Learning French in school, with books or online with apps is great. However, there are French phrases and expressions you won’t find there! Listening and imitating the locals will help you sound like a native French speaker.
In order to build up confidence in your new language, practicing during French conversation classes is also extremely effective. No matter how awkward you feel at first, you will discover that conversations with locals are not so scary.
The French language has a lot of strange, hilarious and poetic turns of phrase. Don’t’ worry, you can sound like a local even though you’re a complete beginner in the language.
Make a suggestion like a native French speaker
Be a little less formal to sound like a native French
First, even if you have been studying for a while, you may think there’s still something lacking in your French. Making a suggestion like a native French speaker won’t be taught in grammar or vocabulary books ! In English, you don’t really speak like you just came out of a Brontë book, do you? If you do, the chances of you sounding like a know-it-all are huge ! So try to forget about the books and watch a lot of French series, documentaries and news.
If you still don’t feel confident when conversing in French with friends, we have listed here a few phrases you can re-use everyday :
How to suggest something to French locals
Vous êtes chauds / T’es chaud ? = You Ok for it ? (fam.)
Tu penses que …, hein ? = Do you think that…, isn’t it ? ‘Hein’ will be at the end of the sentence, the french for ‘eh’
Ça vous / te dirait = Would you be up for it?
Ca vous / te dit ? = Are you up for it ?
Answer to a question or proposition in French
Next, knowing how to reply to a French friend or acquaintance is essential ! Thanks to the suggestions below, the next time you meet, you’ll be equipped with plenty of options other than ‘avec plaisir’ ou ‘bien sûr’ !
Ca roule / ça marche ! = It works for me, it’s Ok. Attention, it can be a question Ca roule ? meaning How are you ?
Carrément ! = Totally !
C’est top ! = Awesome
Dac ! = Short for d’accord, I agree (fam.)
Faut voir = I need to think about it
Grave ! = Sure thing
Je reviens vers toi / vers vous = I’ll come back to you, I’ll let you know (you can use the ‘vous’ form in business)
Je sais pas = I dont’ know but here without the negation ‘ne’ (Je ne sais pas) to make it more informal
Tu m’étonnes ! = No wonder ! Expression used for something evident
Bordel ! = Damn it ! This can also mean it’s a mess (c’est le bordel) (fam.)
Ca me prend la tête = This is doing my head in
Fais gaffe = Be careful. This can be used to really warn someone to watch out for danger but also when you are very upset and you’re going to explore
C’est naze / c’est nul (à chier) / c’est pourri ! — That stinks! These are all lovely little French phrases to use to say “that sucks!” or “that’s stupid!” or “that’s terrible!” The general implication is that whatever is being discussed is either a total bore or totally ridicule (fam.)
Ca me saoule / tu me saoules = It annoys me / you’re annoying me. The first meaning of ‘se saouler’ is to get drunk
Ca me gave = I’m sick of it (fam.)
J’en peux plus (je n’en peux plus) = I can’t stand it, am done
French phrases when you have to go
Then, if you’d like to change your classic ‘à bientôt’ and sound more French, read on ! There are a lot of possibilities to tell politely that you have to leave.
Je file = I’m off
A plus (pronounced the ‘s’) = See you later
A tout’ (pronounced toute) = Meaning ‘à tout à l’heure’ see you later
Je m’arrache = I gotta go (fam.)
Tiens-moi /tenez-moi au courant = Let me know, keep me posted
Tiens moi au jus = Let me know, keep me posted (fam.)
Express surprise feelings in French
Please don’t use the ‘oh la la’ when you are surprised. We actually don’t say this anymore when we want to express our astonishment ! Nowadays, it is used for disappointment (Oh la la ce film est nul ! Wow, this movie is so bad !). Like any other language, French has a long list of casual words. Don’t be shy to add some French slang here and there to :
Speak the “real” French instead of sounding like an outdated book
Sound natural and less heavy when you talk
Feel like you have lived in France for many years
What to say in French when you are astonished
Ah bon ? = Really ?
Ah ouais ? = Yes? Really The ‘ouais’ is yes very informal (fam.)
C’est dingue ! = It’s crazy !
No way ! = We use as well the english no way to say impossible !
Common French conjunctions and phrases to sound like a local
Finally, there’s nothing like sprinkling your narrative with typical expressions to make you sound totally French. It will all flow so naturally and sound great. Furthermore, it will buy you more time to think about the rest of your words further. French expressions can be funny but also absurd the same time, as you can see in this post about French idioms with colors or delicious expressions with food.
If you are at advanced level and would like to laugh a bit, feel free to read this great article about ‘du coup‘ ! It really became a language automatism and can be heard in various everyday situations !
Bref = In short, to be brief
Bon, ben,…= Well, well
Comme d’hab = As usual, same as always. ‘Dhab’ is ‘d’habitude’
Ca fait un bail = It’s been a long time
Ca le fait / Ca va le faire = Everything is / is going to be alright
Du coup = Then, well, as a result, therefore
Euh… = French for hum
Tiens ! = Well / Hold on !
T’es large ! = You have plenty of space (when someone is parking his/her car) or plenty of time (when someone thinks he/she is late)
Tu t’en sors ? = Do you manage ? Are you Ok ?
I hope you feel a bit more French ! If you have additional comments or would love to speak more a ‘real’ French, please feel free to get in touch. A bientôt.