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Useful French Phrases for Travelers

Un peu is better than poo

Beerman Hiding in Front of the Arc d' Triomphe by Beerman

Beerman Hiding in Front of the Arc d' Triomphe by Beerman

You're going to take the plunge and visit a French speaking country....you've wanted to for years. The wine, the food, the romance, all have an allure that need to be seen and appreciated. Unfortunately, you don't know the difference between "un peu" (a little), and "a poo" (kind of self explanatory). Well fellow explorer, you've come to the right place, because it is here that you will learn how to get around, order a meal, quaff beer (though I've noticed most people don't really need help quaffing beer), and generally be able to make your travels through French speaking countries considerably more enjoyable. Having a little knowledge of local customs will help you as well, but at least with this blog you will be able to understand where and what certain things mean, and that can make all the difference between being helplessly confused and having the confidence to order poutine (fried potatoes with gravy and cheese, more or less) in that little cafe' along the waterfront in Marseille without the waiter thinking you want a hearty dish of jellied ox testicles.

I have only had the pleasure of traveling to three French speaking countries, France, where I hear it is the native language, Switzerland, where it is one of 37 native languages (well, one of three really), and Montreal, though not a country, it could be if the Quebecoise get their way and secede from Greater Canada. When I was at University in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that bastion of French culture, I took an intensive course in French language and culture. It was a one semester course that packed five semesters into one (generally, two semesters made up one year of study). We had five final exams in five months. What did I get myself into???? But, as I had always been interested in French culture, due mainly to watching all the Peter Sellers "Pink Panther" movies, I took the plunge. Plus I needed a language to get my Liberal Arts degree. Spanish was an option.....after all, I was in New Mexico, but French called to me. It helped that there were more pretty girls in the class than in my Biology classes, but still. Peter Sellers taught me the all-important accents that I needed to succeed. In fact, I had the best accent in my class from the beginning, and I could I could always get the class to laugh with the old "Does your dog bite" joke. Our professor was a classically trained French master from Louisiana, who spoke with a rather peculiar southern accent, reminiscent of a Cajun who had waaaaaay too much wine to drink. Still, five months flew by, and at the end, I was ready to take on even the most veteran French speakers. Unfortunately, it would be another four years before I actually traveled to France, and by that time I could barely order a beer without sounding like a complete idiot. Practice is key here - you must practice a language to be proficient. I had not, but I still had my accent, so I was undeterred from my goals. I was ready to be mocked by that pretentious waiter in Marseille (I think I may have ordered a plate of wallpaper paste with a side of tree bark, which could have led to the mocking......I don't remember that clearly - though my accent was impeccable).

Marseille Fish Market by Sydney324

Marseille Fish Market by Sydney324

So below you will find a list of phrases that may come in handy if you find yourself in France, Switzerland, Montreal (or Quebec in general), Martinique, Tahiti, several countries in South-East Asia, and even more countries in Africa. Not all the phrases are accented (bad keyboard), but you'll get the gist....this is for pronunciation, not spelling.

What did I get myself into????


Where is... – Où est – (oo ay)
How much is it – Combien ça coûte – (cohm-bee-en sa coot)
What is your name? - Quel est votre nom – (kell ay vote-reh no)
Where are my shoes (France)? – Où sont mes chaussures – (ooh sohnt may show-soor)
Where are my shoes (Quebec)? – Où sont mes souliers – (ooh sohnt may soo-leeyay)
Who's the blonde stranger (female)? - Qui est l'inconnue blonde – (key ay lay-cuh-nu blohnd)
Who's the blonde stranger (male)? - Qui est l'inconnu blond - (key ay lay-cuh-nu blohn)

Hey, you never know.....


Here – ici – (ee-see)
There – là-bas – (lah-bah)
Everywhere – partout – (pahr-too)
On The Corner – sur le coin – (sur luh kwahn)
Straight – droite – (dro-wat)
Right- droit – (dro-wa)
Left – gauche – (goshe)
Ahead – en avant – (ahn av-ahn)
Behind – en arrière – (ahn ar-yehr)
In(inside) – à l'intérieur – (ah l'ahn-tare-ee-air)
Out(outside) – à l'extérieur – (ah l'ex-tare-ee-air)
Railroad - chemin de fer – (shem-ahn duh fair)
Train – train – (trehn)
Bus – l'autobus – (l'ow-toe-boos)
Car – auto, or voiture – (oh-toe, vwah-tour)
Taxi – taxi – pretty universal, this one
Plane – l'avion – (l'ah-vee-own)
Airport - l'aéroport – (l'uh-air-o-pohr)
Station – gare – (gahr)
Hotel – hôtel – (oh-tell)
Hostel – auberge – (oh-bear-jzh)
City – ville – (veel)
Country – pays – (pay-ee)
Store – magasin – (mah-gah-zahn)
Market – marché – (marsh-ay)
Restaurant – restaurant – (ray-stow-rahn)
Bus stop- l'arrêt d'autobus – (l'are-eh d'oh-toe-boos)

Beerman vs. the Coast Guard by Beerman

Beerman vs. the Coast Guard by Beerman


The Museum - le musée – (luh mooz-ay)
The Park - le parc – (luh pahrk)
The Church - l'église – (lay-gleez)
The Library - la bibliothèque – (lah beeb-lee-oh-tek)
A Monument - un monument – (uhn mohn-oo-mohnt)
The Aquarium - l'aquarium – (lah-kwahr-ee-um)

