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 !



French Grammar Deconstruction (à la Tim Ferriss)


You may have heard about How to Learn (But Not Master) Any Language 1 Hour article by Tim Ferriss. Here is a quick overview of his approach and how it applies to the French language. You can also test yourself in deconstructing the French grammar at the end of the article.

French Grammar Deconstructed

So if you are interested in deconstructing the French language Tim Ferriss’ way, you may dig right into it.

French Language Deconstruction (Tim Ferriss Way) of the French Language Grammar.

English French
The first 6 basic sentences from the Ferriss’ blog  
1. The apple is red. 1. La pomme est rouge. 
2. It is John’s apple. 2. C’est la pomme de Jean. 
3. I give John the apple. 3. Je donne la pomme à Jean. 
4. We give him the apple. 4. Nous la lui donnons. 
5. He gives it to John. 5. Il la donne à Jean. 
6. She gives it to him. 6. Elle la lui donne. 

Additional Sentences from this video, where he actually decided to
extend his range of grammatical structures to cover.

7. Is the apple red ? 7. La pomme, est-elle rouge ? (Est la pomme rouge ?) *  
8. The apples are red. 8. Les pommes sont rouges. 
9. I must give it to him ! 9. Je dois la lui donner !  
 / Il faut que je la lui donne ! **  
10. I want to give it to her ! 10. Je veux la lui donner. 
11. I’m going to know tomorrow. 11. Je le saurai demain. 
12. I can’t eat the apple. 12. Je ne peux pas manger la pomme. 

* Even though it is highly unlikely to hear this kind of sentence in France (it is more probable to encounter something like La pomme, est-elle rouge ? or Est-ce que la pomme est rouge ?) the subject / verb inversion to create a question is correct but rather formal and rarely used in speech.
** When it comes to expressing obligation in French, it is more common to use the il faut que structure. Eg. Il faut que je la lui donne !

The Method

Learn any language by deconstructing it, that is by stripping the language you want to learn to (almost) its bare bones and finding all the positive and negative for you aspects that you can turn into your advantage.

The Opinion

The good thing about this approach is that it gives you a rather global view of the basic grammatical structure of the language to learn. You get the impression of grasping the language, and thus the quantity of grammar to acquire less daunting. Its strength lies, in my opinion, in outlining the core of a particular grammar and thus the language itself. It is much easier to go further into details later on as opposed to trying to grasp every detail from the very beginning and quickly run out of your steam, a very common pitfall for all foreign language learners.

The Conclusion

The concept itself is nothing new in the way it approaches the understanding of the mechanics of any given concept. Let’s take learning any computer programming language for example: the most general teaching method consists of explaining the basic concepts (variable declaration, managing strings and numbers, control flow, lists or arrays, etc) which are common to all of the programming languages but which structure may be expressed differently in each of them.   

Nevertheless, the idea is somewhat new in teaching a foreign language as it compresses all of the grammar of the language into the most basic but also the most relevant things that will make the learning easier for us. We obtain an insight into what is already familiar to us, i.e. what the language(s) we know has in common with the one we want to acquire and what differentiates it from our native tongue(s).  

As far as the usefulness of the French language deconstruction is concerned,  I’m leaving it to your own judgement. I can only hope you will find it useful.  

Please, tell what you think about this French language deconstruction in the comments section.

Thank you !

PS: Don't confuse this article with the deconstruction, a philosophical and literary notion coined by Jacques Derrida, a French philosopher.

Test Your French Grammar

Exercise 1 A (easy):


Exercise 1 B (easy):


Exercise 2 (difficult): 





Lesson 11: In a French café

Simple French lesson on how to order a coffee in a typical French brasserie. You will also learn the two most popular types of coffee ordered in France: un expresso and un café allongé. Enjoy your lesson !

1. Dialoge: Au café


S: Serveur ( a waiter ), Mme: Madame , M: Monsieur

S: Qu’est-ce que vous prendrez Messieurs, Dames ?
Mme: Pour moi un café.
S: Un café serré ou allongé ?
Mme: Ah.., quelle est la différence entre les deux, s’il-vous-plaît ?  
S: Un café serré est un petit café, un expresso si vous préférez. On l’appelle également un “café court”.
M: Et qu’est-ce qu’un café allongé ?  
S: Un café allongé est tout simplement un café court avec deux fois plus d’eau.
M: D’accord. Un café allongé pour moi s’il-vous-plaît.
S: Et pour vous Madame ?
Mme: Moi, je prendrai un café court s’il-vous-plaît.

