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11 Essential French Phrases To Know Before You Travel To Paris

Whenever we travel to another country, we do our best to learn at least a few basic phrases in the local language. Not only is this just good manners, but putting forth some effort also puts you in a better position with the locals. Most of them want to see you at least try to speak their language, no matter how bad your pronunciation may be. As we prepare to head back to France, we're dusting off our extremely basic French and compiling a list of essential phrases. Here are the most basic of words and terms that helped us get around Paris.

1. Good Morning/Good Evening - Bonjour/Bonsoir - (Bohn-jur/Bohn-swah)

If you only learn one set of phrases for France, it has to be Bonjour/Bonsoir. It's super important that you say Bonjour to everyone you come in contact with. It's just the polite practice there. You shouldn't start any conversation or interaction without first saying good morning. If you don't, you'll come off as a jerk or a tourist that doesn't know any better. You use Bonjour(Good Morning) for most of the day and then switch to Bonsoir(Good Evening) in the late afternoon.

2. Goodbye - Au revoir - (Oh rev-war)

3. Please - S'il vous plaît - (Sil voo pleh)

4. Thank You - Merci - (Mer-see)

5. Yes/No - Oui/No - (Wee/Noh)

6. Do you speak English? - Parlez-vous anglais? - (Par-leh-voo on-gleh)

7. I would like... - Je voudrais... - (Zhuh voo-dreh)

This is very helpful when ordering food or selecting something in a store. Simply say, "Je voudrais" and then point to the menu item you'd like to order.

Je voudrais deux croissants, s’il vous plaît.

8. The Bill - L'addition - (Lah-dee-zyon)

Eating out in France is a little different than dining in the States. One significant difference is the service. Waiters are trained to leave you alone. Once they take your order, you may never see them again. They won't rush you or pressure you to leave. This can be nice, but if you're used to staff checking on you regularly, you might be surprised. If you need anything, you will need to flag your waiter down. This is especially important when it comes to paying for your meal. Unless you ask for the ticket, no one is going to bring it to you. So, once you've finished and you're ready to leave, simply tell your server, "L'addition, s'il vous plaît" and your bill will be delivered.

9. Exit - Sortie - (Sor-tee)

You'll see this word all over the Metro stations. It just means exit, so if you're getting off the train, follow the signs out.

10. Excuse me/Pardon - Excusez-moi/Pardon - (Ehk-kew-zay mwah/Par-done)

These two phrases are not interchangeable. If you bump into someone on the street or step on someone's foot, use "Pardon," to say you're sorry. If you're just attempting to get someones attention, like before asking a question, start with, "Excusez-moi."

11. Where are the bathrooms? - Où sont les toilettes? - (Ooh sohN ley twah-leht?)

Eventually, you're going to need a bathroom.

Excusez-moi Monsieur, Où sont les toilettes?


We're certainly not fluent in French, and our pronunciation is terrible. But we used these phrases to help us get around and communicate the last time we were in Paris. Most of the locals seemed to appreciate the effort, and it broke the ice several times. How well do you pick up foreign languages? Do you think it's important to attempt to speak the local tongue? Let us know below in the comments.

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