Enroll Now
French Words

Basic French words and Phrases to Start Conversation

So, you planned to visit a French-speaking country, but have you learned those Basic French Words which will help you to communicate whilst travelling to a French-speaking country

In this article, we have covered those most common and basic French phrases.

Wondering how French people will react when you initiate a conversation in English or with any little knowledge of on French. You do need some French survival phrases!

No need to worry anymore!

In this article, I will help you learning the basic French phrases you should know to make yourself understood in France and to have a basic French conversation. One thing you do have to bear in mind though is that whatever your level of French is, French people will definitely appreciate you’re trying and they will therefore make an extra effort to help you.

Basic French Phrases to Greet people

It seems French people give greetings a very important place. Indeed, it is, for example, normal in France, to say hello when you enter a shop. Not doing it would be considered as rude. Yes but how exactly do you greet people in French (Check our Greetings Quiz)? Here are the Basic French phrases you need to learn to make your way up to French people’s hearts.

1.How to say hi in French? – Bonjour

How to say hi in French?

“Bonjour” means “hello” in French. It goes beyond a simple greeting though and it is more considered as a word you say every time you enter a place (shop, post office…) or even when you walk pass people in the street! It is very commonly used.

However it exists different “hellos” depending on the time of the day and on the relationship you have with people. Let me explain.


2.How to say good evening in French? – Bonsoir

In the evening, “bonjour” (literally “good day”) becomes “bonsoir” (which translates to “good evening”). Even though “bonjour” would still be acceptable, “bonsoir” seems more appropriate once the sun goes down,

3.How to say hi in French – Salut

This is a word you could use when speaking to friends or children. It is commonly thought to mean “hi” but be aware that it is not the exact equivalent. It is much more informal and shouldn’t be used when speaking to someone you don’t (or barely) know.

After “salut” you could perhaps want to say “quoi de neuf?” which means “what’s new? “ To which people might answer “pas grand chose” (“not much”).

4.How to say hello in French? – Coucou

This word has a very similar meaning to “salut” but it is even more relaxed so keep this one for people you are very close to.

5.How to say Goodbye in French? – Au revoir

This is the most common way to say goodbye in French. It literally means “to seeing you again”. Just like “bonjour” you can choose different ways to say “goodbye” depending on the situation. So here they are:

6.How to say See you later in French? – A plus tard

This means “see you later”. If you speak to a friend, you could even say “à plus” and get rid of “tard”.

7.How to say See you soon in French? – A bientôt

Similar to the expression above, this one means “see you soon”.

8.How to say until next time in French? – A la prochaine

Translating to “until next time”, this expression is however a lot less formal. I would advise you to only say it to friends or family.

Basic French Words of Politeness

Politeness is a must in France. Indeed the way French people see it is that manners don’t cost anything so make sure you use the following expressions. And do not worry about making mistakes,

French people will appreciate and respect you’re trying French Basic words

10. How to say Please in French? – S’il te plaît / s’il vous plaît

The French version of “please” can appear a bit long and tricky but it’s not that difficult to pronounce so don’t let the appearance scare you.

There are two versions of please in French language: a formal one (“s’il vous plaît”) and an informal one (“s’il te plaît”).

The rule is simple: if you don’t know the person or not enough to call him/her a friend or if that person is not a child then use “s’il vous plaît”. In any other cases, “s’il te plaît” would be fine. Easy or easy?

11.How to say Thank You in French? – Merci

Merci - Thank you in French
After “please” comes the time to say “thank you” and in French you’ll have to say “merci”. It is pronounced like “mercy” in English (even though the meaning is totally different!!).

12.How to say you’re welcome in French? – De rien

“De rien” means “you’re welcome”.

This French phrase is commonly used in response when someone says “merci”

13.How to say Excuse me in French? – Excuse-moi/Excusez-moi

Just like “please”, there are a formal and an informal way of saying “excuse-me”. The rule is the exact same. If you know the person or if it is a child then you’ll use “excuse-moi”. If not, “excusez moi” would be better.

Why you should learn these basic French phrases

I have drawn up a quick list of some of the most basic french phrases for tourists.

