Traveling to France is both a romantic and grand adventure at the same time. You’ll get to explore the culture, taste the delicious cuisine, and indulge in the artwork and fashion. As you prepare for your trip, it’s important to learn some basic French phrases. Even if you’ll only be spending a short time in France, it will make your trip easier and rewarding if you do.
Let’s get into it. Below are the 10 essential French phrases to know.
1. Bonjour, ça va?
“Hello, how are you?” This is an informal but friendly way to greet someone. If someone says this to you, kindly respond with, “Tres Bien, Merci!” (Very well, thank you). If you’d like to continue the conversation, you can respond with “Ça va bien, et toi?” This means “it’s going well, and you?”
This is a perfect greeting to use if you’re meeting someone new or bumping into someone you know. I also love using this phrase whenever I enter a boutique or a shop in Paris. It’s a friendly way to greet anyone you come into contact with.
2. Comment allez-vous?
This is a formal and polite way to ask someone “how are you?” in French. If someone says this to you, respond with “Je vais bien, et toi?” This translates to “I’m doing well, and you?”
Depending who you’re talking to, you can also use the informal version of this greeting which is “ça va?” You can use “Ça va” as both a question and a reply. So if someone asks “ça va?”, you can respond with “ça va” (it goes) or “ça va bien” (it goes well).
3. Je m’appelle…
“My name is…” When you have to tell someone your name, you can say “Je m’appelle [your name].”
4. Qù est..?
This is a great French phrase to use if you’re trying to find your way around and you’re unsure of how to ask in French. For example, you can say “Qù est l’hôtel (hotel) / la banque (bank) / le restaurant (restaurant).
5. S’il vous plaît
Please…This is a common French phrase to learn as part of basic French politeness. You can also say “excusez-moi” which means “excuse me”. “Pardon” is also another good option which means “padron me” or “I beg your pardon.”
6. Je ne comprends pas
This means “I don’t understand.” This is a good phrase to tell someone if you don’t understand what they’re saying or what they mean. You can always use “Je suis désolé” before “Je ne comprends pas” to say “I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”
If you’d like to ask if they speak in your preferred language, say “parlez-vous [language]?” Which translates to “do you speak [language].”
7. Où sont les toilettes
“Where are the toilets?” Use this phrase if you’re looking for the restroom. You should say please after using this phrase: “Où sont les toilettes, s’il vous plaît?”
8. Puis-je avoir la carte?
“May I have the menu?” You can say this if you’re in a restaurant or café looking to eat a meal. You can also use this phrase when you’re looking to grab a few drinks too.
It’s important to know that “la carte” means a listing of individual food and drink offerings. “Le menu” refers to a fixed-price 2 or 3 course meals that most cafés and bistros and restaurants offer daily.
9. L’addition, s’il vous plaît”
“The check, please.” You can also say “excusez-moi, puis-je régler” which means “excuse me, can I settle the bill.” This phrase is usually used when you receive your order but would like to take care of the bill early. This is helpful if you’d like to take the time to enjoy your meal and leave right after.
10. Au revoir
“Good bye.” This is a polite way to end a conversation politely. You can also say “A bientôt!” This means “See you soon.”
If you’re looking for the must-see recommendations and hidden gems of Paris, check out my Ultimate Paris Travel Guide.
What is your favorite French phrase from this list? I’d love to know, please let me know in the comments below. Merci beacoup! À bientôt!