Whenever I go to a new place, I always try and learn a few basic words in the locals' language. Why? Not everyone speaks English - and if English isn't their first languge then you shouldn't expect them to, remember you are a guest of their country - so it can be extremely useful to learn key phrases in case you need some help or information. It will also make a great first impression and people will surely appreciate it! 

So I thought I would write a guide for you with some basic words and phrases in French - for those who don't know, I'm French! You can rest assured it's the right translation :) try them out next time you're going to France!

The basics


Hello - Bonjour

Always say bonjour, and don't freak out if people reply with bonsoir (= good evening). Some people will say it at like 4-5pm which makes no sense to me as it's still bright outside?! I've never understood that and I'm French so... Just stick to bonjour and you'll be fine.

Goodbye - Au revoir


Thank you - Merci

If you want to say "thank you so much", add beaucoup. Merci beaucoup.

Please - S'il vous plaît


Sorry - Pardon

Use pardon when apologizing, like if you bump into someone accidentally. If you want to say "excuse-me, can you help me with something?" in that case you would use excusez-moi.

Key questions & phrases


Do you speak English? - Parlez-vous anglais ?


Can you help me? - Pouvez-vous m'aider ?


I'm looking for... - Je cherche... (+ add what you are looking for)


Where is... - Où est... 


How much does it cost? - Combien ça coûte?


I don't understand - Je ne comprends pas


I would like... - Je voudrais...


I am vegetarian - Je suis végétarien/végétarienne

Use végétarien if you're a man and végétarienne if you're a woman. If you want to say that you're vegan, use végétalien (man) or végétalienne (woman).

Can you please write it down? - Pouvez-vous me l'écrire, s'il vous plait?


Where is the restroom? - Où sont les toilettes?


Other useful words


  • Restaurant - restaurant
  • To pay the bill - payer l'addition
  • Price - le prix

  • Airport - aéroport
  • Airplane - avion
  • Car - voiture
  • Train - train
  • Train station - gare
  • Subway/underground - métro
  • Bus stop - arrêt de bus
  • A one-way ticket - un billet aller
  • A round-trip ticket - un billet aller-retour

  • Accommodation - logement
  • Hotel - hôtel 
  • Hostel - auberge
  • Bed - lit
  • Room - chambre

  • Store - magasin 
  • Pharmacy - pharmacie
  • Bakery - boulangerie
  • Pastry shop - pâtisserie
  • Supermarket - supermarché
  • Museum - musée
  • Bathroom - toilettes
  • Open - ouvert 
  • Closed - fermé

Don't worry if your pronunciation isn't perfect, people will love the fact that you tried speaking their language and they will more likely get out of their way to help you. Even if you just say bonjour, pouvez-vous m'aider? then switch to English, it's always better than going up to people speaking in a language they don't understand at all - it's so confusing and scary for them. 

And with all those words and phrases, I'm sure you will be fine on your next trip to France! 

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