Learn French: How to start a conversation in French


Salut ! Ça va ? Quoi de neuf ?

Having real conversations in French is part of the fun of becoming confident in the language. And for this, you might need to start the conversation yourself.

Today, let’s cover a few simple ways you can use to start a conversation in French.

C’est parti !

1) Most common opening and answers

  • Salut ! Ça va ? = Hi, how are you?
  • Salut, ça va bien ? = Hi, is everything going well?
  • Salut, tu vas bien ? = Hi, are you fine? (more personal)
  • Bonjour ! Comment allez-vous ? = Hello, how are you? (more formal)

Common answer: Ça va. = I’m fine.

Instead of “Ça va ? / Ça va.” you can use other colloquial variations:

  • Ça roule ? = Literally “Is it rolling?”
  • Ça gaze ? = “Is it gassing?”
  • Ça boume ? = “Is it booming?”

Or less common but still used:

  • Ça biche.
  • Ça baigne.

It depends on the context: some people use one of these synonyms really often, other people would find them ringard (= outdated.)

2) General questions

Asking about the day:

  • Tu passes une bonne soirée ? = Are you having a pleasant evening?
  • Tu as passé une bonne journée ? = Have you had a nice day ?
  • Comment était ta journée ? = How was your day ?

Asking about the weekend:

  • Tu as passé un bon week-end ? = Have you had a nice weekend?
  • Tu as fait quoi ce week-end ? = What have you done this weekend?
  • Tu fais quoi ce week-end ? = What are you going to do this weekend?

Or farther away:

  • Tu fais quoi pour les vacances ? = What are you doing in the coming holidays?

And the most common, general question is: Quoi de neuf ? = What’s new? / What’s up?

Neuf is 9 in French, but it also means nouveau (= new.)Quoi d’neuf?” is really basic, but still really common. If the other person has some big news, it gives them time to share it, before talking about anything else.

3) Introduce yourself and ask personal questions

Je m’appelle Géraldine, et toi ? = I’m Géraldine, and you?
Je suis Australienne. Tu connais l’Australie ?= I’m an Australian. Do you know Australia?

  • Tu viens d’où ? = Where are you from?
  • Tu es d’ici ? = Are you from around here?
  • Tu habites à [Paris] ? = Do you live in Paris? (or any other city)
  • Tu fais quoi dans la vie ? = What do you do for a living ?

Finding other common ground:

  • Tu connais [Guillaume] ? = Do you know Guillaume (the friend who invited you there) ?
  • Comment tu connais [Guillaume] ? = How do you know Guillaume (the host) ?
  • Tu connais “Comme une Française” ? = Do you know Comme une Française?

4) Cultural differences: French small talk

French people don’t do as much small talk as other culture, like American people for instance.

French people would be surprised if you tried to strike a long conversation with the stranger sitting next to you at the theater, or at the airport. For French people, silence is more polite.

But it depends on the context, of course. So all the vocabulary I give you today is for when you’re meeting friends, or when you’re invited at a social event with French people, for example. In this kind of setting, everyone will be happy to talk to you and get to know you!

(Of course, I’m painting in broad strokes here. Many French people will talk to anyone anywhere, and many American people don’t enjoy small talk all the time either!)

Explore how to do French conversation and learn French the right way!
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