What’s the fastest way to learn French?
Should you invest in an expensive French course?
Splurge on high-end French wine and cheese?
Consult the nearest psychic?
What if I told you that you needed none of those things?!
It’s true—taking your French from zero to a solid beginner stage is as easy as 1-2-3!
Learning vocabulary is one of the cornerstones of learning French.
In tandem with grammar, vocabulary populates your sentences and allows you to express yourself as well as your needs, wants and desires. It allows you to describe your concrete surroundings, as well as talk about the hypothetical—even that imaginary psychic you wanted to consult at the beginning of this post!
What’s the best news about vocabulary?
Well, according to the 80-20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, by learning 20% of the most common words in a language you can understand 80% of all written and oral communications.
While gauging 20% of a language may seem tough considering French dictionaries like Larousse claim to have over 135,000 words, it’s easy to grow a carefully targeted vocabulary in French!
In fact, according to the Universe of Memory, a base vocabulary of 500 words gives you a solid A1 (beginner) language level.
Does 500 words sound like a lot?
Consider this: with the following post, you can learn 250 of the most common French words right now!
That means that after this post, you’ll be halfway to having a solid base in the French language. In other words, learning the most common base words in a language allows you to become a functional beginner rather quickly.
Did I say taking your French from zero to a solid beginner stage is as easy as 1-2-3? I should have said as easy as 2-5-0!
250 Easy French Words to Boost Your Vocabulary
Wondering what to do with all of this vocabulary once you start learning it?
FluentU is a fantastic tool to take the following vocabulary words and put them into context.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
With FluentU, you can hear French vocabulary used by native speakers in authentic situations.
Browse videos by difficulty (beginner to native), topic (arts and entertainment, health and lifestyle, etc.) and format (video blog, news, shows, etc.) to find exactly what you’re looking for.
Then, practice what you’ve heard using interactive subtitles, flashcards, quizzes and more. Customize your playlists to focus on learning the French words you want.
Start learning with FluentU directly from your browser, or download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
Without further ado, check out 250 of the most common French words to skyrocket your French to a solid beginner stage!
The following is vocabulary that’s used in the most common French conversations and situations, excluding common greetings and pleasantries.
Keep in mind the similarities between French and English when learning words from these lists. English has borrowed a lot of words from French and vice versa. As such, memorizing these words should be fairly easy!
Common Household Vocabulary
Some of the most important words in any language have to do with our immediate surroundings.
That being said, it’s crucial to learn the French words that describe the places where we live.
Check out the following common words that denote specific rooms and spaces in our households.
La maison — the house
La salle — the room
La cuisine — the kitchen
La salle à manger — the dining room
Le bureau — the office
Le salon — the living room
La chambre — the bedroom
La salle de bain — the bathroom (this room may not include a toilet)
Les toilettes — the bathroom (this room includes a toilet, sometimes exclusively)
Le sous-sol — the basement
Le grenier — attic
La porte — the door
La fenêtre — the window
Le couloir — the hall
L’escalier — the stairs
Le mur — the wall
Le sol — the floor
Le plafond — the ceiling
With the above words, you could say je suis dans… (I am in…) and attach any of the vocabulary words to say where you are in the house.
Similarly, with the phrase je vais à… (I am going to…), you can say where you intend to go.
With this construction, however, pay attention to the gender of the word that you add to the sentence. For instance, je vais à… becomes je vais au… (I am going to…) before masculine words and the le (the) gets dropped.
Je vais au sous-sol.
I am going to the basement
Continuing with our household theme, the following is a list of common words associated with rooms in the house.
Le bureau — the desk
L’ordinateur — the computer
L’étagère — the bookshelf
Le livre — the book
La télévision — the television
Le canapé / le sofa — the couch
La chaise — the chair
La lampe — the lamp
Le rideau — the curtain
Le réfrigérateur — the fridge
Le four — the oven
La cuisinière — the stove
L’évier — the sink
La table — the table
Le lit — the bed
L’oreiller — the pillow
La commode — the dresser
L’horloge — the clock
La baignoire — the bathtub
La douche — the shower
La toilette — the toilet
La brosse à dents — the toothbrush
Le dentifrice — the toothpaste
Le tapis — the rug
Le miroir — the mirror
La téléphone — the telephone
With the above object words, you could ask the question qu’est-ce que c’est ? (what is this?).
To answer the question, simply start a phrase with c’est… (it is) and name the object, including its article (le, la or l’).
Common Food & Drinks
Hungry or thirsty? Check out the most common French words for food and drinks.
