I need your opinion.
What’s the most important first step when learning French?
And what did you say your name was again?
What do you mean, you don’t know how to express that information in French yet?!
Well, I guess we have our answer!
Some of the first (and most common) conversations you’ll have in French will require you to introduce yourself. This is a useful skill for traveling, taking classes in French or making French friends—who, by the way, will be invaluable for speaking and listening practice.
But never fear! With a few common questions and sentence starters, you’ll be a master at introducing yourself in French. These simple phrases will boost your French-speaking skills and give you confidence in your early French conversations.
How to Introduce Yourself in French: Every Step from Bonjour to Au Revoir
Get your handshake ready and get ready to make yourself known in French! Let’s start with the basics.
First things first: greetings are how almost all conversations in French will start.
This is true whether you’re greeting a friend, answering the phone or meeting someone for the first time. Additionally, when you enter a boulangerie (bakery), épicerie (grocery store) or bistro (small restaurant), it’s generally expected that you greet the employees there even if you don’t necessarily require service at that time. Remember: a small gesture of kindness will go a long way, and perceptions of the stereotypical “French coldness” comes from an ignorance of French customs.
A good, middle-of-the-road greeting is bonjour (good day). This can be used at most times of the day, primarily the afternoon, and it’s almost as universal as the English “hello.”
Keep in mind, however, that this can change depending on the time of the day: say bon matin (good morning) for the morning and bonsoir (good evening) for the evening. You could also say bonne nuit (good night), but that’s generally used to say goodbye when it’s late at night or when you’re heading to bed.
Salut (hello) is a great way to greet someone without being bound to the time of day.
Lastly, if you’re talking to someone on the phone, answer with âllo (hello).
You killed the greeting. Great job! Now it’s time to take the conversation to the next level. While you may not want to further your conversations with shop owners or restaurant servers, meeting a local on the street or a fellow guest in your hotel is a great place to make a French friend.
When someone wants to know your name, they’ll ask comment t’appelles-tu ? (What is your name?) This is considered informal language, and it literally translates to, “how do you call yourself?”
The formal version of this question is comment vous appelez-vous ? (What is your name?) You should use the formal version with people you don’t know or people older than you. You can use the informal version with people younger than you or if you find that your conversation partner is referring to you as tu (you, informal) rather than vous (you, formal).
To answer this question, begin your sentence with je m’appelle… (I call myself…) and then say your name.
You could also say je suis… (I am…) and then state your name.
In return, it’s always polite to ask for the other person’s name. You could repeat the question or simply ask et tu ? (and you?) for informal situations or et vous ? (and you?) for formal situations.
Basic Information About You
Now that your conversation partner knows your name, they may want to know some more information about you! Sharing basic information is the first step to making French friends and acquaintances. It’s always good to meet people, but French-speaking friends are especially valuable if you’re trying to learn the language. They can help you with tricky aspects of language-learning as well as introduce you to the culture of France and the Francophone world.
You may get asked d’où venez-vous ? (where are you from?) or the informal version d’où viens-tu ? (where are you from?) This question is generally asking for a country or region of origin, but you’re welcome to name your city or town if it’s a major or well-known one like New York City or London.
You can answer this question by saying je viens de… (I am from) and the name of the place.
You may also get asked où habitez-vous ? (where do you live?) or the informal version où habites-tu ? (where do you live?)
You can answer the question J’habite à… (I live in…) and the name of the city where you live.
Don’t forget to ask the same questions in return or simply ask et vous ? or et tu ? (and you?) to keep the conversation going.
Are you interested in learning how to say country names in French? Practice with this quiz from Sporcle!
As in many parts of the world, it’s sometimes perceived as impolite to ask about age in France, especially if you’re a man asking a woman her age.
If it does come up, however, someone may ask quel âge as-tu ? (how old are you?) or the formal quel âge avez-vous ? (how old are you?).
To respond, you’ll say j’ai __ ans (I am __ years old). Remember to say the number of your age in the blank.
