This post was last updated on January 8th, 2016 at 04:07 am
Want to learn some useful French expressions, words and slang that you probably don’t cover in French class? We compiled a list of colloquial (everyday) terms you’ll hear in France. You can sprinkle them into your conversations to sound more fluent or smile to yourself when you hear your French friends use these words.
Since this article is extremely popular there will be a followup post with an additional 25 words. So here’s the first 25 French expressions and slang words you don’t learn in French class (unless your French teacher is awesome).
This French expression is used a lot by teenagers and younger people, this is how they say something is cool, similar to « trop bien ». You can also use « stylé » (pronounced: stee-lay) as a standalone compliment for things such as clothing, tattoos, a drawing, etc…
« Hé mate-moi ça, c’est trop stylé ! »
Recently I was surprised when my cousin kept saying this term and I had no clue what it meant. Ever since he explained it I heard it being used by my relatives, my friends in the South and even the teachers I worked with. Faire gaffe is just another way to say « faire attention » or pay attention, watch out, be careful. Make sure you conjugate the verb faire when necessary.
« Fais gaffe à la marche. »
These two words are extremely useful. En fait (pronounced: ohn-fet) can either connect two phrases, or be used as an interjection. Franchement accentuates speech and bring attention to an opinion.
« Ah si franchement il est génial ! »
Ça y est !
Ça y est (pronounced: sigh-ay) is a little French expression that has two main meanings. It’s usually a replacement of the word “finally” in French, « c’est fait / enfin ». However it’s also an expression that can be used when you find something you were looking for.
Pompette & Déchiré
Oh man, two of my favorites words right here (not sure what that says about me). These words describe one thing: different states of being drunk. Pompette is the equivalent of being tipsy in English; when you drank enough to feel it but not enough to regret anything. Déchiré is on the other end of the spectrum and it mean’s you’re WASTED… you’re hammered. Game over – déchiré. Get ready for that walk of shame tomorrow morning.
« Oh putain, hier soir j’étais déchiré(e). »
Bosser / Taffer
These two words are colloquial ways of saying the verb « travailler », or “to work”. If you want the noun le travail can be replaced by the word le boulot.
C’est Parti !
Let’s go OR let’s get started! You enthusiastically yell « c‘est parti ! » before starting a task or going somewhere with someone.
Nickel is French slang for the word “perfect”. When something is A-OK you can confirm it by uttering this easy French word.
Bouffer / la bouffe
These are more informal ways of saying “to eat” (manger) or “food” (la nourriture).
« Il faut que j’aille faire des courses si j’veux bouffer ce soir. »
La Vache !
This is an informal variant of “oh my god”. It’s when an unbelievable event contains compassion, surprise, and a myriad of other intense emotions. Your friend just fell down the stairs and before helping him up you scream this phrase. Then you stare in horror. Then you both laugh because he’s alright. Phew, la vache.
Bof / Bah / Euh
This is an easy way to up sounding fluent in French. Native French speakers don’t fill the silence in their speech with “um’s” and “uhhhh’s”, but rather with « euhhhh’s » and « bah’s »! These three words all are small interjections that should be incorporated into your French speech.
Bof signifies indifference, mild disappointment, or boredom in something. In English, bof is essentially the word “meh”.
Euh is the English equlavent of “um” or “uh”, it’s used to buy yourself time when trying to find your words while speaking.
Bah is another filler word, yet more often than not you’ll find it at the start of a sentence. Mais attention ! When you respond with the statement, « bah oui » to one of your friend’s questions, this indicates that he or she made an extremely obvious statement. The question was so evident that it didn’t even warrant a response.
« T’as mis la table ? »
« Bah oui »
« T’as pas mangé ? »
« Bah si, il est 14h00. »
Beuh / le Shit
I can guarantee your high school French teacher won’t let you in on these words, but they’re Snoop Dogg approved. Cannabis, Mary Jane, weed, however you want to call it, the French language also has many different terms for marijuana. Even though I’ve never smoked I decided it’s worthwhile to share these words because you hear them if/when people colloquially speak of marijuana. I heard these words quite often on the streets.
Une bagnole is just a synonym for the word car in French, « une voiture ». I find it to be a bit more dated, however you’ll hear it occasionally, especially in sentences such as:
« Ah c’est une belle bagnole ! »
Mec / Nana
Used in many parts of France and is generally understood to mean “dude” and “chick”.
Sympa is an abbreviation of the adjective « sympathique », and here I talk about how you can use this word and many others to sound more Parisian. It’s the perfect word.
I could write a whole article on this word, there’s even a TV show titled « Bref ». However me being long winded about a word which means “brief” or “in short” would be kind of ironic.
Bref is used when you want to make a long story short, instead of explaining every intricate detail of something, you simply utter the word bref and then get to the point.
During a toast rather than saying “cheers!” we say « Santé » in French. It’s a way to wish well upon each other’s health. Make sure when you’re toasting that you look the other person in the eyes otherwise you’ll be called out on being rude!
Well there’s your 25 words. What’s that, you want a bonus word? Oh why the heck not, I’ll treat you guys to a 26th word:
OH BONNE MÈRE
This is how the typical Marseillais expresses « oh mon dieu ». You’ll encounter this word during a football (soccer) match when those poor OM supporters get scored on in the 90th minute.
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Well there you have it, 25 French expressions and slang words you don’t learn in French class.