Do you know these essential French travel phrases?

Olivia Seitz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

If you're traveling to a French-speaking country, these phrases are handy to have tucked in your back pocket. From asking for directions to making small talk, do you know enough French to get by?

What does the word "merci" mean?

"Merci" is the French word for "thank you." A good use of the word, in addition to thanking someone for their help, is when you need to say no in a softer or more polite manner. "Non, merci" is a good way to do that.

Which of the following is the correct way to ask if someone speaks English?

Locals appreciate it when travelers attempt to speak French, even if it's just to ask if the conversation can be held in English instead. Since the interaction is with a stranger, the formal "vous" should be used instead of "tu."

What are the French words for "yes" and "no"?

When it comes to responding to simple yes/no questions, these words are as easy as it gets. If the waitress asks you if you want your water refilled and you do, for example, you can say, "Oui!" or even "Mais oui!" Mais oui" loosely translates to "but of course!" or "why yes!"

You've asked for directions, but completely zoned out as soon as the person you flagged down started speaking French. What should you say?

"Je ne comprends pas" means "I don't understand." That will convince the person speaking to you to slow down and try again or switch to a different language (if possible, of course).

Which of the following means "I love Paris"?

If you're looking to sweet-talk Parisians or just express your exuberance at finally being in Paris, "J'adore Paris!" is a great exclamation to use. You can swap out "Paris" with any city's name for the same effect, of course - for example, "J'adore Carcassonne!"

Which of the following words is a salutation or greeting?

"Bonjour" is the traditional greeting for friends and strangers alike, but the other two are a fun way to mix things up. "Salut" is the equivalent of "Hi" and can be used with friends; "Bon matin" means "Good morning" and can be used before noon.

What does "s'il vous plait" mean?

"S'il vous plait" should be tacked onto any polite request. The full phrase is actually "if you please."

Translate into English: "Combien ca coute?"

"Combien ca coute?" is a great question to know, whether you're browsing an open air market or confused by the supermarket signs. Most will understand a simple "Combien?" but the full phrase is a safer bet.

How do you say "What is it?" in French?

"Cela ca sont" means "That's it." "Ce n'es pas bien?" means "Is that not right?" If you want to know what's wrong, or what's happening, "Qu'est-ce que c'est?" is the phrase to use.

Translate: "Ou est...?"

When you're looking for something specific, you can begin the phrase with "Ou est" (for singular) or "Ou sont" (for plural), then state what you're looking for. For example, you might say, "Ou est le Louvre?" if you're trying to find the Louvre museum.

If you're lost but have a map, which of these phrases would be helpful when speaking to a local?

"Ou sommes-nous?" means "Where are we?" A local can show you where you are on the map and get you going in the right direction.

Translate to English: "C'est a droite."

When you're asking for directions, you'll probably hear the phrase, "C'est a droite." It means "It's on the right" or "It's to the right."

If someone asks "Ou sont les magasins?" what are they looking for?

"Les magasins" means "shops" and could refer to things like department stores, grocery stores or a corner store. If you need to pick up a few items during sightseeing, this phrase is the one to use!

What does this phrase mean in English: "A quelle heure est-ce que cela ferme?"

Want to know when the museum shuts down for the night, or how long you have before the ticket office closes? This is the question to ask. You can substitute the name of a specific place instead of "cela," which is just the general form.

How would you ask for water at a restaurant?

Water is "l'eau," and "je voudrais" means "I would like," so the polite way to ask for water is "Je voudrais l'eau, s'il vous plait."

Choose the corresponding English question: "Est-ce que je peux payer avec une carte de credit?"

Many stores in France will take credit, but some merchants don't like to process foreign credit cards or they operate on cash-only basis, especially if they're street vendors. If you don't have a lot of cash, you'll want to memorize this phrase and ask before each purchase to avoid an uncomfortable misunderstanding when you're ready to pay.

How would you ask for the time?

If you're leaving your smartphone at home and you don't have a watch, you might need to know the time. It's especially important if you're scouring the local bus and train time tables for the ride back to your hotel!

Translate to English: "Je ne parle pas francais."

