The Pocket Idiot's Guide to French Phrases

The Pocket Idiot's Guide to French Phrases

1.8 16
by Gail Stein

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Whether preparing for a vacation or a business trip, The Pocket Idiot's Guide(tm) to French Phrases, Second Edition, provides travelers with all the phrases they need (and none they don't) to communicate with native French speakers. In addition to giving readers phrases to help them travel, shop, dine, sightsee, bank, mail, and conduct business, this revised

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Whether preparing for a vacation or a business trip, The Pocket Idiot's Guide(tm) to French Phrases, Second Edition, provides travelers with all the phrases they need (and none they don't) to communicate with native French speakers. In addition to giving readers phrases to help them travel, shop, dine, sightsee, bank, mail, and conduct business, this revised edition includes a new chapter on dealing with emergencies and two additional chapters on grammar.

- French is spoken by more than 125 million people and in over 43 countries around the world
- France is the world's top tourist destination, and French is the second most frequently taught language in the world
- French is the foreign language spoken by our largest trading partner (Canada)

Product Details

Alpha Books
Publication date:
Pocket Idiot's Guide Series
Product dimensions:
4.32(w) x 7.46(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Pocket Idiot's Guide to French - CH 3 - YOU Are the Subject

[Figures are not included in this sample chapter]

The Pocket Idiot's Guide to French

- 3 -

YOU Are the Subject

In This Chapter

  • Hellos and goodbyes

  • The verb être

  • Professions

  • Countries

  • Family members

  • Possession

  • Avoir

  • Asking questions

A foolproof way to quickly immerse yourself in French is to find a foreign friendwith a sympathetic ear. Then just jabber away. Talk about anything and everythingthat interests you. Don't worry about your mistakes. A real friend will politelylet you get away with the less severe ones. Don't be shy about asking for help andcorrections. No one is perfect. By all means use your dictionary or ask for helpwhen you get stuck. Developing a friendship requires you to talk about yourself andto ask your newfound friend questions. Start to strike up a conversation by usingthe phrases below as an opener:

Since you don't know the person at all, a formal approach is de rigueur(mandatory). A typical opening conversation might start with many of these phrases:

Bonjour bohN-zhoor Hello.
Bonsoir bohN swahr Good evening.
monsieur muh-syuh Sir
madame mah-dahm Miss, Mrs.
mademoiselle mahd-mwah-zehl Miss
Je m'appelle zhuh mah-pehl My name is (I call myself)
Comment vous appelez-vous? kohN-mahN voo zah-play voo What is your name?
Comment allez-vous? kohN-mahN tah-lay voo How are you?
Très bien. treh byaN Very well.
Pas mal. pah mahl Not bad.
Comme ci comme ça. kohm see kohm sah So so.

I Am What I Am

If you're like most people, you like to talk about yourself and also find outabout others. Making the other person the center of attention is sure to win youfriends. To ask and answer the simplest questions in French, you need to know theverb être--to be. This is your first irregular verb, so be prepared tomemorize all its forms as shown in Table 3.1.

Table 3.1 The Verb être (to be)

French Pronunciation English
je suis zhuh swee I am
tu es tew eh you are
il, elle, on est eel (ehl) (ohN) eh he, she, one is
nous sommes noo sohm we are
vous êtes voo zeht you are
ils, elles sont eel (ehl) sohN they are

If you detect an unfamiliar accent when speaking to an acquaintance, get readyto satisfy your curiosity by using être to ask about a person's origins.

Vous êtes d'où?           voo zeht doo           Where are you from?

Je suis de...(city).        zhuh swee duh         I am from...(city).

To express the state you come from, keep the following in mind:

Use de (from) for all feminine states: any state ending in e andfor any state whose name has an adjective:

Je suis de Maine.

Je suis de New York.

Use du (from) for all masculine states: sates ending in any letter otherthan e.

Je suis du Vermont.

Use des (from) to say that you come from the U.S.

Je suis des États-Unis.

What's Your Line?

Use être to talk about your job or to ask about someone else's. Thefeminine forms are given in parentheses in Table 3.2.

Quel est votre mètier?      kehl eh vohtr may-tyay      What is your profession?


Remember that some occupations have only masculine or feminine forms despite the gender of the person employed. Other professions use the same word for masculine and feminine employees.

