Basic French Conversation: Everything You Need to Know

Basic French Conversations can be as simple as:
Bonjour ! Ça va ?
Ça va, et toi ?
Ça va. Au revoir !

These few lines make the start of many French conversations. You should learn them!
How can you make your own easy French conversations? With friends, with shopkeepers, with strangers ?

Let’s learn French together!

Index:
1. Basic French conversation: Greetings and first questions
2. Basic French conversation with a shopkeeper: La Boulangerie
3. Basic French conversation: Leaving

Want all the vocabulary of the lesson ?

1. Basic French conversation: Greetings and first questions

Start your conversation with a greeting, like:

  • Bonjour (= Hello during the day),
  • Coucou ! (= Hi! for friends, it’s informal and cute.)

Then we usually trade some:

  • Ça va ? (= How are you doing?)
  • Ça va, et toi? (= I’m fine, and you?)

Ça va” is both a question and an answer! Notice how you can use et toi ? (= and you? What about you?) to ask any question back. It can help a conversation flow better!

Next questions tend to be simple and common, such as:

  • Quoi de neuf ? = What’s new? What’s up?
  • Tu fais quoi dans la vie ? = What do you do for a living?
  • Tu viens d’où ? = Where are you from?
  • Comment tu t’appelles ? = What’s your name?
  • C’est quoi ton nom ? = What’s your name? (informal, everyday spoken French)

Prepare your own answers to that basic French conversation! Like:

  • Je suis prof. = I’m a teacher.
  • Je suis retraitée. = I’m retired….
  • Je suis américaine. = I’m an American (woman)
  • Je suis australien. = I’m an Australian (man)
  • Je viens de Pologne. = I’m from Poland…
  • Je m’appelle [Géraldine]. = My name is [Géraldine]. / I’m [Géraldine].

Beyond these first basic questions, you can go with slighly more complex ones:

  • Vous partez pour les vacances ? = Are you going somewhere, for the holidays?
  • Tu fais quoi ce week-end ? = What are you doing this week end?

How can you answer?

Well, to talk about your near future: use aller or le futur proche = aller + infinitif.

  • Je vais à la plage. = I’m going to the beach.
  • Je vais voir de la famille. = I’m going to see my family.

Click here to get a whole lesson on “le futur proche.”

To talk about your past: use le passé composé. Like:
Je suis allée au marché. = I went to the market.

That tense is not as difficult as it seems, but it’s still beyond basic French, I’m afraid.

When in doubt, just be positive: C’était super ! = It was great!

2. Basic French Conversation with a shopkeeper: La Boulangerie

The French conversation with un commerçant / une commerçant (= a shopkeeper), is very codified!

In many small shops, you need to talk to the attendant to buy what you want.
So on the one hand, you need to learn the basic conversation if you want to fit in.

On the other hand, it’s really easy!

a – Greetings is politeness 101. When entering any shop where there’s an attendant, we always say Bonjour. Or Bonsoir if it’s the evening.

b – Order with “je voudrais.” In a small shop where you need to talk to the shopkeeper, like une boulangerie (= a bakery) or une pâtisserie (= a pastry shop), you can order with:
Je voudrais…” = I would like…
That can also give you time to choose what delicious thing to pick!

Je voudrais… une baguette et un pain au chocolat, s’il vous plaît.
= I’d like… a baguette and a pain au chocolat, please.

→ Don’t forget s’il vous plaît = please! (with “vous”, as they’re not your friend)

c – Ce sera tout ?

After preparing your order, they’ll probably add:
(Et avec ceci ?) Ce sera tout ? = (And with this,) will it be all that you want ?

You can answer:

  • Non, je vais aussi prendre [un croissant.] = No, I’ll also have a croissant (or anything else that you want.)
  • Oui merci. / Oui merci ce sera tout. = Yes, thank you, that will be all.

Don’t forget to say merci !

d – Paying and leaving

Ça fera deux euros. = It will be two euros.
Voilà. Merci, bonne journée, au revoir ! = Here it is. Thank you, have a good day, goodbye!

Don’t forget to say goodbye, or you’ll seem cold for no reason. (And don’t forget to pay! That’s… that’s the law.)

3. Basic French Conversation: Leaving

Au revoir ! is the basic sentence when leaving someone or when leaving a conversation. You might need to excuse yourself first with something like Je dois y aller. (= I have to go), if need be.

Au revoir is fine for most situations. But if you want, you can learn better sentences. Like:
À tout de suite ! = See you in a minute.
À tout à l’heure ! / À plus tard ! = See you later in the same day. (Never when it’s for a different day!)
À bientôt ! = See you soon (especially when it’s not the same day.)
À plus ! = “See ya” (it’s an informal goodbye, for friends. It’s cute and fun.)
À toute !” = See you later (short for “à tout à l’heure.”)

Salut ! Salut means both “Hi” and “Goodbye” with friends.

(Funnily enough, le salut also means “Salvation.” I spent my childhood thinking that L’Armée du Salut, the Salvation Army, were a bunch of soldiers greeting each other all the time.)

Anyway. You can always add Allez before any of these!
Allez, à bientôt ! = OK, see you soon!

Click on the links to learn more about:

I made full lessons on each of these.
Click on the link to get to the next lesson!

À tout de suite.
I’ll see you in the next video!

Allez, salut !


→ If you enjoyed this lesson (and/or learned something new) – why not share this lesson with a francophile friend? You can talk about it afterwards! You’ll learn much more if you have social support from your friends 🙂

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Join the conversation!

  • Merci Géraldine. C’est encore ce dont les francopliles ont besoin. Restez en bonne santé, vous et les vôtres.

  • Si l’on doit demander à quelqu’un son nom, son travail ou d’où il vient, on ne le connaît pas et on ne le tutoie pas? Alors ne devrait-on pas demander:
    Vous faites quoi dans la vie ? = What do you do for a living?
    Vous venez d’où ? = Where are you from?
    Comment vous vous appelez ? = What’s your name?
    C’est quoi votre nom ? = What’s your name?

  • Le langage du quotidien. On dit ça ?
    Assez souvent ce sont les petites choses
    où on fait des erreurs. Alors, très important
    qu’on apprend les bonnes expressions.
    Toujours on ajoute quelque chose d’utile
    à la compréhension ici ~ merci.

  • Ah, je ne savais pas exactement comment dire que je suis retraitée…les dictionnaires disent tous “je suis à la retraite”…

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