50+ French Sentences for Basic Conversation and Travel
Having a conversation in French is much like having one in English, as parler de tout et de rien (small talk) is essentially the same all around the world.
But there are some basic words and phrases you should know before you say “bonjour” to your new acquaintance and get into the thick of the conversation.
Here are some super-useful, basic French sentences to use in conversations.
- French Sentences for Introductions
- French Sentences for Polite Conversation
- D’où viens-tu ? / D’où venez-vous ? (Where are you from?)
- Je viens de… (I’m from…)
- J’habite à… (I live in…)
- Où est-ce que tu habites ? / Où est-ce que vous habitez ? (Where do you live?)
- Qu’est-ce que vous faites ? (What is your profession?)
- Qu’est-ce que vous aimez faire pendant votre temps libre ? (What do you do in your free time?)
- J’aime faire… (I like to do…)
- Quel temps fait-il ? (How’s the weather?)
- Demain, il fait… (Tomorrow, it will be…)
- Est-ce que vous avez des frères et sœurs ? (Do you have siblings?)
- Et tes/vos parents ? Qu’est-ce qu’ils font ? (And your parents? What do they do for a living?)
- Quel est ton film préféré ? / Quel est votre film préféré ? (What’s your favorite movie?)
- Est-ce que vous avez visité… ? (Have you visited… ?)
- Passez une bonne fin de semaine ! (Have a good weekend!)
- More French Sentences for Polite Conversation
- French Sentences for the Bank, Post Office or Shops
- French Sentences for the Taxi Driver
- French Sentences to Keep the Conversation Flowing
- How to Memorize and Practice Survival French Phrases
- Don’t Be Shy in a French-speaking Country
- And one more thing...
French Sentences for Introductions
Comment vous appelez-vous ? (What’s your name?)
The most common conversation starter: What’s your name?
There’s a more informal way to say this ( Comment t’appelles-tu ? ), but typically when you ask this question, it’s best to use the formal version of the phrase to show respect.
Je m’appelle… (My name is…)
Appeler is actually the French verb meaning “to call,” so Je m’appelle literally translates to “I call myself.”
Enchanté ! / Enchantée ! (Pleased to meet you!)
This is the simplest and most common way to tell the person you just met, “I’m pleased to meet you.”
Other options include, Enchanté de faire votre connaissance , (Pleased to make your acquaintance), which is just as formal in French as it is in English, and C’est un plaisir de vous rencontrer (It’s a pleasure to meet you), which is formal, but not quite as formal as the former.
Note: The (e) that you see at the end of enchanté(e) is added when a woman is speaking. This of course only matters if you are corresponding through writing, since this extra e does not affect pronunciation at all.
There are a lot of ways to continue the initial introduction; you could choose to ask one of the other questions in this list, or say something kind about what they’re wearing, such as, J’aime bien votre t-shirt (I like your t-shirt).
French Sentences for Polite Conversation
To make a bit of small talk, here are some sentences that you can use to begin or respond correctly in polite conversation:
D’où viens-tu ? / D’où venez-vous ? (Where are you from?)
There are two different phrases here; the first one that includes tu is the informal version of the phrase that should only be used with friends, family or peers. The second version, with the formal vous, is most appropriate with people that you have just met, and will probably be the better choice.
Je viens de… (I’m from…)
This phrase, meaning “I’m from…” will come in handy after you’ve introduced yourself. You can use this to refer to both your country and your city. For example, I’m from Atlanta, Georgia in the United States, so I could say either Je viens des États-Unis or Je viens d’Atlanta .
Notice how the de changes depending on the noun used. Since the word for “United States” in French is plural, it uses des rather than de. Since “Atlanta” begins with a vowel, and de ends with an “e,” you drop the “e” in de. This rule applies only for words that end in “e” that are directly next to words beginning in a vowel; words ending in a, o, u and y are never connected in that fashion.
J’habite à… (I live in…)
This sentence, meaning “I live in,” will likely follow the question “Where are you from?” For me, that answer is New York City, so I would say, J’habite à New York . Be careful, though, because the “à” is only used when you are talking about a city. When you want to refer to the country in which you live, things get a bit more complex.