Table 3.2 Professions

English French Pronunciation
accountant comptable kohN-tahbl
dentist dentiste (m.) dahN-teest
doctor docteur (m.) dohk-tuhr
hairdresser coiffeur (coiffeuse) kwah-fuhr (kwah-fuhz)
jeweler bijoutier (bijoutière) bee-zhoo-tyay (bee-zhoo-tyehr)
lawyer avocat(e) ah-voh-kah(t)
manager gérant(e) zhay-rahN(t)
nurse infirmier (infirmière) aN-feer-myay (ahN-feer-myehr)
police officer agent de police (m.) ah-zhahN duh poh-lees
secretary secrétaire (m. or f.) seh-kray-tehr

Idioms with être

Learning idiomatic expressions will enable you to sound more authentically French.Table 3.3 will show you some idioms with être.

Table 3.3 Idioms with êtr

French Pronunciation Meaning
être à ehtr ah to belong to
être d'accord (avec) ehtr dah-kohr to agree (with)
être en train de + infinitive ehtr ahN traN duh to be in the act of, busy
être sur le point de + infinitive ehtr sewr luh pwaN duh to be on the verge of


Make sure to conjugate the verb when you use it in context:

Ce journal est à moi.           This newspaper is mine.

Je suis d'accord.                   I agree.

Where Are You From?

Curiosity naturally prods us into asking other travelers for their place of origin,especially if we detect a foreign accent. Faraway lands always seem so exotic andexciting, and people love to talk about their hom etowns. Use être toexpress where you are from. Use Tables 3.4 and 3.5 to find your place of origin.

Table 3.4 Feminine Countries

English French Pronunciation
Austria l'Autriche lo-treesh
China la Chine lah sheen
England l'Angleterre lahN-gluh-tehr
Germany l'Allemagne lahl-mah-nyuh
Greece la Grèce lah grehs
Italy l'Italie lee-tah-lee
Russia la Russie lah rew-see
Spain l'Espagne lehs-pah-nyuh

Full Speed Ahead

All feminine countries end in -e.

Table 3.5 Masculine Countries

English French Pronunciation
Canada le Canada luh kah-nah-dah
Israel Israël eez-rah-ehl
Japan le Japon luh zhah-pohN
Mexico le Mexique luh mehk-seek
United States les États-Unis lay zay-tah-zew-nee

If your travels take you far and wide you are probably fortunate enough to beable to plan a trip to another continent. The names of the seven continents appearin Table 3.6.

Table 3.6 The Continents

English French Pronunciation
Africa l'Afrique lah-freek
Antarctica l'Antarctique lahn-tahrk-teek
Asia l'Asie lah-zee
Australia l'Australie loh-strah-lee
Europe l'Europe lew-rohp
North America l'Amérique du Nord lah-may-reek dew nohr
South America l'Amérique du Sud lah-may-reek dew sewd

Full Speed Ahead

L'Antarctique (Antarctica, lahN-tahrk-teek) is the only continent that is masculine.

Going to Stay?

The preposition en is used to express that you are going to or stayingin another country. Use en to express to, and also to expressin before the names of feminine countries, continents, provinces, islands, andstates and before masculine countries starting with a vowel:

I am going to China.           I'm staying in Israel.

Je vais en Chine.                 Je reste en Israël.

Use the preposition au (aux for plurals) to express to,in before the names of some masculine countries, islands, provinces, and statesthat start with a consonant:

I am going to Portugal.           I am staying in the United States.

Je va is au Portugal.                 Je reste aux États-Unis.


If you want to say that you are from (or that you are coming from) a country,use the preposition de to express from before the names of femininecountries, continents, provinces, islands, and states and before masculine countriesstarting with a vowel:

I am from Belgium.           I am from Israel.

Je suis de Belgique.            Je suis d'Israël.

The preposition de + the definite article (le, l', les) is usedto express from before masculine countries:

I am from Japan.           I am from the United States.

Je suis du Japon.          Je suis des États-Unis.

Near and Dear Ones

No introductory conversation is complete without a little bragging. How many timeshave you opened your wallet and started showing pictures of all your loved ones?It's almost second nature. Does it shock you to learn that many people actually enjoyseeing those corny pictures you carry with you? Use Table 3.7 to identify everyonecorrectly.

Table 3.7 Family Members

Male French Pronunciation
father le père luh pehr
grandfather le grand-père luh grahN-pehr
father-in-law le beau-père luh bo-pehr
child l'enfant lahN-fahN
brother le frère luh frehr
step-brother le demi-frère luh duh-mee-frehr
stepson, son-in-law le beau-fils luh bo-fees
son le fils luh fees
uncle l'oncle lohNkl
cousin le cousin luh koo-zahN
nephew le neveu luh nuh-vuh
husband le mari luh mah-ree
son-in-law le gendre luh zhahNdr
boyfriend le petit ami luh puh-tee tah-mee
mother la mère lah mehr
grandmother la grand-m& #232;re lah graN-mehr
mother-in-law la belle-mère lah behl-mehr
child l'enfant lahN-fahN
sister la soeur lah suhr
step-sister la demi-soeur lah duh-mee-suhr
step-daughter la belle-fille lah behl-fee-y
daughter la fille lah fee-y
aunt la tante lah tahNt
cousin la cousine lah koo-zeen
niece la nièce lah nyehs
wife la femme lah fahm
daughter-in-law la belle-fille lah behl-fee-y
girlfriend la petite amie lah puh-tee tah-mee

