Brush Up Your French Before Traveling to France

If you’re planning a visit to France sometime soon, you probably want to brush up on your French before you go.

Sure, you could turn to language learning apps like Duolingo to help you practice. But if you’re someone who learned French decades ago in high school or college, you probably want to go beyond the basics and refresh your memory of vocabulary and phrases you’ll actually use during your travels.

I’m here to help! In today’s lesson, I’ll give you a summary of what to focus on if you want to revive your French ahead of your upcoming travels.

We’ll start with the basics that you need, then we’ll cover some full everyday scripts.

C’est parti.

1) Politeness

First of all, master your French words of politeness!

  • La politesse = politeness
  • Merci = Thank you
  • S’il te plaît / S’il vous
  • plaît = Please
  • Excusez-moi = Excuse me
  • Pardon / Je suis désolée = Sorry / I’m so sorry


  • Bonjour = Hello (during the day)
  • Bonne journée = Have a good day
  • Bonsoir = Good evening (as “hello” or “goodbye”)
  • Coucou = Hello (more informal, people you know)
  • Salut = Hello / Goodbye (also informal)
  • Au revoir = Goodbye

Click here to learn more:

2) Conjugation

Master the present tense for a few key verbs, such as :

Regular 1st-group verbs (in -er)

Marcher = to walk

Je marche         Nous marchons
Tu marches      Vous marchez
Elle marche      Elles marchent

Key irregular 3rd-group verbs

Aller = to go

Je vais         Nous allons
Tu vas          Vous allez
Elle va          Elles vont

Être = to be

Je suis           Nous sommes
Tu es              Vous êtes
Elle est          Elles sont

Avoir = to have

J’ai                    Nous avons
Tu as                Vous avez
Elle a               Elles ont

Prendre = to take

Je prends          Nous prenons
Tu prends          Vous prenez
Elle prend         Elles prennent

Pouvoir = can

Je peux            Nous pouvons
Tu peux           Vous pouvez
Elle peut         Elles peuvent

The extra mile: practice conjugation with scripts

You’ll remember your conjugation better if you create sentences with the verbs. And this can help you learn useful short sentences for your conversations in France, too!

For example:
J’ai faim = I have (hunger)” = I’m hungry
Tu as raison. = You have (reason)” = You’re right
Elle a quarante ans. = She has forty years” = She’s forty.
(or On a gagné ! ) = We won! (informal “we”, 3rd person)
Nous avons préparé votre chambre. = We’ve prepared your room. (formal “We”)
Vous avez des tomates ? = Do you have tomatos? (formal “you”, for staff in shops and markets for instance)
Elles ont des billets. = They have tickets.

In “Vous avez des tomates ?”, notice that in everyday spoken French, we often don’t invert subject and verb in the question.

Click here to learn more:
Understand Fast Spoken French: Questions Aren’t Obvious 

3) Scripts: Short full sentences you’ll need in France

Pick one example for each situation and practice it until you master it.

Asking for directions:

  • Bonjour, excusez-moi, où est [la gare] ? = Hello, excuse me sir (or madame), which way is the railway station?
  • Bonjour, excusez-moi, vous savez où est la rue [Crémieux] ? = Hello, excuse me, do you know where is the Crémieux street ?
  • Bonjour, pardon, vous savez où je peux trouver un supermarché ? = Hello, sorry, do you know where I could find a supermarket?
  • Bonjour, excusez-moi, je cherche [la station de métro], vous pourriez m’aider s’il vous plaît ? = Hello, excuse me, I’m looking for [the metro station], could you help me please?
  • Bonjour, excusez-moi, je suis perdue. C’est par où [la tour Eiffel] ? Merci ! = Hello, excuse me, I’m lost. Which way to the Eiffel tower? Thanks!

Asking for help in a store (to find what you need) :

  • Bonjour (excusez-moi,) où sont les brosses à dents ? = Excuse me, where are the toothbrushes? (if their job is to help you, you don’t need “excusez-moi” as much.)
  • Bonjour, vous avez [des cartes postales] ? = Hello, do you have postcards?
  • Bonjour, je cherche [les parfums], vous pourriez m’aider s’il vous plaît ? = Hi, I’m looking for the perfume section, could you help me please?
  • Bonjour, vous vendez [des cartes postales] ? = Are you selling postcards?

Buying in a store (like la boulangerie) :

  • Bonjour, je voudrais une baguette s’il vous plaît. (Merci !) = Hello, I’d like a baguette please. Thank you!
  • C’est combien, le croissant ? = How much does a croissant cost?
  • Il est à combien le croissant ? = same, more informal
  • Combien coûte le croissant s’il vous plaît ? = same, more formal

Et avec ceci ? / Ce sera tout ? = “What else are you you going to buy?” / “Will it be all?” :

  • Je vais aussi vous prendre un pain au chocolat. = I’ll also have a pain au chocolat.
  • Ce sera tout, oui. Je vais payer par carte. = Yes, that’s all. I’ll pay by card.
  • Ce sera tout, merci. Je vais payer en liquide. = Yes, that’s all. I’ll pay with bills and coins.

Le (paiement) sans-contact = contactless payment, where you don’t need to input your credit card PIN.

Order food in a restaurant:

  • Vous avez quoi, en plat végétarien ? = Which vegetarian dishes do you have on the menu? or
  • Je vais prendre [le plat du jour], s’il vous plaît. = I’ll have the daily special, please.  and in the end:
  • L’addition, s’il vous plaît. = check please!

Click here to learn more:

Scripts to make small talk in French:

  • Vous passez une bonne journée ? = Are you having a good day ?
  • Quels endroits est-ce que vous me recommandez ? = Which places would you recommend?
  • Il fait chaud aujourd’hui ! = The weather is hot today!
  • Vous êtes depuis longtemps dans la région? = Have you been living in the area for a long time?
  • C’est une ville très jolie ! = It’s a really beautiful city.

Scripts to make sure you’re being understood:

  • Pouvez-vous répéter s’il vous plaît ? = Can you repeat, please?
  • Est-ce que je prononce cela correctement ? = Am I pronouncing this correctly?
  • Comment ça se dit en français ? = How do you say this in French?
  • Ça veut dire quoi, [papillon] ? = What does [papillon] mean ? (It’s a butterfly)
  • Je ne trouve pas le mot en français. = I can’t find the word in French.
  • J’ai du mal à comprendre, pouvez-vous parler plus lentement, s’il vous plaît ? = I’m having trouble understanding, can you speak slower, please?
  • J’essaie d’améliorer mon français, pouvez-vous me corriger si je fais des erreurs ? = I’m trying to improve my French, can you correct me if I make mistakes?


Keep on learning more everyday scripts to prepare your trip to France – or just to reconnect with the language!

Click here to get your next lesson:

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

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Join the conversation!

  • Excellent lesson and super-timely, as my traveling companion and I just arrived in Paris! I speak a bit of French but my last visit to Paris was in the ‘90s, so this is a very helpful refresher.

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