French people can seem a little cold sometimes.
But you can be enthusiastic and optimistic in French too.
Don’t just say “Oui” or “C’est bien.” – expand your joy vocabulary today!
Let’s dive in.
Want all the vocabulary of the lesson ?
1) Enthusiasm stereotypes: French vs. US
From a French point of view, the stereotype goes like this:
- American tourists are cheerful and enthusiastic.
- French people are stiffer and colder (especially Parisian people.)
But of course:
- It doesn’t apply to everyone.
- There’s a ton of other explanations and selection effects and bias.
- It might not even be true in average.
- Even if it’s true, it’s nothing to be ashamed of!
It’s great really. That’s why today I’m giving you tools and ready-made sentences to express positivity in French.
But sometimes, some French people can get wary about too much positivity. They’ll be afraid it’s a bit fake, and they might judge or mistrust you.
But why would French people be less enthusiastic?
Well, some studies do find that French people do tend to be less optimistic than other Western countries.
And French society maybe rewards confrontation more than empathy and agreement. Maybe here conflict is expected, and seen as a good sign – the common trope of “We like to have heated debates, but then we all come together for a good meal and it’s forgotten.”
Whereas in the US, conflict might be seen as aggression?
But you know, that’s all conjecture.
One last reason is more important.
In French society, relationships often take more time to build. You don’t become un ami (= a friend) in a day. And that’s why too much enthusiasm feels suspicious. It feels like jumping over the time it takes to really open up to someone.
You often can’t fast-track friendship in France – but that means that friendship can be deeper and stronger.
In the video, I mention the fascinating book Conflict is Not Abuse, by Sarah Schulman.
Another fascinating conjecture is that mostly optimistic European people moved to America, and that changed the culture on both continents. See the study by Anne Sofie Beck Knudsen on Sweden: Those Who Stayed: Individualism, Self-Selection and Cultural Change During the Age of Mass Migration.
2) How to show enthusiasm in French
OK, that being said: if you want to express enthusiasm, go for it.
And you don’t have to settle for a simple “Oui !” either.
For instance, you can try:
- Incroyable ! = Incredible!
- Fantastique ! = Fantastic!
- Magnifique ! = Magnificent, splendid!
And the highest praise:
…Pas mal. = Not bad.
For everyday enthusiasm, like hearing a piece of good news, you could also use the common:
- Oh super ! = Wonderful!
- C’est génial ! = It’s great!
- Top ! = Nice!
- Stylé ! = “Stylish!” (colloquial)
- Trop bien ! = “Great!” (colloquial)
Trop = literally “too much” = colloquially “very” (but more)
→ Je suis très contente. = I’m very happy / That’s good.
→ Je suis trop contente ! = I’m so happy! / That’s fantastic!
More formal French:
Je suis si contente ! = Je suis tellement contente ! = I’m so happy!
More colloquial French: Using English words, like Yes ! or especially Cool.
More formal French:
- Merveilleux ! = Wonderful!
- Extraordinaire ! = Extraordinary!
- Sublime ! = Sublime!
- Splendide ! = Splendid!
In the video, I use footage of Orson Welles that’s been used in the mixed-parody-redubbing French movie La Classe Américaine (1993) (link to the full movie on Youtube.)
La classe ! = “How elegant, classy.”
3) Gratitude and congratulations
- Oh merci ! = Oh, thank you!
- Oh c’est trop gentil ! = Oh, that’s too nice!
- Oh c’est super sympa ! = Oh that’s really nice! (more informal) → Sympa : short for sympathique = friendly, likeable.
- Bravo !
- Félicitations ! = Congratulations!
- Je suis trop contente pour toi ! = I’m so happy for you!
4) Cheerful agreement
When a French friend suggests a good idea, or a good plan:
- C’est une super idée ! = That’s a great idea!
- Bonne idée ! = Good idea.
- Ce serait génial ! = That would be amazing!
- Ce serait trop bien ! = That would be amazing.
- Ce serait fantastique ! = That would be fantastic!
Notice le conditionnel (the conditional grammar tense):
Ce serait = It would be.
Or say that you’re looking forward to doing this:
- J’ai hâte ! = I can’t wait.
- J’ai hâte de te voir ! = I can’t wait to see you!
- J’ai hâte que tu viennes ! = I can’t wait for you to come by!
- J’adorerais ça ! = I’d love that!
- Ce serait génial si tu venais dîner à la maison ! = That would be awesome if you came to have dinner at my place!
Diving in the grammar:
– J’adorerais ça. and Ce serait génial. are in the conditional.
– After Si (= If) we often have the imperfect (like in English) for a potential future situation: Si tu venais… = If you came…
J’ai hâte d’être là. = I can’t wait to be here. → Just like in English: “Je” is for for both parts of the sentence (“j’ai hâte” + “être là”), so “être” is in the infinitive.
J’ai hâte que tu sois là. = I can’t wait for you to be here. → The second part of the sentence isn’t for “Je”, so it’s in the subjunctive: “Tu sois là.”
You can find a full review of the French subjunctive in today’s extra lessons:
- French Grammar: French Subjunctive Made Easy
- How to Say Congratulations in French (The Right Way!)
- Never Say “Mon Ami” in French (And What to Say Instead)
À tout de suite.
I’ll see you in the next video!
→ 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 🙂
→ Double your Frenchness! Get my 10-day “Everyday French Crash Course” and learn more spoken French for free. Students love it! Start now and you’ll get Lesson 01 right in your inbox, straight away.