It’s not a phonetic language, so words are not pronounced as their spelling might suggest which can leave English speakers as flummoxed as those foreign language speakers who have to battle through the vagaries of English pronunciation.
Spare a thought to people who have to learn the different pronunciations in words like ‘rough’, ‘through’, ‘cough’, ‘bough’ and so on. For those struggling with French pronunciation and how to say French phrases and words, I’ve put together this guide to the most commonly asked queries.
For every French word or phrase I have given you both the audio and the phonetic spelling so you can learn how to pronounce these words easily.
How To Say How Are You In French
Brace yourselves, there is no simple answer! The first thing you must know if you haven’t studied French, or your French is hazy to say the least, is how to say you in French. In French there are two forms for ‘you’.
One is the polite, more formal ‘vous’ (pronounced voo), and the informal ‘tu’ (pronounced like a short ‘to’ – listen to the audio). Whether you vousvoyer (use ‘vous’) or tutoyer (use ‘tu’) is a matter of context.
If you are addressing an older person, or someone in a shop, or someone in authority, the correct form to use is vous.
If only all you had to worry about was the ‘you’ part, but alas, the verb also changes depending on which version you use. Use both the with phonetic spelling and audio to help you get the pronunciation of these two forms of ‘you’ correct.
How to say How are you in French in the formal ‘vous’ form
- Comment allez-vous
- koh:mah~ ah:lay voo
If someone says this to you in French you can reply with:
Bien, et comment-allez vous
- byah~ eh koh:mah ah:lay voo
How to say How are you in French in the informal ‘tu’ form’
Comment vas-tu is the correct French, but it’s very seldom used.
kom:mah~ vah tu (tu more like in ‘tuba’)
Nearly everyone abbreviates the informal how are you to ça-va, and it’s easy to remember because is someone says it to you, all you have to say back is ‘oui, ça va’, which is the equivalent of ‘I’m fine’.
wee sah vah
How To Say Very Good In French
Bien means ‘well’ and ‘good’ in French and is the perfect reply when someone asks you how are you in French./p>
They don’t want your life history when you offer this greeting, it really is just a formality, especially if you don’t know them well. Follow the phonetic spelling and audio pronunciation for a guide how to say good in French.
If you want to say ‘very good’ in French you say
How To Say And In French
In French ‘and’ is very easy and simple to remember: the word is et and it is phonetically pronounced eh. Don’t ever pronounce the ‘t’.
There is something called liaison in French where a silent letter at the end of a word is sometimes pronounced to link it to the next word. You never ever make a liaison with et in French.
The most common example English people struggle with is the brand of champagne called Moet et Chandon. There are always arguments over whether it is pronounced moh:ay eh shah~:don~ or moh:et eh shah~:don~.
Some bright sparks get to the right pronunciation using the wrong reasoning. They claim that you pronounce the ‘t’ in Moet because you are making a liaison with et.
That is incorrect, this never happens in French. The reason that Moet is pronounced with a hard ‘t’ is that the name is Dutch and not French in origin, so it does not follow the traditional French pronunciation.
Feel free to correct anyone who gets this wrong with authority!
Moet et Chandon
moh:et eh shah~:do~
How To Say I In French
It’s very easy to say ‘I’ in French, it’s just a question of getting the pronunciation right. The French word for I is je.
You pronounce the ‘j’ like the ‘s’ in treasure, and the ‘e’ is a neutral vowel, also known as a schwa.
Don’t let those terms alarm you. You don’t say the ‘a’ in China like you do in and. That’s because in China it’s a neutral vowel.
The neutral vowel on the ‘a’ is the reason you say Norman and not nor:man. There is also a neutral vowel in the. Basically, a neutral vowel is an ‘uh’ sound rather than the normal vowel sound.
How To Say ‘Happy‘ In French
Let’s use ‘I am’ which we’ve just learned to say ‘I’m happy’. What you have to be careful of here is that the French word for ‘happy’ changes depending on your gender.
So, if you are male, you say:
je suis heureux
zhə swee ɜ:rɜh
And if you are female, you say
je suis heureuse
zhə swee ɜ:rɜhz
The ‘eu’ makes the ‘u’ sound in ‘purr’, the ‘i’ sound in ‘stir’, and the ‘ea’ sound in ‘pearl’ in English. I use a symbol to represent the sound, because you never find it without an ‘r’ present in English, so there is no simple way to spell the world phonetically.
I try to use symbols only where absolutely necessary because the International Phonetic Alphabet is so intimidating to laymen.
How To Say Me In French
The French word for me is moi. It’s not hard to pronounce once you get your head around the fact that in French ‘oi’ is pronounced like ‘wah’, always.
English speakers often can’t imagine how this combination of letters can make such a different sound, but if you were coming from another Romance language like Italian or Spanish, it would sound more normal.
For English speakers, it’s just of those things to remember, and fortunately it always applies.
French is known as the language of love, so if there is one phrase you should get right, it’s how to say ‘I love you’ in French.
It’s very easy, even though the spelling may be offputting, the pronunciation is dead easy.