As a general rule, if the country you live in ends with an “e” in French, it’s a feminine country and you’ll use en. If the country you live in ends with anything but “e” it’s most likely a masculine country and you’ll use au, unless of course the country is plural (like les États-Unis — the United States), in which case you’ll use aux.
J’habite à Paris. (I live in Paris).
J’habite en France. (I live in France).
J’habite au Canada. (I live in Canada).
J’habite aux États-Unis. (I live in the United States).
Note: Remember how we dropped the “e” in de for the phrase “Je viens de…”? Here, we are doing the same with Je and “habite.” The “h” in “habite” is treated like a vowel because the pronunciation of the word actually drops the “h.” For this reason, many words beginning with “h” in French are treated like vowels.
Où est-ce que tu habites ? / Où est-ce que vous habitez ? (Where do you live?)
This directs the same question back to the other person: “Where do you live?” This will give them a chance to share a little bit about themselves, and will surely bring up some great conversation points, like traveling (if you have visited their home country/city) and culture.
Qu’est-ce que vous faites ? (What is your profession?)
The literal translation of this phrase is “what do you do,” but in conversation it means “What is your profession?” The informal version of the question is: Qu’est-ce que tu fais ?
Qu’est-ce que vous aimez faire pendant votre temps libre ? (What do you do in your free time?)
This phrase extends the small talk to what the person likes to do in their temps libre (free time), and it asks just that: “What do you like to do in your free time?” The informal question is: Qu’est-ce que tu aimes faire pendant ton temps libre ?
This opens up a world of potential conversation and will help you practice vocabulary like regarder des films (watch movies), écouter la radio (listen to the radio), faire du sport (play sports) and much, much more.
J’aime faire… (I like to do…)
This starts a sentence that will follow up your partner’s discussion with what you like to do. It means “I like to do…” but the word “faire,” which means “to make, do” can be replaced with any verb that describes what you enjoy doing.
For example, I like to write, so I would say, J’aime écrire (I like to write). Do some research beforehand to find out what vocabulary you can use to describe what you like to do for fun.
Quel temps fait-il ? (How’s the weather?)
Ah, the weather. It’s always a central part of conversation, even in French. This phrase means “What’s the weather like?” and will give you a chance to put those weather words like le soleil (the sun), les nuages (the clouds), la pluie (the rain) and la neige (the snow) to good use—depending on the season, of course.
Demain, il fait… (Tomorrow, it will be…)
If you’d looked at tomorrow’s weather beforehand, you can talk about the expected weather for the next day using this sentence that means “Tomorrow, it will be…”
Est-ce que vous avez des frères et sœurs ? (Do you have siblings?)
This sentence, meaning “Do you have brothers and sisters?” will launch the conversation about family. In French, it’s more common to ask if you have any brothers and sisters rather than ask if you have siblings. Here’s the same question in the informal version: Est-ce que tu as des frères et sœurs ?
Et tes/vos parents ? Qu’est-ce qu’ils font ? (And your parents? What do they do for a living?)
After asking about the siblings, the logical next question will be about the parents. This question asks, “And your parents? What do they do for a living?”
You could also talk about your own family: J’ai deux sœurs (I have two sisters) or Mes parents sont des professeurs (My parents are teachers). Notice that you’ll use the possessive adjective tes (your) if you are speaking informally and vos (your) if you are speaking formally.
Quel est ton film préféré ? / Quel est votre film préféré ? (What’s your favorite movie?)
This question, meaning “What’s your favorite film?” will give you a chance to talk about that movie you saw with your best friend last weekend while practicing using adjectives to describe either un mauvais film (a bad film) or un bon film (a good film).
You can talk about your own favorite movie by starting the sentence with: Mon film préféré est… (My favorite film is…). Use the French title so you can practice your pronunciation!
You can also substitute “movie” for any other topic you’d like to discuss: un livre (a book), un chanteur (a singer), un groupe de musique (a band), or even back to the weather, une saison (a season).
Est-ce que vous avez visité… ? (Have you visited… ?)
