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Basic French Phrases For Travel

Learning at least the basics of a local language can make a huge difference to the experience you have when travelling.

This is especially true in France, where the people are (rightfully) proud of their beautiful language, which goes hand-in-hand with their culture.

French is the language of love, cooking, theatre, architecture, fashion, and more. There’s an undeniable beauty to the French language, an almost musical rhythm that’s pleasurable to the ear and the tongue.

I’ve spent a lot of time in France over the years. I promise you that speaking some French, even at a basic level, can enhance every croissant, painting, palace, and medieval town you encounter.

That’s why I’ve put together this handy guide to the most useful French phrases to help you get the most out of your time in France. Allons-y!

Basic Words in French

You’ll almost always get a warmer welcome from French people if you make the effort to learn some of their language. It will also make it much easier to get around and have new experiences.

So, let’s get started with a few basic French words. Don’t be intimidated by the pronunciation, it’s actually fairly easy to pick up a few basic words and phrases in French.

  • Bonjour – Hello
  • Au revoir – Goodbye
  • Bonsoir – Good evening
  • S’il vous plaît – Please
  • Merci – Thank you
  • De rien – You’re welcome
  • Oui – Yes
  • Non – No
  • Excusez-moi – Excuse me
  • Nourriture – Food
  • Eau – Water
  • Toilettes – Bathroom
  • Santé – Cheers (or, Bless you)
Caen castle with the French and Normandy flags flying from the walls

Common French Phrases

Mastering a few common French phrases will allow you to connect more deeply with locals and their culture.

Whether you’re ordering your morning pastry, shopping at the local market, or simply exploring, these expressions will come in handy.

  • Comment ça va ? – How are you?
  • Enchanté(e) – Nice to meet you
  • Je m’appelle… – My name is…
  • Je suis désolé(e) – I’m sorry
  • Pardon – Excuse me
  • Pouvez-vous m’aider ? – Can you help me?
  • C’est magnifique ! – How beautiful!
  • Au revoir – See you
  • À plus tard – See you later
  • Bonne chance ! – Good luck!
  • Où est… – Where is…
  • Je m’appelle… – My name is…
  • Je voudrais… – I’d like…
  • Je ne comprends pas – I don’t understand
  • J’adore ça – I love this
  • C’est délicieux – It’s delicious
  • Je suis perdus – I’m lost
  • C’est combien? – How much is it?
  • Quelle heure est-il? – What time is it?
  • À quelle heure ouvre/ferme…? – What time does… open/close?
Central square of Monpazier with attractive old buildings and medieval arcade around the edge

Basic French Phrases for Travellers

Whether it’s simple greetings, asking for directions, ordering a meal, or even small talk, a few commonly-used French phrases can get you a long way.

  • J’ai une réservation – I have a reservation
  • Où sont [les toilettes], s’il vous plaît ? – Where are [the bathrooms], please?
  • Comment puis-je aller à ___ ? – How do I get to ___?
  • Combien coûte ceci ? – How much is this?
  • Parlez-vous [anglais] ? – Do you speak [English]?
  • Est-ce que c’est ouvert? – Is this open?
  • A quelle heure ouvre / ferme…? – What time does… open/close?
  • Où puis-je trouver un taxi? – Where can I find a taxi?
  • Je suis perdu. Pouvez-vous m’aider? – I’m lost. Can you help me?
People sitting at tables outside enjoying the evening food market in Villereal town square in Lot et Garonne

Useful French Phrases for Information

Navigating your way around France (or any other French-speaking region) is a fascinating experience. However, it can also present a few challenges if you don’t speak the language.

These phrases should come in handy. The key is to remember the phrase and use it confidently.

Don’t worry if your pronunciation isn’t perfect. Most locals will really appreciate the effort and are usually very helpful, especially if you’re trying your best to communicate in French.

  • Comment appelle-t-on ceci en français ? – What is this called in French?
  • Pouvez-vous parler plus lentement, s’il vous plaît ? – Can you speak slower, please?
  • Je ne parle pas très bien français – I do not speak French very well
  • Je ne comprends pas – I do not understand
  • Pouvez-vous répéter cela, s’il vous plaît ? – Can you repeat that please?
  • J’ai besoin d’informations – I need information
  • Où est le bureau d’information ? – Where is the information office?
  • Qu’est-ce que cela signifie ? – What does this mean?
  • Quelle heure est-il ? – What time is it?
  • Quelle est votre numéro/adresse é-mail ? – What’s your number/email address?
  • Comment dit-on ____ en français ? – How do you say ____ in French?
  • Qu’est-ce que c’est / cela ? – What is this/that?
  • Pouvez-vous m’aider ? – Can you help me?
  • Puis-je utiliser votre téléphone ? – Can I use your phone?
  • Où est la bibliothèque? – Where is the library?
  • Pouvez-vous m’aider à trouver ce livre? – Can you help me find this book?
  • Quelle est l’histoire de cet artefact? – What is the history of this artifact?
  • Quelle est la météo pour aujourd’hui? – What is the weather for today?
  • Pouvez-vous me donner plus d’informations? – Can you give me more information?
  • Quels sont les horaires d’ouverture? – What are the opening hours?
  • Pouvez-vous m’aider à comprendre ce document? – Can you help me understand this document?
  • Quelle est la date aujourd’hui? – What is the date today?
  • Où puis-je trouver des informations touristiques? – Where can I find tourist information?
Road sign in rural southwest France pointing to Castillonnes in one direction and Villereal in the other direction

Useful Phrases for Directions in French

Similarly, the ability to ask for and understand directions is crucial.

