Traditional recipes

7 French Food Terms You Should Know

7 French Food Terms You Should Know

Whether you’re dining at a French restaurant in Paris, France, or Paris, Texas, knowing these terms come in handy

In French, "amuses bouche" translates to “mouth amusers.”

We’re all familiar with the experience of sitting down at a table at a French restaurant after a long wait, scanning the menu and… wait, what’s that? Is it vegetarian? I like all the other things in this dish, but what if this mystery ingredient makes it taste weird? You take out your phone to Google it, or decide to wait until your server arrives to ask him or her to enlighten you.

Imagine going to a restaurant and not having to do that. Instead of fumbling for your phone, you can impress your guest with your gourmand’s tongue. This list gives you the very basics of a French menu, as well as a few terms you might not come across too often — but when you do, you’ll look even more impressive.

Click Here For 7 French Food Terms You Should Know Slideshow


This is a term you should know not necessarily because you’ll come across it very often, but because it is a linguistic delight: it translates to “mouth amuser.” This is traditionally a very small course — just one or two bites — that the chef sends to the table shortly after you sit down. You’ll most often see it in very high-end restaurants.


Amandine indicates a dish that has been sprinkled with almonds. It may not seem essential, but if you or your dining companion has a nut allergy, you’ll definitely want to know this word.

19 French Foods You Should Stop Trying to Pronounce and Just Start Eating

Clafoutis, bouillabaisse, and confit de canard are all delicious French dishes that you should definitely eat. But do yourself a favor – don’t try to pronounce them. Even ones you may think you know how to pronounce (hint, crêpes and macarons), you’re still probably pronouncing them incorrectly. It’s okay, though. Stop worrying about the pronunciation and just give these 19 foods a try… you won’t regret it.

1. Boeuf Bourguignon [Buff bohr-gee-nyon]

Photo courtesy of

This classic French dish is a beef stew made in red wine with bacon, onion, and mushrooms. It was made popular by the famous Julia Child. If you ever find yourself in a French restaurant with this on the menu, you won’t regret ordering it. But please, just point, don’t try to pronounce it.

2. Bouillabaisse [Boo-yah-bes]

Photo courtesy of

A traditional fish stew, usually featuring at least three types of fish: red rascasse, sea robin, and European conger – a favorite for shellfish lovers.

3. Clafoutis [Clah-foo-tee]

Photo courtesy of

A baked French dessert made of fruit, typically black cherries, and covered with a thick, flan-like custard. It’s not very common in French restaurants, so believe me when I tell you: try it if you find it.

4. Confit de Canard [Con-fee de Cah-narh]

Photo courtesy of

Considered one of the finest French dishes, duck confit is a dish made with the whole duck. If you’re lucky, you might even get some potatoes fried in the leftover duck fat on the side. Yummy.

5. Coq au Vin [Coke oh vahn]

Photo courtesy of

One of my personal favorites, coq au vin is a chicken dish braised in wine with mushrooms, pearl onions, and sometimes garlic. The French like their wine.

6. Crêpes [Krep]

Photo courtesy of

No, it’s not “krape.” Although these delicious sweet or savory thin pancakes are immensely popular even in the United States, you were still probably saying it wrong.

7. Croissant [Cwah-sahn]

Photo courtesy of

Just like crêpes, these flaky pastries are also very popular around here but are often mispronounced. There’s no good way to explain it except to put on your best French accent and you’ll probably be halfway there.

8. Croque-Monsieur [Krohk mih-syurr]

Photo courtesy of

If you can find a really good Croque-Monsieur, it is a perfectly fried ham and cheese sandwich with butter and oftentimes a mustard sauce. Its cousin, the croque-madame, is the same deal but with a fried egg on top. Boom.

9. Foie Gras [Fwah Grah]

Photo courtesy of

Considered a French delicacy, foie-gras is a dish made of the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened. Once again, when ordering, do yourself a favor and just point at the menu. It’s not foy-grass.

