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

Everyday French Expressions Part 1

Even if you have learned a substantial amount of the French language, once you are in the country you might feel overwhelmed by the way the people speak. One of the reasons will certainly be some of the French expressions that you won't see in a French language course book. Here you will learn some of the common expressions of the spoken French.

13 Everyday French Expressions

Here is a list of the most common everyday French expressions that you will come across while in France. You will notice them easily as the people will be using them all the time. They are the words and expressions that each French person is using tens if not hundreds of times each day. The list is in no way exhaustive, but it will certainly make the everyday French a bit easier to understand. If you use them correctly, they will also make you sound more native like.

The List (with examples) :

  1. Ouais … : a colloquial way of saying "oui", or showing that you agree with someone.


    1. Eg. A: "Tu viens ?" Are you coming ?
    2. B: "Ouais, j'arrive…" Yeah, I'm coming
  2. Vas-y ! / Allez-y ! : It means "go on!", "come on", or "do it!". Don't forget that "vas-y! " is informal (used between friends and young people) and "allez-y" is formal (adults, people you don't know, especially older than you people).



    1. Eg. A: "Je n'ai pas encore acheté de billet." I haven't bought the ticket yet.
    2. B: "Qu'est-ce que tu attends ? Vas-y !" What are you waiting for ? Go ahead ! (Do it) !
    3. Eg. Formal situation. You want to let someone go in front of you, in a queue for example: "Allez-y (Madame / Monsieur). Vous pouvez passez devant." Please, Madame, you can go ahead of me. 
  3. Je sais pas / Chais pas ! : Literally it means "I don't know". In the spoken French you won't here the "ne" word normally added in negative sentences in writing. In spoken French, especially when spoken rapidly, it will sound more like "chais pas" (also written "ché pas") than "je sais pas". Interestingly, it doesn't work in the affirmative way. You just cannot say "chais / ché" for "Je sais" (I know).



    1. Eg. A: "Qu'est-ce qu'on fait ce soir ?" What are the plans for this evening ? (What are we doing this evening ?).
    2. B: "Ché pas ! Propose quelque chose  !" Don't know. Propose something ! 
  4. Je suis / J'suis / Chui: The same principle as in the previous example. In spoken French the "to be" verb in "I am" sounds more like "chouis" than "Je suis" when said rapidly. You will rarely hear the French pronounce all the words from for example "Je suis chez moi" (I'm at my home).



    1. Eg. A: (Au téléphone) "T'es où là ?" Where are you ?
    2. B: "Chui chez moi !" I'm at my place.
  5. Oh là là: Used to express stupefaction. You will hear it a lot.



    1. Eg. Your friend injured him/herself. You may ask: "Oh là là! Qu'est-ce qui t'es arrivé ?! ". Oh my ! What happened to you ?!"
  6. Laisse tomber ! The infinitive form: laisser tomber. To let  something go, to drop to, to forget it. Literally "to leave / let (something) fall"



    1. Eg.  A: "Je vais l'attendre encore un peu." I will wait for him (a bit).
    2. B: "Laisse tomber. Il ne viendra pas !" Forget it! He will never come !
  7. Je m'en fous / M'en fous / On s'en fout: It is very informal way of saying "I don't care", or simply "I don't give a damn / shit about … .". It has a formal equivalent "Je m'en fiche" but you won't hear it as often as the informal version.



    1. Eg. A: "Tu étais au courant que fumer tue ?" Did you know that smoking kills ?
    2. B:  "Oui, mais je m'en fous." Yes, but I don't give a damn.
  8. Putain ! The ultimate swear word in the French language. It basically is a pejorative term for a prostitute but it is used in the same context as the English word "f**k". Nowadays, you can even hear it on tv sometimes. It is also interchangeable with the word "merde" which mean "shit" (literally).



    1. Eg.  When you are really irritated: "Putain ! Où est-ce que j'ai mis mes clés ?!" F**k, where did I put my keys ?
  9. C'est bon ! : Literally it mean "It is good." However, in the spoken language it is more used in the context of "That's ok / Okay / All right." You can also used it to express irritation.



    1. Eg. A: "Tu as fini ?" Have you finished ?
    2. B: "Oui, c'est bon. On y va!" Yes, I have (it's good to go). Let's go.
  10. On y va ! As seen in the previous example, it means "Let's go! " (Literally: "we there go!")



    1. Eg. Before going out. A man to a woman: "Tu es prête? Si oui, alors on y va !". You're ready ? If so, then let's go ! 
  11. En fait : Actually / In fact. Many people use it and some overuse it.



    1. Eg. A: "Tu as fait ce que je t'ai demandé ?" Did you do what I asked ?
    2. B: "En fait, je n'ai pas pu. J'ai eu un empêchement." Actually, I didn't (I couldn't). Something came up.
  12. T'inquiète pas. Don't worry / Never mind / That's ok. Normally, it should be "ne t'inquiète pas" but in the spoken French the "ne" is frequently thrown out.



    1. Eg. A: "Excuse-moi, j'ai oublié de te rendre ton livre." I'm sorry (lit. pardon me), I've forgotten to take your book.
    2. B: "T'inquiète pas. Tu me le rendras la prochaine fois. " Don't worry. You will give it back the next time.
  13. C'est clair! : Of course ! / you bet !



    1. Eg. A: "Il aurait pu au moins me prévenir qu'il ne serait pas là !" He should at least have let me know that he wouldn't come (be here) !"
    2. B: "Oui, c'est clair!." Of course ! (that he should have).

Please include in the comments which words you think you have heard most often or you think the French people are using most frequently. Merci !