The 20 Best French Textbooks for Any Level
To become a maverick of the French language, you need to have an understanding of French grammar and enough vocabulary to get you started.
One of the best ways to do that is with a good ol’ fashioned textbook.
Here are some great French textbooks for every level that will hold your hand through la rue (the road) ahead.
- Textbooks for Beginners
- Textbooks for Intermediates
- Textbooks for Advanced Learners
- Vocabulary Textbooks
- Grammar Textbooks
- Pronunciation Textbooks
- And one more thing...
Textbooks for Beginners
1. Easy French Step-by-step
This book is the number one best-seller in the French Language Instruction portion of Amazon.com. It’s popular for a good reason.
The way this book is organized takes you through different modules in a way that actually makes sense. It introduces more than 300 verbs, presented in order of importance.
Verbs are vital when you’re starting out. This textbook will give you a foundation for grammar, vocabulary, all while building off itself chapter by chapter. It comes complete with a ton of exercises and their solutions, which makes for good practice!
2. Allez, viens! French 1
An oldie but a goodie, this textbook is targeted at middle and high school students but works as a great starting point for adult learners.
It won’t get you fluent in French, but the aim is to get you proficient, with lots of coverage on colloquial language and interesting topics to keep you engaged with the content. It also encourages you to learn new vocabulary by using contextual clues.
This textbook doesn’t include audio, but SRS flashcards with pronunciation guides are available on the language immersion program FluentU, with vocabulary decks for each chapter.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
3. Entre Amis
If you like your books to be a little more flashy, then this may be a better choice than Easy French Step-by-Step, as it has more graphics. This text is best if you have a vague knowledge of French already, but it’s still great for beginners because it covers, well, beginner’s French.
Many of the modules focus more on oral interactions, teaching through a performance-oriented approach. So if you’re outgoing, find a language-learning buddy to practice with.
Unlike similar textbooks, its focus is on phrases and vocabulary that (gasp!) you may actually use in the real world.
4. Contacts: Langue et culture françaises
This textbook boasts great visuals, important cultural references, help with pronunciation and a useful French-English dictionary in the back, so you don’t have to go craning your neck from textbook to dictionary and back again.
If you are looking for listening exercises (very important if you ever hope to understand the French), then make sure you get the supplemental audio to go along with it.
Textbooks for Intermediates
5. En bonne forme
Idioms and slang aplenty! Didn’t think you’d find that in a textbook, did you? This book is serious business. If grammar is what you need help with, and you’re ready to sprinkle more advanced vocabulary into your French, then here’s your solution.
En bonne forme is a great reference for all things French grammar, and it goes through the tenses and rules with great examples, explanations and attention to detail.
6. Mise en scène: cinéma et lecture
If you’re studying French, then there’s a chance that you may also enjoy French cinema. French can open doors to wonderful time periods and styles of filmmaking. And while watching French movies is certainly a viable way to learn French, sometimes having a more organized approach is best.
This textbook does exactly that; it uses French-language films and corresponding texts to help expand your knowledge of culture and vocabulary, with activities that tie it all together. Cinephiles and Francophiles alike, this may be as fun as textbooks get.
7. Moments Litteraires: An Anthology for Intermediate French
Bookworms, I know you’re out there, wondering if you can just read your way to fluency. Well, no, not technically, but you sure can learn about the intricacies of grammar (oh hey simple past tense) and build your vocabulary.
This is an anthology of French masterpieces, dating back from the Middle Ages to present day. It also includes pre- and post-reading activities to help you get the most out of each reading.
Textbooks for Advanced Learners
8. Le Bon Usage
This is the pinnacle of French textbooks. This reference guide to the nooks and crannies of French usage and style is a whopping 1600-1800 pages (depending on what edition you get). It was first published in 1936 and has been revised systematically since. There is even a new online edition.
It may seem daunting, but if you’re serious about your French, ranging from struggling beginner to fluent professional, this book will have the answers presented in an organized manner to any little question about usage you may have.
9. Advanced French
If you’re looking for something a little more general, than this book may be more your speed. With similar topics to Le Bon Usage, it’s a little bit easier to digest because it’s made for English speakers.
It has an insane amount of French examples from a huge array of texts, and will give you a detailed answer to all your grammar questions. It’s also a more normal size for a textbook (706 pages), including a very helpful index of phrases, vocabulary and topics to help make finding what you need to know a little easier.