10. Gougères [Goo-jehrr]

Photo courtesy of

So many things could go wrong when pronouncing this savory pastry, but you won’t regret trying it. Having made these myself several times, I can attest to the greatness of combining cream puff dough with several types of cheese, mustard, and other herbs.

11. Haricot Vert [Ar-ee-koh Verr]

Photo courtesy of

Yes, these are just green beans. But you’re probably not saying it correctly and the French usually stir-fry these with butter and fresh herbs. Everything is better with butter, really.

12. Jambon-beurre [Jahm-bonn Burr]

Photo courtesy of

Literally, this means ham-butter. In French, it is a popular sandwich made with a baguette, butter, ham, and oftentimes cheese. Yes, it’s just a ham and cheese sandwich, but the French do it better, trust me. Like I said, everything’s better with butter, right?

13. Kouign Amann [Queen Ah-mann]

Photo courtesy of

A flaky pastry made with puff pastry and layers of butter and sugar, then sprinkled with some sugar on top. Difficult to make and pronounce, but very easy to overeat.

14. Macarons [Mac-ah-rohn]

Photo courtesy of

Like crêpes and croissants, many of you have probably tried these, but you’re all probably saying it wrong too (no shame). It’s mac-ah-rohn. Macaroons are the dense coconut ones found in bakeries around here, macarons are the much more difficult to make, light and airy sandwiches native to France.

15. Poutine [Poo-teen]

Photo courtesy of

Probably the least heard of on this list, and yet the most worth trying. This dish is french fries with cheese and gravy. The gravy is sometimes even made from animal fat, such as duck. It’s most popular in Canada, but if you ever see this on your menu, close it right away and order this, then thank me later.

16. Salade Niçoise [Sah-laad Nee-swahzz]

Photo courtesy of

Simply a salad made with tomatoes, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, Niçoise olives, and anchovies, dressed with a vinaigrette. Even if you’re not a salad person, you’re guaranteed to still love this.

17. Soupe à L’Oignon [Soup oh luh-nyohn]

Photo courtesy of

Probably my favorite on this list, French onion soup is made with beef stock and onions cooked in butter, then topped with slices of various cheeses and croutons or a baguette. I’ve made this at home and practically licked the bowl clean this is definitely worth trying.

18. Steak Frites [Stake freet]

Photo courtesy of

Simply a dish of steak and fries, yet never pronounced correctly. By that, I mean it’s not “frights.”

19. Tarte Tatin [Tart tah-tuhn]

Photo courtesy of

The French version of apple pie, but flipped upside down. Plus they caramelize the apples in butter and sugar before baking, so pretty much it’s infinitely better.

4) Basque-Style Chicken (Poulet Basquaise)

The Basque country is one of the richest regions of France in terms of cuisine. That is where they raise poultry, some rare breeds of chicken and duck specifically. The poulet basquaise is a full dish where the meat is made tender by use of “piperade”, a sauce made up of Bayonne ham, peppers, tomatoes and Espelette pepper.

Recipes to make your own basque-style chicken :

French Glossary

These classic terms appear frequently in the writing and discussion of French foods.

A la Meuniere: Meaning "in the style of the miller's wife" (who presumably had easy access to flour), this technique applies to fish that is floured, then sautéed in butter, and served with brown butter, lemon juice and parsley.

Aioli: A garlic flavored mayonnaise popular in Provence, in the south of France aioli is traditionally served as an accompaniment to vegetables and fish.

The French name for a water bath, a technique by which delicate foods such as custards are baked at a gentle, controlled heat: the food is placed, in its container, into a larger pan into which boiling water is poured. Then the pan is either placed in the oven, or on top of the stove. Bains-marie are also used in restaurant kitchens to keep foods warm.

Béchamel: A classic French white sauce made with milk, bound with a cooked flour and butter mixture called a roux, flavored with bay leaves, nutmeg and sometimes onion.

Beurre Blanc: A sauce made by reducing white wine with vinegar and shallots, then whisking in cold butter so that the mixture emulsifies into a thick, buttery sauce. A beurre blanc is a classic mate to poached fish.

