Simple French: Can You Tell If We Translated These Phrases Correctly?

By: Olivia Cantor

Simple French: Can You Tell If We Translated These Phrases Correctly?
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

If there is one European language that people are always curious about, we'll bet it's French. 

And why not? So many movies, works of literature, TV shows and songs have romanticized this language. Sometimes it indeed looks very romantic and sophisticated to have your characters speak a little French from time to time. The audiences end up imitating so many French-laced utterances in popular culture that sometimes, it becomes a hip trademark. 

People also tend to exaggerate whenever they utter such French words, no matter how simple they are. The fact that someone can pronounce these words correctly is already achievement enough for some, and also enough to impress people they want to impress. 

There are also those who want to impress people they date with some French knowledge. After all, French is not considered as one of the Romance languages for nothing. It's still part of romanticizing this language, in a way. And perhaps the world will continue to see it that way for generations to come. 

So, let's see if you can tell: Did we translate some words right? Do you know a handful of simple French terms? Tell us if we hit the mark, then. Have fun!


When we say “Excusez-moi,” are we saying sorry?
Yes
No
“Excusez-moi” is the phrase for “excuse me” which has the same context in French as it does in English. You say this when you want to call someone’s attention, for example if you’re buying in a store, or you can also use it to excuse yourself from the company of people. It’s also used as a polite way of saying that you want to pass through.
Half-heartedly
Sarcastically

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When we ask “Ça va?” are we asking for the time?
We're asking for money.
We're asking for directions.
We're asking where the restroom is.
We’re asking how things are with someone.
When you greet someone “Bonjour,” the second greeting is oftentimes “Ça va,” which means how are things, or a shortened form of asking how are you doing. If you’re doing great, you answer “Bien.”

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When we ask “Parlez-vous Anglais?” are we asking someone to translate for us in English?
Yes, but only for a while.
Asking if someone can speak English
Asking a French speaker “Parlez-vous Anglais” means you’re asking if the person can speak in English. While it may be a formal and polite way of asking, remember that not all French people are keen on speaking English, so gauge this accordingly.
We're curious if someone is British.
Asking if someone is alone

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When we say “s’il vous plaît,” are we being polite?
No, we're being insincere.
A little bit only
Yes, because it means “please.”
It is always a nice gesture to add “s’il vous plaît” when you’re talking to French-speaking people, because this is the magic word: please. If you’re in a foreign land, it’s always helpful to be humble and respectful that way.
We're asking someone to eat with us.

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When they refer to a tennis player as an “enfant terrible,” is that a negative thing?
Yes, because it means “exhibiting controversial behavior.”
Anyone referred to as “l’enfant terrible” is someone who exhibits such controversial behavior, short of saying someone is having tantrums like a crybaby. "Enfant" is infant or baby, and "terrible" is obviously about being terrible.
Yes, because it means "throw the baby out with the bathwater."
Only if you're John McEnroe
Only during the French Open

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Do they use “monsieur et madame” to refer to a man and a woman?
Only when they're single
Yes, as a title
The phrase “Monsieur et Madame” is an honorific title that refers to a man and a woman, when called out or introduced by their names. It’s like saying “Mr. and Mrs.” and it usually addresses a husband and wife tandem.
Yes, only at night
Not when the events are informal

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Does “crème de la crème” apply to people?
No, to French cooking procedures
Yes, the ones who aren't strong enough
Yes, because it means “the best of the best.”
Technically speaking, "crème de la crème" literally translates to “cream of the cream,” but it’s actually a kind of idiomatic expression that translates to “the best of the best.” It refers to a group of people who are supposedly the best in what they do, and it is used as a term of high distinction or regard.
No, only to food items

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Is “Je t’aime” referring to a person’s aim?
If it’s a love aim, kinda!
“Je t’aime” is perhaps the most universal French phrase ever, because it means “I love you.” Many songs and movies have been using this phrase for centuries.
Sure, but not about making decisions
Sometimes, depending on who's speaking
Only when they're "born to be wild"

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Do we say “merci beaucoup” if we want to express deep gratitude?
Yes
Saying “Merci” is simply saying “thanks” or “thank you” in French. But if you add the word “beaucoup” in there, you’re essentially saying “thank you very much” or “thanks a lot,” which means you’re really very thankful to the person you’re addressing.
No
Only to elder people
Only to strangers

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When we greet someone “Bon anniversaire,” are we referring to their wedding anniversary?
Yes, that's it.
Not when they're divorced
No, their birthday
“Bon anniversaire” is the French way of wishing someone a “Happy birthday.” The male form of "bon" is used because the gender of birthday or "anniversaire" is male.
Yes, but only if they're still married

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Are we referring to something great when we say “par excellence?
Yes
To refer to something using the phrase “par excellence” means that something is described as being ultimate, and in a good or positive way. It’s another way of saying being the quintessential something or other, and it can also refer to people or people’s deeds, actions or achievements.
No
Only as a hyperbole
Not really, just symbolically

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Does the phrase “un homme et une femme” refer to a woman and man?
Yup, in that order
The opposite: It’s a man and a woman.
A man is the “homme” while a woman is the “femme,” and just put the proper gendered article in front of them: “un” for male, and “une” for female. Meanwhile, the word “et” is French for “and.” This phase is also the title of a popular French film.
No, it's a boy and a girl.
No, it's apple and peach.