If the possessor is referred to not by name but by a common noun such as theboy or the parents (He is the boy's father: The father of the boy;or That's the parents' car: The car of the parents), then de contractswith the definite articles le and les to express of the:

de + le           du           Ce sont le père du garçon.

de + les         des          C'est la voiture des parents.

Yo u Belong to Me

In English we use 's or s' to show possession after a noun. In French, however,there are no apostrophes. To translate "Marie's mother" into French, aspeaker would have to say: "the mother of Marie," which is "la mèrede Marie." The preposition de means of and is used to expresspossession or relationship.

Possessive Adjectives

The possessive adjectives my, your, his, her, andso on, can also be used to show possession as illustrated in Table 3.8:

Table 3.8 Possessive Adjectives

Used before masculine singular nouns or feminine singular nouns beginning with a vowel Used before feminine singular nouns beginning with a consonant only Used before all plural nouns
mon (mohN)/my ma (mah)/my mes (may)/my
ton (tohN)/your (fam.) ta (tah)/your (fam.) tes (tay)/your (fam.)
son (sohN)/his, her sa (sah)/his, her ses (say)/his, he
notre (nohtr)/our notre (nohtr)/our nos (no)/our
votre (vohtr)/your (pol.) votre (vohtr)/your (pol.) vos (vo)/your (pol.)
leur (luhr)/their leur (luhr)/their leurs (luhr)/their


A possessive adjective must agree with the item possessed, not the possessor:
He loves his mother. Il aime sa mère.

She loves her mother.           Elle aime sa mère.

He loves his father.               Il aime son père.

She loves her father.             Elle aime son père.

Son and sa both mean his or her because the possessive adjective agrees with the noun it modifies, not with the subject. Theref ore, her father = son père because son agrees with the word père, which is masculine; and his mother = sa mère because sa agrees with the word mère, which is feminine.

What You Have

Perhaps you would like to discuss how many children you have or your age; or youmight want to tell how you feel at a particular moment. The verb that you will findmost helpful in these situations is avoir (to have). Like the verbêtre (to be), avoir is an irregular verb, and all of itsforms (as seen in Table 3.9) must be memorized.

Table 3.9 The Verb avoir (to have)




j'ai zhay I have
tu as tew ah you have
il, elle, on a eel,(ehl),(ohN) ah he, she, one ha s
nous avons noo zah-vohN we have
vous avez voo zah-vay you have
ils, elles ont eel, (ehlz) ohN they have

Idioms with avoir

The idiomatic expressions in Table 3.10 are used quite frequently in everydayconversation:

Table 3.10 Idioms with avoir

Idiom Pronunciation Meaning
avoir...ans ah-vwahr...ahN to be...years old
avoir besoin (de) ah-vwahr buh-zwaN duh to need
avoir chaud ah-vwahr sho to be hot (person)
avoir de la chance ah-vwahr duh lah shahNs to be lucky
avoir envie (de) ah-vwahr ahN-vee (duh) to need
avoir faim ah-vwahr faN to be hungry
avoir froid ah-vwahr frwah to be cold (person)
avoir honte (de) ah-vwahr ohNt (duh) to be ashamed (of)
avoir l'air (+ adj.) ah-vwahr lehr to seem, look
avoir l'habitude de ah-vwahr lah-bee-tewd duh to be accustomed to
avoir l'intention de ah-vwahr laN-tahN-syohn duh to intend to
avoir l'occasion de ah-vwahr loh-kah-zyohN duh to have the opportunity to
avoir le temps de ah-vwahr luh tahN duh to have the time to
avoir lieu ah-vwahr lyuh to take place
avoir mal à ah-vwahr mahl ah to have an ache in
avoir peur (de) ah-vwahr puhr (duh) to be afraid (of)
avoir raison ah-vwahr reh-sohN to be right
avoir soif ah-vwahr swahf to be thirsty
avoir sommeil ah-vwahr soh-mehy to be sleepy
avoir tort ah-vwahr tohr to be wrong

Make sure to conjugate the verb when you use it in context:

J'ai l'occasion de voyager.           I have the opportunity to travel.

Tu as de la chance.                     You're lucky.