Beurre Manié: A mixture of flour and softened butter, which, when whisked into sauces, acts as a thickener.

Beurre Noisette: Butter that has been cooked until it turns a golden brown color, often used to sauce fish.

Bisque: A shellfish soup, traditionally bound with rice.

Blanquette: A creamy stew, most famously of veal.

Bouquet Garni: Perhaps the most famous herb mix in French cooking, a bouquet garni is a combination of bay leaf, thyme, parsley and sometimes leek used to flavor stocks, stews, braises and soups. Traditionally, the herbs may be fresh or dried, and they are either tied up in a bundle with string (a leek leaf makes a convenient wrapper), or tied in cheesecloth.

Charcuterie: Cured meats and patés.

Chiffonade: A knife cut, by which herbs, lettuces and leafy greens are cut into very fine ribbons.

Confit: A technique originally of preserving, by which meat is cooked in its own fat, then stored covered in that fat. Duck confit is a traditional dish of southwestern France.

Clarified butter: Butter from which the milk solids have been skimmed. The solids having been removed, clarified butter can be heated to a higher temperature without burning, which makes it an excellent medium for sautéing.

Court Bouillon: A lightly flavored liquid used to cook fish and shellfish.

Crème Brulée: A rich egg custard, the top of which is sugared, and then heated so that the sugar melts to a crisp, caramel crust.

Deglaze (deglacer): A technique by which a liquid, usually wine, is added to a pan that has been used to roast or sauté, in order to pick up the bits that have caramelized on the bottom of the pan. Deglazing is often the first step in making a pan sauce.

Demi-glace: A stock that has been reduced until very concentrated.

En Croute: Food that is wrapped in a dough, and then cooked (e.g. beef Wellington).

En Papillote: Food that is cooked in a parchment (or sometimes aluminum foil) wrapping.

Fines Herbes: A classic mix of herbs — parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil — used in traditional French cuisine. (For example, an omelet "aux fines herbes" is an omelet that is flavored with that combination of chopped herbs.)

Foie Gras: The fattened liver of a specially raised duck or goose. Foie gras is often poached in a terrine mold, or cut raw into slices and sautéed.

Flambé: A technique by which alcohol is added to a dish and ignited, both for effect, and to burn off the alcohol.

Fond: Means a stock, in French.

Fondue: From the French "fondre", which means to melt. A dish of warm, melted cheese flavored with wine, into which bits of bread are dipped. Fondue can also refer to a meat dish, in which pieces of meat are cooked at the table in a pot of hot oil, or a dessert, in which pieces of fruit are dipped into warm, melted chocolate.

Ganache: A rich chocolate mixture made by combining chocolate and cream, used as a filling or icing.

The French word for ice cream.

Gougère: A type of choux pastry flavored with cheese, often served as an aperitif.

Gratiner: The technique by which a dish is browned under the broiler (such dishes are often called "gratins").

Julienne: A knife technique by which food is cut into slender, matchstick pieces.

Marinade: A liquid, often wine, flavored with herbs and aromatics, in which food is soaked in order to impart flavor. The marinade may also be used as a cooking liquid.

Mayonnaise: A cold, emulsified sauce made with oil, egg yolk and sometimes a little mustard there are innumerable variations and flavorings.

Mesclun: A mix of young lettuces and herbs.

The name for a mix of vegetables, usually carrot, onion and celery, roughly chopped, and used as a foundation for stocks, stews, soups, roasts, braises and sauce.

Mousse: A general word for any number of frothy, airy dishes, both sweet and savory, usually lightened with whipped egg whites or cream.

An egg dish made by whisking eggs with seasonings, cooking in butter until firm, then rolling to the classic omelet shape, with or without the addition of some filling.

Paté: A dish of finely or coarsely minced fish or meat, seasoned, and baked with or without a crust, in a mold.

Persillade: A mixture of chopped shallots, garlic and parsley, sometimes with the addition of breadcrumbs.

Pot au feu: A rustic dish of meat and root vegetables, poached in broth. Traditionally the broth is served first, as a first course, and the meat and vegetables are served later as the entrée.

