How to Speak Modern French

Many students have the goal of wanting to speak perfect French — but the truth is, that “perfect” French (aka the French you learned at school) doesn’t sound so good to French people! The stiff language of textbooks isn’t actually spoken in real life.

Today, I want to show you how easy it can be to switch from textbook French to real, everyday, modern French. We’ll start with just a few examples so you can see the differences for yourself.

Bonjour I’m Géraldine, your French teacher.
Welcome to Comme une Française.
I’m here to help you speak everyday modern French with confidence.

Learning goals: This is what you’ll be able to do after watching this lesson

  • Use a negative sentence the way we do in modern spoken French
  • Ask a question in everyday French
  • Discover more tips to speak modern French — and feel confident doing it!

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1) The negative sentence

Making a negative sentence in real, everyday spoken French is quite easy. Let’s start with a basic affirmation first:

Cécile mange la pomme. (= Cécile eats the apple)

You know about la négation already: ne + (verb) + pas
Well, in modern spoken French, we actually drop the ne !

So, when we switch from robotic “textbook French” to modern spoken French, the sentence becomes:

Cécile ne mange pas la pomme. (= Cécile doesn’t eat the apple.)
Cécile mange pas la pomme. (in modern everyday French)

Or, we might also say…

  • Cécile ne mange plus la pomme. (= She doesn’t eat the apple anymore.)
    → Cécile mange plus la pomme. (see the pronunciation of Plus !)
  • Cécile ne mange jamais la pomme. (= Cécile never eats the apple.)
    Cécile mange jamais la pomme.
  • Cécile ne mange aucune pomme. (= She doesn’t eat any apple.)
    Cécile mange aucune pomme.
  • Cécile ne mange rien. (= Cécile doesn’t eat anything)
    Cécile mange rien.

And that’s modern everyday spoken French! Easy, right?

Of course, you need the foundations of “textbook” French to learn the rules of French vocabulary and grammar and how it’s all structured when we write it down… But once you know those basics, it’s important to grow your knowledge and learn to speak modern French — the way real French people do in everyday life!

“Modern everyday spoken French” doesn’t mean slang, it doesn’t mean “vulgar”, and it suits all ages. It’s just the way real French people talk to each other — whether it’s between friends or at the boulangerie !

Ready for another example?

2) How to ask a “Yes / No” question

“Perfect” French asks questions with l’inversion : verb + subject + complement.

Well, in modern spoken French, we don’t even bother! Most times, we just use: subject + verb + complement + interrogation point.

For instance, Tu aimes les pommes. (= You like apples) becomes:
Aimes-tu les pommes ? (Correct French, but it sounds formal and heavy when spoken)
Tu aimes les pommes ? (Casual, modern spoken French)

Or Vous pouvez porter ma valise. (= A statement: You can carry my luggage)
Vous pouvez porter ma valise ? (= Can you carry my luggage, asking the question in casual, modern French)

It works at the third person as well! In this case, “correct, perfect” French uses the inversion and subject repetition, with dashes and a phonic “t” to compensate for the liaison. While modern spoken French just… doesn’t.

Cécile mange une pomme. (= Cécile is eating an apple.)
Cécile mange-t-elle une pomme ? (= Is Cécile eating an apple? Correct French)
Cécile mange une pomme ? (same question, but in modern spoken French)

It sounds too simple to be true, but it really works that way in everyday conversation!

You can also ask questions with interrogative pronouns, such as Que / Quoi (= What), Qui (= Who ?), (= Where ?)… In “correct French”, they’re placed at the beginning of the question, with a subject-verb inversion :

– Qui es-tu ? (= Who are you?)
– Qu’est-ce ? (= What is it?, high brow French)
Où es-tu ? (= Where are you?)

But, in modern spoken French, we often just ask as if we had a normal affirmation, except the interrogation pronoun becomes the complement (after the verb):

– Tu es qui ? (= Who are you?)
– C’est quoi ? (= What is it?)
– Tu es où ? (= Where are you?)

3) More examples of modern, everyday spoken French

In casual French, we don’t use Nous (= We) as a subject, we use On (= casual We.)

Nous aimons les pommes. (= We like apples, sounds formal and stuffy)
On aime les pommes. (= We like apples, in modern spoken French.)

Don’t forget, On uses the third-person conjugation (like Il / Elle = He / She). That’s another reason why it’s used so often: it makes your verbs shorter!

In casual spoken French, we also often shorten words by cutting their ends:

Un appartementUn appart (= an apartment, a flat)
Une après-midiUne aprem (= an afternoon)
Un restaurantUn resto (= a restaurant)
Une publicitéUne pub (= an ad)

And there are many more examples!

Finally, real French people often eat a lot of letters when speaking modern French! Any vowel that can be trimmed to speak faster, will be. Especially for subject pronouns.

That’s why Tu es où ? (= Where are you?, casual French) is actually pronounced “T’es où ?

Sometimes, you can have several variations to cut letters. For instance:

Je me suis trompée. (= “I made a mistake”, correct French)
J’me suis trompée. (spoken French pronunciation, Je is trimmed down)
Je m’suis trompée. (spoken French pronunciation, me is trimmed down)

Which letters are “eaten” and which aren’t (if at all) depends on personal habits and regionalisms. It’s often said that Parisian people cut down more letters than those who live in the South of France, for instance.

I don’t recommend you use these “modern French” tips for exams: your certification for A1, A2, B1, etc. But you should use them in real life! That’s how you’ll be able to climb from “textbook French” up to “modern everyday French.” And trust me — French people will notice the difference ;).

Remember: it’s not vulgarity! It’s merely real, authentic spoken French. You need to understand its quirks because you’ll hear it everywhere in France – and by using it yourself, you’ll be able to create better connections and fit in!

Over time, you’ll be able to learn what easy changes to make to sound more authentic and fluent when speaking French. It will be a BIG moment when you’ll say “Aha! I get it now – it works!”

You’ll see: modern French is easier than textbook French. And you’ll speak and understand French better!

If you missed last week’s lesson and you’re curious about modern spoken French, check out this short playlist on everyday spoken French that I put together for you.

A tout de suite.
See you in the next video!

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And now:

→ 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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Allez, salut 🙂

Join the conversation!

  • Bonjour Géraldine !
    C’est très utile et intéressant. Je l’utiliserai avec mes étudiants. Merci d’améliorer notre compréhension orale.
    Bonne journée,
    Anuj

  • Merci beaucoup Géraldine votre leçon est très utile
    Bonne journée j attend avec impatience pour le prochain leçon
    Anne

  • Merci Géraldine,
    Ce sont des conseils précieux pour ceux ont envie d’améliorer leur compréhension et expression à l’oral.

  • Double Your Frenchness

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