Phrasebook: Basic French for travel

These are a few key words and expressions that have come in very handy while travelling. Try to learn these -or the ones that most apply to your situation- when visiting France or another French speaking country. The locals will certainly appreciate the effort.

This little phrasebook is also available in Italian and in Spanish.

The bare minimum
Hello Bonjour
Goodbye Au revoir
Thank you Merci
OK D'accord
Everyday basics
Yes Oui
No Non
I don't know Je ne sais pas
I don't understand Je ne comprends pas
I don't speak French Je ne parle pas français
Do you speak English? Parlez-vous anglais ?
Good to know
Excuse-me Excusez-moi
Sir, Madam, Miss Monsieur, Madame, Mademoiselle
Where is... / Where can I find... Où est (sing.) Où sont (plur.) / Où puisse-je trouver...
The entrance, the exit L'entrée, la sortie
The restroom/toilet Les toilettes
The train station, the bus stop La gare, l'arrêt de bus
Something to eat, to drink Quelque chose à manger, à boire
How much does it cost? Combien est-ce que ça coûte ?
Please, can you help me S'il vous plaît, pouvez-vous m'aider
I need (medical) help J'ai besoine d'aide (médicale)
I am Je suis
My name is Je m'appelle
What is your name? Quel est votre nom ? (formal) Comment est-ce que tu t'appelles ? (informal)
How are you? Comment ça va ?
(I'm) good ça va bien
And you? Et vous ? (formal) Et toi ? (informal)
I'm sorry Je suis désolé(e)

As a general rule, use the formal form to address a stranger, a person older than yourself, of high status (or higher than your own), or someone serving you (receptionist, doorman, taxi driver…)
Keep in mind that when you’ve just arrived in a country, no one really expects you to know all the rules. Do your best, and if someone complains just apologize and move on. When you are short on words show respect in the way that you act instead.

Another useful tool, if you have a smartphone and an internet connection, is to use a translation app such as Google Translate. Some languages can be downloaded in advance to use in offline mode.

Have fun!

Image: Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881), by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

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Written by xim

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