Quadrillage: The technique by which foods are seared on the grill in a crosshatch pattern.

A mixture of butter and flour, cooked together, and used as a thickener.

From the French verb "sauter", to jump, a technique by which food is cooked quickly in hot fat.


It could be the unfortunate similarity of the words ‘offal’ and ‘awful’ that puts Anglophone diners off tripe, or it might just be the billowing white mess of it all that causes the distaste. The French, on the other hand, have a great appetite for stomach, preferring to cook it on a low heat for a long time and with lots of herbs and white wine. Tripe’s high-protein collagen content also makes it a brilliant health food. Somehow, though, it seems unlikely to catch on as the latest foodie fad anytime soon.

Tripe is a traditional dish from Normandy

Tete de Veau (Calf’s Head)

This one takes the cake for originality. It’s one of former president Jacque Chirac’s favorite dishes. Tete de Veau is a regional specialty, but you can find it in certain Parisian restaurants and bistros such as Le Rubis or Le Vaudeville (see restaurant information at the bottom of the page).

Smoked Ox Tongue

Known as ‘Langue Lucullus’ stuffed with foie gras, is one of the plates (along with Tete de Veau and frog legs which can be tried at Benoit.

Tripe (Veal Stomach) – French soul food

This can be really tasty when served up with boiled potatoes. You want to make sure the chef is competent. Tripe needs to be prepared in pristine conditions.


You’ll find these little rubbery critters on every seafood platter alongside the crayfish, the shrimp, and the crab. They look like snails, and you coax them out of their tiny shells with a toothpick sized utensil. The English word for this shell-dweller is winkle.

Frog’s Legs

In spite of their fame, these are not often found on Parisian menus these days. If you do find them, try them. Lightly sautéed, frog legs – taste like chicken. One place that serves frog legs (as well as ris-de-veau) is L’Escargot Montorgueil. And, of course, they also serve up the final weird food on our list – escargots.

Escargot – Snails

Snails are often served as a starter course, more often served nowadays outside of their shell in a rich sauce that you can lap up with a crust of bread (and the chef will forgive you this impolite table manner (because you’re showing appreciation for his sauce).

Ris de Veau (sweetbreads AKA calf’s pancreas)

This is an item that used to be common on menus in fine US restaurants up until the early seventies. Nowadays, the pancreas has been requisitioned by medical labs.

Perdrix (Partridge)

What better way to celebrate Christmas than devouring one of these birds that have been lured out of its pear tree?

Pintade (Guinea Fowl)

Pintade often replaces turkey as the festive fowl for holidays. Or you can have sautéed pintade for less formal occasions. Even if it isn’t a holiday, you may find guinea fowl on some menus, including the Ambassade d’Auvergne.


You’ll find pigeon on many fine restaurants’ menus, ie, Les Bouchons du 5eme. (No, these aren’t Paris pigeons).

Pigs’ feet i.e., Trotters, Pig’s snout, Pig’s cheek

If you’re a fan of pig parts, you need to go no further than the famed restaurant,

Au Pied du Cochon in Paris’ Centre Pompidou neighborhood. Here you can find just about every part of the pig you’d want to taste.

Boudin Noir (Blood sausage or blood pudding)

Ever since I first had blood pudding for an Irish breakfast, I’m a fan of this dish. In France, boudin noir is often serviced with diced potatoes, onions, and sometimes bits of apple.

My English neighbors are quick to point out that there’s nothing weird whatsoever about trotters (i.e., pig’s feet), just as there’s nothing weird about chitlins or tripe if that’s what you’ve grown up eating. However, for those of us who’ve grown up on Kraft macaroni and cheese, Swanson frozen dinners and roast beef and baked potatoes on Sunday night, simmered pig’s cheek seems oceans away from pigs-in-a- blanket.

During your stay in Paris, if you have an opportunity to try just one of these specialties, have yourself a food adventure. You may be pleasantly surprised.


Peter is the editor of France Travel Blog. He has traveled to France many times and is ready to share the knowledge in this travel guide for France.

