Making a phone call in French can be intimidating for beginners, especially considering that the French love to speak very quickly. When talking to someone on the phone or listening to a French message on an answering machine, you can easily get discouraged from continuing the conversation and just end the call.

But, that is rarely an answer to the issues you need to discuss on the phone, and very often, you will have to call the person once again. Don’t worry, though – while French oral speech can be tricky, after a little bit of practice, you should be able to have polite and successful telephone conversations with ease.

In this article, let us teach you the essentials of French phone call etiquette, from how to say ‘hello’ to introducing yourself and asking for the other person's name. We'll also provide a list of key vocabulary words that you'll need to know, so that you can have a simple French phone call right away.

Whether you're calling your friends or family in France or someone else in a French-speaking country, read on for all the information you need.

Phone Conversation: The Script

Just like in English, a phone call in French usually follows a specific script that has a beginning, a middle, and an ending. This should make it much less stressful to make a call; just learn the lines and concentrate on explaining exactly why you’re calling.

Usually, a typical phone call will look something like this:

– Hello, this is N speaking, can I talk to Y?

– Wait a moment please, I’ll put you through. // Yes, this is them.

– I would like to talk about….

– ….

– Thank you, have a nice day, goodbye.

– Goodbye.

Simple enough, isn’t it? Now, let’s figure out how to say all that in French.

Basic Phone Call Vocabulary

Here’s all the basic vocabulary you’ll need to run a successful phone conversation in French.

Starting the Call

Use these phrases to start phone calls in a casual way – for example, when talking to a friend:

Native

Translation

Allô?

Hello? (used only on the phone)

Bonjour.

Hello, good morning.

C'est de la part de Y. | C'est Y à l'appareil.

This is Y calling.

C’est N est là? C’est N est disponible?

Is N available?

Qui est à l’appareil ?

Who is on the phone?

Use the following phrases for more formal phone conversations, such as calling someone’s office:

Native

Translation

(Name of the company, person), bonjour

Hello, this is (name of the company) – formal

Puis je vous aider ?

Can I help you?

Puis-je parler à N?

Can I talk to N?

Je voudrais parler à N.

I would like to speak to N.

Est-ce le bureau de N?

Is this N’s office?

C’est de la part de qui ?

Who is calling | speaking, please?

Making a Phone Connection and Leaving a Message

Very often, when making a phone call, you will need someone to connect you to the person you want to talk to – or, in many formal cases, wait on the line. Here’s what you might hear then:

Native

Translation

Ne quitte pas.

Please hold.

Je te le passe.

I'm transferring your call.

Ne quittez pas (la ligne).

Please hold.

La ligne est occupée.

The line is busy.

Je vous le passe.

I'm transferring your call. – formal.

Merci de vouloir patienter quelques instants.

Wait a moment, please. – formal

Veuillez patienter, s’il vous plaît.

Be so kind as to wait please. – formal

Je suis désolé(e). N est en réunion. Voulez-vous laisser un message ?

I’m sorry, N is in a meeting. Do you want to leave a message?

Dealing with Technical Difficulties

Whether you’re talking on a cell phone or a regular telephone, it’s very common that you might encounter some technical difficulties. Dropped calls and bad reception are some of the main things that prevent us from communicating smoothly – and if they happen, you need to know how to handle them.

Native

Translation

Je ne capte pas très bien.

My reception isn’t very good.

Ça coupe.

You’re breaking up. (literally: The connection is breaking up)

Je ne t’entends pas.

I don’t hear you.

La connexion est de mauvaise qualité.

The connection is bad. – formal

Nous avons été coupés.

We were disconnected. – formal

Pouvez-vous répéter cela?

Can you repeat that? – formal

Ending the Call

When ending the call, remember to stay polite, especially in formal conversations. Remember that politeness is key when talking to French people.

Native

Translation

Salut.

Bye.

Allez, ciao | bises.

Alrighty, ciao | kisses.

Au revoir.

Goodbye.

Bonne journée, au revoir.

Have a nice day, goodbye. – formal

Other Important French Phone Call Vocabulary

Of course, you also need to know some other French words related to phone calls to have an efficient conversation.

Here are some nouns:

Native

Translation

Un annuaire

a phone book

Un appel en P.C.V.

collect call

Une cabine téléphonique

a phone booth

Un coup de fil

A phone call (informal)

Un mobile

A cell phone

Un numéro

telephone number

Un répondeur

answering machine

Un répertoire

directory, “contact’s” section

Un téléphone

a telephone

Une tonalité

dial tone

Une sonnerie (de téléphone)

a ringtone

And some verbs:

Native

Translation

Appeler

to call

Composer un numéro

to dial a number

Décrocher

to pick up

Laisser un message

to leave a message

Patienter

to wait

Raccrocher

to hang up

Rappeler

to call back

Sonner

to ring

Keep Calm and Stick to French Etiquette

It's important to remember to stay polite and use proper etiquette when speaking on the phone in French. Remember that politeness is key, and it's often the small details that make the difference in a successful conversation.

Don't stress out if you don't understand something or if the connection is bad – take your time, try to remain calm, and ask the person to repeat if you didn’t hear something well. The French are known for their politeness, so following these simple tips will help you ensure that the conversation goes smoothly.

With all that said, don’t worry about making a phone call in French. Yes, it can be tricky, but with a little practice and some of the key vocabulary words we've provided, you'll be speaking like a pro.