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How to Speak French: Common French Expressions

When learning to speak French, master a few common expressions to build your conversation skills. Almost everyone who speaks French uses the following list of phrases: These expressions are so very French that you may even pass as a native of France when you use them.

Ça m'a fait très plaisir! or C'était génial!

(sah mah feh treh pleh-zeer) or (say-teh zhay-nyahl)

(I really liked that!) or (That was fantastic!) Here are two ways to express your excitement and really get it across, too. You can also speak for your partner (whose French is nonexistent) by just changing the pronoun: Ça lui a fait très plaisir! (sah lwee ah feh treh pleh-zeer!) (He/She really liked that!)

Passez-moi un coup de fil!

(pah-say mwa aN koot feel)

(Give me a call.) You could say of course: Appelez-moi! (ah-puh-lay mwah) or Téléphonez-moi! (tay-lay-foh-nay mwah), but that wouldn't sound as sophisticated!

Some possible variations are:

  • Passez-nous un coup de fil! (pah-say noo aN koot feel) (Give us a call!)
  • Je vais vous/lui/leur passer un coup de fil. (zhuh veh voo/lwee/luhr pah-say aN koot feel) (I am going to call you/him/her/them.)

On y va! or Allons-y!

(oh nee vah!) or (ah-lohN zee!)

(Let's go [there]!) You can also send someone off somewhere with the latter one: You can say Allez-y! (ah-lay-zee) (Go ahead!) or Vas-y! (vah-zee) for the familiar form if you want to get a little insistent about it.

Je n'en sais rien.

(zhuh nahn seh ree-ahn)

(I don't know anything about it.) In casual speech, you can also say (and this is what you hear most of the time) J'en sais rien (jahn seh ree-ahn). Technically this phrase is grammatically incorrect, but then so is "I know nothing" instead of "I don't know anything."

Mais je rêve!

(meh zhuh rehv)

(Oh, I don't believe it!) Literally this means: "But I am dreaming!" and is an expression that has become incredibly popular in recent years, probably because it works on every level of excitement. You can use it with any personal pronoun of your choice. For example, you could say to your friend Mais tu rêves! (meh tew rehv) (You must be crazy!) if he/she comes up with some unrealistic idea, plan, or wish, or Mais ils/elles rêvent! (meh eel/ehl rehv) when you are talking about several people.

Quel amour de petit garçon!

(kehl ah-moor duh ptee gahr-sohn)

(What an adorable little boy!) Or you could just say, pointing to a little kid, a pet, or a toy: Quel amour! (kehl ah-moor) and everyone around you will be so impressed not only with your beautiful French but also with your object of admiration!

Vous n'avez pas le droit.

(voo nah-vay pah luh drwah)

(You don't have the right.) This phrase simply means: "It is forbidden," but says it ever so much more elegantly. Again, you can vary the personal pronouns, and also tenses, if you like.

Tu cherches midi à 14h.

(tew shehrsh mee-dee ah kah-tohrz uhr)

This has to be the best one of all. Try to translate this and what you come up with is: "You are looking for noon at 2 p.m." You're not sure what that is supposed to mean? Well, it is a tough one, but it's such a neat phrase and heavily used, so here it is: You are saying that so-and-so is making things more difficult than necessary, that he or she is sort of off the mark and has lost perspective: Il/Elle cherche midi à 14h. You can also practice saying, Il ne faut pas chercher midi à 14h (eel nuh foh pah shehrsh-shay) (You shouldn't get so obsessive about it!)

Je veux acheter une bricole

(zhuh vuh ash-tay ewn bree-kohl)

(I want to buy a little something, a doodad.) It's the word bricole that makes you sound so "in." It actually derives from the verb bricoler (bree-koh-lay) which means to do odd jobs.

Prenons un pot!

(pruh-nohn aN po)

(Let's take a pot)? No, that can't be it, or can it? Well, if you stretch your imagination a bit, it means: "Let's have a drink!" (Not a whole pot full maybe, but . . .)

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