Iggy enters the classroom, where Soren and Pocky are waiting for her. She says, “Bonjour, comment ça va?”

Welcome to your crash course in basic French phrases — your key to navigating through the beautiful language of French with ease. Whether you are planning a trip to a French-speaking country, adding another language to your skill set, or simply passionate about languages, these phrases will provide a solid foundation for your French language journey.

In this article, we share the most common French phrases that beginners should master first. These phrases include everything from introductions and apologies to asking for help and directions. Learning these will not only enhance your vocabulary but will also make you feel more confident and comfortable in French-speaking environments.

So, let's jump right in and crack the code to becoming bilingual!

Basic French Greetings

First things first, let's start with basic greetings that will help you kick-start a conversation. These phrases are essential in any social setting and will help you make a good first impression:

French PhraseEnglish EquivalentExampleTranslation
Bonjour Hello/Good morning/Good afternoon Bonjour, comment ça va? Hello, how are you?
Bonsoir Good evening Bonsoir, monsieur. Good evening, sir.
Salut Hi/Bye (informal) Salut, Marie! Hi, Marie!
Comment ça va? Comment allez-vous? How are you? How are you doing? Comment ça va, Jean? How are you, Jean?
Quoi de neuf? What's new? Je ne t'ai pas vu depuis longtemps! Quoi de neuf? I haven't seen you in ages! What's new?
Je vais bien, merci I am fine, thank you Je vais bien, merci. Et toi? I am fine, thank you. And you?
French PhraseEnglish EquivalentExampleTranslation
Bonjour Hello/Good morning/Good afternoon Bonjour, comment ça va? Hello, how are you?
Bonsoir Good evening Bonsoir, monsieur. Good evening, sir.
Salut Hi/Bye (informal) Salut, Marie! Hi, Marie!
Comment ça va? Comment allez-vous? How are you? How are you doing? Comment ça va, Jean? How are you, Jean?
Quoi de neuf? What's new? Je ne t'ai pas vu depuis longtemps! Quoi de neuf? I haven't seen you in ages! What's new?
Je vais bien, merci I am fine, thank you Je vais bien, merci. Et toi? I am fine, thank you. And you?

Remember to always greet people with a friendly smile and a bonjour or bonsoir when entering a shop, café, or any public place.

Introducing Yourself

Now that we know how to greet people, let's learn how to introduce ourselves and others. This will come in handy when meeting new people or making small talk at a social event.

Here are some essential French phrases for introductions:

French PhraseEnglish EquivalentExampleTranslation
Je m'appelle… My name is… Je m’appelle Marie. My name is Marie.
J'ai (age) ans. I am (age) years old. J'ai 26 ans. I am 26 years old.
Comment t'appellestu? Comment vous appelezvous? What is your name? Je m'appelle Sierra. Comment t'appelles-tu? I'm Sierra. What is your name?
Enchanté(e) Nice to meet you Enchanté, monsieur. Nice to meet you, sir.
D'où venez-vous? Where are you from? D'où venez-vous, Monsieur? Where are you from, sir?
Je viens de… I am from… Je viens de Paris. I am from Paris.
Que faites-vous dans la vie? What do you do for a living? Pierre, que faites-vous dans la vie? Pierre, what do you do for a living?
Je suis… I am… Je suis architect. I am an architect.
Parlez-vous anglais? Do you speak English? Parlez-vous anglais? I need help. Do you speak English? I need help
French PhraseEnglish EquivalentExampleTranslation
Je m'appelle… My name is… Je m’appelle Marie. My name is Marie.
J'ai (age) ans. I am (age) years old. J'ai 26 ans. I am 26 years old.
Comment t'appellestu? Comment vous appelezvous? What is your name? Je m'appelle Sierra. Comment t'appelles-tu? I'm Sierra. What is your name?
Enchanté(e) Nice to meet you Enchanté, monsieur. Nice to meet you, sir.
D'où venez-vous? Where are you from? D'où venez-vous, Monsieur? Where are you from, sir?
Je viens de… I am from… Je viens de Paris. I am from Paris.
Que faites-vous dans la vie? What do you do for a living? Pierre, que faites-vous dans la vie? Pierre, what do you do for a living?
Je suis… I am… Je suis architect. I am an architect.
Parlez-vous anglais? Do you speak English? Parlez-vous anglais? I need help. Do you speak English? I need help

It’s important to note that there are several ways to ask for someone’s name in French, depending on the context — we cover them in our specifically dedicated guide.

