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French phrasebook

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Revision as of 06:02, 3 November 2003 by Ronline (talk | contribs) (changed pronunciation for accented e - it's not like 'ay' in 'hay')
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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.


Like English, French is a language with a long history and many different root languages. So, 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 in French can have accent marks; except for "e", this doesn't usually change the sound.

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


like "b" in "bed"
like "k" in "kill" (before "a", "o", and "u"), like "s" in "sun" (before "e" and "i")
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"
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"


like "i" in "fight", like "ay" in "hay" (at the end of a word)
like "ea" in "bread" (at the end of a word)
like "ow" in "blow"
nasal; kind of like "ang" in "Tang", but without the hard "g" at the end
like "ur" in "burp"
like "ay" in "hay"
like "ay" in "hay"
nasal; like "ung" in "hung", but without the hard "g" at the end
nasal; like "ang" in "Tang", but without the hard "g" at the end
like "wa" in "walk"
like "oo" in "food"
nasal; like "ong" in "long", but without the hard "g" at the end
like "wee" in "week"
nasal; like "ung" in "hung", but without the hard "g" at the end
like "sh" in "bush"
like "f" in "fun"
like "ch" in "chew" (but kind of rare)

Phrase List

In French, there are two levels of politeness -- 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).


Bonjour. (bawng ZHOO)
Hello. (informal
Salut. (sah-LOO)
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)
S'il vous plaît. (SEE voo PLAY)
Thank you. 
Merci. (mayr-SEE)
You're welcome. 
De rien. (duh ree-ENG)
Oui. (WHEE)
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)
Au revoir. (OH vwah)
Goodbye (informal
Salut. (sah-LOO)
I can't speak French [well]. 
Je ne parle pas Français [bien]. (ZHUH nuh PAHRL pah FRONG-say [bee-ENG])
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 KEEL-ee-ah kel-KUHNG ee-SEE kee PAHRL ong-LAY?)
Au secours! (OH seh-KOOR!)
Good morning. 
Bonjour. (bawng ZHOO)
Good evening. 
Bon soir. (bawng SWAH)
Good night. 
Bon soir. (bawng SWAH)
Good night (to sleep
Bonne nuit. (bun NWEE)

External links