tasteful and accurate descriptions?


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 with your private teacher, who will help you practice with adverbs and more. Your teacher will also give you assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples, and will review your own recordings to help improve your pronunciation. Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in French

Beginner’s Guide to French Conjugation for Verbs

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Haven’t we all heard that we should live in the present, soak in the moment, and avoid dwelling on the past or fearing the future? Well…forget about all that as you jump on the conjugation train! You’ll learn how to talk about the past and tell cool life stories, and how to shape the future by planning for dates or festivities.

French conjugation can seem overwhelming at first, and it’s undeniably more complex than English conjugation, but once you start getting the inner logic, it will all make sense. With three groups, lots of tenses, and literal truckloads of exceptions, you’ll have plenty of material to stay busy for a while. But fear not: You really just need to learn the most useful verbs and how to handle regular verbs, and you can learn the rest of the French conjugation rules along the way.

In this article, we’ll cover all the French conjugation basics you need to get started, from the ABCs of French verb conjugation to the handling of regular (ER and IR) verbs and irregular verbs. And of course, we’ll provide plenty of examples for you to practice and get the hang of it!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in French Table of Contents
  1. What is Conjugation?
  2. Verb Groups
  3. French Conjugation Examples
  4. Irregular Verbs and Their Conjugations
  5. Test Your Knowledge!
  6. How FrenchPod101 Can Help You Learn More French

1. What is Conjugation?

Top Verbs
French conjugation defines how verbs change depending on the person, mood, voice, and tense.

Now, what does that mean exactly? Let’s find out!

1- Person

1st person singularje“I”
2nd person singulartu / vous“you” (casual) / “you” (formal)
3rd person singularil / elle“he” / “she”
1st person pluralnous“we”
2nd person pluralvous“you”
3rd person pluralIls / elles“they” (male) / “they” (female)

Unlike in English, French verbs change with every different “person.”

For example:

  • Je parle. (“I talk.”)
  • Nous parlons. (“We talk.”)

2- Mood

Le mode (“the mood”) in French, refers to the attitude of the speaker toward the action of the verb. Do they believe the statement, is it hypothetical, or is it an order?

Indicatif
(“Indicative”)
Je parle.
(“I talk.”)
To express facts and reality. This is, by far, the most common mood in French.
Subjonctif
(“Subjunctive”)
Tu veux que je parle.
(“You want me to talk.”)
To express something possible or uncertain.
In our example, the fact that you want me to talk doesn’t imply that I will. It’s uncertain.
Conditionnel
(“Conditional”)
Je parlerais.
(“I would talk.”)
Often listed as a tense, it’s also a mood in French. It refers to a condition or possibility.
Impératif
(“Imperative”)
Parle !
(“Talk!”)
We use it to give orders or instructions.
Participe
(“Participle”)
Parlant
(“Talking”)
A word formed from a verb and used as an adjective.
Infinitive
(“Infinitive”)
Parler
(“To talk”)
Default, basic form of a verb.

3- Voice

Les voix (“voices”) are much simpler than the moods, as there are only two: passive and active.

  • In active voice, the subject performs the action.
    Sophie mange le fromage. (“Sophie eats the apple.”)
  • In passive voice, the action is performed on the subject.
    Le fromage est mangé par Sophie. (“The cheese is eaten by Sophie.”)

4- Tense

French has simple and compound tenses. Simple tenses are conjugated by just changing the verb, while compound tenses use an auxiliary (être or avoir) together with the verb.

For example:

  • Je parle. (“I talk.”) — Simple tense: Présent.
  • J’ai parlé. (“I have talked.”) — Compound tense: Passé composé.

Here’s the list of French tenses:

Indicatif présent
Indicatif imparfait
Indicatif passé simple
Indicatif futur simple
Subjonctif présent
Subjonctif imparfait
Conditionnel présent
Impératif présent
Indicatif passé composé
Indicatif plus-que-parfait
Indicatif passé antérieur
Indicatif futur antérieur
Subjonctif passé
Subjonctif plus-que-parfait
Conditionnel passé 1re forme
Conditionnel passé 2e forme
Impératif passé

It looks quite overwhelming, right? But to be fair, we typically use five or six tenses on a daily basis, often less in spoken French (many tenses are only for literary purposes).

