Plane ticket? Check.
It may seem as though you have everything you need for your French vacation, but you’ve forgotten something.
And it’s not just something you could easily replace, like a forgotten toothbrush.
This something could save your life.
You’ve gotta bring along French phrases for emergencies!
Luckily, even French beginners can master these phrases for emergencies in France.
You may not want to think about these phrases, but trust us, you’ll be happy to have them should the occasion arise.
Here’s hoping this is the simplest, best guide to French vocabulary that you’ll never have to use!
10 Easy French Sentences for Travel Emergencies
French Vocabulary for the Hospital or Injuries
It’s a worst-case scenario and one that we hope you’ll never encounter. But on your travels in France, you might find yourself needing to communicate injury or find a doctor or hospital, and that’s not a time for miming or searching through your phrasebook or French app on your phone.
With these phrases, you’ll easily be able to communicate what’s wrong and take a quick step towards making it all better!
1. J’ai mal…
This sentence directly translates to “I have badness…” but what it really means is “I hurt.” Finish the sentence with a body part, and you’ll be able to say “My ____ hurts.”
Of course, to do that, you’ll need the body parts… and a little preposition (admittedly not everyone’s favorite part of mastering French grammar, but you’ll see—it’ll be easy!)
J’ai mal is used with the à la/au/aux/à l’ series of prepositions. To know which one to use, you’ll need to know the gender and number of the noun you need. Here are a few examples:
- Feminine, singular: J’ai mal à la tête. (I have a headache.)
- Masculine, singular: J’ai mal au pied. (My foot hurts.)
- Either gender, plural: J’ai mal aux dents. (My teeth hurt.)
- Either gender, singular, noun beginning with a vowel: J’ai mal à l’oreille. (My ear hurts.)
Here are some more body part words that can be used with this construction:
- Le dos (back)
- Le ventre (stomach)
- La main (hand)
- La jambe (leg)
- Le genou (knee)
- L’œil (eye)
- Le cou (neck)
2. Je suis allergique à…
Now that you know how to say what’s hurting, you can also easily say what you’re allergic to! Allergies use the same à la/au/aux/à l’ construction as the above sentence, and what’s more, most medications are the same or nearly the same word in French or in English.
If your allergy is not a medication, here are a few common allergens in French:
- Les abeilles (bees)
- Les fruits de mer/les coquillages (seafood/shellfish)
- Le blé (wheat)
- Les noix et les fruits secs (nuts and dried fruits/nuts)
- Les cacahuètes (peanuts)
- Les fraises (strawberries)
- Le gluten (gluten)
Note: Gluten-free dining is relatively new in France. If gluten-free foods are a necessity for your health, it would be a good idea to detail the things that you cannot eat on a card and give it to your server. Things on the list could/should include:
- Le pain (bread)
- La farine (flour)
- La bière (beer)
- L’orge (barley)
- Le seigle (rye)
These sentences can all help avoid a medical emergency, but if the situation is more dire, know that you have several options in France.
If you need to get to the hospital but do not need to travel by ambulance, a simple question concerning the location of the hospital may be enough:
3. Où est l’hôpital ? (Where is the hospital?)
That being said, taxis are forbidden by law from taking passengers with a medical emergency, and if you have travel insurance, ambulance transport is usually covered. To have an ambulance come pick you up, use this sentence:
4. Il me faut une ambulance. (I need an ambulance.)
Of course, there are some medical emergencies best suited to a doctor or physician, not a hospital. For these situations, use the following sentence:
5. J’ai besoin d’un médecin. (I need a doctor.)
The above sentence can be modified in several ways. You can change the general word médecin to ask for a type of doctor in particular:
- Un dentiste (a dentist)
- Un gynécologue (a gynecologist)
- Un kinésithérapeute (a chiropractor)
- Un cardiologue (a cardiologist)
If you would like your doctor to speak English, simply say the word anglophone at the end of the sentence.
French Vocabulary for Robbery and Theft
When visiting a foreign country, the last thing you want is to be the victim of a robbery or theft. That being said, should you find yourself in this situation, you must act quickly. These sentences will help you communicate your predicament quickly and simply.
6. Quelqu’un m’a pris…
This sentence means “Someone took (from me)…” As prendre is a transitive verb, all you need to follow up this sentence with is the noun of the object that has been stolen preceded by the correct form of “my”: ma/mon/mes:
- Feminine, singular: Quelqu’un m’a pris ma valise. (Someone took my suitcase.)
- Masculine, singular: Quelqu’un m’a pris mon téléphone. (Someone took my phone.)
- Either gender, plural: Quelqu’un m’a pris mes sacs. (Someone took my bags.)
- Feminine, singular, beginning with a vowel: Quelqu’un m’a pris mon oreillette Bluetooth. (Someone took my Bluetooth earpiece.)
Here are a few other words that can be used with this construction:
- L’argent (money)
- Un ordinateur (computer)
- Une voiture (car)
- Un collier (necklace)
- Une bague (ring)
- Un appareil photo (camera)
- Un porte-feuille (wallet)
- Un passeport (passport)
7. J’ai une assurance voyage. (I have traveler’s insurance.)
Once you have declared the stolen object at the local police préfecture, you may need to let them know about your insurance, making this sentence very useful.
Make sure you ask for a simple translation of the terms and conditions of your policy so that you can show them to concerned parties and make sure that you can get back to your vacation as soon as possible.
Some other emergencies you might encounter require specific phrases to take care of them. These phrases are a bit like magic keys—once you know them, the situation will seem far less dire.
8. J’ai perdu/On m’a volé mon passeport. Où est le consulat… ? (I lost/Someone stole my passport. Where is the consulate?)
When traveling in a foreign country, losing your passport poses several problems, not the least of which is the fact that you’ll need to replace it in order to get home. To do this, you’ll need to visit the consulate of your native country, meaning you’ll need to know the French adjective that describes your homeland. Here are a few:
- américain (American)
- australien (Australien)
- britannique (British)
- irlandais (Irish)
- d’Afrique du Sud (South African)
- néo-zélandais (New Zealand)
9. Je sens…
There are some things that you just don’t think about having to say until you need them… for example, the above sentence, which means: I smell…
Why is this a travel emergency?
Imagine if you wanted to follow it up with either gas or smoke!
Je sens du gaz. (I smell gas.)
Je sens de la fumée. (I smell smoke.)
10. Au secours ! (Help!)
Sometimes, for whatever reason, you can’t explain the exact nature of the help you need. Maybe it’s too complex and requires too many details. Or maybe the situation is in process, and all you need is to get someone’s attention so that they can help. For these situations—and many others when you’re just too frazzled to remember the above sentences—the phrase above is a catch-all: Help!
In case of emergency, break open your backpack and pull out a phrasebook. The best French phrasebooks will contain quite a bit of useful information for medical emergencies and other urgent situations. Lonely Planet has a brilliant collection of French phrasebooks that can help you out anywhere in the Francophonie. The Lonely Planet travel guides should also give you any necessary information about seeking medical attention while abroad.
Also, in the interest of being prepared, you may want to consider taking a basic conversational French course before going abroad. Ed2go offers Beginning Conversational French, which focuses on real, practical French that you’ll actually be able to use (and that’s good to have on hand) before you head off to the airport.
Now that you know how to make yourself understood in French emergencies, we hope you are quite a bit less worried about your trip to France… meaning you can focus even more on perfecting your French via your FluentU lessons!
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