Soren comes to Benji at the party, they’re meeting for the first time. Soren says, “Je m’appelle Soren, et tu?” and Benji replies, “Je suis Benji, enchanté.”

Polite Expressions

Politeness is highly valued in French culture, so it's essential to know some polite expressions. Here are a few phrases that will help you show your manners and communicate courteously:

French PhraseEnglish EquivalentExampleTranslation
S'il vous plaît Please S'il vous plaît, pouvez-vous m'aider? Please, can you help me?
Merci Thank you Merci beaucoup! Thank you very much!
Excusez-moi Excuse me / I'm sorry Excusez-moi, je ne comprends pas. Excuse me, I don't understand.
Je vous en prie. De rien You're welcome. De rien, c'est toujours un plaisir de vous aider. You're welcome, it's always a pleasure to help you.
French PhraseEnglish EquivalentExampleTranslation
S'il vous plaît Please S'il vous plaît, pouvez-vous m'aider? Please, can you help me?
Merci Thank you Merci beaucoup! Thank you very much!
Excusez-moi Excuse me / I'm sorry Excusez-moi, je ne comprends pas. Excuse me, I don't understand.
Je vous en prie. De rien You're welcome. De rien, c'est toujours un plaisir de vous aider. You're welcome, it's always a pleasure to help you.

Apart from the standard s'il vous plaît, you can also explore alternative ways to say “please” in French. Using these phrases will help you navigate through everyday interactions with French speakers and show your respect for their culture.

Apologies

Mistakes happen, and it's essential to know how to apologize in French. Here are a few phrases you can use:

French PhraseEnglish EquivalentExampleTranslation
Je suis désolé(e) I am sorry Je suis désolé, j'ai oublié vos clés. I am sorry, I forgot your keys.
Excusez-moi Excuse me/I'm sorry Excusez-moi, je suis en retard. Excuse me, I am late.
Pardon Pardon/Excuse me (more informal) Pardon, je n'ai pas entendu. Pardon, I didn't hear.
S'excuser to apologize Il s'est excusé de son erreur. He apologized for his mistake.
French PhraseEnglish EquivalentExampleTranslation
Je suis désolé(e) I am sorry Je suis désolé, j'ai oublié vos clés. I am sorry, I forgot your keys.
Excusez-moi Excuse me/I'm sorry Excusez-moi, je suis en retard. Excuse me, I am late.
Pardon Pardon/Excuse me (more informal) Pardon, je n'ai pas entendu. Pardon, I didn't hear.
S'excuser to apologize Il s'est excusé de son erreur. He apologized for his mistake.

By knowing these basic French words and phrases and using them when necessary, you'll show your genuine remorse and respect for those around you.

Benji enters the classroom where now Soren, Pocky, and Iggy are waiting for him. He says, “Je suis désolé, j'ai oublié vos clés.”

Asking for Help & Directions

When in a new country, it's always helpful to know how to ask for assistance — just in case. Here are some useful French phrases that will come in handy in these situations:

