Places

Introduction to French Language

Whether you’re going on a vacation, or just living in an area of the country with a high French speaking population, this little ‘MiniBook’ can help you to understand some things you couldn’t before and actually have small conversations with other ‘French-speakers’

BRIEF INTRODUCTION

French is a Romance language originating in France but spoken in many other parts of the world: in Europe in Southern Belgium and Western Switzerland; in North America in Quebec, New Brunswick, other parts of Canada, and parts of Louisiana; in the former French colonies in North Africa and West Africa; in Haiti and Martinique in the Caribbean; in French Guiana in South America; in Tahiti and numerous other islands in Oceania. It has long been the language of international diplomacy and communication, and although replaced largely by English since World War II, it remains de rigueur for educated people around the world to have some level of basic French ability.

PRONUNCIATION
Like English and unlike most other Romance languages, it is not phonetic. The same letter used in two different words can make two different sounds, and many letters are not pronounced at all. In general, it’s not impossible to sound out words, but suffice it to say that many experienced non-native French speakers — and some native speakers — mispronounce words often.

One thing to note is that final consonants of a word are usually dropped: allez (go) is pronounced ahl-AY, not ahl-AYZ; tard (late) is pronounce tar, not tard. Also a final “e” is usually silent. But if the next word begins with a vowel, the consonant may be pronounced; this is called liaison.

Stress is usually on the last syllable of a phrase, but sometimes when a word is emphasized, the stress moves to the middle of the word.

For many French words, it is impossible to write something which, when pronounced as English, sounds like the French word. Use the transliteration as a guide to liaison and the French spelling to pronounce the vowels.

A QUICK NOTE ON VOWELS: Vowels in French can have accent marks; except for “e”, this doesn’t usually change the sound.

 

VOWELS
a
like “a” in “father”
e
like “uh” in “duh”
é
like “ay” in “say”
ê
like “e” in “set”
è
like “e” in “set”
i
like “ee” in “feed”
o
like “o” in “home”, but rounder
u
more or less like “oo” in “food”, but the tongue is like “ee” in “feed”; written uu in transcriptions
y
like “ee” in “feed”
DIPHTHONGS
ai
like “i” in “fight”, like “ay” in “hay” (at the end of a word)
ail
like “i” in “fight”
ais
like “ea” in “bread” (at the end of a word)
au, eau
like “ow” in “blow”
an
nasal; kind of like “ahng”, but without the hard “g” at the end
eu
between “ew” in “dew” and “ur” in “burp”; written eu in transcriptions
œ
more or less like “eu”, slighlty more “open”
er
like “ay” in “hay” — usually found at the end of word/verb
ez
like “ay” in “hay”
en, em
nasal; same as “an”
in
nasal; like “ang” in “Tang”, but without the hard “g” at the end
oi
like “wa” in “walk”
oin
nasal; like “wang”, but without the hard “g” at the end
ou
like “oo” in “food”
on
nasal; like “ong” in “long”, but without the hard “g” at the end
oui
like “wee” in “week”
ui
like “wee” in “week”, but with the tongue forward
un
nasal; like “ung” in “hung”, but without the hard “g” at the end
ch
like “sh” in “bush”
gn
like “ny” in “canyon”. This is particularly difficult (even for little French kids) when followed by oi, as in baignoire (beh-NYWAR) “bathtub”
il
like “y” in “three years”, with some exceptions (ville is veel)
ll
like “l”
ph
like “f” in “fun”
tch
like “ch” in “chew” (but kind of rare)
th
like “t” in “tin”
tr
“t” followed by a short gargle
CONSONANTS
b
like “b” in “bed”
c
like “k” in “kill” (before “a”, “o”, and “u”), like “s” in “sun” (before “e” and “i”)
ç
like “s” in “sun”
d
like “d” in “death”
f
like “f” in “fun”
g
like “g” in “go” (before “a”, “o”, and “u”), like “g” in “sabotage” (before “e” and “i” and at the end of words)
h
usually silent
j
like “g” in “sabotage”
k
like “k” in “kill”
l
like “l” in “like”
m
like “m” in “me”
n
like “n” in “nurse” (but see Diphthongs above)
p
like “p” in “push”
q(u)
like “k” in “kill” (not like “qu” in “quick”)
r
gutteral; kind of like coughing up a hairball
s
like “s” in “sun”; like “z” in “zero” (between two vowels)
t
like “t” in “take”
v
like “v” in “value”
x
like “x” in “exit”
z
like “z” in “zero”
PRONUNCIATION EXCEPTIONS
  • When there is an accent mark on “e”, it prevents diphthongs. Letters should be pronounced separately, following the rule for the accented letter. Example: énergumène, (rowdy character), réunion (meeting).