Think You Know French Cuisine? Meet Modern French Cooking

Modern French chefs have deviated from tradition in wholly surprising — and delicious — ways!

For centuries, French cuisine was highly regimented, strictly codified, and easy to define. Known for a parade of courses from appetizer through main, cheese, and dessert for precise techniques and phenomenal attention payed to sauces for excellent ingredients and no small amount of theatrics, French cooking has long been hailed as perhaps the finest in the world. But there&aposs been a disturbance in the force.

Recently, contemporary French chefs have been deviating from the script and trying out some new and exciting culinary ideas. In fact, these days, many of Paris&apos top chefs hail from Japan, South America, England, or even the U.S., and two finalists for Le Fooding&aposs 2019 "Best Bistro" served up Asian fare rather than French.

If you want to bring some of what&aposs exciting to modern French chefs into your kitchen, check out the following tips and trends.

Simplified, Ingredient-Centered Cooking

These days, visit not just Paris but Copenhagen, New York, or London, and you&aposll find a lot of dishes where star ingredients do most of the talking.

"It&aposs the same thing that&aposs happening everywhere, except that France, as usual, is behind everyone else," explains Edward Delling-Williams, owner of Paris&apos Le Grand Bain.

Following the tenets of the locavore movement, and in contrast to ingredient sourcing driven by the enormous Rungis market just outside the city center, many modern chefs source from quality purveyors like Terroirs d&aposAvenir or directly from farms, while others, like Lo໼ Martin of Martin wine bar and Robert restaurant, grow their own produce outside the city.

"Buying directly from the producer has become indispensable," explains Martin. "A transformation is coming. Outside of Paris, shops selling only local products are developing, and even hypermarkets are selling local."

To show off a stellar ingredient, "you cook it, put it on the plate, and that's it."

With such incredible ingredients, it&aposs no surprise that ultra-simple dishes – sweet baby carrots roasted in butter and served with fresh, whole-milk yogurt fresh anchovies dusted in flour and fried – are on-trend in restaurants like Martin&aposs.

Jason Gouzy, chef-owner of Paris&apos Pantagruel restaurant, agrees that this trend is in full force, particularly in the trendy 10thਊnd 11thਊrrondissements. In these neighborhoods, he says, diners may be served plates containing exquisitely cooked vegetables or fish with no sides, sauces, or embellishments. To show off these "stellar products," he says, "you cook it, put it on the plate, and that&aposs it."

Daniel Rose, the American chef behind Paris&apos La Bourse et La Vie and New York&aposs Le Coucou, calls this ingredient-focused mentality "the engine of all French cooking," noting that contemporary chefs have taken something that was essential to classic French cooking and turned it up a notch with "a much broader definition of what is delicious."

"A basic illustration: The answer to amplifying flavor in the classic register is frequently through cream and butter," he says. "In contemporary French cooking, we open ourselves to new techniques like extraction and concentration and also ask whether or not the product even needs cooking or any additional ingredients to best express its innate qualities."

While classic French cuisine is known for its richness, this new approach means that contemporary fare is a lot lighter and more veggie-forward. It&aposs all about terroir, here: think Proven๺l extra-virgin olive oil, tiny Nyons olives, slate-gray Puy lentils grown in the volcanic soil of the Auvergne, cured Bayonne ham from the Basque region, and of course, the hundreds of excellent French cheeses.

It should go without saying that to recreate this sort of cuisine at home, you&aposll need to start with phenomenal ingredients.

"Whether classic or contemporary, French technique can only do one thing: amplify the innate nature of the product itself," explains Rose. "If the product is mediocre then any French technique applied to it will only make it more mediocre."

To try the same thing at home, combine a French triple-cream cheese like Brillat Savarin with homemade਋lack cherry jam, or braise baby artichokes and drizzle with French butter. Wrap slices of in-season Cavaillon melon with rich, meaty Bayonne ham, or toss together an earthy lentil salad with funky French goat cheese. Roast seasonal carrots with just a hint of five-spice powder, or enjoy grilled fresh cod with homemade garlic mayo made with top-quality, pasture-raised eggs.

