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Common French Words and Phrases for Travelers

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures and experiences and makes the world a more tolerant place.

common-french-words-and-phrases-for-travelers

So you’re going to Paris and you don’t speak French. Well, me neither. But a language barrier is never a valid reason to not visit, especially when it comes to Paris. To help alleviate your fears, and mine, I have put together a tidy collection of some common words, greetings, and phrases. With just a little practice you will do fine and just think of the fun you’ll have trying to speak with a French accent.

To be honest, you will find that English is spoken by many people as a second language throughout Europe, especially those involved in the tourism industry. Our experience has been that if you try to converse with the locals they appreciate the effort and go out of their way to be accommodating and helpful.

I have grouped the words and phrases into Greetings, Common Questions and Phrases, Common Words, Days of the Week, Numbers, and of course Food. I always make a little cheat sheet to practice with before we depart and I’ll bring it with us when traveling. Also, there are many great Apps available that not only translate for you but will also say the words so you get an idea of the pronunciation.


If you learn any French at all before visiting France make sure you learn a few simple greetings. This will break the ice and start a dialogue even if it goes no further than a smile and a "Bonjour".

Below are some of the most common greetings. These are also some of the easiest French words and phrases to learn.

Greetings:

Hello ==> Bonjour

Good Morning ==> Bonjour

Good Afternoon ==> Bon après-midi

Good Evening ==> Bonsoir

Good Night ==> Bonne nuit

Goodbye ==> Au revoir

Hi/Bye (informal) ==> Salut

Thank you ==> Merci

Thanks a lot ==> Merci Beaucoup

How are you ==> Comment allez-vous

What’s your name ==> Quel est votre nom

My name is ==> Je m’appelle

I’m sorry ==> Je suis desole’

Excuse me ==> Pardon!

Mister/Sir ==> Monsieur

Madam/Ma’am ==> Madame

Miss ==> Mademoiselle

Pleased to meet you ==> Heureux de vous rencontrer

Your welcome ==> De rien

Nice to meet you ==> Enchante’

Please ==> S’il vous plait

“Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages.”

— Dave Barry

Common Questions and Phrases:

How much/many ==> Combien

Where is ==> Ou’ est

Is there internet ==> il est internet

How much does it cost ==> Combien ca coute

The check please ==> L’addition s’il vous plaît

Where is the bathroom ==> Ou’ se trouvent les toilettes

I don’t understand ==> Je ne comprends pas

Do you speak French ==> Parlez-vous francais

Do you speak English ==> Parlez-vous anglais

Do you understand ==> Comprenez vous

I don’t understand ==> Je ne comprends pas

Can you help me ==> Pouvez-vous m’aider

Speak slowly, please ==> Parlez lentement, s'il vous plait

This is a list of some of the most common French words. Many of them are no brainers and will be easy to remember. Carry a cheat sheet around with you and sometimes all it will take is one simple word such as "Metro" or "Musee" for someone to point you in the right direction.

Common Words:

Yes ==> Oui

No ==> Non

Good ==> Bien

Very good/well ==> Tres bien

Taxi ==> Taxi

Train ==> Train

Train station ==> Gare

Ticket ==> Billet

Ticketing ==> Billetterie

Ticket Sales ==> Vente des tickets

Train ticket ==> Billet de train

Bus ==> Bus

Bus ticket ==>Ticket de bus

Airport ==> Aeroport

Metro ==> Metro

Metro ticket ==> Ticket de metro

Bus station ==>Gare de bus

Street => Rue

Pharmacy ==> Pharmacie

Museum ==> Musée

Gardens ==> Jardins

Hotel ==> Hotel

Apartment ==> Appartement

Police ==> Police

Entrance ==> Entrée

Exit ==> Sortie

Bathrooms ==> Toilettes

Help ==> Aidez-moi

Many signs are in both French and English.

Many signs are in both French and English.

Chateau Entrance --  Ticket Sales

Chateau Entrance -- Ticket Sales

Days of the Week:

Monday ==> Lundi

Tuesday ==> Mardi

Wednesday ==> Mercredi

Thursday ==> Jeudi

Friday ==> Vendredi

Saturday ==> Samedi

Sunday ==> Dimanche

common-french-words-and-phrases-for-travelers

Months:

Months

Months

Numbers:

One ==> une

Two ==> deux

Three ==> trois

Four ==> quatre

Five ==> cinq

Six ==> six

Seven ==> sept

Eight ==> huit

Nine ==> neuf

Ten ==> dix

Twenty ==> vingt

Thirty ==> trente

Forty ==> quarante

Fifty ==> cinquante

One hundred ==> cent

Thousand ==> Mille

Menu

Menu on chalk board.  Do you recognize any words?