Asking Questions

If you don't want to seem too nosy and if your French is not as yet up to par,you'll probably be content to ask people simple yes or no questions. The four waysto do this are really quite easy.

An Extra Workout

I want to know all about you and my English is poor. Tell me as much as you can about yourself and your family in French. I'm very nosy, so don't leave out any details. Practice what you want to say until it flows smoothly.


By far the easiest way to show that you're asking a question is to simply changeyour intonation by raising your voice at the end of the sentence.

Tu travailles aujourd'hui?           Are you working today?

N'est-ce pas?

Add the tag n'est-ce pas (nehs pas/isn't that so) at the end ofthe sentence:

Tu travailles aujourd'hui, n'est-ce pas?

You're working today, aren't you (isn't that so)?

Est-ce que

You may put Est-ce que (ehs-kuh) at the beginning of the sentence.Although it is not translated, Est-ce que does indicate that a question follows:

Est-ce que tu travailles aujourd'hui?


Inversion, which is used far more frequently in writing than in conversation,means reversing the word order of the subject pronoun and the conjugatedverb form. The rules governing inversion can get tricky--but don't despair. Useone of the other three methods mentioned if you want to make your life easy. You'llstill be speaking perfectly correct French, you will be understood, and your questionwill be answered. If you are up to the challenge, here are the rules:

  • Avoid inverting with je. It's awkward and is very rarely used.

  • You can ONLY invert subject pronouns with conjugated verbs. DO NOT invert with nouns!

Tu travailles.                     Travailles-tu?

Vous parlez français.        Parlez-vous français?

Elles habitent à Nice.        Habitent-elles à Nice?

  • With il and elle a -t- must be added to avoid having two vowels together. This generally occurs only with verbs in the er family. The il and elle verb forms or ir and re verbs end in a consonant:

Il travaille bien.                  Travaille-t-il bien?

Il choisit son dessert.        Choisit-il son dessert?

Elle rèpond vite.                Rèpond-elle vite?

Full Speed Ahead

Remember that whether you are using intonation, est-ce que, n'est-ce pas, or inversion, you are asking for exactly the same information: a yes/oui (wee) or no/non (nohN) answer:

Tu parles français?                     Tu parles français, n'est-ce pas?

Est-ce que tu parles français?     Parles-tu français?

How to Answer

If the answer is yes, use oui (wee) and then give your statement:

Vous chantez?           Oui, je chante.

To answer yes to a negative quesion, use si.

Tu ne chantes pas bien?           Si, je chante bien.

If you want to say no, use non (nohN) and then add ne andpas (not), respectively, around the conjugated verb form. If there are twoverbs, only the first is conjugated:

Vous dansez?                  Non, je ne da nse pas.
                                        Non, je ne désire pas danser.

Put the following negative phrases around the conjugated verb if you want to varyyour answers:

ne...jamais (nuh...zhah-meh)           never

Je ne fume jamais.                           I never smoke. (nuh...plew)                       no longer

Je ne fume plus.                               I no longer smoke. (I don't smoke anymore.)

ne...rien (nuh...ryaN)                       nothing, anything

Je ne fume rien.                               I don't smoke anything.

Asking for Information

Are you curious, like me? Then a simple yes-no answer never suffices. You wantto get the complete picture, and for that, you'll need the facts. Use the questionsin Table 3.11 to get the scoop:

Table 3.11 Information Questions

French Pronunciation English
à quelle heure ah kehl uhr at what time
à qui ah kee to whom
à quoi ah kwah to what
avec qui ah-vehk kee with whom
avec quoi ah-vehk kwah with what
de qui duh kee of, about, from whom
de quoi duh kwah of, about, from what
combien (de + noun) kohN-byaN (duh) how much, many
comment kohN-mahN how
oo where
d'où doo from where
pourquoi poor-kwah why
quand kahN when
qui kee who, whom
que kuh what
qu'est-ce que kehs-kuh what


Use que at the beginning of a sentence and quoi at the end of a sentence to ask what?.

Qu'est-ce que tu fais?           Tu fais quoi?           What are you doing?

To ask for information:

  • Use intonation.

Vous parlez (Tu parles) avec qui?

  • Use est-ce que.

Avec qui est-ce que vous parlez (tu parles)?

  • Use inversion.

Avec qui voyagez-vous (voyages-tu)?

An Extra Workout

It's your turn to be nosy. Write down a list of questions you would like to ask me. I'm a very interesting person, and I have a large family.

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Pocket Idiot's Guide to French Phrases 1.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The material in this book is useful but when it was transferred to Nook format the table examples are barely visible. Problem is 80% of this book is in table example boxes. Buy the paperback, the Nook format is awful.
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