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French phrasebook

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French is a Romance language originating in France but spoken in many other parts of the world: in Europe in Southern Belgium and Western Switzerland; in North America in Quebec, New Brunswick, other parts of Canada, and parts of Louisiana; in the former French colonies in North Africa and West Africa; in Haiti and Martinique in the Carribbean; in Guyana in South America; in Tahiti and numerous other islands in Oceania. It has long been the language of international diplomacy and communication, and although replaced largely by English since World War II, it remains de rigeur for educated people around the world to have some level of basic French ability.

Pronunciation

Like English, French is a language with a long history and many different root languages. Like English and unlike most other Romance languages, it is not phonetic. The same letter used in two different words can make two different sounds, and many letters are not pronounced at all. In general, it's not impossible to sound out words, but suffice it to say that many experienced non-native French speakers -- and some native speakers -- mispronounce words often.

One thing to note is that final consonants of a word are usually dropped: allez (go) is pronounced ahl-AY, not ahl-AYZ; tard (late) is pronounce tar, not tard. Also a final "e" is usually silent.

Vowels

Vowels in French can have accent marks; except for "e", this doesn't usually change the sound.

like "a" in "father"
like "uh" in "duh"
é 
like "ea" in "wear"
ê 
like "ea" in "bread"
è 
like "a" in "cat"
like "ee" in "feed"
like "o" in "home", but rounder
like "oo" in "food"
like "ee" in "feed"

Consonants

like "b" in "bed"
like "k" in "kill" (before "a", "o", and "u"), like "s" in "sun" (before "e" and "i")
ç 
like "s" in "sun"
like "d" in "death"
like "f" in "fun"
like "g" in "go" (before "a", "o", and "u"), like "g" in "sabotage" (before "e" and "i" and at the end of words)
usually silent
like "g" in "sabotage"
like "k" in "kill"
like "l" in "like"
like "m" in "me"
like "n" in "nurse" (but see Diphthongs below)
like "p" in "push"
q(u) 
like "k" in "kill" (not like "qu" in "quick")
gutteral; kind of like coughing up a hairball
like "s" in "sun"; like "z" in "zero" (before "e" at the end of a word)
like "t" in "take"
like "v" in "value"
like "x" in "exit"
like "z" in "zero"

Diphthongs

ai 
like "i" in "fight", like "ay" in "hay" (at the end of a word)
ais 
like "ea" in "bread" (at the end of a word)
au 
like "ow" in "blow"
an 
nasal; kind of like "ang" in "Tang", but without the hard "g" at the end
eu 
like "ur" in "burp"
er 
like "ay" in "hay"
ez 
like "ay" in "hay"
en 
nasal; like "ung" in "hung", but without the hard "g" at the end
in 
nasal; like "ang" in "Tang", but without the hard "g" at the end
oi 
like "wa" in "walk"
ou 
like "oo" in "food"
on 
nasal; like "ong" in "long", but without the hard "g" at the end
ui 
like "wee" in "week"
un 
nasal; like "ung" in "hung", but without the hard "g" at the end
ch 
like "sh" in "bush"
ph 
like "f" in "fun"
tch 
like "ch" in "chew" (but kind of rare)

Phrase List

In French, there are several levels of politeness. But to keep things simple this phrasebook is limited to two levels -- formal and informal -- with complex rules about age and social rank that determine which level you use. In France and most of the rest of the world, formal speech is the default; in Canada, it's informal that's used more often. This phrasebook gives everything in the formal level of politeness, on the principle that your friends or peers will just laugh if you address them too formally (vouvoyer), but strangers and "superiors" will find it offensive if you address them too intimately (tutoyer).

Note you should try not to pronounce the "G" where "NG" is used in the prononciation hint.


