Learning the basics of French/Introducing Yourself

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This lesson contains the basic French alphabet and pronunciation guide, along with common phrases used for introductions.

French alphabet[edit | edit source]

This is the French alphabet with approximate pronunciation and IPA (see also: IPA for French and French phonology).

Letter Pronunciation
IPA Approximate
A /ɑ/ ah
B /be/ bay
C /se/ say
D /de/ day
E /ə/ euh (like Am. English "look")
F /ɛf/ eff
G /ʒe/ jay
H /aʃ/ ash
I /i/ ee (like English "e")
J /ʒi/ gee (Warning: Don't confuse with "g")
K /kɑ/ kah
L /ɛl/ ell
M /ɛm/ emm
N /ɛn/ enn
O /o/ oh
P /pe/ pay
Q /ky/ kooh
R /ɛʁ/ air
S /ɛs/ ess
T /te/ tay
U /y/ ooh
V /ve/ vay
W /dublə ve/ doobluh vay
X /iks/ eeks
Y /igʁɛk/ ee grek
Z /zɛd/ zed

It is important to realize that several sounds greatly differ in French:

  • the letter a is only pronounced "ah"
  • the letter e (by itself) is only pronounced "euh" (when it takes the accent ´like é it is pronounced "ay")
  • the letter i is only pronounced "ee"
  • the letter h is normally silent, and rarely pronounced

There are five accents within French:

French Grammar • Introducing Yourself • audio (info •101 kb • help)
The accents Les accents
Accent Role name in French example in French
` changes the sound of the e over which it is, but change the meaning of the word for an a or an u Accent grave achète, à, où
´ Only over an e, to change the sound Accent aigu désolé(e)
^ change the length of the vowel (longer than before) Accent circonflexe (un) hôtel
¨ often over an e and with another vowel just before (e.g. ), you have to say the 2 vowels distinctly and not together. Tréma Noël
ç Changes the sound for the C. Is only placed before an a, o or u. It makes the c become /s/. Cédille français

In Romance Languages, it is common to have a formal and informal way to say "you." In French, we have tu (informal) and vous (formal), and each is conjugated differently, as you will see later on. To help determine which form of "you" should be used, one must consider the other person's age, profession, and overall relationship.

If the other person is a minor, very close personally, or a family member, "tu" should be used. If the other person is an adult, not very well known, or a stranger, "vous" should be used.

You will see demonstrations in the dialogues below.

Vocabulary[edit | edit source]

French Vocabulary • Introducing Yourself • bogusOggFile (upload)
Greetings Les salutations
Salut Hi./Bye. (informal)
Bonjour Hello (more formal than salut)(all day)
Bonsoir Hello (after 19h00 [7:00 pm])
Quoi de neuf ? What's up (about you)? (lit. what's new)  
Pas grand-chose. Not much. (lit. not a lot of things)  

French Vocabulary • Introducing Yourself • audio (info •202 kb • help)
Good-bye Au revoir
Salut. Hi/Bye (informal)
Au revoir. Good-bye. ohrvwahr (ev not pronounced)
À demain. See you tomorrow. ah duhman (Lit: To/Until Tomorrow)
Au revoir, à demain. Bye, see you tomorrow.  
À tout à l'heure. See you (later today)! ah tootah luhr
À la prochaine. See you (tomorrow)! ah lah proh shayn
Bonne journée Have a nice day
Bonne soirée Good evening  
Bonne nuit Good night bun nwee
À bientôt. See you soon. ah byantoe
Ciao Bye. chow (Italian)
French Vocabulary • Introducing Yourself • audio (info •111 kb • help)
Introductions Introductions
Comment vous appellez-vous ? (formal),
Comment t'appelles tu ? (informal),
Quel est ton nom ? (informal)
What is your name? (Literally, "How do you call yourself?")
What is your name? (Literally, "Which is your name?")
Je m'appelle _____. My name is _____. (literally "I call myself _____.")
Mon nom est _____. My name is _____. (literally "My name is _____.")