This sentence is great for discussing the interesting musées (museums), parcs (parks) and other locations around your city that you find interesting. Simply insert the noun at the end of the sentence to ask, “Have you visited…?” With good friends and family, be sure to use the informal question: Est-ce que tu as visité… ?
For example, to ask if your boss has visited Paris, you would say, Est-ce que vous avez visité Paris ? (Have you visited Paris?). Make sure to restrict this to talking about places you’ve visited. When visiting people, you’ll use the verb rendre visite à: Je rends visite à mes parents ce week-end (I’m visiting my parents this weekend).
You can mention your own experiences here, as well. For example: Récemment, j’ai visité le musée du Louvre. (Recently, I went to the Louvre.) This sentence, meaning “Recently, I went to the Louvre,” introduces an entire conversation about the wonderful paintings you saw at your visit to Paris’s Louvre.
Passez une bonne fin de semaine ! (Have a good weekend!)
There you go, you’re well on your way to striking up a conversation during your travels with some of those polite conversation starters.
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More French Sentences for Polite Conversation
Here are a few more useful phrases you may find yourself using while making small talk in French:
- Comment allez-vous ? (How are you?)
- Je vais bien, et vous ? (I am fine, and you?)
- Amusez-vous bien ! (Have a good time!)
- Vivez-vous dans une maison ou dans un appartement ? (Do you live in house or an apartment?)
- Je suis heureuse. (I am happy. [spoken by a female])
- Je suis heureux. (I am happy. [spoken by a male])
- Je suis triste. (I am sad.)
- Comment va votre famille ? (How is your family?)
French Sentences for the Bank, Post Office or Shops
We are getting down to business now, right?
Here are some French sentences you’ll need for taking care of business at the bank, post office or shops while abroad:
- À quelle heure ouvrez-vous ? (What time do you open?)
- Voici mon passeport. (Here is my passport.)
- J’ai un permis de conduire international. (I have an international driver’s license.)
- Dois-je signer ici ? (Do I sign here?)
- J’ai un compte. (I have an account.)
- Où se trouve le bureau de poste ? (Where is the post office?)
- Je dois affranchir ceci… (I need postage for this…)
- Pouvez-vous l’expédier sous 24 heures ? (Could you send it overnight?)
- Quand est-ce que la carte postale arrivera ? (When will the postcard arrive?)
- Puis-je changer des dollars en euros ici ? (Can I exchange dollars to euros here?)
- Prenez-vous une commission sur cela ? (Do you charge a fee for that?)
- Pouvez-vous m’aider avec cet article ? (Can you help me with this item?)
- Où sont les toilettes ? (Where are the toilets?)
- Ma pointure est… / Je chausse du… (My shoe size is…)
- Je voudrais essayer ceci. (I would like to try this on.)
- Avez-vous la taille en dessous ? (Do you have a smaller size?)
- Avez-vous la taille au-dessus ? (Do you have a bigger size?)
French Sentences for the Taxi Driver
Your taxi driver is speeding down la rue Michel-le-Comte in Paris. It’s narrow, as so many old Parisian lanes are, twisting in unimaginable pretzel-like shapes, and you think your driver is trying to kill you within your first hour in the city!
While experiences with taxis can be hit or miss, you could always get a great taxi driver who is full of suggestions, jokes, or maybe just wants to give you a discounted fare. I had a taxi driver in New York buy me breakfast once while we were connecting flights between JFK and New Jersey’s airports.
No matter what kind of experience you end up having, you should definitely know a few French sentences to use with your cab driver. Bring your already learned polite conversation skills to the waiting cab and add these situation-specific sentences to your repertoire.
- Pouvez-vous envoyer un taxi à… ? (Could you please send a cab to…?)
- Pouvez-vous m’appeler un taxi, s’il vous plaît ? (Could you please call a taxi for me?)
- Pouvez-vous m’aider à porter ma valise, s’il vous plait ? (Could you help me carry my suitcase, please?)
- Ce sont mes bagages. (These are my bags.)
- Fermez la fenêtre, s’il vous plaît. (Please close the window.)
