5 French Conversation Starters

When you meet someone for the first time, there is often a series of mini conversations that allow two people to parler de tout et de rien (to small talk). It usually boils down to the simple questions and answers or the slightly innocuous yet vitally important conversations that serve as a launching pad to more serious talks and perhaps even lasting friendships. Of course, there are some indispensable words and phrases that might help break the ice and give you the confidence to try out more difficult language later on. Rather than being very prescriptive, the following five conversation starters are there to help you move through the language labyrinth.

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1. Comment vous appelez-vous? (What’s your name?)

This is an essential question to ask anyone you are talking to for a little while. When you are giving your name, you can say:

  • je m’appelle… (My name is…)
  • Or, you can talk about your prénom (first name)
  • Or, ask their first name, quel est votre prénom?

If you do not hear it the first time, as French names can be tricky to begin with, ask:

  • Pouvez-vous répéter ça s’il vous plaît? (Could you repeat that please), or
  • Je n’ai pas compris (I did not catch that).

2. Enchanté(e) (pleased to meet you)

The first thing that happens when you meet someone in France, whether it is through a friend or an acquaintance, is that you give two kisses or if it is a more formal introduction, you shake hands and say the above phrase. As the word suggests, it literally means “enchanted to meet you,” which makes it all the more appealing to say. You might want to follow this up with comment allez-vous? (How are you?)

3. D’où venez-vous? (Where are you from?)

If you are meeting someone whilst travelling, you are likely to be asked this question and will probably be interested in finding this out for yourself. If you wish to tell the person your origins, you can say je suis australien/ne (I am Australian) or simply je ne suis pas français/e (I am not French) and see if you can get them guessing!

4. Qu’allez-vous faire ensuite? (what are you going to do later?)

If the meeting is going well, you are having fun and do not have plans for later on, this might be a good way to initiate plans to meet up later. If you wish to go for a drink, perhaps ask vous voulez prendre un verre? (Would you like to have a drink?)

5. Que faites vous dans la vie? (what do you do for a living?)

This one is sometimes a necessary evil to get out of the way. For example, you are both travelling on a plane and there is clearly a professional reason why you are both taking that same plane, so it seems only logical to ask their profession. It is also an excellent breeding ground for further talks about jobs, lifestyle, family and work/life balance.

If starting conversations is something you want to know more about but you are lacking that certain je-ne-sais-pas-quoi when it comes to language, why not throw caution to the wind and take our online language level test or make an inquiry? These few basic phrases might just whet your appetite for more or maybe you are an old hand at francophone phrases and you would like to brush up.

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