Ta oublié de me donner l’adresse de la teuf ce soir !
DSL! Je te l’envoie tt suite
TKT c bon A+
This isn’t some strange military code, but rather standard language for texting in French!
Can you figure out what those two texters are talking about?
You forgot to give me the address for the party tonight!
Sorry! I’ll send it to you right now
Don’t worry it’s alright see you later
Don’t stress if you don’t see it yet.
Sometimes, it can seem like the French you learn in textbooks and the colloquial French most native speakers actually use on a daily basis are two different languages!
In spoken French, this can manifest with idiomatic expressions and slang. As far as written French is concerned, this is perhaps no clearer than when you receive a text message from a French person.
Just think about how you text in English. Being concise is more important than being grammatically correct, and finding shortcuts to say what you want to say quickly is the key. The same rules apply in French, so if you bear that in mind—and remember a few key phrases—you’ll be texting like a native in no time.
We’ll show you how to do it in five straightforward steps.
Texting Culture in France
Texting culture in France is slightly different than in the U.S., mainly because of the way cell phone plans developed differently in both countries.
In the U.S., the first cell phone plans made texting extremely expensive—for both parties. People had to pay to send text messages but also to receive them. Generally speaking, calling was the cheaper option, so people didn’t really start texting habitually until a few years after the first cell phones had come out.
In France, however, texting has always been far cheaper than calling, so this quickly became the ideal way to communicate. In fact, calling was so expensive that when people’s plans were running out (generally near the end of the month), it wasn’t uncommon to biper (to beep) your friends. This involved placing a call and allowing it to ring once or twice before hanging up, forcing the person you called to call you back and use their plan minutes instead of yours.
While texting has certainly become more popular in the U.S., it’s even more popular in France and is the main way that most people communicate by phone. It transcends generations, though older texters tend to stick to standard French, while teen texters and people in their 20s and 30s (who were teens when the first cell phones came out) use more abbreviations and colloquialisms.
Today, most cell phone plans in France have both unlimited texting and unlimited data. French people will usually opt to text whenever possible, though messaging with apps like Snapchat, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are also popular. On these apps, as in texting, the same rules of concise communication apply.
French Words to Describe Texts and Texting
Before you even start texting in French, there are a few useful words you’ll need to talk about texting.
- Un portable (a cell phone)
- Un SMS (a text)
- Un texto (also “a text”)
- Un message (yet again… “a text”)
- Un forfait (a texting/cell phone plan)
- Une batterie (a battery)
- Un chargeur (a charger)
Here are a few practice sentences that show these words in action:
Tu pourrais me prêter ton chargeur? Je n’ai plus de batterie. (Could you lend me your charger? I don’t have any more battery power.)
Tu m’envoies un texto quand tu arrives ? (Will you send me a text message when you get there?)
Désolé – je ne t’ai pas envoyé de message car je n’avais plus de forfait. (Sorry, I didn’t send you a text because my plan had run out.)
5 Fun Little Steps to Text Like a French Person
1. Use Colloquial French
The first thing you’ll likely notice when texting in French is that you won’t be using textbook or standard French, but rather colloquial French or the registre familier (familiar register). This way of speaking and writing is characterized by a number of things that are frowned upon in standard French. For example:
- Dropping the ne when making a negation.
Je ne viens pas (I’m not coming) would become Je viens pas.
- Dropping inversion or question tags when making questions.
Viens-tu? or Est-ce que tu viens? (both ways to ask “Are you coming?”) would become Tu viens?
You’ll also see a lot of verlan in French texting. This common form of French slang inverts the syllables of words to create a new word—in fact, the very word verlan is verlan for l’envers (the opposite).
Some examples you’ll encounter when texting include:
- Meuf (femme, woman)
- Teuf (fête, party)
- Cimer (merci, thank you)
- Ouf (fou, crazy)
2. Abbreviate Common Words
French has a lot of silent letters, as you’ve no doubt noticed while learning the language. Texting lingo gets rid of all of these silent letters, abbreviating words down to their core sounds.
Some common abbreviations used in texting include:
- C’est (it is) → C
- T’es (you are) → T
- C’était (it was) → Ct
- T’inquiète (don’t worry) → Tkt
- Que (that) → Ke
- Qu’est-ce que (what, what is) → Keske
- Désolé (sorry) → Dsl
- Mort de rire (“dying of laughter,” the French equivalent of LOL) → MDR
- Pourquoi (why) → Pk
- À plus tard (see you later) → A+
- Bisous or bises (both mean “kisses” and are used to say goodbye) → Biz
- Téléphone (telephone) → Tél
- Tout/toute (all) → Tt/tte
- D’accord (okay) → D’ac
- S’il te plait (please) → Stp
Here are some sample texts using the vocabulary above:
Coucou. Pk tu m’as pas dit comment ct ton concert ? (Hey! Why didn’t you tell me how your concert went?)
Dsl! J’avais oublié mon tél. Ct trop bien ! Mais Alex est tombé sur scène. Tkt il va bien. (Sorry! I forgot my phone. It was awesome! But Alex fell on stage. Don’t worry he’s fine.)
C vrai? Mdr! Bon tu me racontes tt ce soir ? (Really? Lol! So you’ll fill me in tonight?)
Oui tkt biz (Yeah no worries xx)
3. Forget All Those Pesky Spelling Rules
While you spent tons of time learning the difference between ais, ait, aient, er and é in order to be able to write French correctly, those rules can go out the window when you’re texting. In texting language, all of these different ways of writing the same sound are replaced with a simple é.
Not only can you replace the endings of verbs—for example, J’allé instead of j’allais (I was going)—there are also a handful of words with this é sound whose spelling is changed in texts:
- Je vais (I’m going) → Je vé
- J’ai (I have) → Jé
- Ouais (yeah) → Wé
4. When In Doubt, Revert to English
French young people love English, and a lot of English words have become part of colloquial French, especially when texting. You’ll often see the following English words in French texts:
- has been
This is used to mean old-fashioned or out of fashion.
Il est trop has-been! (He’s so out of fashion!)
This is used as a feminine noun and means “life” but also “business.”
Arrête de raconter ma life à tout le monde! (Stop telling everyone all about my life/my business!)
This is used as a verb (liker, or “to like”) and is only used in reference to apps that have a “like” function, such as Instagram and Facebook.
Euh… pourquoi son ex est en train de liker toutes ses photos ? (Um… why is his ex liking all of his photos?)
5. Don’t Overdo It
Just as in English, there are also people who text the same way they speak, and the more terms you use, the more ringard (uncool) you’ll seem. Use these tips to season your texts rather than making them the meat, otherwise, your French texts will look as ridiculous as this does in English:
Luv u bb – UR teh 1! Cu xx
Above all, while it can be fun to try out some of these colloquialisms, don’t feel overwhelmed by them. Texting in standard French is totally acceptable, too. After all, you’re not paying your forfait by the letter (despite what some French teenagers’ spelling would have you believe!)
Feeling ready to get tapping and texting like a native French speaker? Wé!