Why is it so important to learn different ways to say “yes” in French?
Well, just think about how important this word and its synonyms are in English.
“She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah…“
“Come on, feel alright, I said yeah yeah yeah yeah …“
“Just say yes, just say there’s nothing holding you back…”
From The Beatles to Billy Idol to Snow Patrol, saying—or singing—”yes” is an important part of any language!
Aside from songs, just consider all the references to saying yes and thinking positively in pop culture.
For movies, there’s “Yes Man” with Jim Carrey, which explores the notion of finding a balance between how often you say “yes” versus how often you say “no.” For TV shows, there’s the ever-popular “Say Yes to the Dress,” a show about brides choosing their wedding gowns.
If “yes” is such an important part of English, you can imagine that it’s an important part of French too.
You may think that you know how to say “yes” in French, but there are actually tons of ways to say it!
Furthermore, each situation and tone calls for a different “yes.”
Don’t get stuck saying oui (yes) all the time. Learn how to say “yes” in French like a true Frenchie below!
Where Can You Practice Saying Yes in French?
There are many different ways to practice when and how to use the various forms of “yes.”
For starters, Easy French’s YouTube series, “Learn French from the Streets,” consists of interviews with native French speakers on a variety of topics. Their speakers frequently use different forms of “yes,” which will help you contextualize when to use each word.
YouTubers Comme une Française and French Pascal d’Hervé both provide instructional videos on different ways to say “yes.”
Their lessons will help you learn the proper pronunciation of each word.
Listening to native speakers is an excellent way to pick up on the nuances of a language. Use FluentU for more examples of the French “yes” in the wild.
With FluentU, you can watch people speaking French naturally—and practice your affirmations (or any other words!) with annotated subtitles, flashcards, vocabulary lists and much more.
Lastly, one of the best ways to practice saying “yes” in French is to simply connect with a native speaker.
Language exchange sites like Conversation Exchange offer free ways to meet native French speakers who can help you sound more natural and let you know when your French “yes” seems out of place.
Without further ado, it’s time to put on your positive pants and begin learning all of the fabulous ways to say “yes” in French!
Stay Positive: Over 20 Ways to Say Yes in French
The Beginner’s Guide to Saying Yes in French
Whether you’ve ever had a French lesson or not, you probably already know how to say the basic French for “yes:” oui (yes).
Using oui is pretty straightforward, and technically you can use it whenever you want to answer in the affirmative.
For example, if someone asks you, “Aimez-vous Paris?” (“Do you like Paris?”), you can simply answer with, “Oui” (“Yes”) or, “Oui, je l’aime” (“Yes, I like it”).
At the very least, you should practice pronouncing this word correctly—Pronounce with Me has a great YouTube video on saying oui.
It’s true that knowing this one little but powerful word will help you get by in just about any conversation.
However, it can become a problem when you start feeling like a broken record, simply answering every question with oui.
To avoid repetition, learn some alternative ways to say “yes” in French below!
How to Say Yes Like the French
The Informal “Yes:” Ouais, Ouaip, Bah Oui
There are three ways to say yes informally: ouais (yeah), ouaip (yep) and bah oui (yeah).
As you can see, these are basically the equivalent of saying “yeah” in French.
Two are forms of oui that have been slightly modified and have become very popular over the years. The third is a combination of words that’s extremely common.
It’s highly likely that you’ll hear these three words/phrases a lot if you walk the streets in France.
As they’re very informal, you simply need to be careful when you use them. Saying them with good friends is acceptable, but you wouldn’t use them with people you’ve just met, teachers, doctors, restaurant servers, etc.
A good rule of thumb is to use them when you would use their English equivalents “yeah” and “yep.”
Here are some examples of how to incorporate them into your speech:
- Tu es fatigué? (Are you tired?)
Ouais, c’est trop tôt. (Yeah, it’s too early.)
- Es-tu prêt à partir? (Are you ready to leave?)
- Tu aimes ton travail? (Do you like your job?)
Bah oui, c’est bien payé. (Yeah, it’s well paid.)
Showing Uncertainty or Little Enthusiasm: Mouais
Another informal way to say “yes,” albeit with little enthusiasm or certainty, is mouais (um, yeah).
