Do You Know These Basic French Phrases?

By: Zoe Samuel

Do You Know These Basic French Phrases?
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?
Thank you
If you please
Mind your P's and Q's! Or in this case, mind your SIP's. This is how you say please.
Excuse me
Hey!

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What might you get if you ask for "Un café et un café au lait"?
A tea and a coffee.
A coffee and a coffee with milk.
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!
A coffee and an espresso.
Two coffees that are the exact same.

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What might someone understand about your situation if you told them, "Nous sommes perdus"?
We have forgotten.
We are forgotten.
We are lost.
If you're lost, you might say this. That assumes there are two of you, otherwise it's "Je suis perdu".
All is lost.

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What are you looking for if you say, "Je cherche un distributeur de billets"?
I am looking for a person to hand out flyers!
The church is giving out flyers.
I seek an ATM.
It sounds very long, but it's technically right. This is how you ask for a cashpoint or ATM.
Give me paper money please.

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What do you want someone to do if you say, "Pouvez-vous m’appeler un taxi"?
Say taxi!
Look like a cab driver.
Call me a cab.
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.
Warn me about bad cab companies.

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What's going on if you say, "Nous sommes très pressés"?
We are squashed.
We are VERY squashed.
We want to squash you.
We are very late.
Pressed for time? This is how you convey it in French.

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What do you want to know if you ask, "Quel temps va-t'il faire aujourd’hui"?
What time are you going today?
What weather is it today?
It's actually asking literally how the weather is going today. This is how the French like to ask
Who is here today?
What day is today?

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What might you mean by the casual response, "Ça roule"?
I'm fine.
Ça va? Ça va bien! How are you? I'm good! Ça roule is a way of saying this very colloquially.
I'm ruling!
You rule!
That rules!

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What haven't you done if you say, "Ça fait longtemps"!
Seen the person in a while.
This is the French version of "long time no see!" It doesn't necessarily mean you've been avoiding them, of course.
Called the person in a while.
Avoided the person successfully.
Remembered their birthday.

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When are you greeting someone if you say, "Bon après-midi"?
Afternoon
This is how you say "good afternoon." It's quite formal but very polite.
Lunch
Morning
Dinner

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How might you wish someone good luck?
Bon voyage!
Bonne chance!
Bonne chance means good luck. The others are good wishes for different circumstances: travel, birthday and a kind of candy.
Bonbon!
Bon anniversaire!

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What do you mean by, "Je ne comprends pas"?
I don't know.
I don't like it.
I don't understand.
"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.
That's stupid.

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How do you want someone to modify their behavior if you say, "Est-ce que vous pourriez parler plus lentement"?
Talk faster.
Talk slower.
It literally means "Could you speak more slowly"? You could also just say "lentement" if you can't remember the whole sentence.
Walk slower.
Hop on the spot.

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What are you asking if you say, "Parlez-vous anglais"?
Are you English?
Do you speak English?
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.
Do you like the English?
What's wrong with the English?

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What do you mean by, "Parlez-vous une langue à part le français"?
Do you speak any languages other than French?
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!
Do you speak French?
Do you speak fluent French?
Do you like the French?

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What is the meaning of, "Quel est le mot pour..."?
What is the point of...
What is the way to...
Who is the person to speak to about...
What is the word for...
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.

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Now for a nice simple one. What does, "Excusez-moi" mean?
Hello!
Move your butt!
Excuse me?
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 is wrong with your nose?

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What would you be saying with, "Je suis désolée"?
I'm desperate.
I'm sorry.
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).
I'm lonely.
I'm so sad.

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What did someone just say to you if you reply, "De rien"?
Thank you.
Yep, our phrasing was a little cheeky here. If they said, "Merci", you replied, "De rien" meaning basically, "No biggie."
No problem.
You're nice.
I don't know.

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What might you mean on a date with the useful phrase, "Ce monsieur va tout payer"?
This woman is eating all my fries.
This man will pay for all of it.
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!
This man can't pay his bill.
This man is creepy, could you get him away from me?

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What might you say to your sick friend with the words, "J'espère que tu iras mieux très vite"?
Are you going to die?
What's the rash on your tummy?
Are you getting sicker faster than before?
I hope you get well soon!
It's an elegant turn of phrase, for sure. Your sick friend will doubtless appreciate it!

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What do you mean by, "Laissez-moi tranquille!"?
Leave me alone!
This means literally "leave me in peace." In practice, it's how you say, "Leave me alone".
What's that?
Go away!
I believe in free market!

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What's the translation of, "Joie de vivre"?
Exuberant enjoyment of life.
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.
Happiness and cleanliness.
Hedonism.
A smiley face.

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What are you wishing someone with, "Joyeux Noël et bonne année"?
Happy holidays!
Merry Christmas and happy New Year!
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!
Happy birthday and half-birthday!
Happy Halloween and Thanksgiving!

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What money question are you asking with, "Combien ça coûte"?
What's does it cost?
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 did you order?
How much tax is there?
How much should I tip?

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What are you saying informally with, "Salut"?
Hi!
"Salut" is an informal greeting. It's like saying "hi" or "hey" to your friend.
Boo!
Call me!
How are you?

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What reaction might you expect from saying, "Allons-y" to someone!
They'll come here.
They'll go with you.
"Allez" is the straight up imperative here, meaning just "Go!" But "Allons-y" is inclusive, inviting them to come along ... let's go!
They'll smack me.
They'll cry.

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How might you be understood if you say, "J’ai besoin d’aide"?
That I want to help.
That nobody is able to help.
That I need help.
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.
That I have an aide.

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What do you mean if you ask, "Où sont les toilettes?"
Who's in the bathroom?
Where is the bathroom?
"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!
Is that your perfume?
Who did that horrible thing in the bathroom?

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Where are you going with, "Je cherche le bus"?
I took the bus to church.
I went to church, then sat on the bus.
I seek the 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!
I hate the bus.

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What is meant by, "Comment vous appellez-vous?"
What's your name?
This means "What's your name?" Literally it translates to "What do you call yourself?" It's polite to know this one!
What do you think?
What's your idea?
How do you know?

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What is conveyed by, "Félicitations!"?
Happy birthday!
Condolences.
Congratulations!
This is a nice way to say "congratulations"! It's succinct and easy to remember, as it sounds like the English word "felicitous."
Don't worry!

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What warning would you give with, "Regardez derrière vous! Un singe à trois têtes!"?
Look under the sink! There is a three-tailed snake!
Look behind you! A three-headed monkey!
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's that tortoise doing and why is it laughing?
Look in the kitchen! There are three dinner options!

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What vital phrase does Monty Python recommend we learn, that in French is, "Mon aéroglisseur est plein d'anguilles"?
My business is succeeding wildly!
My airplane is full of **** snakes!
My government is full of idiots!
My hovercraft is full of eels.
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.

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What truth are you laying down with, "Une seule langue n'est jamais suffisante"?
One language is never enough!
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!
One eel is enough to fill a hovercraft!
One tongue is enough for any mouth!
One langoustine is a fine meal!

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