10 Great Formal French Words to Amaze Your French Friends

Interesting Formal French Words

Here are some very common French words that are used in everyday speech and which you can express in a more formal way, giving a touch of “sophistication” to your language.

The truth is that you may become fed up with using the same words all the time. With these words you will bring your knowledge of French to the next level and surprise your French friends.

Even if you are a beginner, you will learn here some basic but essential French vocabulary that you will certainly find useful in everyday conversations. You come back later to learn their more advanced synonymes. 

Common French Words

with their Formal Synonyms

Basic French Word

Sophisticated French Synonym

Part of speech



1. obsession


noun (fem)

obsession, obsessive fear

Avoir la hantise de la mort.

2. fatiguer



to exhaust, to wear somebody out

Ce chef d’entreprise éreinte tous ses employés.

3. extrêmement fatigué

exténué, éreinté


exhausted, worn out

Monter en haut de la Tour Eiffel m'a exténué.

4. drôle




Ce qui s’est passé était hilarant !

5. déplacé



incongruous, out of place

Sa réponse a été complètement incongrue !

6. paresseux



indolent, lazy

Il est trop indolent pour réussir dans la vie.

7. ennuyeux



tedious, boring

Apprendre une leçon par coeur est très fastidieux.

8. voler



to steal, to rob

On lui a dérobé son portefeuille.

9. cher




C’est un achat très onéreux.

10. choquer



to stun, to dumbfound

La nouvelle de son décès nous a abasourdis.



Exercise 1:


Additional Exercises 

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French Vocabulary: Les vacances à la plage

Summer is here and this year you may be heading for France for holidays. Here is the first list of the common French words (with exercises) that you will need while at the beach in France

Vocabulary with audio: 



1. bronzer 

1. to tan / to get tan / to sun

2. nager 

2. to swim

3. plonger 

3. to dive, to plunge.

4. faire la planche 

4. to float (lit. to do a board)

5. un coup de soleil 

5. sunburn

6. l’ombre 

6. shade

7. les lunettes de soleil 

7. the sunglasses

8. les vagues 

8. waves

9. le sable 

9. the sand

10. un matelas gonflable 

10. an inflatable mattress



Exercise 1: 

Exercise 2 A: 

Exercise 2 B: 


French Professions and Occupations

Occupations in French

Learn how to speak about jobs and professions in French. It may come in handy when meeting new people (that's one of the questions you will be asked or you will ask) or if you are planning to work in France. This lesson will allow you to make your French small talk richer and more engaging.

Gaël est pompier. Il est pompier volontaire. C'est un pompier très courageux.

No Article Please

In French, contrary to English, you put no article before the name of the profession. So: 

  • Je suis un professeur. I'm teacher. 
  • Il est médecin. He is a doctor. 

Remember !

When you precise things about somebody's the profession (his / her qualities), you need to add an article. However, if you are only precising the category it belongs to, there is still no artilce

  • Mark est un médecin exceptionnel. (quality) 
  • Marie est médecin généraliste. (category) 

When speaking about professions, you need to remember about the masculine / feminine forms of certain professions. Many of them have only the masculine form. 

  • médecin / écrivain / ingénieur / professeur
  • Marie est médecin et Joachim est écrivain

Serving coffee


Exercise 1

Exercise 2

French Nationalities

Knowing the names of different nationalities (les nationalités) will not only allow you to tell something about yourself but also it will help you to get to know better the person you are talking to, especially if he/she is a foreigner.

Things to remember:

  • As with majority of the French adjectives, there is a masculine and feminine form for most of the names of nationalities. All you need to do is to add an “-e” to the masculine form.  Eg. français / française
    • Most of the time it will change the pronunciation  français / française (z) but there are some exceptions where it stays the same: Eg. espagnol / espagnole
    • If the name of the adjective of nationality ends with “-e”, the word stays the same. Eg. Paul est suisse. / Marie est suisse
  • The names of nationalities in French are written in small letters, unlike in the English language !

Names of Nationalities in French: 

French French feminine English
français française French
anglais anglaise English
sénégalais sénégalaise Senegalese
marocain marocaine Moroccan
allemand allemande German
russe russe Russian
américain américaine American
espagnol espagnole Spanish
suédois suédoise Swedish
britannique britannique British
écossaise écossaise Scottish

Names of the Countries

You may also want to learn the names of the countries in French that go with the names of these nationalities. Have a look at this lesson. 

Exercise 1

Exercise 2

Exercise 3

10 Very Popular Everyday French Idioms

Here is a list of 10 French idiomatic expressions that you will probably hear most frequently while in France.  The list is rather subjective, as I did not base myself on any official document proving the frequency (Does such such thing exist ?). The only explanation I have is that to my mind these idiomatic expressions are used more often than others. Of course, there are others but I thought these might be the most useful ones for the beginning and intermediate learners of French. Thus, upon your arrival to France you won't be surprised to hear what may at first appear as some strange sounding expressions you have no idea about their meaning.

"Why learn French idioms ?"

You may ask. If you want to get over the "speaking the very basic French" level, you need to get to know some idiomatic expressions. And this is true for any language. That's just the way people like to express ideas. Idioms make the language more vivid, more colorful and more expressive.It's one of the things that shows that you know the language well.

You may also check this website about The French Idioms (origin, explanations, translation).

The List of the 10 Popular Everyday French Idioms:

  1.  Prendre quelque chose au pied de la lettre: It is used to describe somebody who believes too seriously in everything he/she hears. Eg. On entend souvent dire que tous les parisiens sont grincheux mais il ne faut pas le prendre au pied de la lettre. C'est juste un cliché.
  2. Il n'y a pas un chat: used to say that there are very few or no people in a particular place. There isn't a soul. Eg. Cet endroit est complètement désert ! Il n'y a pas un chat !
  3. Il pleut des cordes: when it rains a lot and hard. It's raining cats and dogs. Eg. Tu as vu le temps qu'il fait dehors ? Il pleut des cordes ! Hors de question que je sorte ! 
  4. Il n'y a pas le feu au lac / y'a pas le feu: when you are not in a hurry. There is no panic. Eg. Attends ! Pourquoi t'es si pressé ? Il n'y a pas le feu au lac !
  5. Fumer comme un pompier: to smoke a lot of cigarettes. To smoke like a chimney. / To be a chain smoker. Eg. Ca pue la cloppe chez ton voisin ! C'est parce qu'il fume comme un pompier

    In the past the firefighters used to soak their clothes with water so they wouldn’t set ablaze while fighting the flames. The water turned to steam and made their clothes “give off fumes”.
  6.  Maigre comme un clou: speaking about someone really thin, a skinny person. Thin as a rake. Eg. Il est maigre comme un clou ! Il ne doit pas peser plus de 50 kilos tout habillé ! 
  7. Etre au taquet: when you are fully engaged in some activity. To be going flat out / to be going full throttle.  Eg. Regarde le ! Il est complètement absorbé par son travail. Ouais, il est vraiment au taquet
  8. Etre nickel (chrome): when something is neatly / very well done. To be spotless. Eg.(En parlant de nettoyage d'une voiture par exemple) Vous avez fait du bon travail. C'est vraiment nickel ! / C'est nickel chrome
  9. En avoir marre: to have had enough of something. To be fed up with something. Eg. J'en ai marre de ton comportement stupide ! Je me casse d'ici !
  10. S'en moquer / ficher / foutre:  to be completely uninterested or indifferent to something / somebody. Not to give a damn / toss about something. Eg. Tu es au courant que fumer tue ? Oui, me je m'en fous