10 Useful Phrases to Remember When Visiting Paris

For the adventurous traveller looking to experience an authentic stay, there are several excellent hostels in Paris that make the ideal base for getting to know the City of Lights in an intimate way. Knowing just a few basic phrases in the French language will enhance your experience even further – and can also be extremely helpful in difficult situations.

Here are ten of the more important phrases you may like to take on board, and while these are very basic, the helpful staff in any of the hostels in Paris will be more than willing to help you expand your French vocabulary.

Bonjour (bohn-zhoor) – Never underestimate the ability of a simple “hello” as it can mean the difference between being helped and being snubbed. Use it as liberally as possible even in straightforward business transactions.

Au revoir (ah reh-vwar) – A simple “until we meet again”. Again, use it whenever parting ways with someone you have just met – even those that you meet briefly in the hostels in Paris – it’s excellent practice and will make you feel more like a local.

Monsieur (muh-syuhr), Madame (mah-dahm) and Mademoiselle (mah-damwa-zell) – The French equivalent of Mr, Mrs and Miss. When speaking formally, use madame and when speaking less formally or to a young woman, use mademoiselle.

Comment vous appelez-vous? (com-man vuz ah-peh-lee-vuh?) – “What is your name?” is a must-learn when in Paris. Calling someone by name, along with the proper greeting and title, will greatly increase your chances of not only getting help but getting your respect returned as well.

Où est (Oo-ay) and Où son (Oo-sohn) – “Where is” and “where are”. Commonly you may need to follow these with l’hôtel (low-tel) for hotel, l’hôpital (low-pee-tahl) for hospital, les toilettes (ley-twa-let) for the toilet, and cafeteria (ka-fe-te-rya) for cafeteria.

Je ne comprends pas (zhuh nuh khomp-rond pah) – “I do not understand” is a perfectly acceptable response when a local overestimates your grasp of the French language. You’ll probably use this one a lot!

Parlez-vous anglais? (Parr-leh-voo ohng-ley?) – “Do you speak English?” is a very common question, and most Parisians know a little English – at least this phrase! Even if the answer is no, with a little encouragement you may find some joy.

Combien ça coûte? (kohm-byan sah koot?) – “How much is that?” is an important phrase to remember – especially if you want to avoid overspending in the many tourist traps of the city. It shouldn’t be a phrase you’ll have to use in any of the hostels in Paris, however, as many staff are seasoned travellers themselves and are multi-lingual to at least some degree.

Pouvez-vous m’aider, s’il vous plaît? (Poo-vay voo mi-day see-voo-play?) – “Can you help me, please?” is a useful phrase to use when you need to approach strangers to ask for help or directions. The extra “please” at the end helps you come across as respectful – which is, again, useful when dealing with Parisians.

Excusez-moi (eks-kyooz-e-mwah) – “Excuse me” is a versatile phrase that changes meaning depending on the situation. “What did you say?”, “let me through”, and “I’m sorry” are some of the most common situations where you’ll use this phrase.

Of course, this is just a very basic list of useful phrases you might want to learn before heading to Paris, but even knowing this smattering of the language will give you the confidence to attempt your first conversations.