French Vocabulary: A Survival Guide for visiting France

Bonjour à tous !

As my time living in France comes to an end, I have been reflecting on all that I have learned and discovered about the French language. Over the last year, my French has improved enormously, though I am definitely still not fluent. Still, I am much more confident in my ability to speak the language and feel comfortable engaging in conversations with my newfound French friends and, generally, in everyday life which was what I wanted to gain from my year abroad. While I learned a lot about grammar and the formalities of the French language at school and university (which is very important!), nothing has benefited me more than living in France and hearing how French people talk in their day to day lives as I found that it often differs greatly from what can be learnt from a textbook. With that in mind, I decided for this blog post to put together a French ‘survival guide’ of some important vocabulary and phrases to help you out if you decide to visit or study abroad in France – or even if you’d just like to sound more natural in French.

Day to Day interactions

If you visit France and would like to use your French with customer service workers, the following phrases will help you understand and communicate like a pro!

At a restaurant

Vous êtes combien ? = How many are in your party?

On est deux/trois etc = There are ____ of us

Vous avez choisi ? = Have you chosen?

Pas encore = Not yet

Oui, on a choisi = Yes, we’ve chosen

Allez, je vous écoute = Go ahead, I’m listening

Je prends/Je vais prendre = I’ll have the ____

At the bakery counter

À emporter ou sur place ? = To take away or to sit in?

Chauffé ? = Warmed up?

Ce sera tout ? = Will that be all?

Et avec ça/ceci ? = and with that? (would you like anything else?)

Non, c’est tout = No, that’s all

Par carte ou en espèces ? = Card or cash?

In a store

Vous voulez un ticket de caisse ? = Would you like a receipt?

Vous voulez un sac ? = Would you like a bag?

Non, c’est bon merci = No it’s okay, thanks


If you ever want to spend time in France and be able to communicate with young French people, verlan is definitely worth getting your head around! To put it briefly, it is a type of slang which is formed by breaking up the syllables of words and reversing them. In fact, the word verlan itself is an example of this! By taking the word for opposite in French, a l’invers, and swapping the syllables around we end up with the word verlan. Below, I have included some common examples of this that you may hear regularly:

Meuf = Femme

This can sometimes be used in a derogatory term but I often heard young girls using this as an affectionate nickname for their friends, a little like “hey girl!”

Ouf = Fou (Crazy)

Chelou = Louche

Like louche, chelou means something or someone that is strange/bizarre, but is often stronger than the non-verlan version.

Relou = Lourd

While lourd means ‘heavy’ in English, relou can be used to refer to something that is annoying.

Drop the NE

If you want to sound more like a native French speaker, the most important tip I can give to you is to drop the ‘ne’ in a negated sentence. ATTENTION, this is only for spoken French – when sitting an exam or when writing in French, you should not do this. When talking to a French person, you will notice that they very rarely use the word ‘ne’ and instead, only keep the ‘pas’. For example:

Je ne sais pas = Je sais pas (when talking quickly, this often ends up sounding like chais pas)

Il n’y a pas = Il y a pas

Elle n’est pas = Elle est pas

Je ne comprends pas = Je comprends pas

It’s a very minor, simple change to make but it will instantly make you sound more French.

Erica’s favourite French phrases

To end this survival guide, I wanted to include some words and phrases that I personally ended up using on a daily basis in France. These are mostly things that I picked up from my French friends or sometimes the pupils that I taught. To be honest, I’m not sure how I ever lived without them!

Coucou = An informal, endearing way to greet friends and family

Nickel = Great

Énorme = amazing, used to describe something positively. E.g. j’ai éntendu la chanson, c’était énorme !

J’ai la flemme = I can’t be bothered

N’importe quoi = nonsense

C’est pas grave = it’s no big deal/don’t worry about it

T’inquiète = don’t worry, a shortened version of ne t’inquiète pas

Kiffer = to like/enjoy

Un mec = a guy

Bisous = Kisses, an informal way to end a text, phone call or an in-person conversation with friends and family

Well folks, that is my guide on how native speakers ACTUALLY talk in France. Don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of vocabulary in this blog, it’s not necessary to know and understand every single word but it’s definitely worth noting a few words to help you along for the next time you visit France. The French definitely appreciate when people try to speak their language, even if you make lots of mistakes, so don’t be scared to try!

I have one more blog post to share with you in the coming days which will be a final farewell to Toulouse, my home for the last eight months, so stay tuned for that.

Bisous 🙂


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