Can You Tell If These Simple French Phrases Are Translated Correctly?

EDUCATION

By: John Satak

7 Min Quiz

Image: Counter / Photodisc / Getty Images

About This Quiz

For a language as beautiful as French, it sure can be tricky! With all the extra vowels (looking at you, oiseaux), difficult pronunciation and multiple registers of formality when conjugating a word (tu or vous?), there can be a lot to unpack for a non-native speaker. But never fear! Like with any language, a core understanding of phrases and definitions is key to a strong base and often more than enough for communicating and understanding. So if testing that core knowledge is what you're after, you've come to the right place! 

French is a language that has over 275 million speakers worldwide, and the number of people who speak French is growing every year! French is also the official language in 29 countries, so if you want another language you can use when you're traveling, French is definitely a pretty good choice. From France to Canada, all the way to Madagascar, you'll be able to communicate with people from all walks of life with the language. But before you can do that, you'll need to dust off the ol' thinking cap and see how much of those French lessons stuck with you!

Maybe you can't wait to discuss all the cultural differences and globalization of our fast-growing world, or perhaps you'd love to discuss Louis Vuitton's newest line of luxury handbags. Whatever you may want to share or experience in French, you won't be able to get very far without being able to say hello (did you say bonjour? I hope so!). Think you know how to say those everyday phrases French phrases without any faux pas? Well, jump right in and see for yourself, c'est parti!




If you're in France, you HAVE to indulge in at least a few pastries! How would you ask for "two croissants"?

In French, it can be tricky to know if a word is masculine or feminine, which will change how you write the word for "one" in French (un or une). So if you're in doubt, simply order two! You're probably gonna want that second one anyway; they're just too good.

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Let's say you wanted to introduce yourself. How would you say, "Hello, my name is ..."?

Good job! The literal translation is closer to "I call myself" rather than "My name is" in French. It may be strange to say it that way in English, but the reverse is true in French!

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Great, you've introduced yourself. Now how would you follow up with "How are you?" in French?

Nice! "Comment ça va" more closely translates to "How's it going," and while there are few different ways to express this idea, this is by far the most common phrase you'll be using and hearing to ask how someone is.

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Your new friend responds with an "I'm good, and you?" How do you tell them "Fine, thanks"?

You don't want to come off TOO enthusiastic, and so a simple "ça va" is the perfect measured response when first meeting someone. The French like to play it cool, and so while a "fine" from an American may seem like something could be wrong, a "fine" from a French person is much closer to how an American uses "I'm good."

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Oops, we forgot to say please after our order! Quick, how can you tack on a "please" to the end of our request?

I knew you'd remember your pleasantries! Good thing too; while everyone can appreciate someone who is polite, formality is very important to French culture. Now while they probably won't kick you out, you'll definitely get a more kind and patient response if you're mindful of how you're talking to people!

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You've got your croissants; now you just need a nice, classic French coffee and you'll be set. How do you ask for "a coffee, please"?

"Un/Une" is the word for both "a" and "one" in English, so if you need help remembering "a coffee," just remember how many coffees you want!

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You're so moved by the service of your barista, you can't help but want to exclaim, "Thank you, have a nice day!" But how?

"Passez une bonne journée" also exists to mean more literally "have a nice day," but in the context of getting coffee from a barista, "bonne journée" is a very common way of wishing someone well!

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Now it's museum time. The only problem is you don't know how to get there. How can you ask "where is the museum?" to someone passing by?

Very nice! "Où" is the word for "where" in French, and a very important one to know! If you're ever somewhere new, this word will be your best friend when it comes to finding museums and bathrooms!

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Now that you have the directions question queued up in your brain, how would you ask "Excuse me, can you help me, please?" to someone nearby?

If something is being done TO you (talk to me, help me) then you take "me" and put it in front of the verb ("il me parle", or "he's talking to me"). But because "aider" starts with a vowel, you change it to "m'aider" (me + aider).

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The museum went great, but now you're hungry. You sit down at a restaurant, and the waiter asks you, "Qu'est-ce que vous voulez boire?" What are they asking you?

"Boire" means "to drink" in English, and if you're in a restaurant ordering a drink in France, don't be too surprised when it doesn't come with ice! This practice isn't very common in Europe in general, so if you're in French-speaking region and you want ice, make sure to add "avec des glaçons s'il vous plaît"!

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Your waiter comes back with your drink, and you're ready to eat. How do you say "I would like to order ..."?

"Je veux" means "I want," which is a pretty similar meaning to "I would like." However, just like in English, it's important to be polite, and so the way to soften the request is to ask in the conditional form "je voudrais." Always nice to ask and not demand!

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The meal was as delicious as you hoped, but now you're ready for more adventures. How do you ask for "the check, please"?

Just like in real life, in French you have to look out for those fake friends ("faux amis" in French, or "false cognate" in English), or simply words that seem like they would be the same in English but actually have a different meaning in French. "Chèque" isn't entirely a false cognate, as it is the same word for a check at the bank. However, in the restaurant setting, you might get some funny looks.

