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How to Speak Basic French

French is a Romance language spoken by approximately 175 million people worldwide. Today, it is used in countries all over the world including France, Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Monaco, Algeria, Cameroon, Haiti, Lebanon, Madagascar, Martinique, Monaco, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia, Vietnam, and is an official language in 29 countries as well as various international institutions such as the United Nations. It is one of the most beautiful and romantic languages in the world and, as a foreign language, is the second most frequently taught language in the world after English.

1 ) Memorize a new phrase or two every day and use them as part of your daily speech

Start by learning the more common and well-known words and phrases, including:
Bonjour – bon-jshor / Hello, Good day
Bonsoir – bon-swarh / Good evening
Bonne nuit – bon-nwee / Goodnight
Au revoir – ohr-vwah / Goodbye
Salut – sa-loo / Hi, Bye (informal)
S’il vous plaît – see voo play / Please (formal)
S’il te plaît – see te play / Please (informal)
Merci (beaucoup) – mair-see (boh-koo) / Thank you (very much)
Je vous en prie – zhuh voo zawn pree / You’re Welcome (formal)
De rien – duh ree-ahn / You’re welcome (informal)

2) Learn to continue speaking after you’ve exchanged greetings in French

Included here are some useful questions. Note that informal phrases are the ones you would use when speaking to friends, family and children, whereas formal phrases would be used when speaking to anyone older than you or anyone that you don’t know, such as strangers, teachers, parents of your friends and anyone else you’d wish to speak very politely and respectfully to.

Comment allez-vous? – koh-mawn tahl-ay voo / How are you? (formal)
Ça va? – sah vah / How are you? (informal)
(Très) bien – (treh) bee-ahn / (Very) good
(Pas) mal – (pah) mahl / (not) bad
Malade – mah-lahd / Sick
Quel age as-tu / How old are you
J’ai 10 ans / I am 10 years old
Comment vous appelez-vous ? – koh-mawn voo zah-play voo / What is your name? (formal)
Tu t’appelles comment ? – tew tah-pell koh-mawn / What’s your name? (informal)
Où habitez-vous ? – ooh ah-bee-tay voo / Where do you live? (formal)
Où habites-tu? – tew ah-beet ooh / Where do you live? (informal)
Vous êtes d’où ? – voo zet doo / Where are you from? (formal)
Tu es d’où ? – tew ay doo / Where are you from? (informal)
Parlez-vous anglais ? – par-lay voo on-glay / Do you speak English? (formal)
Tu parles anglais ? – tew parl on-glay / Do you speak English? (informal)

3) Tell people about yourself

Here are some ways to answer some of the questions you just learned how to ask:

  • Je m’appelle ______ – zhuh mah-pell
    • My name is ______
  • J’habite à ______ – zhah-beet ah
    • I live in ______
  • Je suis de ______ – zhuh swee duh
    • I am from ______
  • l’Angleterre – lawn-gluh-tair
    • England
  • le Canada – kah-nah-dah
    • Canada
  • les États-Unis – ay-tah-zew-nee
    • United States
  • l’Allemagne – lahl-mawn-yuh
    • Germany
  • Je (ne) parle (pas) ______ – zhuh (nuh) parl (pah)
    • I (don’t) speak ______
  • Français – frahn-say
    • French
  • Anglais – on-glay
    • English

The video below is a great introduction to basic French vocabulary:

4) Practice more everyday

Here are a collection of more questions and phrases that might be helpful should you travel to a French-speaking country.

  • Comment? – kohm-mawn
    • What? Pardon?
  • Comprenez-vous ? – kohm-pren-ay-voo
    • Do you understand? [formal]
  • Tu comprends ? – tew kohm-prawn
    • Do you understand? [informal]
  • Je (ne) comprends (pas) – zhuh (nuh) kohm-prawn (pah)
    • I (don’t) understand
  • Comment dit-on _____ en français ? – kohm-mawn dee-tohn _____ on frahn-say
    • How do you say ______ in French?
  • Je ne sais pas – zhuhn say pah
    • I don’t know
  • Où sont _____ ? – ooh sohn
    • Where are _____ ?
  • Voilà – vwah-lah
    • Here it is.
  • Où est _____ ? – ooh eh
    • Where is _____  ?
  • Voici _____ – vwah-see
    • Here is _____
  • Qu’est-ce que c’est que ça ? – kess kuh seh kuh sah
    • What is that?
  • Qu’est-ce qu’il y a ? – kess keel-ee-ah
    • What’s the matter?
  • Je suis malade. – zhuh swee mah-lahd
    • I’m sick
  • Je suis fatigué(e) – zhuh swee fah-tee-gay
    • I’m tired (add the ‘e’ if you are female – but pronounce it the same)
  • J’ai soif. – zhay swahf
    • I’m thirsty.
  • J’ai faim. – zhay fawn
    • I’m hungry.
  • Qu’est-ce qui se passe ? – kess kee suh pahs
    • What’s happening?
  • Je n’ai aucune idée. – zhuh neh oh-kewn ee-day
    • I have no idea.
  • Tu m’attires – “too ma-teer”
    • I’m attracted to you
  • Tu es attirant(e) – “too ey ah-teer-an(t)
    • You are attractive (if you are saying this to a girl, be sure to pronounce the t at the end. Avoid pronouncing the t if you’re speaking to a boy).

5) Label objects around the house

Try writing the word in french on a flashcard and the pronunciation on the other side and simply tape it to the correct object and flip it over if you wish to remind yourself of the pronunciation without becoming reliant on the “English-ized” spelling of the words. Here’s some ideas of objects to label:

  • l’étagère – lay-tah-zhehr
    • Shelf
  • la fenêtre – fuh-neh-truh
    • Window
  • la porte – port
    • Door
  • la chaise – shehzh
    • Chair
  • l’ordinateur – lor-dee-nah-tur
    • Computer
  • la chaîne hi fi – shen-hi-fi
    • Stereo
  • la télévision – tay-lay-vee-zee-ohn
    • Television
  • le réfrigérateur – ray-free-zhay-rah-tir
    • Refrigerator
  • le congélateur – kon-zhay-lah-tur
    • Freezer
  • la cuisinière – kwee-zeen-yehr
    • Stove


  • Subjects have articles such as “un” or “une,” which are masculine and feminine: “un garçon (a boy),” and “une fille (a girl).” Subjects are either feminine or masculine. The articles “le” or “la” are specific subjects: “la glace (the ice cream),” and “le livre (the book).” Use “les” if the subject is plural: “les garçons (the boys).” Use the prefix “l’ ” if the subject starts with a vowel: “l’école (the school).”
  • Read French books such as Le Fantom de l’Opera by Gaston Leroux. They will help you understand the language more.
  • Remember to use formal phrases when speaking to people that you wish to show respect towards, such as strangers, professors, bosses, etc. You would use informal phrases only when speaking to children, friends, or family members or to others when you wish to be rude.
  • Ask for help if you need it.
  • When asking a question remember to bring up the pitch of your voice with each syllable, that will make it easier for a French person to understand that you’re asking a question and they will probably be able to understand you better.
  • The French language was designed to be spoken very rapidly. Try renting or buying French films or DVDs with French dubbing so you can get used to hearing and understanding the phrases, even when spoken quickly.
  • If you’re having a hard time, you can start with “I don’t speak French”: “Je ne parle pas le français“. It is pronounced Je= Jeuu ne= neuu parle= parl pas= pa le= leuu français= fransay.


  • When traveling abroad it is highly advised that you learn more than these basic phrases. Consider taking a course at a local college or community centre.
Original Content: wikihow.com


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