2. Notes


This lesson introduces the use of the Simple Future Tense (Le futur simple).

The futur simple is heavily used when making orders in a café, bar or a restaurant.  You can also use it when you imagine what your future will look like or when you make projects. In short:

Future Simple:

    1. imagining the future:
      1. Quand je serai grand, je ferai le tour du monde. When I’m big, I will go on a round the world trip.
    2. making projects:
      1. Je prendrai un verre de vin. I will take / have a glass of wine. 
      2. Qu’est-ce que vous prendrez Monsieur? What will you take / have, sir ?

How is Future Simple formed ?

Infinitive (eg. parler, habiter, etc.) + suffixes:aiasaonsezont.

If infinitive + e (eg. prendre, vivre)): no “e” :

je prendrai, je vivrai, …

Distinctive feature of the French Simple Future Tense :

lots of r sound !

This can be quite daunting for the beginning learners of French. Fortunately, there is a remedy exercise on Simple-French to help you tame the pronunciation of the French “R” sound.

Simple Future Conjugation (La conjugaison au Futur simple)

prendre être
je prendrai

tu prendras

il / elle / on prendra

nous prendrons

vous prendrez

ils prendront

je serai

tu seras

il / elle / on sera

nous serons

vous serez

ils seront


Conjugation of Futur Simple with examples: 

je prendrai un thé

tu prendras ce que voudras

il / elle / on prendra deux cafés

nous prendrons un taxi

vous prendrez la permière à gauche

ils prendront la même chose


Dialogue Vocabulary

French English
Les verbes Verbs
prendre to take
commander to order
boire to drink
préférer to prefer
Les noms Nouns
un serveur / une serveuse a waiter / a waitress
Monsieur-Dames a common French expression to address both a man and a woman at the same time (if both are present). It is pronounced as one word.
la différence difference
un café a coffee
eau water
Les adjectifs Adjectives
serré pressed / squeezed  (du verbe serrer: to thighten / to press)
petit small
grand big
court short / brief
alongé stretched out / extended (du verbe allonger: to extend, to prolong)
d’accord OK / All right ! (from: être d’accord = to agree / to be in agreement)

Additional Vocabulary

Additional Vocabulary:

Les boissons: Drinks:
un café au lait milky coffee / latte
un café crème a middle cup of coffee and milk
un petit / grand café a small / big coffee
(un) sucre

Je prendrai du sucre avec mon café s’il-vous-plaît.

un café décafeinné (un déca) decaffeinated coffee
un chocolat chaud hot chocolate
un thé a tea
une tisane, a herbal tea
une infusion a herbal tea / infusion
Les ustensiles: Utensils:
une tasse a cup
une grande tasse / un mug a big cup / a mug
une chope a mug
une soucoupe a saucer
une cuillère a spoon
un sachet packet / sachet / bag
une touillette   a stir stick / a stirrer

Useful Expressions

Useful Expressions

French English
Qu’est ce que c’est ? What’s this  / that ?
Que désirez-vous, Madame / Monsieur ? What will you have ?
Je prendrai …. I will take …
Combien je vous dois ? How much do I owe you ?
Cela / Ca vous fait 10€. / C’est 10€. You owe me 10€. / It’s 10€.

3. Exercises

Click for more information about this exercise

Type in the French translation of the sentence in English. If you are stuck or need a suggestion, look closely into the dialogue above. Some detail might have escaped your attention.

  The punctuation marks have already been added there for you. Don't add the punctuation mark ( " . ", " ? ", " ! ") at the end of the sentence as it won't validate your answer ! Sometimes you may be asked to add a comma ( " , ") inside a sentence.
  For the French characters, if you don't know how to type them on your keyboard, please use the virtual keyboard provided below the exercise. The French characters are necessary for the sentences to be correctly completed. Otherwise, your sentence won't be validated.
  Please, remember: this kind of exercise, that is reading the lesson first and then trying to retrieve it from your memory and / or helping yourself by looking back into the lesson is EXTRAORDINARILY efficient. You will be surprised how fast you will learn and how quickly you will actually build your own sentences.

1. What will you have ?
Qu'est-ce que ?
2. I will have a coffee, please.
, s'il-vous-plaît.
3. What is the difference between the two ?
entre les deux ?
4. What is this ?
5. And for you Miss ?
Et ?

