20 Words & Phrases to know before visiting France

When I first came to France… I knew NOTHING and I mean nothing..

Im talking like.. I’m not even sure I knew what bonjour meant exactly. (don’t judge me)

Up until the time I met my husband, I had never even thought I would ever visit France.. and if I did visit I never thought I would actually live here.. and learn the language..How did this happen??


Surprisingly enough.. I find myself here. Married, Speaking french and doing french things.

With that said, I thought it would be nice to share with you all what I survived on for about a year until I started developing real french speaking skills. I held on so tight to some of these words and phrases, they really got me through a lot lol. If I could survive a year with these basics.. they’ll probably help you more a lot more than you think while visiting.

** I hope this list will help you a lot but the google translate app is key for me when traveling. For anything you are having trouble pronouncing there is an option to hear the words/phrases as well. Helps me so much!

20 french words and phrases to know before visiting France:

1. Bonjour/Salut: Hello
Bonsoir: Hello after 5pm

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that after around 5pm to greet someone it’s time to switch to bonsoir instead of bonjour. It’s not HUGE deal obvi but I have been corrected a few times while checking out at the store.

2. Au revoir: Goodbye

“Merci, au revoir” // Thank you, bye

3. S’il vous plaît: Please

Remember to use your manners. 😉

4. Pardon/Excusez moi: Excuse me

They pretty much both mean excuse me. However, pardon is used more regularly. Pardon if you bump into someone, Pardon if you want to ask a question or excuse yourself. Pardon if you burp.. Excusez moi is a little more formal but both are completely appropriate for all excusing situations.

5. Je peux avoir: Can I have?

“Je peux avoir un café s’il vous plaît?” // Can I have a coffee please?

This was probably one of the very first things I learned besides greetings. I’ve found it so helpful is so many situations especially while being on my own. I use it in pretty much every single situation where I am ordering something.

6. Avez vous?: Do you have?

“Avez vous un menu en anglais?” // Do you have a menu in english?

7. Bonne journée- Have a good day

Bonne soiree: Have a good night/good evening

Bonne nuit: Goodnight (for when you are going to sleep)

8. Merci: Thank you

Merci beaucoup: Thank you very much.

9. Je t’aime: I love you.

Just in case you meet your french soulmate and fall in love…

10. Ou sont les toilettes:

Where is the toilet aka restroom/bathroom?

I’ve mentioned this before but bathroom in french is Salle de bain- and it means literally that- room of bath. Unlike the US most bathrooms and toilettes are in separate rooms in France. Toilet in one.. Sink and shower/bath in the other. So in english “Where is the bathroom” and in French “Ou sont les toilettes” will get you where you need to go to use the bathroom.

11. Droite: Right

Gauche: Left

Tout Droit: Straight

You never know, maybe you’ll need directions to go somewhere.. or maybe someone will ask you for directions. These are just some words that were frustrating not knowing and once I knew them I was glad I did. They’ll always come in handy.

12. Je ne parle pas français:

“Pardon, je ne parle pas français” // Pardon/Sorry, I don’t speak french.

‘Your French is terrible.’ ‘AT LEAST I MAKE LE EFFORT!’

13. Vous Parlez Anglais?: Do you speak english?

It’s always worth a shot.

“Bonjour/Bonsoir, vous parlez anglais?” // Hello, do you speak english?

14. Ou est??: Where is…

You want to know where something is.. Add “Ou est” in front of it.

“Ou est la tour eiffel?” // Where is the eiffel tower?

“Ou est l’Arc de Triomphe?” // Where is the Arc de Triomphe?

“Ou est le metro?” // Where is the metro (subway)?

15. C’est combien?: How much?

Combien ça coûte?: How much does it cost?

16. Une table pour _____ personnes s’il vous plait:

A table for ______ people please.

I highly recommend getting familiar with at least numbers 1-20 before your trip to France. You never know when they might come in handy.


17. Manger à l’intérieur: Eat inside

Manger à l’extérieur: Eat outside

When going to eat at a restaurant just like anywhere the host will always ask you if you want to eat inside or outside. So knowing this is about being able to understand and respond, when the host asks the question or if you are bold enough saying it while you ask for a table. 😉

18. L’addition s’il vous plaît: The check please.

“Excusez moi, je peux avoir l’addition s’il vous plait?” // Excuse me, can I have the check please?

19. Quel est le mot de passe wifi?: What is the wifi password?

Yes wifi is spelt the same as in english however…. it’s pronounced WEEFEE.

20. Je ne comprends pas: I don’t understand.

“Pardon, je ne comprends pas.”

Pardon/sorry, I don’t understand.

To close this blog post I’d like to clear up one of the many french stereotypes I get asked about quite often.

“I hear french people are rude. Is it true?”

In my opinion and through my personal experiences here in this country everyone has been nothing but nice to me, literally welcoming me with open arms. However, I have been in Orleans for the majority of my time here and it is very different from visiting a big city like Paris. I mean think about it, there are probably millions of tourists a year.. I can only imagine the types of people and attitudes they encounter on a daily.

The best advice that I can give is to just try. Try speaking french when you are out, if you are terrible.. who cares at least you are respectfully trying to speak the language of the country you are visiting INSTEAD of expecting the people in the country you are visiting to accommodate to your language needs. Most french people will appreciate your effort to speak their language and that will make a world of a difference as far as the attitude they have towards you.

As always thanks for reading!

xx Shalize


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