French PhraseEnglish EquivalentExampleTranslation
Pouvez-vous m'aider? Can you help me? Pouvez-vous m'aider à trouver l'hôtel? Can you help me find the hotel?
Parlez-vous français? Do you speak French?
Je ne parle pas français I do not speak French Désolé, je ne parle pas français. Parlez-vous anglais? Sorry, I don't speak French. Do you speak English?
Comprenez-vous? Tu comprends? Do you understand? (formal and informal)
Je ne sais pas I don’t know Je ne sais pas, pourriez-vous m'aider, s'il vous plaît? I don't know, could you help me, please?
Que veut dire ça? What does that mean?
Qu'est ce que? What’s that?
Où est…? Where is…? Où sont les toilettes, s'il vous plaît? Where are the toilets, please?
Comment puis-je arriver à…? How can I get to…? Comment puis-je arriver à la tour Eiffel? How can I get to the Eiffel Tower?
Je voudrais… I’d like… Je voudrais acheter un billet aller simple pour Paris. I would like to buy a one-way ticket to Paris.
Je suis perdu(e) I am lost Je suis perdu, pouvez-vous m'aider à trouver mon hôtel? I am lost, can you help me find my hotel?
Où habitez vous? Where are you located?
Comment dit-on ... en français? How do you say ... in French? Comment dit-on “hello” en français? How do you say “hello” in French?
Combien ça coûte? How much does it cost? Excusez-moi, combien ça coûte, ce foulard? Excuse me, how much does this scarf cost?
C'est trop cher! It's too expensive! C'est trop cher pour une baguette! That's too expensive for a baguette!
Quelle heure est-il? What time is it?
French PhraseEnglish EquivalentExampleTranslation
Pouvez-vous m'aider? Can you help me? Pouvez-vous m'aider à trouver l'hôtel? Can you help me find the hotel?
Parlez-vous français? Do you speak French?
Je ne parle pas français I do not speak French Désolé, je ne parle pas français. Parlez-vous anglais? Sorry, I don't speak French. Do you speak English?
Comprenez-vous? Tu comprends? Do you understand? (formal and informal)
Je ne sais pas I don’t know Je ne sais pas, pourriez-vous m'aider, s'il vous plaît? I don't know, could you help me, please?
Que veut dire ça? What does that mean?
Qu'est ce que? What’s that?
Où est…? Where is…? Où sont les toilettes, s'il vous plaît? Where are the toilets, please?
Comment puis-je arriver à…? How can I get to…? Comment puis-je arriver à la tour Eiffel? How can I get to the Eiffel Tower?
Je voudrais… I’d like… Je voudrais acheter un billet aller simple pour Paris. I would like to buy a one-way ticket to Paris.
Je suis perdu(e) I am lost Je suis perdu, pouvez-vous m'aider à trouver mon hôtel? I am lost, can you help me find my hotel?
Où habitez vous? Where are you located?
Comment dit-on ... en français? How do you say ... in French? Comment dit-on “hello” en français? How do you say “hello” in French?
Combien ça coûte? How much does it cost? Excusez-moi, combien ça coûte, ce foulard? Excuse me, how much does this scarf cost?
C'est trop cher! It's too expensive! C'est trop cher pour une baguette! That's too expensive for a baguette!
Quelle heure est-il? What time is it?

Knowing these phrases will make your travels smoother and help you communicate effectively with locals.

Pocky’s at the bakery, looking at the freshly baked goods. His eye catches a huge croissant priced €30. He thinks, “C'est trop cher!”

Other Common French Phrases

In addition to the French phrases mentioned above, here are a few more common expressions that will come in handy for having everyday conversations in French.

French PhraseEnglish EquivalentExampleTranslation
Oui Yes Oui, je veux bien visiter le musée. Yes, I would like to visit the museum.
Non No Non, pas du tout. No, not at all.
Peut-être Maybe Peut-être que nous devrions rester ici pour dîner. Maybe we should stay here for dinner.
Je ne comprends pas I don't understand. Je ne comprends pas ce que vous dites. I don't understand what you're saying.
Je suis d'accord I agree Je suis d'accord avec votre point de vue. I agree with your point of view.
C'est bon! That's good! C'est bon, je suis content(e) que tu viennes! That's good, I'm glad you're coming!
J'ai besoin de… I need… J'ai besoin de directions. I need directions.
Au revoir! Goodbye! Au revoir, à bientôt! Goodbye, see you soon!
French PhraseEnglish EquivalentExampleTranslation
Oui Yes Oui, je veux bien visiter le musée. Yes, I would like to visit the museum.
Non No Non, pas du tout. No, not at all.
Peut-être Maybe Peut-être que nous devrions rester ici pour dîner. Maybe we should stay here for dinner.
Je ne comprends pas I don't understand. Je ne comprends pas ce que vous dites. I don't understand what you're saying.
Je suis d'accord I agree Je suis d'accord avec votre point de vue. I agree with your point of view.
C'est bon! That's good! C'est bon, je suis content(e) que tu viennes! That's good, I'm glad you're coming!
J'ai besoin de… I need… J'ai besoin de directions. I need directions.
Au revoir! Goodbye! Au revoir, à bientôt! Goodbye, see you soon!

The Bottom Line

Pocky and Iggy are having freshly baked croissants with coffee in the park. Iggy takes a bite of a delicious French pastry, exclaiming,

Learning a new language is an enriching experience that can open doors to new opportunities and connections. By mastering these essential French phrases, you'll be on your way to fluency in no time.

Remember to practice, and don't be afraid to make mistakes — it's all part of the learning process. You can also check out other resources, such as language exchange programs or our Langster app, to further improve your skills. Keep exploring the language and culture, and you'll see your fluency grow along the way. Bon voyage!