French isn’t just the language of love, nor is it spoken only in France. Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, Haiti, Louisiana, many African countries – there are over 250 million French-speaking people all around the world.

If you are planning to visit one of these places, here are some useful, everyday phrases you should know.

 

“Bonjour” – Hello/Good Day

A word you are probably already familiar with. It’s a universal greeting, regardless if you are talking to a close friend, business associate, or a complete stranger. In the evening or at night, you can say “bonsoir” (Good evening) instead. Alternatively, you can also say “salut”, but only to causal acquaintances.

 

“S’il vous plait” – Please

It is always important to be polite, especially when abroad. The French language is no exception to this rule, so you should always start every request or inquiry with “S’il vous plait” – when ordering a coffee, or asking for directions.

 

“Comment vous appelez-vous?” – What is your name?

When meeting someone for the first time, it is, of course, a common and expected courtesy to ask their name. If you are asked this question first, the correct reply is: “Je m’appelle _____” (My name is ____).

“Oui/Non” – Yes/No

The simple yes and no, two vital words you first learn in any language.

 

“Comment allez-vous?” – How are you?

How have you been, how are you doing, and so on – this is a common way to ask people if they are doing well. An informal variation of this question is “ça va?”, to which you can respond “ça va bien” – It’s going well.

 

“Excusez-moi” – Excuse me

Usually said when you want to get somebody’s attention, like the waiter in a restaurant. It can also be applied when you want to let someone know they should move out of your way, like in a crowded train.

 

“Pardon” – Sorry

When you’ve made a mistake, or want the person you are speaking with to repeat what they just said.

 

“Je ne comprends pas” – I don’t understand

Many French speakers speak French too quickly for everyone to understand. So you can use this phrase to indicate that you do not understand what has just been said. With any luck, the person will then explain it more slowly, or simplify it so that you can understand it as well.

 

“Plus lentement” – More slowly

If “Je ne comprends pas” fails, you can explicitly ask people to speak more slowly with “Plus lentement.” An even better way to say this is: “Pourriez-vous parler plus lentement, s’il vous plaît?” – Can you speak more slowly, please?

 

“C’est combien?” – How much is it?

Even though most stores, coffee shops, and restaurants will prominently display their costs, sometimes you will run into items that don’t have a price tag. That’s where “C’est combien?” comes in.

“Où sont les toilettes?” – Where are the toilets?

Another phrase you should absolutely know for every country you are visiting – who knows when you’ll need it!

 

“Où est ___?” – Where is ___?

When asking for directions, say “Où est”, followed by the street, part of town, or other location you want to find.