Do You Know These Basic French Phrases?

Zoe Samuel

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

The most widely spoken languages in the world, when you only count native speakers, are (in order): Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, Japanese and Punjabi. The fact that French does not make the top ten is enormously annoying to a number of French folks. There are actually a mere (in global terms) 76 million people who speak French as a first language, which is only about 1.3% of the total population of our planet. So all those kids complaining about French class, assuming the never plan to move to France itself, might just have a point ...

Or do they? Nope. When you factor in two important points, suddenly the value of French soars. First, you include those who speak French as a second language, at which point it leaps to sixth place, with close to 300 million speakers. Second, you have to factor in places you're actually likely to go. If you're reading this, you're probably not going to spend a great deal of your life in places that you can't get by with English and Spanish, as there will be someone around who speaks at least one of them as a second language - and if you go anywhere else, it's very likely that French is going to be your best backup. Plus, it's just such a pretty language, so even if you never use it, you probably ought to know it anyway!

What does the polite phrase "S’il vous plaît" mean?

Mind your P's and Q's! Or in this case, mind your SIP's. This is how you say please.

What might you get if you ask for "Un café et un café au lait"?

If you ask for this, you'll get a coffee and a latte. We're assuming you are in fact in a cafe when you make the request!

What might someone understand about your situation if you told them, "Nous sommes perdus"?

If you're lost, you might say this. That assumes there are two of you, otherwise it's "Je suis perdu".

What are you looking for if you say, "Je cherche un distributeur de billets"?

It sounds very long, but it's technically right. This is how you ask for a cashpoint or ATM.

What do you want someone to do if you say, "Pouvez-vous m’appeler un taxi"?

This is how you ask someone to call you a cab. French culture is not notorious for service in this area, so do confirm the price ahead of time.

What's going on if you say, "Nous sommes très pressés"?

Pressed for time? This is how you convey it in French.

What do you want to know if you ask, "Quel temps va-t'il faire aujourd’hui"?

It's actually asking literally how the weather is going today. This is how the French like to ask

What might you mean by the casual response, "Ça roule"?

Ça va? Ça va bien! How are you? I'm good! Ça roule is a way of saying this very colloquially.

What haven't you done if you say, "Ça fait longtemps"!

This is the French version of "long time no see!" It doesn't necessarily mean you've been avoiding them, of course.

When are you greeting someone if you say, "Bon après-midi"?

This is how you say "good afternoon." It's quite formal but very polite.

How might you wish someone good luck?

Bonne chance means good luck. The others are good wishes for different circumstances: travel, birthday and a kind of candy.

What do you mean by, "Je ne comprends pas"?

"I don't understand" in French conveniently looks just like the English "I don't comprehend". So next time you don't get it, you can say so in French.

How do you want someone to modify their behavior if you say, "Est-ce que vous pourriez parler plus lentement"?

It literally means "Could you speak more slowly"? You could also just say "lentement" if you can't remember the whole sentence.

What are you asking if you say, "Parlez-vous anglais"?

To parley means to have a chat, so you can easily remember this French word. Of course, if they speak English, you can just ask them in English, and if they don't understand you, the answer is no.

What do you mean by, "Parlez-vous une langue à part le français"?

Of course, if they DO speak a language besdies French, you can just ask them in that language. If they speak it, they'll reply!

What is the meaning of, "Quel est le mot pour..."?

Just as "bon mot" means a witty remark in English now, a mot is a word. So if you want to know the word for something, this is how you ask.

Now for a nice simple one. What does, "Excusez-moi" mean?

Excusez-moi is so easy that it's barely even in a foreign language. In fact, if you say it to someone who speaks zero French, nine times out of 10 they'll understand you.

What would you be saying with, "Je suis désolée"?

If you're "désolée," then you are sorry. Say this often in France; manners are valued there and it will ingratiate you with people. Say it twice as much in England, though (in English).

What did someone just say to you if you reply, "De rien"?

Yep, our phrasing was a little cheeky here. If they said, "Merci", you replied, "De rien" meaning basically, "No biggie."

What might you mean on a date with the useful phrase, "Ce monsieur va tout payer"?

If the man is going to pay, then use this phrase. If he hasn't offered yet, then don't; we live in an age of equality and one cannot simply assume these things!

What might you say to your sick friend with the words, "J'espère que tu iras mieux très vite"?

It's an elegant turn of phrase, for sure. Your sick friend will doubtless appreciate it!

What do you mean by, "Laissez-moi tranquille!"?

This means literally "leave me in peace." In practice, it's how you say, "Leave me alone".

What's the translation of, "Joie de vivre"?

This phrase is basically English by now. It means a sunny, joyous disposition, to a point that isn't entirely justified by one's circumstances.

What are you wishing someone with, "Joyeux Noël et bonne année"?

This is the traditional French greeting specifically for Christmas and the New Year. If you want to wish someone happy other holidays that happen around then, you need different words - though most French folks will naturally be very happy to get any such wishes!

What money question are you asking with, "Combien ça coûte"?

This means "How much in total?" A pro tip; if you make an effort to speak French, however badly, this number may not be as high as if you don't even try.

What are you saying informally with, "Salut"?

"Salut" is an informal greeting. It's like saying "hi" or "hey" to your friend.

What reaction might you expect from saying, "Allons-y" to someone!

"Allez" is the straight up imperative here, meaning just "Go!" But "Allons-y" is inclusive, inviting them to come along ... let's go!

How might you be understood if you say, "J’ai besoin d’aide"?

This is how you say you need help. Of course, you may need to be more specific to get the exact help you need - but this is a great place to start.

What do you mean if you ask, "Où sont les toilettes?"

"Where is the bathroom" is one of those essential questions that you must never be without. Memorize this one if you don't know it!

Where are you going with, "Je cherche le bus"?

This means, "I'm looking for the bus." The truth is, tou cherche le bus for hours and then you trouve trois buses at once!

What is meant by, "Comment vous appellez-vous?"

This means "What's your name?" Literally it translates to "What do you call yourself?" It's polite to know this one!

What is conveyed by, "Félicitations!"?

This is a nice way to say "congratulations"! It's succinct and easy to remember, as it sounds like the English word "felicitous."

What warning would you give with, "Regardez derrière vous! Un singe à trois têtes!"?

This famous phrase hails from Monkey Island, an adventure game that was playable in French and German. Many kids of the '90s learned languages by playing it in English, then replaying it. That's why so many older Millennials can barely ask for a glass of water in French, but know how to warn about three-headed monkeys.

What vital phrase does Monty Python recommend we learn, that in French is, "Mon aéroglisseur est plein d'anguilles"?

This is from a famous Monty Python sketch about learning French. It's a very important phrase that French people use almost daily- OK, you'll probably never need it, but if you do need it, accept no substitutes.

What truth are you laying down with, "Une seule langue n'est jamais suffisante"?

One language is never enough! It's true! Now you've aced this quiz, you can agree with this statement without feeling anything but validated. Well done!

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