 

  • A diaeresis (“) may also be used to prevent diphthongs on “e”, “u” and “i”. Example: maïs (maize).
  • In the combinations “gue” and “gui”, the “u” should not be pronounced, it is there only to force the prononciation of “g” as in “go”. If the “u” is pronounced, a diaeresis is added: aiguë (sharp).
  • In the combination “geo”, the “e” should not be pronounced, it is only there to force the prononciation of “g” as in “sabotage” (in the case the “e” should be pronounced, it is indicated with an accent mark as in géologie).

 

COMMON EVERYDAY PHRASES
A QUICK NOTE BEFORE BEGINNING:In French, there are several levels of politeness. But to keep things simple this phrasebook is limited to two levels — formal and informal — with complex rules about age and social rank that determine which level you use. In France and most of the rest of the world, formal speech is the default; in Canada, it’s informal that’s used more often. This phrasebook gives everything in the formal level of politeness, on the principle that your friends or peers will just laugh if you address them too formally (vouvoyer), but strangers and “superiors” will find it offensive if you address them too intimately (tutoyer). Except a few phrases, such as “Buzz off”, when you want to be offensive.

Note you should try not to pronounce the “G” where “NG” is used in the prononciation hint.

————————————————————————————————————

Hello.

Bonjour. (bohng-ZHOOR)

43french_uacqoclrig_l2-300x225Hello. (informal)

Salut. (sah-LUU)

How are you?

Comment allez-vous? (kuh-mahng tah-lay VOO?)

Fine, thank you.

Bien, merci. (byahng, mehr-SEE)

What is your name?

Comment vous appelez-vous? (kuh-MAWNG vooz ah-puhll-ay VOO?)

My name is ______ .

Je m’appelle ______ . (zhuh mah-PEHLL _____)

Nice to meet you.

Enchanté(e). (ahng-chahng-TAY)

Please.

S’il vous plaît. (seell voo PLEH)

Thank you.

Merci. (mehr-SEE)

You’re welcome.

De rien. (duh RYANG)

Yes.

Oui. (WEE)

No.

Non. (NOHNG)

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Excuse me. (getting attention)

S’il vous plaît (seell voo PLEH)

Excuse me. (you’re in my way)

Pardon. (pahr-DOHNG)

Excuse me. (begging pardon)

Excusez-moi. (ehks-kuu-zay MWAH)

I’m sorry.

Désolé(e). (day-zoh-LAY)

Goodbye

Au revoir. (oh RVWAHR)

Goodbye (informal)

Salut. (sah-LUU)

I can’t speak French [well].

Je ne parle pas [bien] français. (zhuh nuh PAHRL pah [byahng] frahng-SEH)

Do you speak English?

Parlez-vous anglais? (PAHR-lay VOOZ ahng-LEH?)

Is there someone here who speaks English?

Est-ce qu’il y a quelqu’un ici qui parle anglais? (ess keel-ee-AH kel-KUHNG ee-SEE kee PAHRL ahng-LEH?)

Help!

Au secours ! (os-KOOR!)

Look out!

Attention !! (ah-TAHNG-see-ohng)

Good morning.

Bonjour. (bohng ZHOOR)

Good evening.

Bonsoir. (bohng SWAHR)

Good night.tumblr_m7408vGIaz1rb2opdo1_500

Bonsoir. (bohng SWAHR)

Good night (to sleep)

Bonne nuit. (buhn NWEE)

I don’t understand.

Je ne comprends pas. (ZHUH nuh kohm-PRAHNG pah)

Where is the toilet?Où sont les toilettes ? (OOH sohng lay twa-LEHT?)

