25+ Important French Phrases and Words to Understand the News Like a Boss
Fierce storms with dangerous wind speeds are quickly approaching—stay indoors!
Now that’s a message you’d want to understand clearly, am I right?
To best understand the news in French on TV reports, newspapers and social media, there are important words and phrases you’ll need to know.
If you’re equipped with these phrases, you’ll be prepared to quickly digest the latest story—whether you’re traveling in France or sensibly getting your news in French for language practice.
Just like you wouldn’t want to enter a restaurant without knowing your food basics, make sure you know these phrases before checking out the news.
25+ Important French Phrases and Words to Help You Understand the News Like a Boss
French News Terms and Phrases for Today’s Top Story
Lucky for you, the day’s top story is normally the one that’s easiest to access. It’s on the front page, it’s the first to be spoken about on TV and it’s often the most shared via social media.
1. L’actualité / les actualités / les nouvelles (news)
These are the common words used for the English word “news.” You’ll notice that even though English always makes “news” plural, it can be singular or plural in French. The difference in meaning between the three is subtle and arguably non-existent: l’actualité and les actualités refer to current affairs or events that happened in the recent past. Les nouvelles is more a term for the news in general.
But no need to be uptight. Even the French use the three interchangeably.
2. Un agresseur inconnu a utilisé une arme (An unidentified assailant used a weapon)
This phrase is most common in bank heists, assaults and other attacks. Sometimes the news will specify the type of weapon used. Une arme blanche (a white weapon) means “a knife,” whereas un pistolet means “a handgun.” Un flingue is an informal term for “a handgun.”
3. Un incendie (fire) / une inondation (flood)
While we’re on the more dangerous side of news, these two words are especially common disasters. Note that un incendie refers to only a fire emergency, not a fire on the top of the candle or in a fireplace. Do not, under any circumstances, arrive at a campfire and yell “un incendie!”
4. Le chômage (unemployment)
If you’ve been awake for the past ten years, chances are you’ve heard about unemployment quite a bit on the news. The same is true in France.
5. Une coupure de courant (a break of electricity)
While Paris sits in darkness, reporters are using this word to refer to a blackout, even if there’s no one able to access their ramblings. Hopefully you’ve stocked up on les bougies (candles) and les allumettes (matches).
6. Une émeute (riot)
In times of civil unrest, French reports use this word to refer to riots, even if the French aren’t actually engaging in one.
7. L’Hexagone / hexogonal (the Hexagon / hexagonal)
Though a little confusing, l’Hexagone actually refers to the country of France, owing its name to the hexagon shape of mainland France. Further, the term hexagonal refers to the adjective “French” or “national.” For example, the phrase “le gouvernement hexagonal” means “the French government.”
Important French Words and Phrases for The Daily Post
The French love their newspapers, and who wouldn’t? The best thing to go with an espresso and croissant at a cafe table on Parisian cobblestone is arguably something informational to read.
8. À la une…
The literal translation of this expression is a little dodgy because of the fact that une (one) isn’t typically a noun and because la and une are allowed to hang out without an apostrophe in this situation. In any case, this phrase means “on the front page,” and it refers to news stories on the first page of the newspaper.
9. Les titres (headlines)
It may be a little obvious, but les titres refers to the headlines in a newspaper or the top stories.
10. Selon… / À mon avis… / Un sondage
Where would the news be if it wasn’t well-rounded? These phrases allow us to understand everyone’s point of view. Selon… means “according to,” and à mon avis… means “in my opinion.” Un sondage means “an opinion poll.”
11. La petite annonce (a little announcement)
These little announcements generally refer to classified ads in the last pages of a newspaper.
12. Un quotidien (a daily)
Un quotidien means “a daily publication,” one that comes out every day. Check out these other release styles, and while you’re at it, get yourself un abonnement (subscription):
- Un bimensuel refers to a publication that appears twice a month.
- Un hebdomadaire refers to a weekly publication.
- Un mensuel refers to a monthly publication.