You can use mouais when you’re either unsure of or not excited about your answer.
Here are a few examples:
- As-tu aimé le film? (Did you like the film?)
Mouais, mais pas trop. (Um, yeah, but not too much.)
- J’ai fait la connaissance de Leonardo DiCaprio hier soir! (I met Leonardo DiCaprio last night!)
Mouais, je ne suis pas trop sûre. (Um, yeah, I’m not so sure about that.)
Note how the first example shows a lack of enthusiasm and the second shows that the speaker is not convinced of what they’ve just heard.
As always, be sure to learn how to pronounce mouais, which is yet another similar but modified version of oui.
Using “Yes” to Contradict: Si
What is French for “yes” when you really mean “actually, yes!”
This concept might be a little difficult to put into practice at first, as we don’t use a separate “yes” to contradict in English.
In French, if someone uses a negative to refer to something and you need to respond “yes,” you use si (but/actually, yes).
Look at some examples for clarification:
- Tu n’aimes pas le cinema, n’est-ce pas? (You don’t like the movie theater, right?)
Si, je l’adore! (But yes, I love it!)
- Tu n’est jamais visité les États-Unis, n’est-ce pas? (You never visited the United States, right?)
Si, j’y suis allé l’année dernière. (Actually yes, I went there last year.)
Listen to the pronunciation of si before you use it.
It’s important to note that si is also used in French to say “if.” Be careful not to confuse the two meanings when you’re using this word.
The Annoyed “Yes:” Mais oui, Ben oui
The annoyed “yes” is basically just “yes” with attitude! If you don’t like what someone’s asked you or you’re just irritated in general, then you can use two different combinations of oui: mais oui (of course) or ben oui (well, yes).
Be careful of using them as they may come across as rude—perhaps that’s your intention, though!—and are quite informal.
Here are a few examples:
- Est-ce que tu aimes cette chanson? (Do you like this song?)
Mais oui, je te l’ai déjà dit trois fois! (Of course, I already told you three times!)
- Tu as besoin de porter ton manteau. (You need to wear your coat.)
Ben oui, il fait froid. (Well, yes, it’s cold.)
Expressing Joy: Ouah!
Ouah is French for “yes” when you’re extra happy and enthusiastic. You could translate it as “Yes!” or “Yay!”
- Ouah! J’ai été accepté à Brown! (Yay! I was accepted into Brown!)
- Ouah! J’ai gagné le prix! (Yes! I won the prize!)
Find out how to pronounce ouah on Forvo, an online pronunciation dictionary.
Keeping it Casual: D’accord, Ça marche
When you want to sound casual or nonchalant, simply use d’accord (okay) or ça marche (okay, that works).
You might use these words when discussing plans with your friends or simply confirming that you understood something your boss told you to do.
Here are some examples:
- Nous pouvons prendre un café cet après-midi. (We can grab a coffee this afternoon.)
Ça marche. (Okay, sure, that works for me.)
- Je vais arriver à 5h 30. (I’ll get there at 5:30.)
The Question “Yes:” Ah oui?
Whether you want to emphasize your surprise or are truly in disbelief, you’ll need to use Ah oui? (Really?).
You’ll probably use this phrase quite a bit without even realizing it! Here are a couple of examples:
- J’ai quitté mon travail. (I quit my job.)
Ah oui? (Really?)
- Nous allons aller au Costa Rica pour la lune de miel. (We’re going to go to Costa Rica for our honeymoon.)
Ah oui? (Really?)
Check out how to pronounce Ah oui on Forvo.
Bonus Affirmation Words
We’ve covered the most important ways to say “yes” in French, but there are tons of other ways to express affirmation. Here are just a few to get you started!
Parfait — perfect
Exactement — exactly
Certainement — certainly
Tout à fait — exactly/absolutely
Avec plaisir — with pleasure
Bien sûr — of course
Évidemment — obviously
Voilà — that’s right
Absolument — absolutely
C’est ça — that’s right
You’re now well-armed with tons of positive vocabulary to say “yes” in French. Don’t stop here, but keep on saying “yes” all the way to fluency!
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:
FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
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."
All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. You'll receive video recommendations that suit your interests and current level of progress.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
Camille Turner is an experienced freelance writer and ESL teacher.
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