 

ENCOUNTERING PROBLEMS PHRASES
Leave me alone.
Laissez-moi tranquille! (less-ay mwah trahng-KEEL!)

Buzz off.
Dégage ! (Day-GAZH!)

Don’t touch me!
Ne me touchez pas ! (nuh muh TOOSH-ay PAH!!!)

I’ll call the police.
J’appelle la police. (zhah-PELL la poh-LEESS)
Police!
Police ! (POHL-ees)

Stop! Thief!
Arrêtez ! Au voleur ! (ah-reh-TAY! OH vo-LEUR!)

I need your help.
Aidez-moi, s’il vous plaît! (ay-day MWAH, SEEL voo PLAY!)

It’s an emergency.
C’est une urgence. (seh tuun uur-ZHAHNS)

I’m lost.
Je suis perdu. (ZHUH swee pehr-DUU’)

I lost my bag.
J’ai perdu mon sac. (ZHAY pehr-DUU mong sak)

I lost my wallet.
J’ai perdu mon porte-monnaie. (ZHAY pehr-DUU mong port-moh-NAY)
I’m sick.
J’ai mal. (zhay MAHL)

I’ve been injured.
Je suis blessé. (zhuh swee bless-AY)

I need a doctor.
J’ai besoin d’un médecin. (ZHAY bez-WANG dun mayd-SANG)

Can I use your phone?
Je voudrais utiliser votre téléphone. (ZHUH voo-DRAY uu-TILL-ee-ZAY votr tay-lay-FOHNG)
 

SAYING NUMBERS
1
un (ung)
2
deux (deu)
3
trois (trwa)
4
quatre (katr)
5
cinq (sank)
6
six (seece or see)
7
sept (set)
8
huit (wheat)
9
neuf (neuf)
10
dix (deece or dee)
11
onze (ohnz)
12
douze (dooz)
13
treize (trayz)
14
quatorze (kat-ORZ)
15
quinze (cans)
16
seize (sayz)
17
dix-sept (dee-SET)
18
dix-huit (dee-ZWEET)
19
dix-neuf (dee-ZNEUF)
20
vingt (vang)
21
vingt-et-un (vang-tay-UNG)
22
vingt-deux (vang-DEU)
23
vingt-trois (vang-TRWA)
30
trente (trongt)
40
quarante (kar-AHNGT)
50
cinquante (sank-AHNGT)
60
soixante (swah-SAHNGT)
70
soixante-dix (swah-sahngt-DEE) or septante (set-AHNGT) in Belgium and Switzerland
80
quatre-vingt (katr-VANG) or huitante (wee-TAHNGT) in Belgium and Switzerland (except Geneva)
90
quatre-vingt-dix (katr-vang-DEE) or nonante (noh-NAHNGT) in Belgium and Switzerland
100
cent (sahng)
200
deux cent (deu sahng)
300
trois cent (trwa sahng)
1000
mille (meel)
2000
deux mille (deu meel)
1,000,000
un million (ung mee-LYOHNG)
half
demi (deh-MEE), moitié (mwah-tee-AY)
less
moins (mwang)
more
plus (pluu)

 

BASIC TIME TABLE
now
maintenant (mang-NAHNG)
later
plus tard (ploo TAHR)
before
avant (AH-vahng)
morning
le matin (luh mat-TANG)
in the morning
dans la matinée (dahn lah mah-TEEN-ay)
afternoon
l’après-midi (lah-PRAY-mee-dee)
evening
le soir (luh SWAH)
in the evening
dans la soirée (dahng la SWAH-ray)
night
la nuit (lah nwee)

 