Many Blocks of Cheese

Je mange du fromage. (“I eat cheese.”)

2. Verb Groups

It’s very common when learning French verbs to start with a lesson on verb groups. There are officially three groups:

  • French verbs ending with ER
  • French verbs ending with IR
  • French verbs ending with RE

In a perfect world, each of these groups would follow a strict set of rules, and knowing the groups would allow you to easily conjugate new verbs while dancing with happy unicorns in a field of rainbows. Of course, the reality is different, and French verb groups won’t help you much with anything.

The first group is mostly regular and we love it for that. The other two groups are a giant mess with so many irregularities that you could just forget about it. Yet, I still believe it’s important to know that these groups exist, as they’ll be frequently mentioned in grammar books or lessons. At the very least, you should be aware of their existence and general rules. Just don’t rely too much on their false promises!

3. French Conjugation Examples

Essential Verbs

Just like in any language, the more useful and common verbs are very likely to be irregular. Verbs like être (“to be”), avoir (“to have”), and faire (“to do”) are prime examples for this state of affairs.

But no matter what, learning how to deal with regular verbs will take you a long way. When you see how many verbs behave similarly, you’ll get a grasp of how regular verbs work. 

Penser (“To think”) ← This is the infinitive form of a first-group verb

Pens ← This is the “stem”

1st sg (“I”)2nd sg (“you”)3rd sg (“she”)1st pl (“we”)2nd pl (“you”)3rd pl (“they”)
Stem + eStem + esStem + eStem + onsStem + ezStem + ent
Je penseTu pensesElle penseNous pensonsVous pensezIls pensent

 Now, let’s dive into a few more verb examples!

1- First Group Verbs

The first group is the most regular group. Most verbs ending in -ER belong to this group, and they usually behave well. Of course, you can find plenty of exceptions, such as aller (“to go”), that look just like a first group verb but are not. But no need to worry about that now. Let’s start with our beloved regular verbs:


Parler (“To talk”) – 1st group verb

IndicativeSubjunctiveConditionalImperative
PresentSimple pastImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
jeparleparlaiparlaisparleraiparleparlerais
tuparlesparlasparlaisparlerasparlesparleraisparle
il / elleparleparlaparlaitparleraparlesparlerait
nousparlonsparlâmesparlionsparleronsparlionsparlerionsparlons
vousparlezparlâtesparliezparlerezparliezparleriezparlez
ils / ellesparlentparlèrentparlaientparlerontparlentparleraient

Aimer (“To love”) – 1st group verb

IndicativeSubjunctiveConditionalImperative
PresentSimple pastImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
jeaimeaimaiaimaisaimeraiaimeaimerais
tuaimesaimasaimaisaimerasaimesaimeraisaime
il / elleaimeaimaaimaitaimeraaimesaimerait
nousaimonsaimâmesaimionsaimeronsaimionsaimerionsaimons
vousaimezaimâtesaimiezaimerezaimiezaimeriezaimez
ils / ellesaimentaimèrentaimaientaimerontaimentaimeraient

Manger (“To eat”) – 1st group verb

IndicativeSubjunctiveConditionalImperative
PresentSimple pastImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
jemangemangeaimangeaismangeraimangemangerais
tumangesmangeasmangeaismangerasmangesmangeraismange
il / ellemangemangeamangeaitmangeramangesmangerait
nousmangeonsmangeâmesmangionsmangeronsmangionsmangerionsmangeons
vousmangezmangeâtesmangiezmangerezmangiezmangeriezmangez
ils / ellesmangentmangèrentmangeaientmangerontmangentmangeraient

Wait, this regular verb is behaving differently!

Why is it nous mangeons (“we eat”) and not nous mangons?

This is because we want the stem (mang-) to always keep the same [ʒ] sound (the first sound of je or jour).

When the letter G is followed by the letters A or O, it’s pronounced like a [g] sound (the first sound of gant or gorille). 

To preserve the original sound, we add the letter E between the stem (mang-) and the ending (ons). As a result, we get: mangeons.

The same goes for every verb with a stem ending with the letter G.

  • Changer (“To change”) — Nous changeons
  • Ronger (“To gnaw”) — Nous rongeons

Similarly, verbs with a stem ending with C change it to Ç (also to preserve the original sound of the stem).