4. Homework

Imagine you are on a trip to Paris. You have been walking for 2 hours and now you want to make a break. You have spotted une brasserie and you decide to enter inside to have a coffee. Write a dialogue in which:

  • You have to order 1 coffee with milk for you, an espresso for you friend and two teas for two other people who are with you.
  • You need to speak for yourself (I will take …) and for your friend (he / she will take …) and the two other people ( they will take …).

Lesson 10: What do you like doing in your free time ?

Simple French Lesson 10 on how to say what your hobbies are and what you like doing. Learn how to ask questions and how to answer using “I / You like”.

1. Dialogue : “Qu’est ce que tu aimes faire ?”

Antoine: Qu’est-ce que tu aimes faire Marie ?
Marie: Tu veux dire pendant mon temps libre ?
Antoine: Exactement. Quel est ton passe temps favori ?
Marie: J’aime lire et regarder des films.
Antoine: Quel genre de livres aimes-tu ?
Marie: J’aime les livres d’aventure et de la littérature populaire. Pour les films, j’adore les vieux films français. Et toi, Antoine ?
Antoine: Moi, j’aime la musique. Ecouter, jouer et chanter, ce sont mes passions !


2. Notes


! This lesson uses Simple Present Tense (Le présent). It also focuses on the use of the adjective quel

The verb aimer

aimer: to love, to be fond of, to like, to enjoy
J’aime les voitures allemandes.

Tu aimes faire du sport.

Il / Elle aime sortir avec des amis.

Nous aimons la cuisine espagnole.

Vous aimez le café ?

Ils / Elles aiment voyager.

  • Negative sentence:
    • Je n’aime pas le café. ne (or n’ if a vowel comes after it) + verb + pas
    • You need to use definite article (le / la / les) when you want to say that you like or don’t like something in particular.
    • ! Je taime ! = I love you ! but J’adore Paris ! = I love Paris !
    • ! Je t’aime bien = I like you.
    • J’aime bien cette couleur. = I (somewhat / kind of) like this colour.    


French English
aimer to like / to be fond of
dire to say
pendant during / while / in
un passe temps a hobby
lire to read
regarder to look / to watch
quel / quelle which / what
(un) genre type / sort / kind
adorer to really like
écouter to listen to
jouer to play (in instrument or a game (sport / video)
chanter to sing
une passion a passion
Useful expressions

Some Useful Expressions:

  • Qu’est ce que tu veux dire ? What do you mean ?
  • Je suis fou / folle de toi / de basket / de joie  !  I’m crazy about you / basketball /  I’m mad with joy !
Additional Vocabulary

Some  examples of hobbies: 

French English
écouter de la musique to listen to music
l’équitation / monter à cheval horse riding
le cyclisme cycling / bicycling
surfer sur le net to go web surfing / web browsing
jouer de la guitare to play the guitar
le basket basketball
jouer au foot to play football
sortir to go out
parler avec des amis to talk with friends
courir / faire du jogging to run / to go jogging
aller à la pêche / pêcher to go fishing / to fish
jardinage / jardiner gardening / to do some gardening
nager / faire de la natation to swim
cuisiner / faire de la cuisine to cook

3. Exercises

Translate the following sentences:

1. What do you like doing ?
Qu'est-ce que ?
2. What do you mean ?
Qu' ?
3. I love Paris !
4. We like Spanish food.
Nous .
5. They (feminine) don't like travelling.
Elles .
6. I somewhat like this car.
cette voiture.

4. Homework

  1. Write what you like doing. Choose 1 or 2 activities that you like, 1 that you like so-so and 1 you don’t like. Do this in the first person singular ( Je ….) and the second person singular (Tu …)
  2. Learn the dialogue by heart. You may replace the activities you like with the ones of your choice.

The cover image by Vincent Anderlucci.

Lesson 9: French Alphabet

In this lesson you will learn the sounds of French letters and how to spell the words in French.

1. French Alphabet

L’alphabet français:

French Letter


2. Notes

The French alphabet consists of 26 letters five of which may have variations unknown to the English language. But to keep it simple, we say for now that all the letters of the French alphabet are the same as English ones.

3. Exercises

Spell the following words:

  1. Brown
  2. Dupont
  3. Richardson
  4. Kowalski
  5. Je suis à Paris.