TELLING TIME
one o’clock AM
une heure du matin (ewn er dew ma-TANG)
two o’clock AM
deux heures du matin (duz er dew ma-TANG)
noon
midi (mee-DEE)
one o’clock PM
13:00
une heure de l’après-midi (ewn er duh la-pre-mee-DEE), treize heures
two o’clock PM
14:00
deux heures de l’après-midi (duz er duh la-pre-mee-DEE), quatorze heures
six o’clock PM
18:00
six heures du soir (sees er dew SWAR), dix-huit heures
quarter to seven
18:45
sept heures moins le quart, dix-huit heures quarante-cinq
quarter past seven
19:15
sept heures et quart, dix-neuf heures quinze
half past seven
19:30
sept heures et demi, dix-neuf heures trente
midnight
minuit (mee-NWEE)
TIME DURATION
__ minute(s)
__ minute(s) (mee-NUUT)
__ hour(s)
__ heure(s) (eur)
__ day(s)
__ jour(s) (zhoor)
__ week(s)
__ semaine(s) (smen)
__ month(s)
__ mois (mwa)
__ year(s)
__ année(s) (ah-NAY)
weekly
hebdomadaire (eb-doh-ma-DAYR)
monthly
mensuel (mang-suu-ELL)
yearly
annuel (an-uu-ELL)

 

TIME DURATION: DAYS
today
aujourd’hui (aw-zhoor-DWEE)
yesterday
hier (YEHR)
tomorrow
demain (duh-MANG)
this week
cette semaine (set SMEN)
last week
la semaine dernière (lah SMEN dehr-NYEHR)
next week
la semaine prochaine (lah SMEN proh-SHEN)
Monday
lundi (luhn-DEE)
Tuesday
mardi (mahr-DEE)
Wednesday
mercredi (mehr-kruh-DEE)
Thursday
jeudi (juh-DEE)
Friday
vendredi (vahn-druh-DEE)
Saturday
samedi (sahm-DEE)
Sunday
dimanche (dee-MAHNSH)
TIME DURATION: MONTHS
January
janvier (zhahng-VYAY)
February
février (fay-VRYAY)
March
mars (mahrs)
April
avril (ah-VREEL)
May
mai (meh)
June
juin (zhwang)
July
juillet (zhwee-YAY)
August
août (oot)
September
septembre (set-TAHMBR)
October
octobre (ock-TOHBR)
November
novembre (noh-VAHMBR)
December
décembre (day-SAHMBR)
HELPFUL TIPS WHEN WRITING DATES

As in most of the world outside America, dates are written with the month in the middle. So if you see 04-12-2003, you know that’s le quatre décembre, not April 12. A date (18-12-1963) fully spelled out is le dix-huit décembre dix-neuf cent soixante-trois (you can either use dix-neuf cent or mille neuf cent and so on for years from 1100 to 1999). The ordinal is used only with the first (premier) of the month.

Times are written with the letter ‘h’ after the hours: 18h30. If there is no indication of matin or soir, it’s in the 24-hour clock.

SAYING COLORS
black
noir/noire (nwahr)
white
blanc/blanche (blahng/blahnsh)
gray
gris/grise (gree/greez)
red
rouge (roozh)
blue
bleu/bleue (bluh)
yellow
jaune (zhawn)
green
vert/verte (vehr/vehrt)
orange
orange (oh-RAHNZH)
purple
violet (vee-oh-LEH)
brown
marron (mah-ROHNG)
TRANSPORTATION PHRASES

 

BUS AND TRAIN

How much is a ticket to _____?
Combien coûte le billet pour aller à _____? (kom-BYAN koot luh bee-LAY poor a-LAY a)

One ticket to _____, please.
Un billet pour _____, je vous prie. (ung bee-LAY poor ____ zhe voo PREE)

Where does this train/bus go?
Où va ce train/bus ? (oo va suh trang/buus?)

Where is the train/bus to _____?
Où est le train/bus pour _____? (oo eh luh trang/buus poor ____)

Does this train/bus stop in _____?
Ce train/bus s’arrête-t-il à _____? (suh trang/buus sah-ret-TEEL ah _____)

When does the train/bus for _____ leave?
Quand le train/bus pour _____ part-il ? (kahng luh trang/buus poor _____ par-TEEL)

When will this train/bus arrive in _____?
Quand ce train/bus arrivera-t-il à _____? (kahng suh trang/buus ah-reev-rah-TEEL ah _____)

the/this shuttle
la/cette navette (lah/set nah-VET) (also means a tatting shuttle)

ASKING DIRECTIONS

Where is the _____ ?
Où se trouve _____ ? (oo stroov _____)

…the train station?
…la gare ? (lah gahr?)

…the bus station?
…la gare routière ? (lah gahr roo-TYEHR?)

