French vocabulary hints and tips

If you are planning a holiday to France, we think you’ll find these French vocabulary hints and tips invaluable.

Whether it’s a question of basic politeness or being aware of literal translations that simply don’t work, the French will appreciate any efforts that you make to speak their language.


It’s true that in the UK (and probably in many other countries of the world), if you walk into a shop and say ‘Hello’ to anybody that may be within earshot you will be looked at as if you are from another planet.

In France, au contraire, you are considered rude if you don’t utter a ‘Bonjour messieurs, dames’ as soon as you cross the threshold. However, do a quick scan of the shop as you walk in and if you can only see ladies, the correct phrase is ‘Bonjour Mesdames’, if only men then ‘Bonjour Messieurs’. Same when you leave ….an  ‘Au revoir messieurs, dames’ will be very much appreciated!

Finishing a purchase

When you pop to the boulangerie in the morning to pick up the fresh croissants or pain au chocolat, once Madame la boulangère has handed them over to you, you may be asked ‘ce sera tout?’

The nice lady is asking whether you want anything else. If you can bring yourself to resist the apple tarts and chocolate fondants then the correct answer is ‘Oui, merci’.

If you hear the words ‘Et avec ça?’, she is asking ‘and with that?’ to which the answer is ‘C’est bon, merci’, no, you don’t want any macarons or summer fruit tartelettes or buttery biscuits, no, you really don’t, be strong!

At the restaurant

Two important things here. You have had a delicious meal and contrary to what you may think, you should not tell the waiter it was ‘very good’ (très bien), no you should tell him it was ‘very good’ (très bon). Are you with me?

And ladies, you are full up to the gills and couldn’t possibly manage that scrummy looking chocolat fondant dessert from the sweet trolly, but don’t tell the waiter you are ‘full’ (je suis pleine), no, tell him you are ‘full’ (j’ai assez mangé) otherwise he may well ask you when the baby is due!

Beware the heat of the summer!

The temperature is climbing, the heat of the summer is making itself felt, your French accommodation owners/neighbours ask ‘ça va?’, how are you? You’re hot, you’re flippin’ hot in fact, ‘je suis chaud’, you reply.

If you happen to be attired simply in your bikini, ladies, you may get a knowing nod and a wink of agreement from Monsieur. You may be ‘hot stuff’, but the correct reply should be ‘j’ai chaud’!

Have you ever made any grammatical faux pas or discovered useful vocabulary during your stay in France? If so, please do share!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.