  • Avancer (“To move forward”) — Nous avançons
  • Commencer (“To begin”) — Nous commençons
Two Women Talking to Each Other Outside

Elles aiment parler. (“They like to talk.”)

2- Second Group Verbs

So, the second-group verbs are the ones ending with -IR? Nope!

You’ll find that ninety percent of the most common verbs ending in -IR are from the third group, but nonetheless, many IR verbs fit the bill and follow the rules of the second group. Here’s how they look:

Choisir (“To choose”) – 2nd group verb

IndicativeSubjunctiveConditionalImperative
PresentSimple pastImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
jechoisischoisischoisissaischoisiraichoisissechoisirais
tuchoisischoisischoisissaischoisiraschoisisseschoisiraischoisis
il / ellechoisitchoisitchoisissaitchoisirachoisissechoisirait
nouschoisissonschoisîmeschoisissionschoisironschoisissionschoisirionschoisissons
vouschoisissezchoisîteschoisissiezchoisirezchoisissiezchoisiriezchoisissez
ils / elleschoisissentchoisirentchoisissaientchoisirontchoisissentchoisiraient

Finir (“To finish”) – 2nd group verb

IndicativeSubjunctiveConditionalImperative
PresentSimple pastImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
jefinisfinisfinissaisfiniraifinissefinirais
tufinisfinisfinissaisfinirasfinissesfiniraisfinis
il / ellefinitfinitfinissaitfinirafinissefinirait
nousfinissonsfinîmesfinissionsfinironsfinissionsfinirionsfinissons
vousfinissezfinîtesfinissiezfinirezfinissiezfiniriezfinissez
ils / ellesfinissentfinirentfinissaientfinirontfinissentfiniraient

Agir (“To act”) – 2nd group verb

IndicativeSubjunctiveConditionalImperative
PresentSimple pastImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
jeagisagisagissaisagiraiagisseagirais
tuagisagisagissaisagirasagissesagiraisagis
il / elleagitagitagissaitagiraagisseagirait
nousagissonsagîmesagissionsagironsagissionsagirionsagissons
vousagissezagîtesagissiezagirezagissiezagiriezagissez
ils / ellesagissentagirentagirentagirontagissentagiraient
Man Deciding Whether to Eat an Apple or Cake

Difficile de choisir (“Difficult to choose”)

4. Irregular Verbs and Their Conjugations

Nobody likes irregular verbs. They’re like rebellious teenagers, breaking the rules for the sake of it. But believe me, there’s no way around French irregular verbs. The top ten most useful French verbs are all irregular. And if you go further down the list, you’ll be surprised how long you have to browse before finding a well-mannered verb from the first or second group. How do you go about conjugating French verbs like this?

First of all, let’s talk about our auxiliaries. 

Être (“to be”) and avoir (“to have”) are auxiliary verbs, which makes them the two most important French verbs. We use them to form compound tenses such as passé composé and subjonctif passé.

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

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

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

  • Présent: Je tombe. (“I fall.”)

Passé composé:Je suis tombé. (“I have fallen.”)

/! When should I use être or avoir?

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

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

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

Some examples: monter, rester, retourner, descendre, passer, venir, aller, entrer, sortir, arriver, partir, tomber

Now, let’s see how to conjugate our beloved auxiliaries:

Être (“To be”) – 3rd group verb

IndicativeSubjunctiveConditionalConditional
PresentSimple pastImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
je / j’suisfusétaisseraisoisserais
tuesfusétaisserassoisseraissois
il / elleestfutétaitserasoitserait
noussommesfûmesétionsseronssoyonsserionssoyons
vousêtesfûtesétiezserezsoyezseriezsoyez
ils / ellessontfurentétaientserontsoientseraient

Avoir (“To have”) – 3rd group verb

IndicativeSubjunctiveConditionalImperative
PresentSimple pastImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
j’aieusavaisauraiaieeusse
tuaseusavaisaurasaieseussesaie
il / elleaeutavaitauraaiteût
nousavonseûmesavionsauronsayonseussionsayons
vousavezeûtesaviezaurezayezeussiezayez
ils / ellesonteurentavaientaurontaienteussent

Next stop: more irregularities, with aller (“to go”), one of the most common and equally misbehaving verbs. 


