It may come as a surprise to many people who want to study French that they may already know quite a bit of French. English has borrowed and adopted many French words and phrases that are used in everyday speech. If you want to learn French phrases that would be useful, start with those that are already in common usage and then you can expand from there.
Every day English uses more words and phrases from French than any other language. When one starts to study French as a second language, it is nice to have a set of French phrases already in your vocabulary to be able to build upon. It will give the student a head start on pronunciation and vocabulary which can be a confidence booster when trying to learn new material.
It has been estimated that over a quarter of the words and phrases used in English today are directly French or have French origins. The following lists provide some good examples of how common French words are in everyday English.
Some of the French phrases that are commonly used in English include:
- A la carte – on the menu or on the card, used for individual items on a menu
- Avant-garde – on the edge, refers to art or music that is a bit “out there”
- Bon appetit – good appetite, enjoy your meal
- Bon voyage – good voyage, have a nice/safe trip
- Carte blanche – white card, refers to unlimited authority
- C’est la vie – such is life or that’s life
- Deja vu – already seen, the phenomenon of having to experience something before
- RSVP (respondez s’il vous plait) – please reply
The above list is very minimal, but it does include some of the most common phrases. If one was learning French and/or going to France, the following list of French phrases would be essential to know as well.
- Bonjour – hello or good day
- Au revoir – goodbye
- Oui/Non – yes/no
- Je ne sais pas – I don’t know
- S’il vous plait – please
- Merci – thank you
- Comment allez vous – how are you
- Parlez vous anglais – do you speak English?
Obviously, this does not even scratch the surface of the essential French phrases, but many people who are just starting to learn French are pleased to see that they already know some French. If you learn enough French words and phrases, you will not only be speaking French but your conversational English vocabulary will be greatly expanded as well.