…the airport?
… l’aéroport ? (lah-ay-roh-POR?)

…downtown?
…le centre-ville ? (luh sahng-truh-VEEL?)

…the suburbs?
… la banlieue ? (lah bahng-LYEU?)

…the youth hostel?
…l’auberge de jeunesse ? (law-BEHRZH duh zhuh-NESS)

…the _____ hotel?
…l’hôtel _____ ? (loh-TEL)

…the American/Canadian/Australian/British consulate?
…l’ambassade américaine/canadienne/australienne/anglaise ? (lahm-bah-SAHD a-may-ree-KEN/ka-na-DYEN/os-trah-lee-EN/ahn-GLEZ)

Where are there a lot of…
Où y’a-t-il des… (oo yah-TEEL day)

…hotels?
…hôtels? (z oh-TELL)

…restaurants?
…restaurants? (res-taw-RAHNG)

…bars?
…bars? (bahr)

…sites to see?
…sites à visiter ? (seets ah vee-zee-TAY)

Can you show me on the map?
Pouvez-vous me montrer sur la carte ? (poo-vay-VOO muh mohn-TRAY suur lah KAHRT?)

street
rue (ruu)

Turn left.
Tournez à gauche. (toor-nay ah GAWSH)

Turn right.
Tournez à droite. (toor-nay ah DRWAHT)

left
gauche (gawsh)

right
droite (drwaht)

straight ahead
en face (ahng fahs)

towards the _____
vers le/la _____ (vehr luh/lah)

past the _____
après le/la _____ (ah-PREH luh/lah)

before the _____
avant le/la _____ (ah-VAHNG luh/lah)

Watch for the _____.
Repérez le/la _____. (ruh-pay-RAY luh/lah)

intersection
intersection (ang-tehr-seck-SYOHNG)

north
nord (nohr)

south
sud (suu)

east
est (est)

west
ouest (west)

uphill
en haut (ahng OH)

downhill
en bas (ahng BAH)

HAILING A TAXI CAB

Taxi!
Taxi ! (tahk-SEE!)

Take me to _____, please.
Déposez-moi à _____, je vous prie. (DAY-poh-zay-MWAH ah _____, zhuh voo PREE)

How much does it cost to get to _____?
Combien cela coûte-t-il d’aller à _____? (kahm-BYENG suh-LA koo-TEEL dah-LAY ah _____?)

Take me there, please.
Amenez-moi là, je vous prie. (ah-MEHN-ay-mwah LAH, zhuh voo PREE)
 

USEFUL LODGING/ACCOMODATION PHRASES
Do you have any rooms available?
Avez-vous des chambres libres ? (ah-vay-VOO dey shahmbr LEEBR?)

How much is a room for one person/two people?
Combien coûte une chambre pour une personne/deux personnes ? (kohm-byahng KOOT uun shahmbr poor uun/duh pehr-SON?)

Does the room come with…
Est-ce que dans la chambre il y a… (ESK dahng lah SHAHMBR eel yah …)

…bedsheets?
…des draps ? (dey DRAH?)

…a bathroom?
…une salle de bain ? (uun sahl ah BANG?)

…a telephone?
…un téléphone ? (ung tay-lay-FOHN?)

…a TV?
…une télé ? (uun tay-LAY?)

May I see the room first?
Puis-je visiter la chambre ? (pweezh vee-zee-TAY lah SHAHMBR?)

Do you have anything quieter?
Vous n’avez pas de chambre plus tranquille ? (voo nah-vay PAH duh shahmbr pluu trahng-KEEL?)

…bigger?
… plus grande ? (… pluu GRAHND?)

…cleaner?
…plus propre ? (… pluu PROHPR?)

…cheaper?
…moins chère? (… mwang SHEHR?)

OK, I’ll take it.
OK, je la prends. (oh-KAY, zhuh lah PRAHNG)

I will stay for _____ night(s).
Je compte rester _____ nuit(s). (zhuh KOMT res-TAY _____ nwee)

Can you suggest another hotel?
Pouvez-vous me suggérer un autre hôtel? (poo-vay VOO muh suu-zhay-RAY ung ohtr oh-TEL?)