French Vocabulary • Introducing Yourself • audio (info •105 kb • help)
How are you? Ça va?
Comment allez-vous ? (formal),
Comment vas-tu ? (informal),
Comment ça va ?/Ça va ? (informal)
How are you?
Ça va (très) bien. I'm(very) well.
(lit. It's going (very) well.)
Oui, ça va. I'm ok. (literally "Yes, it goes.")
Très bien, merci. Very well, thanks.
Pas mal. Not bad.
pas si bien/pas très bien not so well
(très) mal (very) bad
Comme ci, comme ça. / Bof So-So.
Désolé(e). I'm sorry.
Et toi ?
Et vous ?
And you? (informal)
And you? (formal)

Dialogues[edit | edit source]

Example 1 (a girl talking to her friend)[edit | edit source]

name French English pronunciation
Anne: Salut ! Ça va ? Hi! How's it going? (Sahlu! Sah vah)
Bertrand: Bien, et toi? Well, and you? (Beeyan, eh twah?)
Anne: Bien! Well!

Example 2 (a woman talking to a stranger)[edit | edit source]

name French English pronunciation
Madame Michelle : Bonsoir Monsieur, comment allez-vous ? Good evening sir, how are you? (Banswar Muhseeure, coman tallay-voo?)
Monsieur Dupont : Bien, et vous ? Well, and you? (Beeyan, eh voo?)
Mme. Michelle : Très bien ! Very well! (Tray beeyan)

Example 3 (a boy introducing his friend to an adult)[edit | edit source]

name French English pronunciation
Claude: Monsieur Dupont, je vous présente Anne. Mister Dupont, I would like to introduce you to Anne. (Muhseeure Doopan, juh voo praysahnt Ann.)
M. Dupont:


Nice to meet you (enchanted) (Anshantay)
Anne: Ravie de faire votre connaissance. Thrilled to meet you. (Rahvee duh fair votruh conaysans.)

Example 4 (Sofia has just met Michel)[edit | edit source]

Name French English Pronunciation
Michel: Bonjour, je m'appelle Michel. Comment vous appelez-vous ? Hello, my name is Michel. What is your name? Bonzhoor, zha m'appayl mishel. koman voo zaplay voo
Sofía: Bonjour, Michel. Je m'appelle Sofía. Comment ça s'écrit, 'Michel' ? Hello, Michel. My name is Sofía. How is your name written, 'Michel' ? bonzhoor, mishel. zha m'appayl soffeeyah. koman sa saykree, Mishel
Michel: Ça s'écrit M-I-C-H-E-L. Comment allez-vous ? It is written M-I-C-H-E-L. How are you? Sa saycree emm-ee-say-ash-euh-ell koman talay voo
Sofía: Comme-ci comme-ça. Et vous ? So-so. What about you? Komsi komsa. ay voo
Michel: Très bien, merci. Very good, thanks. Tray beeyan, mayrsee
Sofía: Bien ! À demain, Michel. Well, see you tomorrow, Michel. Beeyan ah duman, mishel
Michel: À demain ! See you tomorrow! ah duman

Les Nombres (numbers) 1-20[edit | edit source]

number in French pronunciation listen number in French pronunciation listen
1 un (uhn) 11 onze (ohnze)
2 deux (duh) 12 douze (dooze)
3 trois (trwah) 13 treize (trez)
4 quatre (katr) 14 quatorze (katorz)
5 cinq (sank) 15 quinze (kanz)
6 six (sees) 16 seize (sez)
7 sept (set) 17 dix-sept (dees-set)
8 huit (weet) 18 dix-huit (dees-weet)
9 neuf (nuff) 19 dix-neuf (dees-nuff)
10 dix (dees) 20 vingt (van)

Être and avoir[edit | edit source]

Être and avoir are the first two important verbs you will need. Before you can use them, you need to understand the available targets within French:

French Grammar • Introducing Yourself • audio (info •61 kb • help)
Subject Pronouns Les pronoms personnels
1st person singular je I
plural nous we
2nd person singular tu you
plural vous you
3rd person singular il, elle, on he, she, one
plural ils, elles they (masculine)
they (feminine)

Être means to be, and avoir means to have.

French Verb • Introducing Yourself • audio (info •103 kb • help)
être to be
Singular Plural
first person je suis jeuh swee I am nous sommes noo sum we are
second person tu es too ay you are vous êtes voozett you are
third person il est eel ay he is ils sont eelsohn they are
(masc. or mixed)
elle est ell ay she is
on est ohn ay one is elles sont ellsohn they are (fem.)
French Verb • Present Indicative • audio (100 kb • help)
avoir to have
Singular Plural
first person j'ai I have nous avons we have
second person tu as you have vous avez you have
third person il a he has ils ont they have
(masc. or mixed)
elle a she has
on a one has elles ont they have (fem.)

Exercises[edit | edit source]