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Is “Au revoir” the proper way of saying goodbye?
Yes
The French have several ways of bidding someone goodbye, the most commonly recognizable term of which is “Au revoir.” But sometimes, they also say “Adieu!” If they add “A bientôt,” that means “See you soon.”
No
Only if you're not mad
Depends on who you're bidding goodbye to

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If we want to pass on any trouble, do we say “pas de problème?”
Yes, we do.
Not really
When we say “pas de problème,” what we’re actually saying is “No problem” which implies the same thing in English as it does in French. It’s more like saying we don’t have a problem about something presented to us, so it’s not directly saying something about being in trouble.
Only if no one else is around to see us
Yes, except to the boss

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Is “Bon appétit” a nice way to greet someone after they have eaten?
Yes, that's it.
Only if they've already finished dessert
It should be before they eat.
You utter “Bon appétit” when you want to say “Enjoy your meal” to someone. So naturally, you would say this phrase before they actually eat the meal, not after they have consumed it. If you interrupted someone eating to talk for a while, you can also say this as a way of saying goodbye, so they can continue enjoying their meal.
Only if you dined with them

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When we say “un peu," do we mean "a lot?"
Yes, we do.
No, only half an item
Just pertaining to liquid stuff
Just a little
“Un peu” is actually a phrase that means “a little,” like if someone asks you if you speak French, you can definitely say this if you only know a little of the language. If you want to say “a little bit,” you can say “un petit peu” and if you mean “a lot,” you say “beaucoup.”

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“Faux pas” means “false moves,” right?
Not exactly, as it means “false steps”
"Faux pas" actually means “false step,” so it literally pertains to an actual specific movement, not just to a general one. This French expression actually pertains to making the wrong decisions, usually disregarding prescribed etiquette, and the phrase is also used in English in the same manner.
Yes, that's it.
No, it means "fake ID."
Yes, but as applied to cars only

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Does saying “c’est la vie” equate to “throwing caution to the wind?”
No, it's about "truth coming out when drinking wine."
Yes, because it means being careless.
Not really, only shrugging about life
When one says “C’est la vie!” they’re essentially saying “That’s life!” as an interjection, and it’s like shrugging off something that happened, because that’s how life is. Depending on the situation, the phrase could be uttered in earnest, as a fleeting expression or even a sarcastic one.
It has a different meaning altogether.

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When we see the labels “chaud ou froid,” does it mean “cold or frozen?”
Yes, it does.
It means "chopped or whole."
None of that
It’s “hot or cold.”
It’s very useful to know what “chaud ou froid” means when you’re traveling, because this means “hot or cold.” You can see this in restrooms, on sinks where there is a water temperature controller like in hotels, or even when ordering drinks in a menu. Don’t make the mistake of switching the meanings, as that could spell disaster!

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“Qu’est-ce que c’est” is a question that asks about something, right?
Right!
To ask “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” means you’re asking someone “What’s this?” or “What is it?” which alludes to something that’s visible to the both of you at a given time. You could be referring to something specific, like an object, or maybe a concept, such as when you chance upon two people meeting without your prior knowledge, and you want to know what that is about.
Wrong!
Not sure
Sometimes only

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To wish someone a Happy New Year is to say “Bonne année,” right?
Wrong
Right!
“Bonne année” is indeed the French term to wish someone a Happy New Year as the years change. Notice that the female term of “bonne” is the one used here, because the word for year or “année” takes on a female gender.
It should be "Bonne año."
It should be "Buona notte."

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When we say “Je ne sais quoi,” we’re not very sure of something, right?
Not all the time
Right!
The French use the expression “Je ne sais quoi” when they want to refer to something they’re not exactly sure of, or something they can’t accurately describe or define. Literally, it means “I don’t know what.” Hoity-toity people sometimes use this phrase in a pretentious manner.
It depends on who you're talking to.
Not really, but never say this to a coworker.

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If someone says “comme ci, comme ça,” that’s like a lukewarm response, right?
Yes, it’s so-so.
Literally, “comme” means “like” so “comme ci comme ça” means “like this, like that.” In French cultures, that’s like saying something is so-so, or something is not really good but not really bad.
No, it's a sure thing.
It's more of an invitation to come over.
It's really about reading between the lines.