One might argue that getting lost is part of the charm. But, there’s a unique pleasure in mustering your French and successfully finding your way.

  • Excusez-moi, où se trouve…? – Excuse me, where is…?
  • Pourriez-vous me montrer sur la carte? – Could you show me on the map?
  • Allez tout droit – Go straight ahead
  • Tournez à gauche/droite – Turn left/right
  • C’est près de…? – Is it near…?
  • C’est loin d’ici? – Is it far from here?
  • C’est près/loin – It’s near/far
  • C’est autour du coin – It’s around the corner
  • Voici le coin – This is the corner
  • Dans quelle direction pour aller à… ? – Which way is it to…?
  • Puis-je y aller à pied ou ai-je besoin d’un taxi ? – Can I walk there or do I need a taxi?
  • Continuez jusqu’à ce que vous voyez… – Continue until you see…
  • Prenez la première/ la deuxième rue – Take the first/second street
  • Je suis perdu(e) – I am lost
  • Je cherche… – I’m looking for…
Small public garden in Castillonnes surrounded by attractive old buildings underneath a perfectly blue sky

Basic French Phrases for Transportation

France has an excellent public transport system, both at a country-wide level and in individual towns and cities.

The following phrases should help make your experience navigating it significantly easier.

  • Où est l’arrêt de bus? – Where is the bus stop?
  • À quelle heure part le dernier train? – What time does the last train leave?
  • Comment puis-je obtenir un billet de métro? – How can I get a metro ticket?
  • Combien coûte un billet jusqu’à…? – How much is a ticket to…?
  • Je cherche la station de taxi – I’m looking for the taxi station
  • Excusez-moi, je descends à la prochaine – Excuse me, I’m getting off at the next stop
  • Le train pour Paris est-il à l’heure? – Is the train to Paris on time?
  • Pouvez-vous me dire quand nous arriverons à…? – Can you tell me when we will arrive at…?
  • Est-ce que ce bus va à… ? – Does this bus go to…?
  • J’ai besoin d’un billet aller-retour – I need a round trip ticket
  • Où puis-je acheter des billets ? – Where do I buy tickets?
  • J’ai perdu ma carte de transport – I’ve lost my transport card
  • Excusez-moi, vous êtes assis sur mon écharpe – Excuse me, you are sitting on my scarf

If you find yourself in Provence, I highly recommend visiting Tourtour, one of the prettiest medieval villages in France.

Beautiful old guesthouse with blue shutters and lots of greenery in southwest France

Basic French Phrases About Accommodation

Whether you’re booking a hotel, asking for room service, or inquiring about available facilities, these key phrases can be useful.

  • J’ai une réservation – I have a reservation
  • Je voudrais réserver une chambre – I would like to book a room
  • Avez-vous une chambre disponible? – Do you have a room available?
  • Je voudrais une chambre non-fumeur – I would like a non-smoking room
  • J’ai besoin d’une chambre double – I need a double room
  • Y a-t-il du Wi-Fi gratuit ? – Is there free WiFi?
  • Est-ce que le petit déjeuner est inclus? – Is breakfast included?
  • Où est la salle de bain? – Where is the bathroom?
  • Où se trouve l’ascenseur ? – Where is the elevator?
  • Quel est le code Wi-Fi? – What is the Wi-Fi password?
  • Je voudrais changer de chambre – I would like to change my room
  • La climatisation ne marche pas – The air conditioning is not working
  • Pourriez-vous appeler un taxi pour moi? – Could you call a taxi for me?
  • Y a-t-il un service en chambre ? – Is there room service?
  • La chambre est sale – The room is dirty
  • Je me sens en sécurité dans cet hôtel – I feel safe in this hotel
  • Avez-vous un adaptateur de prise ? – Do you have a plug adaptor?
  • Je veux une chambre avec une belle vue – I want a room with a nice view
  • Y a-t-il un coffre-fort dans la chambre ? – Is there a safe in the room?
  • Pouvez-vous me réveiller à 7 heures du matin ? – Can you wake me up at 7 a.m.?
  • J’ai besoin d’un lit bébé – I need a crib for the baby
People shopping for fresh produce in the outdoor market in Villereal France

Helpful French Phrases for Shopping

Most French towns have a market at least once per week. These are amazing places, full of delicious food, souvenirs, clothes, and other things to buy.

I’d definitely recommend exploring a local market during your time in France – it’s one of my favourite things to do in the country!

Here are a few useful phrases for you to try out when shopping in France.

