Accelerated French 101

For the Love of French

It's 10 pm - Do You Know Where Your French Dictionary Is?

Below are some colloquial French sample sentences.

Sample Sentences and Phrases

Two Questions: How good is your French, really? Are you able to perform in it on command?

At work, in front of colleagues, or people you're trying to impress, or trying to bluff? At an important business meeting, can you follow the rapid speech of native French speakers? How is your confidence level in the presence of native speakers?

You'd do research for a job interview, wouldn't you? Shouldn't you also prepare ahead of time for upcoming French-speaking situations? Something useful, something colorful?

Until you've had some experience doing it, using a new foreign language in public is one of the most difficult things in the world. Try preparing for the ordeal in advance.

Where's My Vocabulary When I Need It?

One way to deal with public speaking is to use ready-made phrases and sentences - stock utterances and phrases you can work into a conversation or a situation. Think interjections, comments, responses.

Useful Exclamations, Pronouncements, Proverbs & Musings
French English
Il n'y a pas de fumée sans feu Where there's smoke, there's fire
Craignez les retombées Watch out for repercussions
Je ne peux pas le remettre I cannot place him
Morte la bête, morte le venin Dead men tell no tales
Qui sème le vent récolte la tempête He who sows the wind reaps the whirlwind
Quelle embrouillamini! What a pretty kettle of fish!
Je n'y peux rien I can't do a thing about it
Il ne faut perdre la peau de l'ours Don't count your chickens before they're hatched
A qui le dites-vous! You're telling me!
Là -dessus Thereupon,
Un tant soit peu Just a bit
A peu près Just about
Il n'y a pas de quoi rire! That's no joke!
Il ne faut pas juger à la légère One mustn't jump to conclusions
Laissez tomber! Let it ride!
Pas vrai? Right?
Du coup, As a result,
Ne vous en déplaise, monsieur! With all due respect, sir!
Soit dit entre nous, Between you, me and the lampost,
Je le lui écrirai en toutes lettres I'll spell things out for him
Les conseilleurs ne sont pas les payeurs Advice comes cheap
J'ai pas envie d'être mêlé à  cette querelle I don't want to get dragged into that quarrel
Il va se faire savonner la tête He's going to get chewed out
On dit qu'il manque du poigne They say he's not very forceful
Elle peut tenir son rang dans n'importe quelle conversation She can hold her own in any conversation
Il a réussi à  bousiller toutes ses chances He managed to muff every chance he got
Cette estimation était loin du compte That guess was way off
Que voulez-vous que cela lui fasse? What difference do you think that makes to him?
Si j'étais que de vous, If I were in your shoes,
A vôtre place, If I were you,
Elle n'a pas cessé de débiter des fadaises She kept on reeling off platitudes
Cette explication n'a ni queue ni tête That explanation just doesn't add up
J'y suis! I get it!
Elle me déroute toujours I can't figure her out
Il nous a donné entendre qu'il reviendrait He led us to believe he'd come back

Conversation Topics

How you're feeling, what the world's been doing to you, your thoughts on certain people, and what should happen to certain other people... memorable, witty, crucial, sarcastic, possibly ominous things said to, by, of, or about colleagues.

Verbal Reflections
French English
Elle est la cinquième roue du carrosse She's utterly useless
Je m'interroge sur mon avenir ici I have doubts about my future here
Il ne faut jurer de rien Nothing is certain
Voilà  un garçon d'avenir There's a man with a future
A quoi rêvez-vous? A penny for your thoughts
Ma vielle est fâchée contre moi My old lady's mad at me
Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir An ounce of prevention
Il ne faut jurer de rien Nothing is certain
Détrompez-vous! Wise up!
Et ça c'est la verité pure et simple And that's the plain unvarnished truth
En l'ocurrence, In this case/at this juncture,
Elle pétille d'esprit She sparkles with wit
Rideau! Enough, already!
Il a la grace d'un éléphant He's like a bull in a china shop
C'est un morfale He's a regular chowhound

Bluffing for Business

Here's where you team up with a colleague, assistant, or secretary to whisper French to each other as your rivals look on, straining to hear:

Meetings, Lunches, Socializing
French English
Pour le moment ce ne sont pas les discussions qui importent For the time being, let's not discuss that matter
Jusque ici c'est bien So far, so good
C'est l'heure, allons-y Time's up; let's go
Tout cela c'est des vielles lunes All that is old hat
Cette théorie a fait son temps That theory has had its day
J'en doute Fat chance!
Quel gobe-mouches! What a chump!
Qui rien ne sait, rien ne doute Ignorance is bliss
Alons, mettez-vous à la page Get with it!
Je pige I dig
J'ai fini par me dessaler I finally wised up
C'est un puits de science She's a walking encyclopedia
Détrompez-vous! Wise up!
Je ne sait pas que faire pour commencer I don't know what to do for an opener

When you find yourself seated next to, or in the midst of, native speakers:

Those Business Lunches and Dinners
French English
Je n'aime pas déjeuner sur la pouce I don't like eating on the run
Voilà  un rôti de bonne mine There's a good-looking roast
Il me faut une minute pour un brin de toilette I need a minute to freshen up
More Sayings
French English
çela m'est sorti de l'esprit It slipped my mind
Son nom me rappelle quelque chose, mais je ne peux pas le remettre His name rings a bell, but I can't place him
Je suis puni où j'ai pêché I got what was coming to me
Elle se conduit commme une chatte en folie She has the morals of an alley cat
C'est un vieux polisson He's a dirty old man
Dès qu'il parle, on voit qu'il a de la branche When he speaks you can tell he comes from a good family
Quel mufle! What a skunk!
Cette jeunesse est bien mal policée Young people nowadays have no manners
Son patron l'a fichu dehors The boss gave him the ax
La loi du plus fort est toujours la meilleure Might makes right
Nous ne conaissons pas encore sa régulière We don't know his better half yet
Ils avaient pactisé avec l'ennemi They made a deal with the enemy
Il est inscrit au chômage depuis le mois dernier He's been drawing unemployment since last month
Je m'interroge sur mon avenir I have doubts about my future

Trick: The above conversational riffs are one-liners designed to give you a toehold in conversations. You memorize them one at a time, by having a list of them in your pocket, tucked into file folders, scribbled on file cards or on business cards, taped to your car's dashboard.

When you've gotten accustomed to using phrases and sentences, upgrade to the absolute best technique, the pinnacle of language practice: memorizing entire paragraphs, dialogues, ad monologues. They can be from anything, and they'll get you inside the guts of a foreign language better than anything.

Other Resources

Below are some sources for French dialogues and important vocabulary.


French Web Radio

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