Once you've said the initial "Bonjour!" the jig is up: if you don't know French and want to avoid a steady stream of native speech, you can follow up with, "Je ne parle pas francais," meaning, "I don't speak French."

If someone asks, "Ou sont des toilettes?" what are they looking for?

If you need a restroom and don't know where to find it, "Ou sont des toilettes?" will do the trick. It's more commonly used inside a venue than out on the streets, but it will do in a pinch.

If you'd like to reassure the waiter your food is good, what might you say?

"C'est delicieux" means "It's delicious!" "Ce n'est pas mal" is better for a meal that's just okay, meaning "It's not bad." If it's a great meal, you could use "C'est tres bien," meaning, "It's very good."

You're haggling with a vendor and want to express that the price he's charging is too high. What do you say?

"C'est trop cher" means "It's too expensive." If you're lucky, the merchant could make a lower offer; if not, you might try your own counter-offer and see where it leads. Keep in mind that not every shop allows haggling, so the price might not budge.

You've just spotted the hotel you're staying at for the night. What do you exclaim?

"C'est ici!" means "It's here!" You might hear this phrase if a local points to your map and says "C'est ici," meaning that what you're trying to find is there on the map.

What are you asking someone to do when you say the following: "Pouvez-vous prendre ma photo, s'il vous plait?"

To document your trip for social media and family, you might need a friendly soul to take your picture while you pose. The best phrase for that is "Pouvez-vous prendre ma photo, s'il vous plait?" That means "Would you please take my picture?"

If you need to interrupt someone to ask for help, you might get their attention politely by saying what?

"Excusez-moi" means "Excuse me" and can be used when you're flagging down a stranger, squeezing through a packed tour bus, and more. This phrase belongs at the beginning of a sentence.

Translate the following: "J'ai besoin d'aide. Pouvez-vous m'aider?"

If you're in an emergency and need something to yell, "Au secours" is more likely to be successful. But when you have a moment to speak directly to someone, you can use this phrase to get them on your side.

How do you ask for the check at the end of a meal?

The check, or bill, is known as the "l'addition." This phrase is the same as saying, "check, please."

What does "comment allez-vous?" mean?

"Comment allez-vous?" means "How are you?" It's the formal way of asking. If you're among friends, "Comment ca-va?" or "Comment va-tu?" is acceptable.

Translate to English: "C'est a gauche."

When a local gives you directions and says, "C'est a gauche," that means your destination (or a street you need to take) will be on the left.

A common beginning to your questions may be "Avez-vous." What does "avez-vous" mean?

"Avez-vous" means "Do you have." For a simple sentence, pair "Avez-vous" with an object you want, such as "Avez-vous un stylo?" That means, "Do you have a pen?"

You travel from America to France. The grocer makes small talk and asks you where you're from. What might you say?

All three are legitimate ways to respond that you're from the U.S. The first means you live in America, the second means you're from America, and the third means you're American.

If you speak just a bit of French, how could you explain that you aren't fluent?

The first means, "I don't speak French well." The second means "I speak a little French." The third means "I understand a little French." All are appropriate, and you can use whichever one most accurately describes your knowledge of the language.

What does this sentence mean in English: "Je voudrais reserver un billet."

"Je voudrais reserver un billet" means "I'd like to book a ticket." It's a handy phrase to know at the metro station or the airport.

Translate: "Quel temps fait-il aujourd'hui?"

As you're on your way down from your room, a quick "Quel temps fait-il aujourd'hui?" with the receptionist should give you an idea of what kind of weather to prepare for. Just remember that temperatures in Europe are reported in Celsius, so don't panic if you hear it will be 21 degrees on a sunny spring day!

If you need to find the metro station, what could you say?

"Je cherche le metro" means "I'm looking for the train," typically understood to be the metro system. If you want to tack on that you're lost, say "Je suis perdu."

What does this phrase mean: "A quelle heure est-il ouvert?"

If you're trying to plan your day, knowing when attractions are open or closed is essential, especially if they're closed for an afternoon break. Asking "A quelle heure est-il ouvert?" should do the trick - assuming you've brushed up on your French numbers and such.

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