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) :
- Ouais … : a colloquial way of saying “oui”, or showing that you agree with someone.
- Eg. A: “Tu viens ?” Are you coming ?
- B: “Ouais, j’arrive…” Yeah, I’m coming
- 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).
- Eg. A: “Je n’ai pas encore acheté de billet.” I haven’t bought the ticket yet.
- B: “Qu’est-ce que tu attends ? Vas-y !” What are you waiting for ? Go ahead ! (Do it) !
- 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.
- 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).
- Eg. A: “Qu’est-ce qu’on fait ce soir ?” What are the plans for this evening ? (What are we doing this evening ?).
- B: “Ché pas ! Propose quelque chose !” Don’t know. Propose something !
- 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).
- Eg. A: (Au téléphone) “T’es où là ?” Where are you ?
- B: “Chui chez moi !” I’m at my place.
- Oh là là: Used to express stupefaction. You will hear it a lot.
- Eg. Your friend injured him/herself. You may ask: “Oh là là! Qu’est-ce qui t’est arrivé ?! “. Oh my ! What happened to you ?!“
- Laisse tomber ! The infinitive form: laisser tomber. To let something go, to drop to, to forget it. Literally “to leave / let (something) fall”
- Eg. A: “Je vais l’attendre encore un peu.” I will wait for him (a bit).
- B: “Laisse tomber. Il ne viendra pas !” Forget it! He will never come !
- 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.
- Eg. A: “Tu étais au courant que fumer tue ?” Did you know that smoking kills ?
- B: “Oui, mais je m’en fous.” Yes, but I don’t give a damn.
- 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).
- Eg. When you are really irritated: “Putain ! Où est-ce que j’ai mis mes clés ?!” F**k, where did I put my keys ?
- 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.
- Eg. A: “Tu as fini ?” Have you finished ?
- B: “Oui, c’est bon. On y va!” Yes, I have (it’s good to go). Let’s go.
- On y va ! As seen in the previous example, it means “Let’s go! ” (Literally: “we there go!”)
- 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 !
- En fait : Actually / In fact. Many people use it and some overuse it.
- Eg. A: “Tu as fait ce que je t’ai demandé ?” Did you do what I asked ?
- B: “En fait, je n’ai pas pu. J’ai eu un empêchement.” Actually, I didn’t (I couldn’t). Something came up.
- 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.
- 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.
- B: “T’inquiète pas. Tu me le rendras la prochaine fois. “ Don’t worry. You will give it back the next time.
- C’est clair! : Of course ! / you bet !
- 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) !”
- 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 !