You’ll notice that in French, you use avoir (to have) when talking about how old you are, not être (to be). So, it’s kind of like saying: “How many years do you have?” “I have ___ years.”
Another common question that people will ask during introductory conversations is “what do you do for work?” In French, you ask quel est ton travail ? (what is your job?) or the more formal quel est votre travail ? (what is your job).
To say what you do, simply say je suis… (I am) and state the job or profession.
Keep in mind that you don’t add the word “a” (un or une) before the job in French in this context. For example, you would simply say je suis professeur for “I am a teacher,” which would literally translate as “I am teacher.”
Since this is a question you might get asked a lot, it’s a great idea to memorize the name of your profession in French before embarking on your French conversation journey. That way, you won’t get flustered when it comes up!
And in order to understand your conversation partner’s response, you’ll want to have a solid vocabulary base of French professions. To practice popular profession names in French, try this quiz from Lawless French.
Learning languages is fun, and since you’re learning French, you’ll probably get asked about what languages you speak. People may ask quelle langue parles-tu ? (what language do you speak?) or the formal quelle langue parlez-vous ? (what language do you speak).
To answer, you can say je parle… (I speak…) and then name the language.
You can add multiple languages by linking them with et (and).
You can also say what languages you’re studying by saying j’étudie… (I am studying). For example, as a learner, you might say je parle anglais et j’étudie français (I speak English and I’m learning French).
Okay, your conversation is going well: you’re past the basics and now you need something interesting to talk about. This is a great time to discuss interests and hobbies.
This questions may look something like qu’est-ce que tu aimes faire ? (what do you like to do?) or the formal qu’est-ce que vous aimez faire ? (what do you like to do?).
To answer, you can say j’aime… (I like) and then list a noun or a verb. For example, I would say something like j’aime voyager, lire et étudier les langues étrangères (I like to travel, read and study foreign languages).
You could also say je m’intéresse à… (I am interested in) and then name a noun or two. For example, I might say something like, je m’intéresse à la culture française (I am interested in French culture).
I would recommend looking up your hobbies and interests in French so you’re prepared, and then taking a look at this Sporcle quiz of common hobbies.
Pleasantries and Goodbyes
All good things come to an end, don’t they?
When the conversation is over, you could simply say enchanté (charmed) to indicate you’re happy to meet someone.
In formal contexts, you could say c’est un plaisir de faire votre connaissance (it is a pleasure to make your acquaintaince) or c’est un plaisir de vous rencontrer (it is a pleasure to meet you).
To say goodbye, say au revoir (goodbye) or à bientôt (see you later). À bientôt is less formal than au revoir, but I’d say it’s an appropriate way to say goodbye to your nouvel ami français (new French friend).
Practicing French Introductions in the Real World
At this point, you may be thinking: sure, reading and typing these greetings is one thing. But what about when I actually want to say them?
We don’t all have the opportunity to step out the front door and introduce ourselves to a native French speaker. But that’s no excuse not to practice your French listening and speaking skills!
If you want to work on your French introductions, there’s no better place to start than this great playlist on FluentU, which includes videos on how to introduce yourself and ask basic questions. If you make your way through the playlist, you’ll have a chance to hear many of the basic French phrases we’ve just practiced, spoken by native French speakers. Plus, FluentU’s interactive subtitle feature lets you read along with the dialogue and click on any unfamiliar words for instant access to a definition, pronunciation help and example sentences.
One of FluentU‘s best features is that it provides access to authentic, real-world French videos with features designed for language learners at any level. For example, if you search the word bonjour (hello), FluentU will provide you a curated collection of videos from around the French-speaking world that use the word bonjour in context.
Listening to native speakers using French in real-world contexts is one of the best ways to improve your French speaking skills. FluentU brings immersive, authentic experiences right to your computer or phone. Why not check out FluentU’s free trial? You’ll be surprised how quickly your French skills develop once you have access to so much fun, dynamic French content.
And with that, my friend, I say adieu (goodbye)! You’re off to your first French conversations. Remember—every bonjour or bonsoir could be the first step in a friendship that lasts a lifetime.
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