French Food with an International Twist

Another trend you&aposll find in Paris restaurants from Le Grand Bain to Septime to Tomy&Co to Le Saint Sstien is French food with an international twist. Thanks to a host of international and well-traveled chefs, as well as chefs who have become inspired by the presence of top cooks from across the globe, today, lacto-ferments from Scandinavia meet Mexican mole, Korean gochujang, and Chinese XO sauce on Parisian plates.

"In contemporary French cooking," says Rose, "the vision of French cooking is broadened by the influence of what we have learned about the way other cultures define and amplify deliciousness as well as all of the thought and commentary on good food and cooking in general."

At Le Grand Bain, says Delling-Williams, the team often marries typically French ingredients and flavor profiles with Asian techniques and ingredients, using seaweed and algae to add flavor and texture to dishes or even adapting, say, a Thai cabbage salad with peanuts, fish sauce, and maltose by using French Brussels sprouts instead of cabbage, a lemon-butter emulsion, and crushed hazelnut praline, as Delling-Williams did at Au Passage nearly ten years ago.

"Everyone was like, that&aposs so amazing!" he recalls. "And essentially all I&aposd done was taken this Thai salad and just turned all the ingredients into something that everyone would kind of recognize."

Gouzy has taken similar liberties with local cuisine, taking inspiration from both his travels and from the multi-cultural landscape of modern Paris to create dishes like a Turkish-influenced shawarma — a staple Parisian street food — made with French veal sweetbreads and bບrnaise sauce.

French cuisine – just like all cuisines, just like language – has evolved.

For Gouzy and Delling-Williams, this time of change is long overdue.

"People are saying, well, we&aposre losing this old, traditional style of French cuisine," says Delling-Williams, "but you&aposre only talking about French cuisine of a certain era, that was defined by certain books and certain people."

"But French cuisine — just like all cuisines, just like language — has evolved," he continues. "And it&aposs taken a long time to get there."

To try the same thing at home, start with an essential French technique — like਋ບrnaise sauce — and add your own international spin, like using cilantro in place of tarragon. The same can be done by flavoring steak tartare with Thai flavors (lemongrass, cilantro, fish sauce, and ginger in place of capers, parsley, mustard, and sherry vinegar) or adding an unexpected spice, like star anise or ginger, to a classic stew like veal blanquette or� bourguignon. You can even add a Southern flair to਌lassic hollandaise with a kick of cayenne. Let your imagination — and your palate — be your guide!

Classic French Revitalized

Of course, there&aposs still room for classic French cuisine in Paris. In fact, to hear Gouzy tell it, it&aposs well overdue for a makeover. The secret to keeping it modern? Taking advantage of age-old recipes and techniques and revitalizing them for a new generation.

"We have millions and millions of ways of cooking depending on the region or influences from border countries or immigration," says Gouzy. "France has evolved. We need to modernize, but we can&apost forget where we come from."

"French food is never going to go away," says Delling-Williams. "The one thing that I would like more than anything is for more places to come back and do it properly."

Indeed, this is starting to become a local trend, with spots like Bouillon Pigalle, Brasserie Rochechouart, A l&aposEpi d&aposOr, or Rose&aposs La Bourse et La Vie revisiting what a classic French bistro should be. These restaurants are featuring old stalwarts like French onion soup, rum babas, and more with good-quality ingredients and time-honored French techniques. Even Martin is bringing some of these classics back, with winter dishes like veal blanquettes and stews or fish with beurre blanc sauce appearing alongside simpler plates. And you can do the same at home. Taking the time to perfect਌oq au vin,ਏrench onion soup, or quiche Lorraine is a true pleasure from which you can reap the rewards.

Classic French restaurant dining isn&apost just about the food and flavors — it&aposs also about the experience. In a classic French restaurant, sole meuniere is deboned by a practiced waiter tableside, and crêpes suzette are often flamb in front of your eyes. Gouzy has returned to these old-school theatrics, updating them for a new generation. And you can do the same at home! Consider flambéing਌rêpes suzette or steak au poivre to the delight of your friends and family.