Menu on chalk board. Do you recognize any words?

My favorite section, food. As a general rule when traveling in Europe restaurants with English menus cater to tourists and should be avoided if possible. Restaurants where the menu is just in French or the local language are the places where the locals frequent and it is here that you will get a more authentic experience. The chalkboard above if from Le Coin, our favorite French Bistro in Paris and just a fun place. The menu was written in French only and we had a great time trying to figure out what we were ordering.

Food:

Water ==> Eau

Food ==> Aliments

Café ==> Café

Restaurant ==> Restaurant

Market ==> Marche’

Cooking ==> Cuisine

Fish ==> Poisson

Chicken ==> Poulet

Beef ==> Boeuf

Wine ==> Du vin

Beer ==> Biere

Breakfast ==> Petit dejeuner

Lunch ==> Dejeuner

Dinner ==> Diner

Dessert ==> Dessert

Dish ==> Plat

Entree ==> Entrée

Salad ==> Salade

Tomato ==> Tomate

Hopefully this collection of French words and phrases helps you on your next trip to France. While I don't think that I will ever be able to learn the language and be able to converse in French I did find it helpful to learn just a few key words and phrases. This is something that you can certainly have some fun with and our experience has been that the locals appreciate the effort. Enjoy your travels in France.

Au Revoir

common-french-words-and-phrases-for-travelers

© 2015 Bill De Giulio

Comments

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 26, 2020:

Thank you Peggy. We have found that it helps to learn at least a little and the locals usually appreciate the effort.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 25, 2020:

Should I ever travel to France, I will learn some of these more common words and phrases. You are correct that people appreciate the effort made by tourists to hear a few words in their native language. I practiced the little I knew in Spain when we traveled there, and found it to be true. Thanks for assembling this list.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 20, 2018:

Thank you Linda. Glad you enjoyed the hub.

Linda Bryen from United Kingdom on July 20, 2018:

What an interesting hub you got here Bill. I am an avid fan of languages. I love to learn and use different languages. I wish I come across your hub before we went to visit Paris and Rouen. I could have used a few of your French words here. I am fascinated about the French language actually and maybe with google translate I will be able to learn French and other languages which I like. Thank you for sharing your knowledge about the French language.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 01, 2017:

Hi Liz. Thank you. That's a great one. I will add it to the list. Thank you so much for your helpful comments.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on March 01, 2017:

Stopping by again to add another very useful phrase. "Parlez lentement, s'il vous plait." It means, "Speak slowly, please," and is a great help for people struggling to understand people who tend to fire off speech at lightning speed. It's for sure one I would use a LOT.

The French do tend to speak rapidly. But then, I suppose, so do we Americans, from the perspective of any foreign visitors who know little English. ;)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 01, 2017:

Hi Yves. Thank you. Not only do we have fun trying to communicate with the locals but they definitely do appreciate the effort. Thanks for stopping by, have a great day.

Yves on March 01, 2017:

The only thing I learned to say in French was "Je t'aime." (I love you) But I didn't say that when I visited Paris many years ago. However, you are so right, the French really do want tourists to at least try to speak some French. Seems reasonable to me. We expect the same thing in America, after all. Fun hub, by the way.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on September 26, 2015:

Hi Glimmer. I never took French, it was Italian for me so I definitely struggle with the French. But we found that all it takes sometimes is a bonjour and a smile to break the ice and start a dialogue. And as you mentioned it does show some respect hen you at least make an attempt to speak the local language. Thanks as always and have a great weekend.

Claudia Mitchell on September 26, 2015:

I had to tap into my college french and am proud to say I remember all of these words. This very helpful for folks traveling. I've always thought it's important to know a few words of the language of the country one is visiting. Not only does it help, but it shows some respect, which I think goes a long way.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 11, 2015:

Hi Dianna. Love that one also. We did have a friend along with us who spoke fairly good French and it helped a lot. But it's still fun to try and speak French, all part of the experience.

