When traveling to France, a basic knowledge of French is essential for interacting with the locals. A “bonjour” and “merci” go a long way especially when you are looking for the toilets or need directions. I teamed up with my friend Cécilia of Hello French to teach you 10 key French phrases for your next trip to France. I hope you find this post helpful for your next trip to France.
Bonjour French/ Hi or Hello in English. This is the easiest phrase to know. You will want to use this when entering a shop. (you will say this first). If you are going to ask any other questions, help with directions, or the location of the bathroom, it is very helpful to start with this in French.
Merci Beaucoup Thank you very much in English. Politeness in France goes a long way. Use this as you finish a conversation or leave a shop as well.
Où sont les toilettes? A very important question. I highly recommend using the toilettes in a café, restaurant, or hotel lobby. There are toilets on the streets of Paris but I don’t recommend them if you are looking for a clean bathroom. You can purchase a café at the bar if you have to use the bathroom for a euro if you want to use a bathroom while out exploring. In a lot of cafés and restaurants, the bathroom will be upstairs or downstairs.
Une table pour deux s’il vous plaît A table for two please in English. Most terrace cafés will be open seating for lunch and drinks. When it comes to dinner, you will want to ask for a table. The French have no time limit on tables so once you have a table and order a drink or food, it is considered yours until you ask for the bill. They won’t rush you out like in America. You may have to push a bit to get the bill. Don’t be surprised if your waiter is missing or taking a smoke break. Be patient you are on vacation.
Est-ce queue je peux avoir de l’eau s’il vous plaît? Can I have some water, please? I typically ask for a carafe d’eau which is tap water. It is safe to drink and will save you money when dining out in France.
Save this PDF on your iPad or phone to use along the way as you travel. While you are preparing and planning for your trip, you can practice along with Cécilia on Instagram where she goes through each one of these phrases and how to pronounce them.
Repetition when learning a language is so helpful. When I first moved to Paris I would ride the metro and learn how to pronounce all the stops by listening and repeating. I lived at the Boulevard de Rochechouart stop and way before google maps I would get lost on my way home. This was the only way I learned how to pronounce it properly. I may not be perfect but it is much better than when I started.
Make sure to follow Cécilia on Instagram for other helpful French phrases to improve your French.
A little about Cécilia
Cécilia Jourdan, the creator of @HelloFrenchNYC, was born and raised in Paris, immersed in traditional French values and Parisian culture. She now lives in Brooklyn, NY, and creates French educational & lifestyle content for her growing online community. Her linguistics and performing arts background helped her craft a teaching method that her students find highly effective & fun. She loves wine, cheese, meaningful conversations, and dogs (she’s a fan of Henri!)