For Gouzy, revitalizing these classics is a wonderful way to pay homage to France&aposs illustrious culinary past. "We can&apost rest on our laurels and our ancestors," he says. "We have to keep that taste of nostalgia… even if we&aposre nostalgic for things we&aposve never tasted!"

You’re probably wondering what are the most important basic words to learn first. So we have prepared more than 50 basic French words you should know as a beginner.

Words that can help you get around when meeting new people, traveling the world, etc.

We've previously talked about the power of learning the right words, instead of trying to learn as many words as possible. That's because studies have shown that learning the most common 1,000 words can familiarize you with 80-85% of any given language.

With that said, let's get on with sharing the most basic French words, starting with greetings.

Basic French Greetings

Each time you enter a shop or a café in France, it is important to greet the owners and staff by saying hello. The most polite way to do this is by saying bonjour. A more casual way to say ‘hi’ is to say 'salut'. French is a tricky language when it comes to pronunciation. One reason is because there are many silent letters in French. After six o’clock, you can start saying good evening (bon soir).

When you see somebody at the end of the day before you go off to sleep, you say good night (bonne nuit).

English French
Good day / Hello Bon jour
Hi Salut
Good evening Bon soir
Good night Bonne nuit
How’s it going? Comment ça va?
It’s going well. Ça va bien.
It’s not going well. Ça va mal.
Thank you Merci
You’re welcome De rien / Pas de quoi
Goodbye Au revoir

French Pronouns

When you start learning French, you’ll also want to learn the pronouns right away. This will be useful when learning about other people and talk about yourself. We have a couple of pointers to go over first. While both English and French have 'she' and 'he'.

In French, this carries forward to two forms of ‘they’. In English, the first person singular, ‘I’ is upper case, but in French, it is lower case unless placed at the start of a sentence.

French also has two forms of ‘you.’ One form is familiar and singular: 'tu'. You use it to speak to children and to people you know. Under times of urgency, we have heard French people switch from the polite form to the familiar form. The other form 'vous' is polite and plural. The ’s’ is silent.

Take a look at the chart below and notice the four times that a pronoun ends in the letter ’s’. All four times the letter ’s’ is silent.

English Pronouns French Pronouns
I je
we nous
you (singular, familiar) tu
you (polite, plural) vous
he Il
she elle
they (all male, or mixed company) ils
they (all female) elles

Asking Questions in French

When you start learning French, you’ll also want to learn how to ask questions. You will see below that some of these words start with the letters qu in French. The sound of ‘qu’ in French, for the words qui and quand, is like the letter k in English.

English French
Who Qui
What Quoi / Que
When Quand
Why Pourquoi
How Comment

You’ll see in the chart above that there are a couple of ways to say ‘what’? If you wanted to ask the one-word question, ‘what?’ you would use quoi.

If you wanted to ask a question such as ‘what is it?’ then you would ask, que ce que c’est? You would pronounce is something like, 'kes-ke-say'.

Essential French Nouns

Nouns are also a fundamental foundation to learn any language. French is a language where a noun is either masculine or feminine. The definite article, in English, is ‘the’. In French, it is la or le.

Each time you learn a new French noun, make sure to learn whether it is masculine or feminine. Le is masculine and la is feminine. The indefinite article in English is ‘a’. In French the masculine is un and the feminine is une.

For some items, such as water, milk, and bread, you would refer to them in French as some water, some milk, and some bread. That’s why on the list below, these words do not only include the article but also include the preposition de. It is important to use the whole expression, especially when asking for water. While the French word for water is 'eau', nobody says it as a stand alone word. It is pronounced something like the English word, ‘oh’.

So you will need to say ‘some water’ de l’eau, for French people to understand you.

Here is a list of 21 nouns that you will find useful right away.

