Business French

Going into the French business world without some knowledge of business French is a recipe for disaster. While English is the predominant language of international business, it is still important to understand some key aspects of business French to ensure effective and professional communication with your French-speaking counterparts.

But, entering a new language culture is never easy. To make your journey in the French business world a bit more comfortable, we’ve prepared this article. Below, we’ll explore some facts about business French that every learner should know, as well as learn the basic business vocabulary. Read on.

Let’s Start With Why

Before we get into the reasons you should learn business French, let’s first take a look at some of the basics. Below, we’ve listed 4 key facts about business French.

1. Business French is not the same as regular French.

Just like there are many different dialects of English, there are also many variations of French. Business French is specifically tailored for professional communication and differs from regular French in terms of vocabulary and style.

2. You will need to learn new vocabulary.

In order to do business in French, you will need to learn new words and phrases specific to the business industry. This specialized vocabulary can be difficult to master, but with enough practice and exposure, you will be able to understand and use it confidently in any professional setting.

3. You don’t need to be fluent to do business in French.

Even if your fluency in the French language isn’t yet at the highest level, you can still do business by using French business phrases in combination with basic vocabulary and grammar. With a little practice and patience, you will be able to carry on business conversations with your French-speaking counterparts with relative ease.

4. You might need business French in different settings.

Even if you don’t do business with French partners, you might still need to use some business language when visiting a French-speaking country or studying there. You’ll need business French, for example, when writing a CV or a cover letter, composing an official email, giving a presentation, or simply reading business articles.

Business French

Learn Basic French Business Vocabulary

Learning business French depends on two things: learning the vocabulary words used in the official language and getting familiar with the formalities. Of course, you don’t have to memorize every single word, but knowing most of them will definitely make your life easier.

Let’s start with some basics:



un comptable

accountant, bookkeeper

un commissaire aux comptes


le chef


le chef d’entreprise

boss of the company

la femme d’affaires


l’homme d’affaires




le client


un concurrent


un conseiller


un créancier


un débiteur


un employé, une employée




le candidat, la candidate

job candidate



le personnel


la gestion, direction, gérance


le vendeur


le main-d’oeuvre


un bilan, une annonce

a published report

livrer un bilan

to turn in a report




le salaire


les honoraires


une avance

advance payment

une échéance

due date for a payment

la comptabilité, la compta

accounting department

le bénéfice


les biens

company’s assets



bénéfice net

net income, profit



Business French

Types of companies:



la société


la société anonyme

limited company

la multinationale

a multinational company

la maison mère

a parent company

l‘association (à but non lucratif)

a non-profit organization

PME – petite et moyenne entreprise

SMB – small and medium-sized business

Important verbs:



acheter en gros

to buy in bulk

annuler une commande

to cancel an order

approuver, ratifier

to approve

avoir les moyens d’acheter

to afford

concourir, être en concurrence avec

to compete with

créer une entreprise

to establish a business

déposer le bilan

to file for bankruptcy


to hire


to ship

faire de l’argent, faire des bénéfices

to make money

faire faillite

to go bankrupt

faire la publicité

to advertise

lancer un produit

to launch a product

lancer, monter un business

to start a business

posséder, être propriétaire

to own


to lend


to promote

recruter, enrôler

to recruit


to refund


to stock up


to succeed

violer, rompre un contrat

to break a contract

French Business Culture: 5 Things You Should Know

Unfortunately, learning French for business goes further than just memorizing the vocabulary. This is a language with many formal nuances you’ll need to abide by in the professional environment. And, if you want your business to run smoothly, knowing these is a must.

Here are four things to get you started:

Tu vs. Vous

When conducting business in French, it is important to use the formal "vous" form instead of the informal "tu." Using the informal can be seen as disrespectful or even arrogant and can potentially ruin relationships with clients or partners.

It is especially important to use the formal form when meeting for the first time, when discussing sensitive information, or when in a position of authority. The rule of thumb for non-native speakers is to only move to the “tu” basis if the other person suggests it.

Business French

Stay Polite and Formal

There are a few things that non-native speakers can do to stay polite and formal in the French business world. One of them is to only say "bonjour" once a day. You can use "salut" or just nod to greet someone once again. Remember that handshakes are common and expected in a professional situation, and only use kisses on the cheek in casual settings.

Apart from that, be aware of French etiquette rules, and make sure that you are following them. For instance, never arrive late for a meeting, and if you do, remember to sincerely apologize.

Separate Business and Private Life

In France, it is considered very important to separate one's business and private lives. This is done to maintain professionalism in the business world and to avoid any conflicts of interest. People don’t do tasks related to work after work hours or on Sundays – this is actually forbidden in the country.

It’s also a very distinct sign of French culture – French people have a slow, enjoyable lifestyle and don’t allow work to interfere with their plans and interests.

Know Your Taboos

In the French workplace, there are a few things that are considered taboo. For instance:

  • don’t discuss personal matters with coworkers
  • don't ask about their political leanings (but you can ask about their opinions related to politics)
  • don’t discuss wealth or ask someone about their salary
  • keep your hands out of pockets
Business French

Bottom Line

Knowing a little about French business culture can help you avoid making any embarrassing mistakes when conducting business in France. However, it's also important to use the correct vocabulary and work on your skills to perfect them.

Nevertheless, if you want to learn French for business, now you can see that it’s not that challenging – especially if you already know some basic French grammar and vocabulary. So, if you want to enter the French business world, don’t be afraid to give it a try now. And, bonne chance!

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Beata Hardzei

Beata Hardzei loves languages and shares this passion through her writing. Speaking English, Polish, Russian, and French, she explores the nuances of foreign languages, aiming to make learning feel more like a journey than a task. Beata's background as a teacher and translator enriches her insights, helping you see language learning as an accessible, enriching experience.