Le restaurant — the restaurant
Le café — the cafe / coffee
Le thé — the tea
Le jus — the juice
Le lait — the milk
Le vin — the wine
La bière — the beer
L’eau — water
La fruit — the fruit
La pomme — the apple
La banane — the banana
L’orange — the orange
La fraise — the strawberry
Le raisin — the grape
Les légumes — the vegetables
La salade — the salad
La carotte — the carrot
La pomme-de-terre — the potato
Le tomate — the tomato
La laitue — lettuce
Le champignon — mushroom
La viande — meat
Le poisson — fish
Le poulet — chicken
Le bœuf — beef
Le petit-déjeuner — breakfast
Le déjeuner — lunch
Le dîner — dinner
Le repas — meal
Le goûter — snack
L’assiette — plate
Le couteau — knife
La fourchette — fork
La cuillère — spoon
La tasse — cup
When making sentences with food words, use the phrase je mange de… (I am eating…) and attach any of the above words to say what you’re eating.
Next, say je bois de… (I am drinking…) and attach any of the above words to say what you’re drinking.
Make sure to pay attention to the gender and number of what comes next.
Je mange de la fruit.
I eat fruit.
Je bois du thé.
I drink tea.
At a restaurant, you could also say s’il vous plaît (please) after any of these words to say what you would like to eat or drink.
Want to be extra fancy with the serveur (the server)? Say, je voudrais… (I would like…) to say what you want to order.
Vocabulary for School or Work
Headed to a French-speaking region for employment or study? Well, then the following words are essential!
L’école — the school
Le crayon — the pencil
Le stylo — the pen
Le cahier — the notebook
La salle de classe — the classroom
La calculatrice — the calculator
La matière scolaire — the school subject
L’histoire — history
La géographie — geography
La musique — music
Les sciences — the sciences
Les mathématiques — mathematics
Le sport — sports
Le français — French
L’anglais — English
Les notes — grades (marks)
Le professeur / la professeure — the teacher
L’étudiant(e) / l’élève — the student
Are you in need of a particular school supply?
Tell the person beside you j’ai besoin de… (I need…) and name the object.
Be careful though! If the word is masculine (with the le article), you will say j’ai besoin du… (I need…).
If you want to say that you’re studying a particular subject area, simply say j’étudie… (I am studying…) and name the subject from the list above.
Now let’s talk about career words! The following are common words associated with jobs and work.
La compagnie — the company
L’emploi — the job
Le travail — the work
Le dentiste — the dentist
L’écrivain — the writer
Le médicin — the doctor (medical)
Le serveur / la serveuse — the waiter / waitress
L’avocat — the lawyer
Le caissier / la caissière — the cashier
L’ingénieur(e) — the engineer
Le mécanicien / la mécanicienne — the mechanic
Le plombier / la plombière — the plumber
Le pompier / la pompière — the firefighter
Le policier / la policière — the police officer
L’architecte — the architect
Le travailleur / la travailleuse — the worker
Le boulanger / la boulangère — the baker
Le boucher / la bouchère — the butcher
Le coiffeur / la coiffeuse — the hairdresser
To name the job that you do, you could say je suis… (I am…) and name the job without the corresponding article.
Je suis plombier.
I am a plumber.
Notice that the above example doesn’t include an article, such as le or un.
Furthermore, you could say je travaille à… (I work at…) and name the company where you work.
Keep in mind that some jobs differ depending on the gender of the worker. From the list above, the variation that begins with le (the) is masculine and is used for male workers of a job, and the variation with la is the feminine and is used with female workers of the job.
Vocabulary for Places
Splitting your time between home, school and work is no fun! You want to get out and explore, don’t you?
Check out the following common words for standard places or locations.
La ville — the city
La campagne — the countryside
La ferme — the farm
Le parc — the park
La rivière / le fleuve — the river
L’arbre — the tree
La fleur — the flower
Le bâtiment — the building
La tour — the tower
Le bureau de poste — the post office
La bibliothèque — the library
La librairie — the bookstore
La boulangerie — the bakery
La pharmacie — the pharmacy
L’hôpital — the hospital
Le marché / le supermarché — the market / supermarket
Le cinéma — the movie theatre
La banque — the bank
L’église — the church
Le musée — the museum
La gare — the train station
Le trottoir — the sidewalk
La rue — the street
You could say je vais à… (I’m going to…) and attach any of the vocabulary words to say where you’re going.
Like before, remember to pay attention to the gender of the word with this phrase. For instance, je vais à… becomes je vais au… (I am going to…) before masculine words and the le (the) gets dropped.
Je vais au supermarché.
I am going to the supermarket.
Are you lost? Simply begin your question with où est…? (where is?) and add in the place you’re looking for to get directions.
Où est le bureau de poste ?
Where is the post office?
Où est la boulangerie ?
Where is the bakery?
The latter example is especially helpful if you’re craving some delectable French bread!
Describing Yourself & Other Things
Even though the French aren’t particularly fond of small talk, it’s still useful to ask someone how they’re doing.
To form this question in French, say comment ça va ? (how are you?), or the hyper-formal comment allez-vous ? (how are you?).
To answer the question, you have an array of options. You could say ça va bien (things are going well) or ça va mal (things are not going well).