13. Ce ne sont sans doute que des paroles en l’air (This is without a doubt words in the air)
This phrase refers to words or promises that don’t have much substance. In the English-speaking world, it is the equivalent of saying “That’s baloney!” when a politician promises something he or she can definitely not guarantee.
14. Il y a encore du chemin à parcourir (There’s still lots of path to cross)
It’s a little awkward to translate into English, but this phrase basically means that there’s still a long way to go before reaching a desired result.
15. Cela porte un coup sévère à… (This is a heavy blow to…)
Again, the English translation of this is fairly messy, but it is the equivalent of saying “this is a heavy blow to…”
16. C’est un grand pas en avant (It’s a great step forward)
One small step for man, one mighty step for… oh, wrong blog post.
This phrase translates to “It’s a great step forward,” referring to something making good progress.
Words and Phrases for French News on the Television
In this modern day and age, the newspaper isn’t the only way we can consume news coverage any more: we have TV and online video media too!
17. La chaîne publique (public television station)
This refers to a publicly funded television station. These stations often play general interest shows, local history shows, and news reports that are available to all citizens of a country. In the UK, BBC is one of these stations. In France, most public service stations fall under the domain of France Télévisions.
18. Un(e) envoyé(e) spécial(e) (special correspondent)
This refers to a special correspondent, someone who usually has been sent to a location to cover a special report.
19. Le journal (news program)
Un journal is a news bulletin or a news program where currents affairs, world news, the weather and sports can be heard.
20. On retrouvera… (We find…)
This phrase is used by news anchors when new information comes to light after an investigation. It is the equivalent of saying “We have found that…” or “Reports indicate that…”
21. À vous! (To you!)
As a child, this was my favorite thing to say when I was pretending to be a news reporter. This is used when one reporter wants to send it off to another. “To you in the news room, Tommy!”
22. L’économie (the economy)
*Sigh* It’s seems like the economy is the only thing we ever talk about on the news anymore. Well, it’s not a surprise, and while you’re trying to understand it in French, these phrases will be useful.
- Les actions pourraient dégringoler. (The stocks could take a tumble.)
- La reprise économique a été timide jusqu’à maintenant. (The economic recovery has been slow so far.)
- L’économie s’essouffle. (The economy is running out of steam.)
- Il y a une agitation sociale en… (There is social unrest in…)
French Words and Phrases for Reporting the Weather
As a Canadian, I cannot help but talk about the weather and hear about it on the news. Trust me, you need to keep up to date when it is 70 degrees Fahrenheit one minute and then snowing the next. Lucky for me (and you), the French news loves to talk about the weather too. Here are some useful vocabulary and phrases.
23. La météo (the weather forecast)
When you’re ready to figure out whether you’re wearing a tank top or a parka, look out for this word.
24. Quel temps fait-il ? (What’s the weather?)
Asking this question is pretty simple, but the answers might be a little varied. Check out these common responses.
- Il fait chaud (It’s hot)
- Il fait froid (It’s cold)
- Il fait agréable / beau (It’s nice/beautiful)
- Il y a du vent (It’s windy)
- Il y a de l’orage (It’s stormy/There’s a storm)
- Il y a du soleil (It’s sunny)
- Il y a du verglas (There’s black ice)
- C’est humide (It’s humid)
- C’est nuageux (It’s cloudy)
25. Un temps de chien (horrible weather)
Sometimes, the weather isn’t always beau (beautiful), and the French use these words and expressions during periods of les intempéries (bad weather).
- La canicule (heatwave)
- Un ouragon (hurricane)
- Un séisme (earthquake)
- Ça caille (It’s freezing outside) – While you might not actually hear this one from a newscaster, it’s worth including because you’ll definitely hear the French saying it.
Maybe blame the bad weather on le réchauffement climatique (global warming)?
Where to Find French News
There are some great French news agencies to get you following the French news to see these phrases and words in action. Click on one of the links below and get in the loop.
Happy watching and reading!