Dianna Mendez on August 11, 2015:

I love the expression for glad to meet you -- how lovely. I would love to visit France one day but may have to take along an interpreter. Great article for those soon to visit this country.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on August 01, 2015:

You're very welcome Bill. My pleasure. I did okay in high school and college basic French. I still have my 20-year-old French-English dictionary too.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 01, 2015:

Thanks Kristen. The darn spell check kept wanting to put in English. I'll correct it. Thank you for pointing this out. I stink at French but it did help to learn a few phrases and words.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on August 01, 2015:

Bill, this was very useful for beginners and those who are rusty in speaking French (like moi!) One nitpick: I think you meant combien and not combine for how many/much in your guide. Voted up!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 31, 2015:

Hi Sheila. Thank you. Hopefully it helps people traveling who don't know the language. It sure helped us. Thanks again, have a great weekend.

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on July 31, 2015:

I will probably never get to travel to France, but this was still very interesting! Now I know how to say a few words in French, thank you!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 22, 2015:

Thanks John. My French really stinks so I needed to carry a cheat sheet. Despite my ineptitude with the language it was fun trying and most of the people we interacted with were good sports about it. Thanks got the vote, have a great day.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on July 22, 2015:

Very helpful hub Bill. You have selected a very useful list of basic French words and terms here. I did French at school and still remember most of the basics, though I can only count as far as ten. I recall enough to say hello and good bye and with a bit of thought can work out what most phrases mean. Great idea to carry a cheat sheet around with you though and that's something I would do. I'm sure there are very helpful apps for your smart phone nowadays though as you mention, voted up.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 22, 2015:

Hi DzyMsLizzy. Thank you for the corrections. I knew no matter how much I checked this some errors would slip through.

My heritage is Italian so I do better with Italian than the French. But it did help to learn a few words and phrases and we did have fun trying to speak French while there.

I agree that Spanish may be the most useful language to learn. Perhaps for our next trip. Thanks again for the tips and corrections. Have a great day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 22, 2015:

Thank you Flourish. I personally really struggled with the French but it did help to carry my little cheat sheet. It was fun trying to speak the language and thankfully many people did speak English. Have a great day.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on July 21, 2015:

My paternal heritage is French-Canadian. An aunt of mine was fluent all her life; my father retained some ability to carry on a basic conversation.

I studied French in junior high and later when I went back to college as a mid-life student. However, by then, I had no one left with whom to practice, so I was never fluent.

I must point out, however, couple of errors in your charts. The number two is "deux," not "deluxe." And breakfast is "petit dejeuner" while lunch is 'just plain' "dejeuner." ;-)

Interestingly, your example of "can you help me?" (" Pouvez-vous m'aidez?") is actually the origin of the international distress call of "Mayday." because "m'aidez" is very near in pronunciation to "Mayday."

I've never had the opportunity to visit France, though I would have liked to, but any travel at all is not in my budget these days; we can't even afford to go camping any more.

Ironically, growing up in California, I belatedly discovered that Spanish would have been a more useful language to learn.

Voted up ++

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 21, 2015:

Very useful indeed! This should be required of everyone who travels to France. Although English is frequently spoken there, it's nice to show an effort to speak at least a few phrases. Voted up and more and shared.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 19, 2015:

Thank you BlossomSB. Not speaking French this was indeed work. But it helped when we traveled to France last year and hopefully others will find it useful. Thanks so much for stopping by, have a great day.

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on July 19, 2015:

Good hub. You put a lot of work into this.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 18, 2015:

Thanks Bill. I wrote a similar hub for Italian that has done very well so I figured French was a good idea. I am much better with Italian than I'll ever be with French but it did help on our trip there last year. Have a great weekend.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 18, 2015:

I almost flunked French in college. Joan Freed saved me and it only cost me a dinner. :) Good idea for an article, Bill. If I ever go to France I'm taking you along with me.

Have a great weekend, my friend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 18, 2015:

Thanks Sheila. Yes indeed, "L'addition" is asking for the bill, my mistake. Thanks so much for pointing that out and the tip. Have a great weekend.

SheilaMilne from Kent, UK on July 18, 2015:

In my experience, "check" is indeed "chèque" if you mean a page out of a cheque book, but for the bill at the end of a meal you are better asking for "l'addition".

By the way, you can find all the accents you need in the text capsules by using the "Insert special character" symbol which looks like this: Ω