- Arrêtez-vous ici, s’il vous plaît. (Please stop here.)
- Pourquoi est-ce si cher ? (Why is it so much?)
That last one will definitely come in handy if you happen to be traveling in France. The taxi drivers in several French cities notoriously “forget” to start le compteur (the meter).
French Sentences for Booking Lodging
You’ll definitely need to book a room for your stay. Look into the local customs of the French-speaking country you will be visiting, because it might be appropriate to barter for the price of the room!
Here are some French sentences that will help you book hotels, short-stay apartments or B&B’s:
- Nous voudrions une chambre double. (We would like a room with two beds.)
- J’ai besoin d’un oreiller supplémentaire, s’il vous plaît. (I need an extra pillow, please)
- Je voudrais commander un petit-déjeuner. (I would like to order breakfast.)
- Je voudrais payer avec ma carte de crédit. (I would like to pay with a credit card)
- Pouvez-vous m’appeler demain à sept heures pour me réveiller ? (May I have a wake-up call tomorrow at seven o’clock?)
- Combien coûte la chambre ? (How much is the room?)
- J’ai une réservation. (I have a reservation.)
That’ll get you started and settled in your room. In the unfortunate event that you find some roaches somewhere hiding underneath your pillows waiting to keep you company you might need to know Il y a des cafards dans ma chambre ! (There are roaches in my room!) But let’s hope not.
French Sentences to Keep the Conversation Flowing
There will definitely be times when either you don’t understand what was said, or you can’t remember how to say something in French.
When this happens, use one of these phrases to keep the conversation rolling:
- Pourriez-vous répéter ? (Can you please repeat that?)
- Je ne comprends pas. (I don’t understand.)
- Comment dit-on ~ en français ? (How do you say ~ in French?)
How to Memorize and Practice Survival French Phrases
I can’t stress the fact enough that the more you practice these French sentences the easier it will become to pronounce with fluidity some of the more unusually accented words in the French language. Even if you get stuck in a situation in which you don’t know exactly what to say, if you’ve a decent memory bank of French sentences ready to go, you won’t be at a loss for a response while you’re ordering a nice Bordeaux red.
David James is a polyglot who created and encourages a strategy he calls the “Goldlist Method” for memorization.
The strategy employs 20 minute study chunks in which words are written by hand in ink on paper in the foreign language of study, and the translations in English on the opposite page.
Words are written 25 at a time and then read aloud–the whole process hopefully taking you about 20 minutes. Afterwards make sure to give your brain an immediate break to let it sink in subconsciously.
With sentences it may be necessary to do slightly fewer than 25, as it’s important to not overburden yourself with too much information or else it becomes even more difficult to retain.
Don’t worry if you feel stuck on where to practice immersing yourself in French before and after your trip. If you’re reading this now, you most likely have access to the internet—and the beauty of this nifty little modern technology is that you can use it to inundate yourself in French.
There are even entire immersion language learning programs out there designed to get you listening to and understanding real French. Since these are created with learners in mind, you won’t feel like you’re drowning in the language.
For example, the FluentU program uses authentic French videos to help you learn new words and sentences in context. These videos are categorized by skill level, format and topic, and include interactive captions to help you along the way.
Or if you prefer to write words or sentences out and see them on a regular basis, write out some flashcards or sticky notes and label the items around your home in places you’ll run into them constantly.
Don’t Be Shy in a French-speaking Country
Now, once you touch down on foreign soil, I have another piece of advice: Don’t be shy! Talk!
One of the beauties of foreign travel—besides the new sights and entertainments—is the genuine exchange of culture. It can be intimidating trying to flex your new French muscles, but for the most part, people will appreciate your efforts.
If someone doesn’t speak your native language, you will quickly discover how necessary these French sentences will be.
Most people are proud of their heritage, customs and language, and won’t hesitate to help facilitate whatever words you may be missing so speak these following sentences with confidence whenever you get the chance, so don’t be shy.
From a coffee shop chat to a quick catch-up on the subway, these quick conversations can happen anytime—and these phrases will help you succeed whenever they occur!
And one more thing...
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