Basics

Hello. 
Bonjour. (bawng ZHOO)
Hello. (informal
Salut. (sah-LÜ)
How are you? 
Comment allez-vous? (kuh-MAWNGT ah-LAY VOO?)
Fine, thank you. 
Bien, merci. (bee-ENG, mayr-SEE)
What is your name? 
Comment vous appelez-vous? (kuh-MAWNG vooz AH-pell-ay VOO?)
My name is ______ . 
Je m'appelle ______ . (ZHUH mah-PELL _____)
Nice to meet you. 
Enchanté(e). (AWNG-chawng-tay)
Please. 
S'il vous plaît. (SEEL voo PLAY)
Thank you. 
Merci. (mayr-SEE)
You're welcome. 
De rien. (duh ree-ENG)
Yes. 
Oui. (WHEE)
No. 
Non. (NAWNG)
Excuse me. (getting attention
Pardon. (pah-DOWNG)
Excuse me. (begging pardon
Excusez moi. (ehkz-KYOOZ-ay mwah)
I'm sorry. 
Désolé(e). (day-zow-LAY)
Goodbye 
Au revoir. (OH vwah)
Goodbye (informal
Salut. (sah-LOO)
I can't speak French [well]. 
Je ne parle pas [bien] Français. (ZHUH nuh PAHRL pah [bee-ENG] FRONG-say)
Do you speak English? 
Parlez-vous Anglais? (PAHR-lay VOOZ ong-LAY?)
Is there someone here who speaks English? 
Est-ce qu'il y a quelqu'un ici qui parle Anglais? (ess KEEY-ee-ah kel-KUHNG ee-SEE kee PAHRL ong-LAY?)
Help! 
Au secours ! (os-KOOR!)
Look out! 
Attention !! (a-TAWNG-see-awng)
Good morning. 
Bonjour. (bawng ZHOO)
Good evening. 
Bonsoir. (bawng SWAH)
Good night. 
Bonsoir. (bawng SWAH)
Good night (to sleep
Bonne nuit. (bun NWEE)
I don't understand. 
Je ne comprends pas. (ZHUH nuh comp-PRONG pa)
Where is the toilet? 
Où sont les toillettes ? (OOH song lay TWA-let ?)

Problems

Leave me alone. 
Ne me dérange pas. (nuh muh day-RONGZH PAH!)
Buzz off. 
Casse-toi !! (CASS TWA!!)
Don't touch me! 
Ne me touche pas ! (TOOSH PAS!!!)
I'll call the police. 
J'appelle la police. (ZHUH-pell la POHL-ees)
Police! 
Police! (POHL-ees)
Stop! Thief! 
Arretez ! Au voleur ! (AH-rayTAY ! OH vo-LUer!)
I need your help. 
L'assistance, s'il vous plaît? (la-SIS-tohns, SEEL voo PLAY?)
It's an emergency. 
C'est une urgence. (say toon ur-ZHANS)
I'm lost. 
Je suis perdu. (ZHUH swee perd-OO)
I lost my bag. 
J'ai perdu mon sac. (ZHUH per mong sak)
I lost my wallet. 
J'ai perdu mon porte-monnaie. (ZHUH per mong port MONG-ay)
I'm sick. 
J'ai mal. (ZHAY mal)
I've been injured. 
Je suis blessé. (zhuh swee bless-AY)
I need a doctor. 
J'ai besoin d'un médecin. (ZHAY bez WANG un MAYD-sang)
Can I use your phone? 
Je voudrais utiliser votre téléphone. (ZHUH voo-DRAY yoo-TILL-ee-ZAY vot tay-LAY-fong)

Numbers

un (ung)
deux (duh)
trois (twa)
quatre (kat)
cinq (sank)
six (seece)
sept (set)
huit (wheat)
neuf (nuf)
10 
dix (deece or dee)
11 
onze
12 
douze (dooz)
13 
treize (trayz)
14 
quatorze (kat-ORZ)
15 
quinze (cans)
16 
seize (sayz)
17 
dix-sept (dee-SET)
18 
dix-huit (dee-ZWEET)
19 
dix-neuf (dee-ZNUF)
20 
vingt (vang)
21 
vingt-et-un (vang-TAY-ung)
22 
vingt-deux (vang-DUH)
23 
vingt-trois (vang-TWA)
30 
trente (trongt)
40 
quarante (KAR-ongt)
50 
cinquante (SANK-ongt)
60 
soixante (SWA-songt)
70 
soixante-dix (SWA-songt-DEE) or septante (SET-ongt) in Belgium and Switzerland
80 
quatre-vingt (katrhu-VANG) or huitante (WEE-tongt) in Belgium and Switzerland (except Geneva)
90 
quatre-vingt-dix (katrhu-vang-DEE) or nonante (NONG-nongt) in Belgium and Switzerland
100 
cent (song)
200 
deux cent (duh song)
300 
trois cent (twa song)
1000 
mille (mil)
2000 
deux mille (duh mil)
1,000,000 
one million (...)
number _____ (train, bus, etc.
numéro _____ (new-MER-oh)
half 
demi (deh-MEE), moitié (mwah-tee-ay)
less 
moins (mwan)
more 
plus (ploos)

External links

Variants

Actions

Destination Docents

In other languages