Imagine yourself lost in Paris. You might want to enjoy that moment of being alone in a fabulous city you barely know looking at all its wonders and just stop the time making the most of it.

Yes, I agree.

It does sound marvelous.

However, reality will eventually kick in and you will have to approach someone and ask him/her a few questions to make your way back to where you have to go.

So here are most useful French phrases for travelers

15.How to say how do we say in French? – Comment dit-on “…” en français?

It is clear you are making an effort and trying your best to grasp the daily French expressions and to use them in appropriate circumstances. There is absolutely no doubt French people will appreciate this.

However you might not know everything you might need to say so asking the translation of an English word (or two…) in French might come handy. To do so, you should say “comment dit-on … en français?”(“how do we say…in French?). If they have the answer, French people will gladly help you.

16.How to say do you speak English in French? – Parlez-vous anglais?


Sometimes, despite all your willing, the situation might become a bit too complicated and your linguistic knowledge might be a little too little! In that case, you might want to ask someone if they speak English. If so, the correct phrase is “parlez-vous anglais?”

17. How to say I do not understand French Well? – Je ne comprends pas bien le français / Or How to say I do not speak very well French? – je ne parle pas très bien français

You’ll see some French people can be very talkative and might get giddy telling you all about their fabulous country. It might be the right moment to tell them you are not fluent in French (yet!) and that you do not understand everything they are saying.

“Je ne comprends pas bien le français” (I don’t understand French very well”) and “Je ne parle pas très bien français” (“I don’t speak French very well”) are the two phrases you’ll need.

18.How to say can you speak more slowly in French? – Pouvez-vous parler moins vite?

In similar situations, you might want people to speak more slowly. This could allow you to understand more familiar basic French words or even maybe to read on people’s lips if you find the pronunciation or accent too difficult to understand. “Pouvez-vous parler moins vite?” means “Can you speak more slowly?”

19.How to say can you repeat in French? – Pouvez-vous répéter?

Have you ever been in that awkward situation where someone is telling you something but you literally do not have a clue what they’re on about?

Yes, so have I… Well you don’t have any choice.

You will have to ask them to repeat and put all your efforts into it to understand better what they are saying. The required question is “pouvez-vous répéter? (Can you repeat?”).

20.How to say can you help me in French? – Pouvez-vous m’aider?

Touch wood nothing bad will ever happen to you while visiting France (or elsewhere for that matter) but if you find yourself in a difficult situation, you might want to ask people for some help.

In that case, you would say “pouvez-vous m’aider?” (“Can you help me?”). This phrase could also be used in a lot less dramatic situation as, for example, if you need help choosing the right outfit for a fabulous evening out you’re planning at the local French restaurant!

21.How to say where is the subway in French? – Où est le métro?

When making your way to that lovely restaurant mentioned above, you might get lost (again!).

Finding the subway might help you on your way. “Où est le métro?” is what you will need to say to ask “where is the subway?”.

22.How to say can I use the toilet? – Puis-je utiliser les toilettes?

In most big cities, you should be able to find public toilets in the streets. However, in all fairness, you may not want to use them or maybe there might not be one in the specific location you will spend your day. You could then enter a restaurant or a café and politely ask to use their facilities.

“Puis-je utiliser les toilettes” is the French translation for “Can I use the toilets?”

23.How to say where are the toilets in French? – Où sont les toilettes

If you already are in a restaurant or café, you might simply want to ask where the toilets are. In that case, you will say “Où sont les toilettes?” (“Where are the toilets?”).

24.How to say can I have the bill in French? – Pourrais-je avoir l’addition?

You have just had a gorgeous three course meal and it’s now time to pay. To ask for the bill, you need to say “pourrais-je avoir l’addition?” (Can I have the bill?”).


With all these most common french words and phrases, you should now be ready to enjoy your trip to France!

Now I’d like to hear from you:

Which basic French words and phrases was most tough for you to pronounce?

Either way, leave a quick comment below right now if you have queries

Side Note: Want a light introduction to French Courses Online? Check Out Our French Courses Online for Beginners