There’s no better way to experience Paris than living like a true Parisian. However, one key part of living like a local is to speak like a local! Obviously, learning the French language won’t happen overnight, but there are some essential words and common phrases that you can learn before you travel that will help you during your trip. Here’s a list of some of the most useful French phrases to help you navigate your way through the winding streets of Le Marais, order an aperitif on a rooftop bar overlooking the Eiffel Tower or pick up a baguette at your local boulangerie…
Photo by Jamie Hagan
Hello / Good evening – Bonjour / Bonsoir
How are you? – Ça va?
Please – S’il vous plaît
Thank you – Merci
You’re welcome – De rien
Sorry – Pardon
Excuse me – Excusez-moi
Yes / Non – Oui / Non
I don’t understand – Je ne comprends pas
Do you speak English? – Parlez-vous anglais ?
Photo by Léonard Cotte
Phrases for getting around
Excuse me, where is ___? Excusez-moi, où est ___ ?
This is really crucial phrase that can help you find what you’re looking for in the city. You can ask for anything, from hotels and museums to restaurants and metro stops.
Photo by Alex Holyoake
Where is the closest metro station? Où se trouve la station de métro la plus proche ?
The metro system is a fantastic way to get around Paris, especially if you really want a taste of authentic Parisian living. It’s easy to use, inexpensive and very well-connected throughout the city. This phrase will help you find the nearest station, where you can then go underground and find maps of the entire metro network to find out where you need to be. Some metro stations, like Louvre-Rivoli in the 1st arrondissement and Arts et Metiers in the 3rd arrondissement, even feature interesting designs and are well worth checking out!
Photo by Lucy Dodsworth
One ticket, please. Un billet, s’il vous plait.
When you get to a metro station, head to the ticket booth, le guichet, to get a ticket for your journey. This phrase also works for buses too, which are a great alternative if you want to avoid rush hour on a busy metro line, but also if you want to see Paris from a different perspective as you travel through the streets of some of the most famous quartiers.
Phrases for ordering food and drinks
A table for two people, please. Une table pour deux personnes, s’il vous plait.
For most bistros and cafes, you can usually sit down at any free table and the waiter will then come over to you and ask what you’d like. However, some restaurants will locate a table for you as you enter, so this is the phrase you will need.
Photo by Bram Naus
The menu, please. La carte, s’il vous plait.
A lot of menus in the areas of Paris that attract a lot of tourists will often include English translations of the food, but don’t worry if not! Just say “Avez-vous une carte en anglais, s’il vous plait ?” (Do you have a menu in English, please?) and most restaurants will be able to provide you with one.
I would like ___, please. Je voudrais ___, s’il vous plait.
Now you can order away! Classic French dishes include beef bourgignon, duck confit and of course, escargots – snails!
Photo by Eric McNew
I can’t eat ___. Je ne peux pas manger ___.
If you have any food intolerances, allergies or preferences, it’s always a good idea to learn how to say it in the language of the country you’re visiting. Here are a few examples in French:
peanuts – les cacahuètes
nuts – les noix
gluten – le gluten
shellfish – les fruits de mer
eggs – les œufs
fish – le poisson
dairy products – les produits laitiers
soy – le soja
meat – la viande
Photo by Rose Elena
The bill, please. L’addition, s’il vous plait.
Following an espresso after dessert, you can grab the bill then enjoy the rest of your evening in Paris by going for a stroll by the Seine.
One last thing…
Finally, don’t forget that Paris is the city of love! To tell your loved one that you love them as you sit by the Seine on Ile de la Cité, simply say “Je t’aime”…
Photo by Gautier Salles