Aller (“To go”) – 3rd group verb

IndicativeSubjunctiveConditionalImperative
PresentSimple pastImperfectFuturePresentPresentPresent
jevaisallaiallaisiraiailleirais
tuvasallaisallaisirasaillesiraisva
il / ellevaallaitallaitiraaillesirait
nousallonsallâmesallionsironsallionsirionsallons
vousallezallâtesalliezirezallieziriezallez
ils / ellesvontallèrentallaientirontaillentiraient
    → Learn more verbs and their pronunciations with our free vocabulary list on the Top 10 Travel Verbs.

5. Test Your Knowledge!

Negative Verbs

Ready for a bit of practice? Take our French conjugations quiz! 

Try to fill in the blanks with the correct form for each verb. Don’t worry if you can’t find everything. We’ll go through it together. =)

  1. Elle (manger) ______ du fromage tous les jours.
    (“She eats cheese everyday.”)
  2. Je (guérir) ______ dans quelques jours.
    (“I will heal in a few days.”)
  3. Pendant les vacances, tu (dormir) ______ comme une souche !
    (“During the vacations, you were sleeping like a log!”)
  4. Ils (demander) ______ de l’aide.
    (“They have asked for help.”)
  5. Nous (répondre) ______ si nous avions le temps.
    (“We would answer if we had time.”)
Man and Woman Talking Next to Blackboard with Sticky Notes

“Look, blank post-its to write down your irregular verbs!”

Alright, let’s have a closer look at each of these bad boys:

1- “She eats cheese.” 

This is something that she does everyday. This looks like a case of présent (“present tense”).

If you go back to Chapter 3. 1- First Group Verbs, you’ll find the conjugation table for the verb manger. With elle, it’s gonna be: elle mange.

Note:  We also use présent for an action that’s happening right now:

  • “I eat cheese.” (Je mange du fromage.)
  • “I’m eating cheese.” (Je mange du fromage.)

Answer: 

Elle mange du fromage tous les jours.
(“She eats cheese everyday.”)

2- “I will heal” is something that will happen in the future. I’m sick or injured, and I will heal in a few days.
Let’s use the futur (“future tense”).


Guérir is a regular verb from the second group and behaves like choisir. In future tense, with je and the future tense, we have: Je guérirai.

Note: We also have the equivalent of “I’m going to” for the near future. And luckily, it’s very similar in English and French, as we use the verb aller (“to go”):

  • “I will heal.” (Je guérirai.)
  • “I’m going to heal.” (Je vais guérir.)

Answer: 

Je guérirai dans quelques jours.
(“I will heal in a few days.”)

3- “You were sleeping” is a continuous action in the past, making it an ideal candidate for imparfait (“imperfect tense”).

Dormir really looks like a second-group verb, right? Well, it’s not! If you check its conjugation table, you’ll find how to put it in imperfect tense: Tu dormais.

Answer: 

Pendant les vacances, tu dormais comme une souche !
(“During the vacations, you were sleeping like a log!”)

4- “They have asked” is a brief action in the past and a perfect fit for the passé composé (“perfect tense”).

Demander ends with ER, so it’s safe to say that this is a first-group verb. Have a look at the conjugation tables in the early chapters, and you’ll find: Ils ont demandé. When in doubt, you can always double-check it online.

Answer: 

Ils ont demandé de l’aide.
(“They have asked for help.”)

5- “We would answer” describes a condition or a possibility. This is a textbook case of conditionnel (“conditional”).

Répondre ends with RE, which makes it part of the third group. On its conjugation table, you’ll find what we need here: Nous répondrions.

Answer: 

Nous répondrions si nous avions le temps.
(“We would answer if we had time.”)

    → Do you feel ready for more verbs? Be sure to visit our article on the 100 Must-Know French Verbs. It’s full of tips and examples to help you handle any daily situation!
Little Boy Learning Words in Book with mother

Average French kid learning his 458th irregular verb.

6. How FrenchPod101 Can Help You Learn More French

In this guide, you’ve learned all the basics of French verb conjugation, from ER and IR verbs, to tenses, common irregular verbs, and how to deal with them all.

Did we forget any important tense or rule you’d like to learn about? Do you feel ready to grab some of these French verbs by the horns and conjugate the pulp out of them, using everything you’ve learned today?

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

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

Happy French learning!

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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