I was ready to be mocked by that pretentious waiter in Marseille


Beer – bière – (bee-air)
Wine – vin – (vahn)
Water - eau – (oh)
Juice - jus de... – (zhu deh)
Rum – rhum – (rhom)
Milk – lait – (lay)
Beef – boeuf – (boof)
Pork – porc – (pohrk)
Chicken – poulet – (poo-lay)
Duck – canard – (cah-nahrd)
Veal – veau – (voh)
Guinea Pig – porcs Guinée – (pohrk gee-nay)
Ham – jambon – (zhahm-bow)
Bacon – bacon - (bay-cun)
Vegetables – legumes – (lay-goom)
Carrot – carotte – (care-oat)
Onion - oignon – (ahn-yoh)
Potato - pommes de terre – (pohm duh tare)
Beans – haricots – (are-ee-co)
Cabbage – chou – (shew)
Tomato – tomate – (toe-maht)
Fruit – fruits – (frew-ee)
Apple – pomme – (pohm)
Banana – banane – (bahn-ahn)
Grapes – raisins – (ray-zahn)
Lemon – citron – (see-trohn)
Lime – lime – (leem) (Or “citron vert” (see-trohn vair) in France)
Melon – melon – (may-loan)
Nut – noix – (nwa)
Ice Cream - crème glacée – (crame glah-say)
Chocolate – chocolat – (show-co-lah)
Candy – bonbons – (bohn-bohn) (Also, friandise (free-ahn-deez))


Hello – bonjour – (bohn-zhoor)
Please - s'il vous plaît – (seel voo play)
Thank you – merci – (mare-see)
You're Welcome (Quebec)- bienvenue – (bee-on-vehn-oo) )
You're Welcome (France) - de rien (du ree-en) or je vous en prie (zhu vooz on pree)
Excuse Me - excusez-moi – (ayk-skoo-zay mwa) (Also “pardon” (par-dohn) in France)
Of Course! - bien sûr – (bee-ehn soor)
Kiss – un baiser – (uhn bay-zay) (Have to put the “un” before or else it means to have sexy time!)
Hug – étreinte – (ay-traynt)
Yes - oui - (wee)
No - non - (nohn)


Police – police – (poh-lees)
Hospital - l'hôpital – (loh-pee-tahl)
Fire Department – les pompiers – (lay pohm-pee-air)
Embassy – ambassade – (em-bah-sahd)


Where is the hotel (name) - où est l'hôtel – (oo ay loh-tell)
My name is... - mon nom est... – (mohn nohm ay...)
This is a beautiful country – c'est un beau pays – (sayt ahn bo pay)
Where is the bathroom - où est la salle de bains – (ooh ay luh sahl deh bahn)
My dog has no nose - mon chien n'a pas de nez – (moan shee-en nah pah deh nay)
How does he smell – Comment est-ce qu'il sent? – (com-ohnt ess-se-kill-sahn)
Terrible – terrible – (tare-ee-bluh)

My dog has no nose - mon chien n'a pas de nez – (moan shee-en nah pah deh nay)
How does he smell – Comment est-ce qu'il sent? – (com-ohnt ess-se-kill-sahn)
Terrible – terrible – (tare-ee-bluh)

This is my stop - Ceci est mon arrêt – (seh-see ay moan are-ett)
Help Me! - aidez-moi – (aye-aid-ay mwa)
May I have a large plate of poutine with extra gravy - puis-je avoir une grosse assiete de poutine avec extra sauce – (pwee-zhu ah-vwahre ahn gross ass-eeyet duh poo-teen ah-vek ek-strah sose)

This list is by no means complete, but it will be helpful to you in your travels, if for no other reason than to avoid the mocking of a haughty waiter who has never dined on wallpaper paste with a side of tree bark. A hearty smile and a few choice phrases will go a long way toward making your adventure one to remember. Never be afraid to try, people will appreciate your efforts.

I would like to give a huge two cheek un baiser to fellow TP member Tway, without whose assistance I would have led you readers astray. Merci beaucoup, mon cher ami, vous êtes un ange. I hope I didn't just call you a turnip. Let the good times roll - Laissez les bontemps roulez - (layzay lay bohn-tomp roo-lay).

If you have other tips and tricks for your fellow travellers, then join us in educating travellers worldwide. To get started, send our editors an email at unravelled [at] travellerspoint [dot] com. Let them know a bit about yourself, and maybe include some writing samples and ideas for entries. They will review your submission and, if you fit the bill, they will welcome you to the team.

Posted by beerman 09:18 Tagged tips_and_tricks

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Sweet. Thanks, Frenchy

by Piecar

Great stuff, Beerman! Love your gigantic do in your first pic. And I boarded that boat in the fish market picture. True story! My dog, however, smells lovely. ;)

by tway

Great list, though...

"...having the confidence to order poutine in that little cafe' along the waterfront in Marseille without the waiter thinking you want a hearty dish of jellied ox testicles."

I think you still may get a confused waiter in Marseille, even with perfect French. It isn't a dish that has made it across the Atlantic yet. They'd probably think you were ordering up a dish of the Russian Prime Minister. With his Judo skills, he's hard to get into a dish.

by GregW

this is a great list :) and reminds of the Spanish tipe you gave us before .... every little bit helps to open the doors..

by Rraven

that should say tip instead of tipe....

typing is not my strong point :)

by Rraven

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