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Travel tips

Know before you go: Key French phrases

Mar 10, 2015 by Courtney Keller

Your trip is booked, your bags are packed and you’re just about ready to set out on a tour of France. Why not finish prepping for your adventure by learning a little French? Knowing a couple basic phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting can go a long way while helping you make the most of your trip. Here, some helpful French words to know before you hop on the plane.

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Bonjour

(pronounced: bon-ZHUR)

The proper way to say hello. This word actually translates to “good day,” so use this greeting in the morning.

Bonsoir

(pronounced: bon-SWAHR)

Use this to say good evening to your fellow travelers. Note: the emphasis falls on the last syllable, like most French words.

Salut

(pronounced: sah-LUU)

A more informal way of saying hi!

Merci beaucoup

(pronounced: mer-SEE boh-koo)

This phrase, which means thank you very much, will come in handy when interacting with locals.

Excusez-moi

(pronounced:ehk-SKEW-zay MWAH)

This is one way to say excuse me—another is pardon.

Comment ça va?

(pronounced: kaw-mah sah vah)

How are you? A common response to this question is simply ça va bien, or “it’s going well.”

S’il vous plaît

(pronounced: s__eel-voo-PLEH)

A formal way to say please. A more informal way to say the same thing: s’il te plaît.

Parlez-vous anglais?

(pronounced: par-lay VOO ahng-LEH)

Do you speak English? If the answer is oui (yes), then you can switch to English, no sweat. If non (no), then you can ask your Tour Director for help with translating.

Ouvert/Fermé

(pronounced: ooh-VERT/fuhr-MAY)

Look for this sign, which indicates whether a store is open or closed.

Sortie

(pronounced: sore-TEE)

Meaning exit, this is a useful word to recognize when taking public transportation.

Au revoir

(pronounced: oh ruh-VWAHR)

The classic way to say good-bye.

There are plenty of online resources to visit if you’d like to learn more phrases en français—visit this helpful site or try this French phrasebook to get started.

Now that you know a few helpful phrases, you're ready to use them on a trip to France!


Know before you go
About the author | Courtney Keller
A lover of travel since studying in France, Courtney strives to inspire others to get out and see the world. When she’s not writing, she’s trying new restaurants, reading, doing yoga, baking, walking her rescue pup, or planning her next trip.