  • Combien ça coûte? – How much does this cost?
  • Où est le rayon vêtements? – Where is the clothing department?
  • Puis-je essayer ceci? – May I try this on?
  • Avez-vous d’autres tailles/couleurs? – Do you have other sizes/colours?
  • Je veux retourner ceci – I want to return this
  • Je cherche… – I am looking for…
  • Où sont les cabines d’essayage ? – Where are the fitting rooms?
  • Je cherche un cadeau – I am looking for a gift
  • Je voudrais acheter ça – I would like to buy this
  • Où sont les cabines d’essayage? – Where are the changing rooms?
  • Avez-vous des réductions? – Do you have any discounts?
  • Où puis-je payer? – Where can I pay?
  • C’est trop cher – It’s too expensive
  • Pouvez-vous baisser le prix ? – Can you lower the price?
  • Puis-je payer avec une carte de crédit ? – Can I pay with a credit card?
  • Uniquement en espèces – Cash only
Traditional french patisserie in Villereal with big glass windows and tables outside

Helpful Phrases for Dining Out in France

French cuisine is world-famous for a reason. Dining out in France can be an unforgettable experience.

However, visiting a French restaurant can be a little intimidating, especially if you’re not familiar with the language.

Here are some basic phrases to help you order your meal, express food preferences, make reservations, and even compliment the chef.

  • Je voudrais réserver une table pour deux, s’il vous plaît – I would like to make a reservation for two, please
  • Est-ce que je peux avoir le menu, s’il vous plaît? – Can I have the menu, please?
  • Je suis allergique [aux noix] – I’m allergic [to nuts]
  • Quel est le plat du jour? – What is the dish of the day?
  • Qu’est-ce que vous recommandez? – What do you recommend?
  • Je voudrais… – I’d like…
  • J’aime beaucoup votre restaurant – I like your restaurant very much
  • Cette entrée est délicieuse – This starter is delicious
  • C’était délicieux ! Merci – It was delicious! Thank you
  • Avez-vous des options végétariennes/véganes ? – Do you have vegetarian/vegan options?
  • Je suis végétarien(ne) – I am vegetarian
  • Je ne mange pas de viande/poisson/laitages – I don’t eat meat/fish/dairy
  • L’addition, s’il vous plaît? – The bill (/check), please
View looking up at the imposing Château de Bonaguil with the castle towering above the pretty old buildings of the village below

French Question Words

Question words are an important foundation of any language. Mastering them will help with virtually every conversation you have.

Here are some of the most common question words in French.

  • Quoi ? – What?
  • Où ? – Where?
  • Quand ? – When?
  • Qui ? – Who?
  • Pourquoi ? – Why?
  • Comment ? – How?
  • Lequel/Laquelle ? – Which?
  • Combien ? – How much?
  • Combien de ? – How many?
  • À qui ? – Whose?
Looking through the arches of the medieval arcade in the central square of Monflanquin

Numbers in French

Understanding the French numbering system is useful in a wide range of scenarios, especially when it comes to transactions, discussing times, and navigating transportation.

Below is a list of simple numbers along with some larger ones:

  • Zéro – 0
  • Un – 1
  • Deux – 2
  • Trois – 3
  • Quatre – 4
  • Cinq – 5
  • Six – 6
  • Sept – 7
  • Huit – 8
  • Neuf – 9
  • Dix – 10
  • Onze – 11
  • Douze – 12
  • Treize – 13
  • Quatorze – 14
  • Quinze – 15
  • Seize – 16
  • Dix-sept – 17
  • Dix-huit – 18
  • Dix-neuf – 19
  • Vingt – 20
  • Trente – 30
  • Quarante – 40
  • Cinquante – 50
  • Soixante – 60
  • Soixante-dix – 70 (Note: 70 in French is literally “sixty-ten”)
  • Quatre-vingts – 80 (Note: 80 in French is literally “four-twenties”)
  • Quatre-vingt-dix – 90 (Note: 90 in French is literally “four-twenties-ten”)
  • Cent – 100
  • Mille – 1,000
  • Dix mille – 10,000
  • Cent mille – 100,000
  • Un million – 1,000,000

To create numbers in between these, combine the tens and the units. For example:

  • “Twenty-one” is Vingt et un (20 + 1)
  • “Thirty-two” is Trente-deux (30 + 2)
  • “Forty-five” is Quarante-cinq (40 + 5)

For numbers in the hundreds and thousands, state the hundreds or thousands followed by the remaining numbers. For example:

  • “One hundred and twenty-three” is Cent vingt-trois
  • “Two thousand and nineteen” is Deux mille dix-neuf

See Also

Check out some of my other posts on learning languages for travel:

Final Thoughts

Knowing some simple French phrases makes travelling in France even more enjoyable. It gives you added confidence and opens up your interactions with locals in ways that otherwise might not be possible.

Don’t be shy. And remember, practice makes perfect. Use these phrases often and you’ll be navigating in French like a pro!

Finally, if you want to take your French learning to the next level, check out WordReference.com.

Posts About Visiting France

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  • I’m Alex Tiffany.  Former corporate city robot; lifelong travel addict.


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