A woman speaks on the phone in front of her laptop

Master French Phone Conversations: 70+ Key Vocabulary Words, Phrases and Example Dialogues

Talking on the phone is an art.

Whether it be to help you do your job or to easily socialize with your cool new French friends, having a natural, smooth-flowing phone conversation will require thinking quickly on your feet.

So in this post, we’re going to help you remain cool, calm and collected while having French phone conversations. We’ve included key vocabulary and phrases and example phone dialogues, so you’ll have all you need to perfect this important skill.

Contents

How to Have Flawless French Phone Conversations

A woman talking on the phone

Phone Call Greetings

Casual:

  • Allô ? (Hello?)

Easy peasy, and almost exactly like the English, with a cute little hat on the “o.”

Formal:

  • [Name of office/company], bonjour. ([Name of office/company], hello.)

In more formal environments like the business world, for example, answering the phone requires taking it up a notch. If you call the bank or Internet service provider, you’re likely to hear something like “Société Générale, bonjour” (Société Général, hello) or “Bouygues Telecom, bonjour” (Bouygues Telecom, hello).

Getting Connected to the Right Person

In an ideal world, we’d reach the person we’d like to speak to immediately. More often, though, you have to pass through an intermediary. In casual conversations, this may mean talking to a parent, sibling or partner. In more formal contexts, you’ll often have to go through a secretary.

Casual:

  • Bonjour, c’est [Y], [X] est là/disponible? (Hello, it’s [Y], is [X] there/available?)

Formal:

  • Puis-je parler à [X]? (May I please speak to [X]?)
  • Je voudrais parler à [X]. (I would like to speak to [X].)
  • Est-ce le bureau de [X]? (Is this [X]’s office?)

Asking Who’s on the Line

Asking who is on the line in the age of caller ID may seem like a thing of the past, but you know how it goes. People forget to save numbers, phones get lost, phones break and numbers change. C’est la vie (That’s life).

Regardless of how well you may or may not know a person, if their identity is temporarily unknown, it’s best to be polite (dare I say formal) rather than grunting a (very) casual “C’est qui ?” (Who is it?). Here are two alternatives:

  • Qui est à l’appareil ? (Who is on the phone?)

Un appareil is French for a device, and in the contexts of phone conversations, it refers to the phone.

  • C’est de la part de qui ? (Who is calling/speaking, please?)

More broadly speaking, the expression “de la part de” means “on behalf of.”

Holding During a French Phone Call

They say that patience is a virtue. I believe this to be especially true when you’re forced to listen to hold music (which I’ve been led to believe is the same all over the world, thanks to extensive personal research).

Casual:

  • Ne quitte pas. (Please hold.)
  • Je te le/la passe. (I’ll put you through (to him or her).)

Formal:

  • Merci de vouloir patienter quelques instants. (Wait a moment, please.)
  • Veuillez patienter, s’il vous plaît. (Be so kind as to wait please.)

Note that veuillez is the second person plural imperative form of vouloir (to want).

  • Ne quittez pas (la ligne). (Please hold.)
  • Je vous le/la passe. (I’ll put you through (to him or her).)
  • La ligne est occupée. (The line is busy.)

Technical Difficulties on French Phone Calls

Can you hear me now? Unfortunately, dropped calls and spotty reception are things cell phone users know all too well. Let’s take a look at how to handle such inconveniences in French.

Casual:

  • Je ne capte pas très bien. (My reception isn’t very good.)

Capter is a verb with several meanings. In addition to “to receive a signal,” as in the case of a phone’s reception, it can also mean “to attract attention,” “to tap” a resource such as water, or in more informal contexts capter can also mean “to understand” or “to grasp.”

  • Ça coupe. (You’re breaking up.)

Ça, a contraction of cela, meaning “this” or “that,” is an indefinite demonstrative pronounHere, ça refers to “this connection.”

  • Je ne t’entends pas. (I don’t hear you.)

Formal:

  • La connexion est de mauvaise qualité. (The connection is bad.)
  • Nous avons été coupés. (We were disconnected.)
  • Pouvez-vous répéter cela? (Can you repeat that?)

Use the above line instead of screaming “Quoi ?” (What?) at your interlocutor.

Ending a French Phone Conversation

Casual:

  • Salut (Bye.)

In French, salut can also work as the casual greeting of “hi” or “hey” instead of bonjour (hello, good morning).

  • Allez, ciao/bises. (Alrighty, ciao/kisses.)

In French, allez is often used as an expression of finality, which makes it a bit difficult to translate into English but it roughly translates to “alright” or “alrighty” in the above instance.

  • À tout (à l’heure). (See you (later).)

Formal:

  • Au revoir. (Goodbye.)
  • Bonne journée, au revoir. (Have a nice day, goodbye.)

French Phone Vocabulary

A man has a conversation on the phone

  • Un annuaire Phone book
  • Un numéro Telephone number
  • Une sonnerie (de téléphone) Ringtone
  • Un répondeur Answering machine
  • Un répertoire — Contacts
  • Une tonalité — Dial tone
  • Appeler To call
  • Composer un numéro To dial a number
  • Décrocher To pick up
  • Laisser un message To leave a message
  • Patienter To wait
  • Raccrocher To hang up
  • Rappeler To call back
  • Sonner To ring
  • Recevoir un appel — To receive a call
  • Passer un appel — To make a call
  • Téléphone portable — Cell phone / Mobile phone
  • Téléphone fixe — Landline phone
  • Appel en absence — Missed call
  • Mettre en haut-parleur — To put on speakerphone
  • Carte SIM — SIM card
  • Écouter un message — To listen to a message
  • Passer en mode silencieux — To put on silent mode
  • Couper la sonnerie — To mute the ringer
  • Joindre quelqu’un — To get in touch with someone
  • Communication — Call
  • Communication internationale — International call
  • Communication locale — Local call

Sample French Phone Conversations

A woman talks on the phone in her office

Did you know that in French, phones don’t go ring ring but rather dring dring ? Anyway! Now that you’ve learned some lines, let’s look at some examples, shall we?

