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Basic French Words and Phrases for Beginners

Learning to speak or understand French starts with learning a few basic French words. These common French words can get you started on your journey to the language of France or as a tourist in France. Keep in mind that there might be slight dialect differences between different French speaking countries, such as French Canada versus France. 

Basic french phrase using where is?Basic french phrase using where is?

French Number Words

You’ll need to know les nombres, or the numbers, if you want to count, tell time, or pay for things in France. 

  • zéro (zay-roh) - zero

  • un (uh) - one

  • deux (deu) - two

  • trois (twah) - three

  • quatre (kat-r) - four

  • cinq (sank) - five

  • six (sees) - six

  • sept (set) - seven

  • huit (weet) - eight

  • neuf (nuf) - nine

  • dix (dees) - ten

  • onze (ohnze) - eleven

  • douze (doos) - twelve

  • treiz (trayz) - thirteen

  • quatorze (kat-or-z) - fourteen

  • quinze (kaz) - fifteen

  • seize (say-z)- sixteen

  • dix-sept (dees-set) - seventeen

  • dix-huit (dees-weet) - eighteen

  • dix-neuf (dees-nuf) - nineteen

  • vingt (vah) - twenty

French Colors and Common Adjectives

In the French language adjectives, such as colors, have to agree with the gender of the noun they describe. For some words, the masculine and feminine forms are the same, but those that differ typically add an “e” on the end for the feminine form. French adjectives also usually come after the word they describe, not before it. 

French Colors

Le couleur words listed here show the masculine form first and only the singular forms. For many plural forms, you add an “s” to the end. 

  • rouge - red

  • jaune - yellow

  • bleu/bleue - blue

  • vert/verte - green

  • orange - orange

  • violet/violette - purple

  • rose - pink

  • blanc/blanche - white

  • noir/noire - black

  • gris/grise - gray

  • marron - brown

Basic French Adjectives

Although many French adjectives come after the noun they describe, there are many that come before it. These BANGS adjectives, which describe beauty, age, number, goodness, and size, all come before the noun they describe. 

  • bon/bonne - good

  • beau/belle - beautiful

  • chaud/chaude - hot

  • facile - easy

  • fort/forte - strong

  • froid/froide - cold

  • gros/grosse - big

  • jeune - young

  • mauvais/mauvaise - bad

  • petit/petite - small

  • vieux/vielle - old

French Animals

Many animaux names in French are assigned a gender already for the purposes of creating the word. This means the spellings don’t change based on the gender of your subject. 

  • le canard - duck

  • le chat - cat

  • le cheval - horse

  • le chien - dog

  • le cochon - pig

  • le lapin - rabbit

  • l’oiseau - bird

  • le poisson - fish

  • le poulet - chicken

  • le singe - monkey

  • le tigre - tiger

  • la tortue - turtle

  • la vache - cow

French Body Parts

Learning le corps, or the body parts, can help you, especially if you are sick or injured. Body parts in French are assigned a gender, so the spelling won’t change. The “la” before a word indicates it’s feminine,  the le” indicates it’s masculine, and “les” indicates it’s plural. 

  • la bouche - mouth

  • le bras - arm

  • le dos - back

  • la jambe - leg

  • la main - hand

  • le nez - nose

  • les oreilles - ears

  • le pied - foot

  • la tête - head

  • le ventre - stomach

  • le visage - face

  • les yeux - eyes

French Calendar and Time Terms

To make appointments, catch a train, or set up a date, you’ll need to understand things like time and days of the week in French. 

Days of the Week in French

The days of the week, or les jours de la semaine, are not capitalized in French. 

  • lundi - Monday

  • mardi - Tuesday

  • mercredi - Wednesday

  • jeudi - Thursday

  • vendredi - Friday

  • samedi - Saturday

  • dimanche - Sunday

Months of the Year in French

The months of the year, or les mois de l’an, are not capitalized in French either. 

  • janvier - January 

  • février - February 

  • mars - March 

  • avril - April 

  • mai - May 

  • juin - June  

  • juillet - July 

  • août - August  

  • septembre - September  

  • octobre - October 

  • novembre - November  

  • décembre - December  

Time Terms in French

When you're talking about a specific time on the clock, instead of saying “o’clock” after the number, you’ll say “heures,” which means “hour.” For this, you’ll need to know your numbers up to 24 because the French use a 24-hour clock system. For example, if it’s 3:00, in French you’d say “Il est trois heures.”

  • le matin - the morning

  • dans l'après-midi - in the afternoon

  • en soirée - in the evening

  • la nuit - the night

  • tard - late

  • bientôt - soon

  • maintenant - now

  • hier - yesterday

  • aujourd'hui - today

  • demain - tomorrow

  • l’heure - time

  • midi - noon

  • minuit - midnight

  • Quelle heure est-il? - What time is it? 

French Greetings and Important Phrases

If you want to have a nice French conversation, you’ll need to know the proper ways to greet others, introduce yourself, and leave the group. 

  • Allô? – Hello? (for phone calls only)

  • À plus tard! - See you later!

  • Au revoir. - Goodbye. 

  • Bonjour! - Hello! or Good morning!

  • Bonsoir! - Good evening!

  • Ça va? - How are you? or How’s it going?

  • C’est combien? - How much is it?

  • Comment t'appelles-tu? - What’s your name?

  • Excusez moi. - Excuse me. 

  • Je ne comprends pas. - I don’t understand. 

  • Je suis désolé(e), mais je dois y aller. - I’m sorry, but I have to go.

  • Merci beaucoup. - Thanks a lot. 

  • Non - No

  • Où est…? - Where is …?

  • Où sont les toilettes? - Where are the toilets?

  • Oui - Yes

  • Salut! - Hi!

  • S'il vous plait. - If you please, or please. 

Common French Pronouns

French subject pronouns are important parts of standard sentences. The trick to many of these is making sure the pronoun you use matches the gender or formality level of the subject. 

  • je - I

  • tu/vous - you (tu is informal and singular, vous is formal and/or plural)

  • il - he or it (masculine)

  • ils - they (masculine)

  • elle - she or it (feminine)

  • elles - they (feminine)

  • nous - we

Basic French Verbs and Action Words

As with English verbs, part of using these action words involves conjugating them to fit in your sentences.  For the purpose of beginner learning, these are the base forms of the verbs along with their conjugations for basic subjects. 

  • être - to be

    je suis  - I am

    tu es - you are

    il est - he is

    elle est  - she is

    nous sommes - we are

    vous êtes - you are

    ils sont/elles sont  - they are

  • avoir - to have

    j‘ai- I have

    tu as - you have

    il/elle a - he/she has

    nous avons - we have

    vous avez - you have

    ils/elles ont  - they have

  • aller - to go

    je vais - I’m going

    tu vas - you’re going

    il/elle va - he/she is going

    nous allons - we are going

    vous allez - you’re going

    ils/elles vont - they’re going

  • faire - to do

    je fais - I’m doing

    tu fais - you’re doing

    il/elle fait - he/she makes

    nous faisons - we’re making

    vous faites - you’re making

    ils/elles font - they’re doing

Parlez-Vous Francais? 

Do you speak French? You might feel like you could have a basic conversation or at least get by in a French speaking country now that you’ve learned some simple French words. Continue your language learning by discovering how to say “Hello” in different languages or even how to say “I love you.” in different languages.

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