Do you have a safe?
Avez-vous un coffre-fort ? (ah-vay VOO ung kofr FOR?)

…lockers?
… des casiers ? ()

Is breakfast/supper included?
Le petit-déjeuner/souper est-il inclus ? (luh ptee day-zhuh-NAY / soo-PAY eht-eel ang-KLUU?)

What time is breakfast/supper?
À quelle heure est le petit-déjeuner/souper ? (ah kel UR eh luh ptee day-zhuh-NAY / soo-PAY?)

Please clean my room.
Veuillez nettoyer ma chambre. (vuh-YAY net-wah-YAY ma SHAHMBR)

Can you wake me at _____?
Pouvez-vous me réveiller à _____? (poo-vay VOO muh ray-vay-YAY ah _____)

I want to check out.
Je veux vous signaler mon départ. (zhuh vuh voo see-nyah-LAY mong day-PAR)
USEFUL MONEY PHRASES
Do you accept American/Australian/Canadian dollars?
Acceptez-vous les dollars américains/australiens/canadiens ? (ahk-sep-tay VOO leh doh-LAHR ah-may-ree-KANG/aws-trah-LYAHNG/kah-nah-DYAHNG?)

Do you accept British pounds?
Acceptez-vous les livres Sterling ? (ahk-sep-tay VOO leh leevr stehr-LING?)

Do you accept credit cards?
Acceptez-vous les cartes de crédit ? (ahk-sep-tay VOO leh kahrt duh kray-DEE?)

Can you change money for me?
Pouvez-vous me faire le change ? (poo-vay-VOO muh fehr luh SHAHNZH?)

Where can I get money changed?
Où puis-je faire le change ? (oo PWEEZH fehr luh SHAHNZH?)

Can you change a traveler’s check for me?
Pouvez-vous me faire le change sur un traveler’s chèque ? (poo-vay-VOO muh fehr luh SHAHNZH suur ung trahv-leurz SHECK?)

Where can I get a traveler’s check changed?
O&ugrave puis-je échanger un traveler’s chèque ? (oo PWEEZH shahng-ZHAY ung trahv-leurz SHECK?)

What is the exchange rate?
Quel est le taux de change ? (KELL eh luh TAW duh SHAHNZH?)

Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)?
Où puis-je trouver un distributeur de billets ? (oo PWEEZH troo-VAY ung dees-tree-buu-TEUR duh bee-YAY?)
DINING/EATING OUT HELPFUL PHRASES/WORDS
A table for one person/two people, please.
Une table pour une personne/deux personnes, je vous prie. (uun TAHBL poor uun/deu pehr-SOHN zhuh voo PREE)

Can I look at the menu, please?
Puis-je avoir le menu? (PWEEZH ah-VWAHR luh muh-NUU?)

Can I look in the kitchen?
Puis-je visiter les cuisines? (PWEEZH vee-zee-TAY lay kwee-ZEEN?)

Is there a house specialty?
Quelle est la spécialité de la maison ? (KELL eh lah spay-see-ah-lee-TAY duh lah meh-ZOHNG?)

Is there a local specialty?
Y a-t-il une spécialité locale ? (yah-TEEL uun spay-see-ah-lee-TAY loh-KAHL?)

I’m a vegetarian.
Je suis végétarien. (zhuh SWEE vay-zhay-tah-RYAHNG)

I don’t eat pork.
Je ne mange pas de porc. (zhuh nuh mahnzh PAH duh POHR)

I only eat kosher food.
Je ne mange que de la viande cachère. (zhuh nuh MAHNZH kuh duh lah VYAHND kah-SHEHR)

Can you make it “lite”, please? (less oil/butter/lard)
Pouvez-vous cuisiner léger ? (poo-vay-VOO kwee-zee-NAY lay-ZHAY?)

fixed-price meal
menu (muh-NUU)

a la carte
à la carte (ah lah KAHRT)

breakfast
petit-déjeuner (ptee-day-zheu-NAY)

lunch
déjeuner (day-zheu-NAY)

tea (meal)
thé (tay)

supper
souper (soo-PAY)

I want _____.
Je voudrais _____. (zhuh voo-DREH _____)

I want a dish containing _____.
Je voudrais un plat avec _____.

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