French Expressions 101

Bonjour! 😉

Having been living in France for over three months now, I can say that my French has improved a bit. Still far from being 100% fluent but, considering that I already had a pretty good foundation in the language before moving over here, perhaps I’m at that point when I just can’t, well, improve that much further. Definitely leveling off, that’s for sure.

However, there’s also plenty of opportunities to improve myself when it comes to vocabulary and common French expressions. I admit, even though I can speak decently, I still have plenty of moments when my syntax and diction (aka the way I say things) are certainly… American. In other words, the way I express myself in French aren’t how the French people would express themselves in normal, everyday conversation. That is why that, in order for me to immerse myself in the language, I would have to start thinking and speaking like the French.

Over these last few months, I have picked up a few words and expressions here and there from the interactions I have had, from my colleagues to even the students who I teach in class. Just listening to the latter chat among themselves (albeit in rapid, slang French) has already enlarged my vocabulary by a good amount. Definitely helps me when it comes to future conversations, helping me sound “less awkward and American” and more, well, “French.”

I wrote about this exact same topic on my French blog, which you can check out here. But in any case, I have compiled a list of French expressions that I have learned so far, and might continue to add to it when I pick up some more in the future! Enjoy yourselves. 🙂

1. “Je me suis trompé(e).” This expression translates to “I made a mistake,” or “I screwed up.” Before learning this common statement, I would say something like, “j’ai fait une erreur,” which I later found out (thanks to having French pen pals) implies a more, well, serious situation. But “je me suis trompée” is less dire, less urgent, and so it is used for mild errors.

2. “Prends soin de toi.” The English equivalent would be something like “take care,” when saying goodbye to someone. I’ve definitely started using this phrase more often now, as I find it more nice and thoughtful than just saying “au revoir” all of the time.

3. “Que du vieux.” Still on the subject of greetings, this means “nothing much” or literally, “only old stuff,” in French. This expression is used as a response to “quoi de neuf?” (“What’s up?”) when checking in with someone. Funny enough, I haven’t actually heard it being used so far in France, as I think it’s more common for people just to say “Ça va?” “Ça va.” when meeting each other. It is easier, I suppose.

4. “J’ai bien mangé.” What surprised me during my first month in France was that there’s no real equivalent to say “I’m full” after eating. You can say something like “j’ai plus faim” (“I’m not hungry anymore”) or “j’ai bien mangé” (“I ate well”), but really, there is no direct translation. Now, I’m pretty sure the French will understand you if you choose to say “je suis rempli(e)” (literally, “I’m full”), but it does not connote the meaning of satiation (“remplir” means to fill something up, like a car or something), let alone common in French talk.

5. “Je m’excuse de…” Technically, you could go around saying “je suis désolé(e)” (“I’m sorry”) all of the time, but to spice things up (as well as sounding more elegant), you can also say “je m’excuse de…” (“I apologize for…”). Literally, it translates to, “I excuse myself for…,” which is quite interesting.

6. “Il faut que…” Story time: I was teaching a class one morning, and needed to use a bit of French to make sure that the students understood what I was instructing them to do. I started saying, “on doit faire…” (“one must do…”), and some of them found it incredibly amusing (seriously, they were tittering). That was when I realized that it was not common to say that, as it was more common to use the expression “il faut qu’on fasse,” with the subjunctive tense and everything (a pain in the butt, if you ask me, but what are you going to do, anyway?). Now, I don’t hesitate to use “il faut que…” whenever I can, to sound “French.”

7. “Ça m’est égal.” Literally, this statement means, “It’s all equal to me,” but what it actually refers to is the expression “I don’t care,” or “I don’t mind.” It is a more polite way of saying it, rather than “je m’en fiche” or “je m’en fous” (the latter is especially not nice!). I think you can also say, “peu importe” (“little importance”), as I believe that “ça m’est égal” is reserved for, for instance, choosing between two things (ex. “Do you want the apple or the banana?” “Ça m’est égal.”). Maybe I’m wrong…

8. “Archi-” Now, this isn’t an expression per say, as it is actually a prefix to, well, affix to an adjective. It is commonly used by young people, as I have heard many of my high-school pupils use it in conversation. Basically, it is the equivalent familier of “très” (“very,” “extremely”). Really, it’s “archi-courant!” (“very common”). 😉

That’s about it for French expressions, at least until I come across new ones. For the French people: let me know if what I wrote is accurate, and whether you have some more cool, “hip” expressions to offer; I would be glad to learn them! Prenez soin de vous, my lovely bloggers! ❤

— The Finicky Cynic

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4 thoughts on “French Expressions 101

  1. Laura

    I enjoy reading your posts. I love the French language but never had the chance to study in France. I think you will become more “French” as time goes along.

    1. Thank you for your comment- very sweet of you! Indeed, studying the language in its mother country is incredibly rewarding, as one also has access to the culture, people, even the food! However, studying it in your respective country proves just as beneficial, so don’t see it as anything less.

      I am sure that, over time, I will continue to develop my mastery of French; it’s already starting to happen! 🙂

  2. Pingback: French Expressions 101 | Language Learner & Lover

  3. Pingback: French Expressions 101 – Bridging the Gap: ESL Resources for Teachers

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