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15 basic French expressions you need to know before arriving in France

If you are thinking of coming to study French with us, we are sure you do not want to arrive lost and confused, but instead you want to experience life as a local. This is why we have provided 15 basic expressions which will make you sound like a native, or at least, help you understand what people might be saying. You will hear these expressions quite often.

Basic french expressions - Bonjour

Yes, it is true, it may seem very basic. It is the typical good morning in English; however, keep in mind that for French people, it is very important to greet everyone, even if you do not know the other person. So, every time you encounter someone on the street, it is best to give a nice smile and put it together with a “bonjour”.

Basic french expressions - Ça va?

“Ça va?” is the informal way of asking if everything is going well, and it is used between friends and family. The particular thing is you respond exactly the same, to affirm that yes, all is going fine.

Basic french expressions - Je vous en prie

When someone wants to tell you “you are welcome”, they will most likely say “je vous en prie”, especially if you do not have a very close relationship. So every time you say thanks – merci – you’ll hear something like that.

Basic french expressions - Salut

Once you get to the second step of meeting people, you will replace “bonjour” with “salut!”, which is one of the most familiar methods to greet someone in French.

Basic french expressions - À tout à l'heure

If you say goodbye to someone, but you plan to see that person later, it is likely that as you walk away you say “à tout à l’heure” which simply means “see you later”.

Basic french expressions - C'est parti

We can translate this as “here we go”. You normally use it when something is going to start, or when finally something you have been waiting for is going to happen.

Basic french expressions - S'il vous plaît

In France, being polite is a matter of great importance. So it is not only important to always greet others, but every time you ask for something, do not forget to attach the magic word “please” at the end.

Basic french expressions - Je suis désolé

When you want to tell someone you can’t help them, or that you do not know something that they have asked, you use this phrase that means “sorry”. It is very common to use it when you make a mistake or when you forget something.

Basic french expressions - Oh purée

Let’s just say this is the nice way to say an insult in French. When something makes you angry, or you make a mistake, you will probably spontaneously say this phrase.

Basic french expressions - Nickel

This word is used to describe something that is very good or is wonderful. You can also use it to agree with a proposition.

Basic french expressions - C'est chouette

French people use this phrase to say something or someone is incredible, literally. So sure, if you say it, it will come accompanied with a face of emotion and a good smile.

Basic french expressions - Sympa

“Sympa” is the abbreviation for “sympathique”; this is the word used by the French to say someone is friendly or that something is nice.

Basic french expressions - Ça roule

If something goes well for you, or you agree with a situation or proposition, then you will only have to say “ça roule!”, which basically translates as “perfect.”

Basic french expressions - Faire gaffe

This expression is used to tell someone to be careful, or to pay close attention to some situation in particular or in general.

Basic french expressions - La vache

When you think about saying “oh my god!”, then just say “la vache!”, which is the expression that would replace it. The strange thing here is that “vache” is “cow”. Although we do not understand what one thing has to do with the other, once you are in France you will find many animals are protagonists in French phrases.

Want to learn many more expressions like these?

Study French in Montpellier with IEF

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