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Study languages to travel better: essential French in five steps

Updated on March 25, 2014

If you’re about to embark on a trip to France, it’s a good idea to learn some basic French phrases before you go. While most holiday-makers feel they can get by just using English, learning some simple phrases will go a long way in helping you connect with local people. You’ll also be able to feel more confident on your travels, meaning you’ll enjoy your holiday even more.

Learning simple French doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some simple phrases to help you on your way.



You’ll need to know how to open conversations with strangers, as well as the polite way of greeting people, before you set off. This will help you should you get lost, need to find a hotel or just want to find a nice place to have dinner.

· Hello/Good day – Bonjour (Bohn-zhour)

· Good evening – Bonsoir (Bohn-swah)

· Excuse me...? – Excusez-moi...? (Ex-kewsay mwah...?)

· Thank you very much – Merci beaucoup (Mehr-si bo-kou)

· Goodbye – Au revoir (Oh-ruh vwah!)

Note: With older generations, you’ll also need to address people politely. The polite way to address a woman is “Madame” (Ma-dahm) and the polite way to address a man is “Monsieur” (Muh-syeuh). Younger generations are not so concerned with this.


Once you’ve sussed out where your hotel is, it’s time to explore your destination. Here are some useful phrases for getting around.

· One ticket, please – Un billet, s’il vous plaît (Uhn bee-ay, seel voo pleh)

· How do I get to station X, please? – Comment aller à la station X, s’il vous plaît?(Koh-mahn ah-llay ah lah stah-sih-ohn X, seel voo pleh?)

· Excuse me, where is...? – Excusez-moi, ou est...? (Ex-kewsay mwah, oo ay...?)

· Take me to this address, please – Emmenez-moi à cette adresse, s’il vous plaît (Om-men-nay mwah set ah-dress, seel voo pleh)

· Can I have a map of the city, please? – Puis-je avoir un plan de la ville, s’il vous plaît?(Pweezh a-vwah oon plon der la veel, seel voo pleh?)


Eating out

No trip to France would be complete without trying out some of the fantastic restaurants and cafes. Here are some phrases to help your dining go smoothly.

· Table for one/two/three, please – Bonjour, une table pour une/deux/trois personne(s), s’il vous plaît (Uhn tahblah poor... seel voo pleh)

· What are today’s specials? – Quels sont les plats du jour, s’il vous plaît? (Kell sohn lay plah doo jour, seel voo pleh?)

· Do you have a menu in English? – Avez-vous un menu en anglais? (Ah-vay voo unh meh-noo ahn ahn-glay?)

· I’ll have ... please – Je prends ... s’il vous plaît? (Zhuh prahn ... seel voo pleh)

· The bill, please – L’addition, s’il vous plaît(Lah-dee-sy-ohn, seel voo pleh)


There are some lovely shops in holiday destinations across France with plenty of places to buy gifts for friends. Here are some common phrases to use in retail establishments.

· How much does that cost? – Combien ça coûte? (Kom-be-eh sa koot?)

· I would like to buy this – Je vais prendre ceci (Zhe-vay prahn-dre say-see)

· I would like to pay by credit card – Je voudrais payer par carte de credit (Zhe-vay pay-eh pa car deh cred-ee)

· Where is the checkout? - Où se trouve la caisse? (Oh seh trove la kess?)

· I am looking for... – Je cherche... (Zhe sherssh...)


With these simple phrases, your holiday should be much more enjoyable. Give yourself plenty of time to practise before you go! If you’re staying abroad for a long period of time, plenty of cities across the UK offer language schools where you can learn French for city life in France with intensive courses.

What’s the most important phrase to learn for holidaying in France?

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