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Seven words you will often hear in spoken French

Many have multiple uses and you will frequently hear them in everyday conversations

These words can help your French sound more fluent Pic: RVillalon//Shutterstock

If you are living in France there are certain words you are likely to hear over and over again, especially outside of formal situations.

A number of words in French, like in English, have multiple meanings and can be used in a diverse range of situations. 

This means you often have to rely on context during a conversation with a native speaker to ensure you are getting the meaning exactly right. 

Here are some of the words you may hear in your everyday conversations and how to insert them into your French to elevate your fluency. 

Récupérer 

Récupérer is a word that is used frequently in French. It has both a traditional meaning as well as an informal one. 

While it can mean to recuperate as we use it in English - to rest and recover - in French it is more frequently used when talking about getting an item back from someone. 

For example, “Est-ce que je peux récupérer ma voiture ce soir ?” – “Can I collect my car this evening?” 

It may also be used in the expression récupérer une journée d’absence (make up for a day of absence) when speaking about work.

Déjà 

Déjà is another word you will hear all the time in spoken French as it can mean lots of different things. 

The meanings that most people are familiar with are ‘already’ and ‘before’, largely thanks to the phrase déjà-vu which is used in English and French.

You can hear the word being used in this context in the following clip, taken  from ‘OSS 117: Le Caire, nid d'espions’, a popular French comedy starring Jean Dujardin.

However, it can also mean ‘again’ in a number of contexts.

For example, someone might say “C’est quoi le mot déjà ?”, which means “What’s the word again?”

It can also mean ‘at least’, for example in the sentence “C’est déjà pas mal” which translates to “It’s not too bad at least”. 

Another context you may hear it used in is ‘first of all’ or ‘to start with’. 

On peut déjà manger et puis sortir” means “To start with we can eat, and then go out”.

Mais bon 

You may hear this employed as a way of switching the topic of a conversation or when you come to the end of a point you are making.

It is equivalent to saying ‘anyway’ at the end of a sentence in English, when you do not want to keep talking about the current topic or think it is not worth continuing talking about it.

Oui, je veux vraiment partir en voyage l'année prochaine, mais bon…” means “Yes I really want to travel next year, but anyway…”

The phrase can also be used as ‘but’ to introduce a different opinion. 

For example, “Oui c’est vrai que j’aime bien le chanteur mais bon, cette chanson n’est pas ouf quoi” is like saying, “Yes it is true that I really like the singer, but this song is not anything special you know”. 

Read also: What Americans notice when they move to France 

Quoi 

In French language courses, Quoi is taught as a question word – ‘what’ – and whilst this is true, it can be used in a number of different ways during a daily conversation.

At the end of the sentence, quoi is similar to the English equivalent of ‘you know’ – as in the example sentence above.

Another example is “Il est parti hier quoi” is like saying “He left yesterday, you know”. 

It is very familiar but also an extremely common filler word that you are likely to hear all the time in spoken French. 

It is a good way to emphasise a point at the end of a sentence or to insist upon something in a casual manner.

Faire de beau

This means to get up to something or to be up to something and is often used in a question about your day. 

For example, “Qu’est-ce que tu fais de beau aujourd'hui ?” means “What did you get up to today?” or “Did you do anything special today?” 

Laisse tomber 

Laisse tomber is another phrase that can be used all the time, meaning never mind, or forget about it. 

For example, you can say “T’as pas compris? Bah laisse tomber, c’est pas grave” means “You didn’t understand? Never mind, it doesn’t matter.”

In other situations, laisse tomber means to drop something, or to give up.

Franchement 

This is another emphasis word that can mean slightly different things context dependent. 

Franchement can translate to “frankly” as well as “very” or “really”, and it is often used to emphasise a point that is being made.

For example, “Franchement tu gères bien en français” means “Frankly you manage well in French.”

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