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Are we saying "Good evening" if we’re saying “Bonne nuit?”
Yes, correct
It should be "Buenas noches."
No, only if you’re leaving
“Bonne nuit” actually means “Good night” more than “Good evening.” You use the term when you’re about to leave the venue for the evening. If you just arrived, the proper greeting should be “Bonsoir.”
Not when you're in a bad mood

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Are we being offered something to eat when they serve us some "hors d’oeuvres?"
No, that's the table napkins.
Yes, the appetizers!
When someone gestures you to a tray and offers some “hors d’oeuvres,” that means the small food items laid out there are yours for the taking, as this is the French term for “appetizers” or any smaller food items they serve prior to the main meal. Sometimes they also serve these when everyone is already seated at the table.
Yes, the desserts!
No, that's the cutlery.

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When we say “haute couture,” are we talking about hot clothes?
Stolen clothes is more like it
Ripped jeans is more like it
Summer clothes, to be precise
Fashion in general
“Haute” means high while “couture” means sewing or dressmaking, but the combined term of “haute couture” pertains to high fashion of some sort. This means that a piece of clothing is tailor-made to fit a specific person, often designed by the fashion designer to fit just that person.

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Is “joie de vivre” pertaining to a happy life?
In a way, yes.
The expression “joie de vivre” translates to “Joy of life” and is used as such in both the French-speaking and English-speaking worlds. But “vivre” actually means “to live” so it’s also like saying “the joy of living,” pertaining to specific aspects of living that brings joy to a person, or it also describes someone who has a generally happy outlook and approach in life.
Only when you're drunk
No, it doesn't.
No, it means being divorced.

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Does “carte blanche” merely pertain to a white card?
It can be black, too.
Only as it applies to chocolate gifts
Yes and no
"Carte blanche" indeed translates to “white card” in English, if we are to take a literal translation of it. But the French also use it as an idiomatic expression to mean “giving someone unlimited access or authority over something.” The phrase is actually used in English, too, and it also bears the same meaning.
Yes, that's just it.

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Is “Quel dommage” a rather negative thought?
Yes
"Dommage" literally translates to "damage," so saying “Quel dommage” is like saying “What a pity,” which is a negative thought. But it can also be used in a sarcastic thought, and the implied thought in that manner of delivery could be construed as not totally negative a thought.
No
Only if you're short-tempered
Only if you're single and unhappy

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When we say goodbye, can we also say “Bon voyage?”
In a way, yes, if a destination is included there somewhere
If you want to just say goodbye, you use the phrase “Au revoir!” If you say “Bon voyage,” you’re essentially saying “Happy trip” to someone, which is also a way of saying goodbye, but only if the person you’re bidding goodbye to will be going on an actual trip – and not just leaving your present company at the moment.
Only to family members
Only applied to strangers
Yes, but spoken only over the phone

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When we say “Joyeux Noël,” are we saying “Merry Christmas?”
Yes
Using the phrase” Joyeux Noël” is how French-speaking people greet each other a very Merry Christmas. “Joyeux” translates to happy, and%0D sometimes it also means joyful.
No
Yes, but only to children
No, that's not French.

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Does “raison d’être” pertain to purpose?
More of an evil scheme
Only if you're the devil's advocate
Yes, especially an individual’s sole purpose
When you are asked about your “raison d’être,” people are asking for your “reason for being,” which is the literal translation of this term. It pertains to our purpose in life, short of asking for your very reason for existing, or asking what gives you meaning in life.
Yes, but applicable only during specific projects

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When we say “avec moi” to someone, are we pertaining to them?
No, to you, the speaker!
“Avec moi” translates to “with me,” so a speaker who mentions this is saying something and referring to himself or herself. You can hear it used playfully in the song with the lyric that goes “Voulez vous coucher avec moi c’est soir?” which means “Do you want to sleep with me tonight?”
No, to her
No, to him
No, it's an "us" thing.

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Is “savoir-faire” referring to one’s profession?
Yes, in a way.
"Savior-faire" translates to “know do” but what it really wants to say is “know how,” which pertains to a person’s skill or knowledge about something. So yes, it pertains mainly to one’s professional know how, but it can also pertain to artistic or creative skills as well.
Not really
Yes, the cooking profession
No, it's about flavorings.

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When we declare “Je ne comprends pas,” we’re saying we don’t understand fully, right?
Right!
“Je ne comprends pas” might be the most common phrase a traveler could learn when touring France or French-speaking countries. That’s because it means “I don’t understand” so it could be good to say that once people start talking to you in French too fast!
Wrong!
A bit, but we're not admitting it
Not really, we're just denying things.

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