To say that things are just okay, you could simply say ça va (it’s okay) or comme-ci, comme-ça. Keep in mind, however, that comme-ci, comme-ça is a textbook phrase that isn’t actually used much in French-speaking regions these days.
Looking for more meaningful descriptions? The following are common words that can be used to describe yourself, others or inanimate things.
Grand(e) — big
Petit(e) — small
Chaud(e) — hot
Froid(e) — cold
Intelligent(e) — smart
Fâché(e) — angry
Triste — sad
Heureux / heureuse — happy
Drôle — funny
Jeune — young
Vieux / vieille — old
Nerveux / nerveuse — nervous
Beau / belle — beautiful
Facile — easy
Difficile — hard
Effrayé(e) — scared
Ennuyé(e) — bored
Ennuyeux / ennuyeuse — boring
Étrange — strange
Fort(e) — strong
Possible — possible
Impossible — impossible
Sportif / sportive — athletic
Keep in mind that some adjectives change genders depending on the gender of the noun it describes.
In this list, the masculine forms are given first, with the feminine forms being either those with an added -e or the second form of the adjective.
For example, if you wanted to say “the house is big” in French, you’d have to use the feminine form of the adjective, as follows:
La maison est grande.
The house is big.
Interested in more adjectives? Check out how to say common colors in French as well!
Animals & Nature Vocabulary
There’s no break from studying I love more than taking a nice walk in nature. The following are common French words that can be used to describe animals or nature.
Le chien — dog
Le chat — cat
Le lapin — rabbit
Le lion — lion
Le cheval — horse
La vache — cow
Le requin — shark
Le singe — monkey
Le cochon — pig
L’oiseau — bird
La souris — mouse
La tortue — turtle
Un canard — duck
Un crapaud — toad
Une grenouille — frog
Le soleil — the sun
La pluie — the rain
Le vent — the wind
La neige — the snow
Le nuage — the cloud
L’éclair — the lightning
La tonnerre — the thunder
L’orage — the storm
La montagne — the mountain
La plage — the beach
La forêt — the forest
La terre — soil / the earth
La colline — the hill
Le lac — the lake
L’océan — the ocean
Interested in knowing what you should wear for the weather outside? Ask quel temps fait-il ? (what’s the weather?).
Remember, however, that when talking about the temperature, you say il fait chaud (it is hot) and il fait froid (it is cold), using the verb faire (to do, to make) instead of the verb être (to be).
If you’re feeling daring, turn on la météo (the weather forecast) for an in-depth look!
So far we’ve been focusing on common words to describe our surroundings and our experiences, but we’ve left out a crucial piece: verbs.
Verbs are words that describe actions, and, in fact, most French sentences (and sentences in other languages) need verbs to make sense.
The absolute most common French verbs are être (to be), avoir (to have) and aller (to go), and these verbs are irregular, meaning they don’t follow the same rules of usage (or conjugation) that so-called regular verbs do.
This means that these verbs need to be memorized, but once committed to memory, you’ll find that your sentences completely fall into place. In the meantime, try using a handy French verb conjugation tool, like the one from Reverso.
Lucky for you, French learner, most other verbs are regular. This means that you only have to learn the endings of their group, which apply to all regular verbs in that group.
In French, there are three groups of so-called regular verbs, denoted by their infinitive (unconjugated) endings: -er verbs, -ir verbs and -re verbs.
The most common -er verbs are as follows:
Parler — to speak
Aimer — to like
Chanter — to sing
Danser — to dance
Fermer — to close
Demander — to ask
Étudier — to study
Regarder — to watch
Visiter — to visit (a place)
Habiter — to live
Jouer — to play
Laver — to wash
Penser — to think
Utiliser — to use
Trouver — to find
Manger — to eat
Following the conjugation rules for -er verbs, you could say things such as je parle français (I speak French) and il visite la banque (he visits the bank).
Common -ir verbs include the following:
Finir — to finish
Bâtir — to build
Choisir — to choose
Remplir — to fill
Grandir — to grow
Grossir — to gain weight
Obéir — to obey
Punir — to punish
Réfléchir — to reflect
Réussir — to succeed / pass (a test)
With the conjugation rules for regular -ir verbs, you could say something like tu bâtis une maison (you build a house) and nous réussissons le test (we pass the test).
Check out the most common -re verbs:
Vendre — to sell
Attendre — to wait
Détendre — to relax
Entendre — to hear
Fondre — to melt
Descendre — to go down / descend
Pendre — to hang
Perdre — to lose
Prétendre — to claim
Répondre — to respond
Use the conjugation rules of regular -re verbs to say things like ils vendent des pommes (they sell apples) and elle entend l’oiseau (she hears the bird).
And just like that, you have 250 words to bring your French to the next level. Practice these words often and watch your French comprehension and production vastly improve!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.