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If you’re thinking of planning a trip to the city of lights, but are concerned about encountering a language barrier in Paris, don’t be! As with most major European cities, the majority of people in Paris will speak English to some degree, especially if they are young adults. Students are taught English throughout their schooling and are often encouraged to learn the language for better job prospects.

While you’ll probably be able to get by using English, locals will appreciate you taking the effort to learn some simple French phrases. It’s always a good idea to know a few native expressions when traveling around France, so we’ve outlined below the essential ones you should know.   

Eiffel tower

Bonjour (Boh-n-jhoor)

This would have to be one of the most famous French words meaning “Hello”. It’s a simple greeting that locals will appreciate hearing and could be the difference between getting the last table in a fabulous Parisian café or not. 

Au revoir (Ah reh-vwarh)

Yet another well-known expression that goes beyond the borders of France and translates into “Goodbye”. This is the most preferred expression for Parisian people to part ways.

Merci (Mare-see)

It’s important to use your manners even when you go abroad. This phrase is short and sweet and translates into “Thank you”. It’s an expression no French person can hear enough of.

S'il vous plaît  (Seal voo play)

Remember to use this when wanting to say “Please”. Polite gestures like this can go a long way in France.

Combien? (Cohm bee-n?)

Whether you’re traveling on a budget or have money to throw around, everyone can use this word to ask “How much?”

Paris buildings

Excusez-moi or Pardon (Ex-kyou-say mwa or Par-don)

As the expression suggests, this means “Excuse Me”. Alternatively, feel free to use “Pardon” when trying to get past someone or accidently bumping into them. It also works if you need to say sorry.

Parlez-vous anglais (Par - lay vooz ah-n-glay?)

This one will particularly come in handy when needing to ask someone “Do you speak English?”

Pouvez-vous m'aider? (Poo-vay voo meh - day?)

Being overseas often means you’ll need to ask for help, either with directions, finding out information or an emergency situation. Use this expression to say “Can you help me?”

Je ne comprends pas (Zhuh nuh comp-rond pah)

If you’re putting these expressions into practice and are receiving French replies back, you’ll be able to say “I don’t understand” by using this phrase. Most French people will be able to detect your foreign accent anyway even if you are speaking French, so you can feel relieved when they reply back to you in English.

Où sont les toilettes (Oo soh-n lay twa-let?)

At one point or another, you’re bound to ask “Where are the toilets?” so use this expression to do so. Keep in mind that public toilets in France, particularly in Paris, are not free and you may have to pay a small fee in order to use them. 

Où est la tour Eiffel (Oo ay la tour E-fell)

If you can’t see the top of it from your location in Paris, then use this phrase to ask “Where is the Eiffel Tower?” A local will be sure to help you out.

paris city

Pourriez-vous prendre ma photo, s'il vous plaît? (Poory-ay voo pren-dr mah foh-toh, seal voo play?)

When you travel halfway around the world, you’re going to want to capture those memories. Use this phrase to ask someone “Can you take my picture, please?” and they’ll surely oblige.  

Je voudrais un café s'il vous plaît (Je voo-dray un cafe seal voo play)

Exploring a foreign city can be exhausting, so this expression is one you want to remember. It translates to “I’d like a coffee please”, which is the fuel of tourists around the world.

Je voudrais une bouteille d'eau s'il vous plaît (Je voo-dray uoon boo-tell doh seal voo pla)

It’s important to keep hydrated during your time in Paris, so don’t forget to say “I’d like a bottle of water please”, which is what this phrase translates to.

Now that you’ve brushed up on these expressions, it’s time to jet off to France to enjoy a coffee (or glass of champagne!) and soak up the atmosphere in the city of love. You’ll be strolling through the cobblestone streets like a true Parisian in no time, while having your breath taken away by the beautiful monuments.


Limits, exclusions and conditions apply. This is general advice only. We do not provide any advice based on any consideration of your objectives, financial situation or needs. Consider the Combined PDS/FSG (available covermore.com) before deciding about this insurance.