Speaking of love, you may be wondering how to say love in French.
Pronounce the ‘mour’ in ‘amour’ like the English word ‘moor’. The French roll the ‘r’, but if you haven’t practised it, it’s best just to say it the way you normally pronounce an ‘r’ in your own accent.
If you speak Received English, the ‘r’ will be silent, and if you speak, say, American English, you roll it as usual. Dealing with the French ‘r’ in this way is far better than sounding pretentious or comical, both of which can happen if you aren’t well-practised in this sound which isn’t natural to English speakers at all.
The answer is:
‘Mon’ means ‘my’ and you don’t normally pronounce the ‘n’, you nasalize it.
When you say ‘mon amour’ you make a liaison between the ‘n’ and the ‘a’, and this causes the ‘n’ to be sounded as you would expect it to be in English.
How To Say I Love In French
If you just want to say ‘I love’ as in ‘I love Paris’ you say ‘j’aime Paris’ zhem pah:ree
How To Say I Like In French
You can also use j’aime in the sense of liking something. If you want to say I like something very much, you say j’aime bien. For example, you could say ‘I like croissants very much’.
In French you say ‘j’aime bien les croissants’. The phonetic spelling is zhem byah~ leh krwah:sah~
How To Say The In French
It’s important to know how to say the in French because it is used more often than in English. For example, if you are talking about ‘love’ in general, you don’t say ‘the love’ in English, but you do in French.
The problem with ‘the’ is that it changes depending on the gender of the noun it precedes.
The feminine gender of the is la and the masculine gender is le. If the word that follows ‘le’ or ‘la’ starts with a noun, you abbreviate the spelling to ‘l’’.
Amour is a masculine noun, starting with a vowel, so you contrace ‘le’ and say l’amour, not ‘le amour’.
How To Say A In French
Just as you change the gender of ‘the’ in French, you have two versions for ‘a’.
The masculine gender of a is un phonetically pronounced ɜ~, for eg un chien a dog
The feminine gender of a is une phonetically pronounced ewn, for eg une fille a girl
Let’s say you want to say something like ‘a great love’, you say ‘un grand amour’
How To Say Girl In French
It’s a little tricky to give you a phonetic spelling, so listen to the audio alongside. The closest I can get is by saying pronounce it ‘feey’.
It’s a ‘fee’ sound with a slight, almost imperceptible ‘yuh’ sound at the end. The main thing is not to pronounce the ‘ll’ or the ‘e’, so you can get away with ‘fee’.
How To Say Are In French
In the plural ‘they are’ form, you also distinguish between a group of women and girls or female objects, and a group of men, boys and male objects as follows:
Elles sont el soh~
Ils sont eel so~
If the ‘they’ you are referring to is a mixed group of men and women, then you use the masculine form, ils sont
If you had to translate the French word for why literally, it would mean ‘for what?’ ‘Pour’ is French for ‘for’ and ‘quoi’ means ‘what’, but put them together and you have the French word for ‘why’.
How To Say Do You Speak French In French
I’m just going to give you the formal ‘vous’ form of ‘do you speak’, because it’s unlikely that you will know the person you are asking well enough to use the ‘tu’ form.
The ‘vous’ form is also the plural, so you can use it to refer to a group of people or just one person without having to change the verb.
par:lay voo frah~:seh
How To Say French In French
French in French is a masculine noun, and it refers both to the language and to the French people in th singular and in the plural:
If you are using ‘French’ as an adjective to say ‘the French language’ then it must change gender to agree with ‘language’ which is a feminine noun.
If you were wondering how to say language in French, it’s quite simply ‘la langue’ as below.
la langue française
lah la~g frah:sez
le Français means ‘the Frenchman’, or ‘French’, or can be used as an adjective to describe masculine nouns in the singular:
les Français means ‘the Frenchmen’ plural, or can be used as an adjective to describe masculine nouns in the plural
la Française means ‘the French woman’, or can be used as an adjective to describe feminine nouns in the singular
les Françaises is plural ‘the French women’, or can be used as an adjective to describe feminine nouns in the plural.
How To Say English In French
If you are talking about the English without saying ‘the English language’, you say
If you are talking about the English language, you say
la langue Anglaise
lah la~g ah~:glez
If you are talking about the English, you say
How To Say England In French
How To Say I Have In French
The French for ‘I have’ is very easy. It’s also how you answer the question quel âge avez-vous?
J’ai means ‘I have’
J’ai trent ans means ‘I’m thirty years old’ or more literally, ‘I have thirty years’
zheh va~ ah~
How To Say Years In French
In French, the word for year is ‘an’ and the plural, years, is ‘ans’. Both the singular and the plural are pronounced identically:
How To Say Words In French
If you are referring to words generally in French, you say:
If you are referring to words which are in lyrics or poetry, you say:
How To Say On In French
sur close to ‘sure’ in English, use the audio as a guide to pronunciation
Looking for more French words or how to say the names of different drinks? We’ve got everything covered on the site – including important Bordeaux and champagne facts. And if we don’t, please let us know what you’d like us to add!