Casual Phone Dialogues

Dring dring !

M. Durand: Allô ? (Hello?)

Paul: Allô, c’est Paul, Michel est là ? (Hello, it’s Paul; is Michel there?)

M. Durand: Ah, Paul ! Tu vas bien ? Oui, Michel est dans le salon. Je te le passe. (Ah, Paul! How are you doing? Yes, Michel is in the living room. I’ll put you through.)

Paul: Merci (Thank you)

Michel: Salut mec, ça va ? (Hey, dude, how’s it going?)

Paul: Ça va et toi ? (Everything’s good and you?)

Michel: Ça roule. (Everything’s good.)

Paul: Écoute, je pense avoir oublié mes crampons chez toi. Tu peux regarder dans ta chambre ? (Listen, I think I forgot my soccer cleats at your house. Can you look in your room?)

Michel: Pas de souci. Attends une seconde. (No worries. Hold on a second.)

—2 minutes plus tard (Two minutes later)—

Michel: Ouais, ils sont là. Je te les ramène demain. (Yeah, they’re here. I’ll bring them to you tomorrow).

Paul: Cool, merci. À demain, alors. (Cool, thanks. See you tomorrow then.)

Michel: À demain, salut. (See you tomorrow, bye).

Now let’s take a look at a conversation where things go a little less smoothly.

Dring dring !

Elise: Allô ? (Hello)

Sarah: Allô, Elise ? C’est Sarah. Ça va ? (Hello, Elise. It’s Sarah. How it’s going?)

Elise: Oui et toi ? (Good and you?)

Sarah: Oui je suis à la campagne chez ma tante. Je capte très mal ici. (Yes, I am in the countryside at my aunt’s house. My reception is really bad here.)

Elise: Allô ? Allô ? Sarah, tu es toujours là ? (Hello? Hello? Are you still there, Sarah?)

Sarah: Oui mais ça coupe. (Yes, but you’re breaking up.)

Sarah: Je te rappellerai plus tard. Ça marche ? (I will call you later. Does that work?)

Elise: Oui, ça marche. (Yes, that works.)

Sarah: D’accord. Bises, à toute ! (Ok. Kisses! Until later!)

Formal Phone Dialogues

Dring dring !

Secrétaire: Cabinet medical de Belleville, bonjour. (Belleville Doctor’s office, hello).

Mme Martin: Bonjour, je vous appelle pour prendre rendez-vous avec le docteur Boisaubert. (Hello, I am calling to schedule an appointment with Doctor Boisaubert.)

Secrétaire: D’accord. Ne quittez pas. (Ok. Please hold.)

Quelques instants plus tard (A few moments later)

Secretaire: Merci d’avoir patienté. Le docteur Boisaubert est disponible demain à 14h et jeudi à 9h30. Quel créneau horaire vous conviendrait ? (Thank you for waiting. Doctor Boisaubert is available tomorrow at 2 p.m. and Thursday at 9:30 a.m. Which time slot works for you?)

Mme Martin: Demain à 14h me convient. (Tomorrow at 2 p.m. works for me.)

Secrétaire: Votre nom, madame ? (Your last name, ma’am?)

Mme Martin: Martin. Et le prénom c’est Elisabeth. (Martin. And the first name is Elisabeth.)

Secrétaire: D’accord Madame Martin. Je confirme votre rendez-vous avec le docteur Boisaubert pour demain à 14h. (Ok Mrs. Martin. I have booked your meeting with Doctor Boisaubert for tomorrow at 2 p.m.)

Mme Martin: Merci beaucoup. (Thank you very much.)

Secrétaire: Je vous en prie. Bonne journée, au revoir. (You are welcome. Have a nice day, goodbye.)

Mme Martin: De même, au revoir. (You too, goodbye.)

And to think that some people say scheduling appointments is a hassle! Now, let’s take a look at a formal phone conversation in which the person of interest is unavailable.

Dring dring

Secrétaire: Relations publiques, bonjour. (Public relations, hello.)

M. Portier: Bonjour, Jean Giraud à l’appareil. Puis-je parler à Jean-Bernard Watteau ? (Hello, Jean Giraud speaking. May I please speak to Jean-Bernard Watteau?)

Secrétaire: Veuillez patienter, s’il vous plâit. (Be so kind as to wait, please.)

—Quelques instants plus tard (A few moments later)—

Secrétaire: Monsieur Giraud ? Je suis désolé(e). Monsieur Watteau est en réunion. Voulez-vous laisser un message ?(Mr. Giraud? I’m sorry, Mr. Watteau is in a meeting. Do you want to leave a message?)

M. Portier: Je vais le rappeler à un autre moment. Merci beaucoup. (I will call him back at another time. Thank you very much.)

Sécretaire: Je vous en prie. Bonne journée, au revoir. (You are welcome. Have a nice day, goodbye.)

M. Portier: Bonne journée à vous aussi, au revoir. (Have a nice day as well, goodbye.)

 

It may seem like a lot to master, but practicing multiple times and seeing these French phone conversations in context will help the words and phrases stick for the long-term.

Practice alone as much as needed so that you know exactly when and how to say what. Mime along to French dialogues to loosen up your tongue and build up your skills. Have pretend conversations with yourself. You can even role-play various realistic situations and hold a phone to your ear through it all to really sell it!

Wherever your adventures in French phone conversations may take you—dropped calls, missed calls and more—you’re bound to be a smooth operator.

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:

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FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.

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For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:

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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."

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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 the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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