10. Short Stories in French
Similar to Moments Litteraire in its teaching methods, this is a great book for more casual French reading (assuming you can read in French, that is). It has great short stories, all in both French and English (to help you out with comprehension).
If you’re looking for more books like this and aren’t ready to throw the English crutches to the curb just yet, then there are plenty of parallel texts out there. Here’s a good list of other titles.
11. Mastering French Vocabulary: A Thematic Approach
If you were a student for many years and didn’t get a lot of immersion-based experience, but somehow emerged at the end with a whole lot of grammar knowledge (teachers like to review those tenses!), then you’re probably looking for some vocabulary help. This book contains over 5,000 words and phrases (Learn all of them! All of them!), all organized by theme to make it digestible.
12. Larousse French-English Dictionary
Every French learner needs a good dictionary. While there are plenty of french translation apps out there, there’s nothing like the good-old-fashioned way of translating!
They’ve got a variety of editions including editions for middle schoolers, college students, a concise version, pocket version and a big old hardcover one if you like having big red books on your shelf.
13. 501 French Verbs
This book is invaluable. If you suddenly forget the past participle of pouvoir, you whip this book out, find the verb and there it is—its past participle and how to form it in all the major tenses.
And, you guessed it, this is done with 501 different verbs. A good thing to have on your shelf, no matter what level your French is at.
14. La Conjugaison Pour Tous
Whether you’re an absolute beginner trying to conjugate avoir or an intermediate learner trying to understand finer points of the subjunctive mood, “La conjugaison pour tous” offers everything you need to know about verb conjugations.
Not only does “La conjugaison pour tous” cover as many verbs as even the best online conjugators, but each entry goes above and beyond by giving contextual information about how the verb is used. All tenses are given, plus additional information often not found in other conjugation books.
15. La Grammaire Pour Tous
Another popular installment in the Bescherelle series, “La grammaire pour tous” is a popular book in French immersion schools with millions sold.
“La grammaire pour tous” presents syntax, punctuation, and sentence structure with easy-to-follow examples, allowing you to write advanced French faster.
16. English Grammar for Students of French
It’s not counter-intuitive to review English grammar while learning French because French has so deeply influenced English that their respective grammar rules exhibit surprising similarities.
Most textbooks don’t explain French grammar by comparing it to English, leaving students scratching their heads trying to understand when to use certain constructs. Granted, there are many great reference books for French grammar, but “English Grammar” sets itself apart by offering concise explanations and examples tailored to English speakers.
Prospective writers will find examples of virtually every construct practical to learners, each with a direct comparison to its English equivalent.
17. Exercises in French Phonics
So you’ve got your vocab under control, your grammar in check, but you sound pretty weird when you speak.
If you need to kick your pronunciation into gear, this book is a great resource. It’s also a nice and compact book so you can take it with you on all your French-speaking adventures.
18. L’orthographe Pour Tous
This Bescherelle installment is far more than a simple dictionary. “L’orthographe pour tous” helps you memorize French spelling by grouping together words that are spelled similarly.
This book explains different methods to write a given sound, in addition to providing lists of homonyms (words with similar pronunciations but different meanings) to be aware of.
Each word in the glossary includes a number which directs you to its entry containing its etymology and the spelling rules for the word group it belongs to. “L’orthographe pour tous” is, in my opinion, one of the rare books that goes beyond mere memorization to help you organize your study of French spelling.
19. Savoir Dire
Even if you’re already taken classes to improve your pronunciation, “Savoir dire” serves as a great reference book for spoken French.
Pronunciation remains one of the greatest stumbling blocks for French learners. “Savoir dire” breaks down complicated words into easily repeatable sounds demonstrated in an included CD and helps you master the phonetic alphabet.
More than just teaching you how to pronounce French, “Savoir dire”explains how to use your mouth like a francophone when you speak.
20. A La Recherche d’un Emploi
This book allows advanced students to gain insight into the French workplace, and the examples of French business correspondence make this textbook a great reference book to have on hand.
“A la recherche” provides myriad examples of French business texts: résumés, cover letters, financial statements, you name it. Business writing in France is very different from elsewhere, so it’s important to understand the key differences at play here.
Also of note are hundreds of words used daily at the office, covering a range of domains including economics, technology, personal finance, etc. You’ll never be at a loss for words in the office again!
No need to develop an extensive collection of textbooks just to learn the language, but hopefully you’ll find something that suits your needs and helps fill in any learning gaps!
And one more thing...
If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with learn mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning, and play the mini-games found in our dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.