English French
An apple Une pomme
A house Une maison
An office / a desk Un bureau
A pen Un stylo
A mobile phone Un (telephone) portable
A man Un homme
A woman Une femme
A meal Un repas
The breakfast Le petit déjeuner
The lunch Le déjeuner
The dinner Le dîner
The food La nourriture
A car Une voiture
A street Une rue
A clock / a watch Une horloge
A drink Une boisson
Water De l’eau
Milk Du lait
Bread Du pain
Wine Du vin
Cheese Le fromage

12 Most Important French Verbs

Below you will find a list of 12 important verbs to learn first. Notice that a couple of the French verbs have a circumflex accent.

Notice the words: connaître and être.

English French
To know (something) Savoir
To know (somebody) Connaître
To be Être
To have Avoir
To go Aller
To see Voir
To hear Écouter
To eat Manger
To drink Boire
To want Vouloir
To make / to do Faire
To be able to Pouvoir

Now that you have your first ten verbs, you’ll want to conjugate them so you can make a full sentence. It will take a while to learn how to conjugate French verbs. But don’t worry. The point is to make learning French fun. This isn’t an article about showing you conjugation tables for French verbs. Instead, we encourage you to practice whole sentences using different forms of these important French verbs.

Memorize whole sentences which use the verb conjugations for different pronouns. You can make some flash cards to get used to some complete sentences with the vocabulary included in this article. You’ll find that Memrise has pre-built cards already set up. You can also consider Anki for flashcards on your mobile device.

Practice time: Examples

Let’s get started with a few examples.

  • Who wants an apple? Qui veut une pomme ?
  • I want an apple. Je veut une pomme.
  • What is that? Que ce que c’est?
  • It’s a house. C’est une maison.

When something is happening in French, you can use être en train de. It’s similar to using an -ing form in English. Take a look at the following examples:

  • Who is eating the food?
  • Qui est en train de manger la nourriture?
  • She is eating the food?
  • Elle est en train de manger la nourriture.
  • What are you eating (single, familiar)?
  • Qu’est ce que tu manges.

From the above example, you see that there are a couple of ways to ask the same question. You can either reverse the verb and the pronoun, just like in English when people ask ‘are you’, ‘do you’, ‘can you’? You can also use the expression 'est-ce que' + 'the pronoun'.

  • Where is the pen?
  • Où est le stylo?
  • They have the pen.
  • Ils ont le stylo.
  • Do you want some milk?
  • Est-ce que tu veux du lait? or Veux-tu du lait?
  • No thanks.
  • No merci.
  • I want to learn French.
  • Je veux apprendre le français.

We tricked you with that last sentence, because we hadn’t introduced the words for ‘learn French’ earlier in this article. But if you picked that up, extra golden stars!

Hope you enjoyed this mini-guide on basic French words.

If you want more practice and some simple exercises in French, check out our guide on Exercises for Speaking French.

French Foods

Once you get a taste for this stuff, you will never want to turn back: Roquefort, Cantal, Neufchatel, Meunster, Comté, and on and on.

An introduction to wine, champagne and liqueurs to help guide you through your own taste experiences.

With so many regional specialties, learning about French food is a never ending process. Take a gastronomic tour around France.

Learn about the most popular foods in France including foie gras, duck confit, Camembert cheese and many other famous foods.

Learn about the most popular foods in France including foie gras, duck confit, Camembert cheese and many other famous foods.

If you have a particular question about French food or a recipe, you can ask me here.

French phrases you need to know

If you’re told to ‘mind you own onions’ or ‘go cook yourself an egg’, you’ve clearly made a French person get ‘mustard up their nose’. Here’s a few French phrases that you should know.

The French food obsession goes beyond aged cheeses, hearty recipes and bodied wines – it infuses every part of French culture right down to the phrases. If you want to fit in like a French local, there’s no better way than turning to the nation’s top obsessions: language and food.


Lingoda is an innovative online language school that brings native speaking teachers into your living room. Their learning platform will ensure you’re speaking like the French before you know it. Whether you're learning for business or pleasure, simply choose the right time and ability level for you and join one of Lingoda’s classes from the comfort of your home.