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Shopping is always fun when you're abroad, but not everywhere accepts cards! How do you ask if they do accept payments by card?

Good choice! "Payer par carte" is thankfully very similar to the English equivalent, so there shouldn't be too much trouble remembering it! Fun fact: "argent" is the word for money in French, but it's also their word for silver. Guess they didn't see a reason in changing the word when the currency changed!

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The host of your lodging asks how the weather is outside. How do you tell them "it's beautiful today!" in French?

Good job! When talking about the weather in French, the verb "faire" or "to do/make" is used, not "être" or "to be". It's an easy one to mix up, but try to remember that the weather *makes* beautiful in French!

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If you were Cinderella in a francophone country, how would you ask "What time is it?" as to avoid being home past midnight?

Congratulations! You didn't turn into a pumpkin! While "temps" can be the word for time (and weather; go figure!), more often you'll hear "heure" used when talking about what time it is on the clock. The more you know!

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You meet your French-speaking friend for lunch, and you can't wait to tell them your newfound love for walking. How can you express "I love to walk!" to your friend?

Hey, walking is really good for you; no reason not to like it! In French, to say "I like to ...", you just need "j'aime" + the infinitive ("marcher," in this case). No need to include a different word for "to"!

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You wouldn't want to worry your host-mom while you're out getting your third round of croissants. How can you leave her a note saying "I'm going to the bakery"?

Your host mother can now rest easy knowing your just down the street. To translate "am going" into French, you just have to use the verb in the present tense ("je vais" or "I am going"). The present tense can translate to both "I am going" and "I go," which means less work for us English speakers!

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When meeting up with your friends, you're the first to get to the rendezvous point. How can you send the text "I'm waiting in the house"?

Nice! "Attendre" is another tricky word in French, while it may look like "attend" in English, it's actually the word for "to wait." Darn those faux amis!(#NoMoreFakeFriends2020)

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There may come a time where you NEED to use English. When all other options fail, how can you politely ask "Do you speak English"?

Disaster averted! Making sure to use the "vous" form when you're asking strangers a question is a must if you want the best chance of someone actually helping you! "Parlez-vous anglais" is a completely correct way to ask if someone speaks English as well. Whatever you do, just make sure you're using the correct form!

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Really? Croissants again? How do you tell your friends "I going to eat a croissant" so they don't think you've run off and gotten lost?

You just can't help yourself, can you? Don't worry, we don't judge here. "I'm going to (do something)" is the future tense, and a common way to express this is with "aller" (je *vais* manger), similar to how we construct this sentence in English. Careful, though; don't forget that while orally there are many words that sound like "manger" (mangez, mangé), it's important to use the infinitive form after "je vais."

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Now's your moment! After they ask if anyone speaks English, you reply with, "Actually, I speak English!" in French. What did you say?

Don't. Trust. Fake. Friends. I think that's pretty much the moral of this story. Just when you think you "actuellement" has your back, it goes and switches sides on you by being "currently" in French. It's always the ones you least expect. ("En fait" directly translates to "in fact" but is used similarly to how we use "actually" in English).

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The library is always worth visiting when abroad, but especially in France as the architecture is often astounding. How can you ask "where is the library?" in French?

I see you're starting to learn who your REAL friends are. I used to trust "librairie" to just be library in English too, but it turns out it gets a hard downgrade to "bookstore" in French. "Où se trouve" is just another way to say "where" (more literally, "where does it find itself?"). It's a bit more formal and fancier than regular old "où," so feel free to change it up if the mood strikes you.

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With such wisdom for someone your age, your friends can't help but politely ask how old you are. You reply with " I am five years old." But how did you say it in French?

I mean, we're all 5 years old at heart, right? This is one of those phrases that is just thought of differently in French than in English. In French, you use the verb "avoir" (to have) to describe your age, not the verb "to be" (être) like in English. Tricky tricky!

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Your friend throws a banana at you in a game of "Mario Kart" despite making an "alliance" prior to starting. In a calm and measured rage, you demand "Why did you do that?" In French ...?

There are no good answers when it comes to matters of betrayal; however, you did pick the correct answer when translating this sentence. "Pourquoi" in French is comprised of the words "for" and "what," which is the standard way to ask "why." This statement is in the past tense as well, so don't forget the "avoir" (tu *as* fait) that brings it into the past tense!

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Uh-oh, you forgot your bottle of water while traveling around the Sahara in Morocco AGAIN. How can you communicate "I need water" to the tour guide?

Being able to tell people what you need can be life saving! "Need" in French directly translates to "to have need of" (avoir besoin de), so make sure to memorize this construction in case you need it!

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After many months of distance between you, your friend decides to finally apologize for the "Mario Kart" debacle. They say "I'm sorry." How would you say it back in French?

No tricks here: "I'm sorry" is a word-for-word translation. "Je suis désolé" has each word correlate to its translation in the English (I am sorry). Always good to know how to say sorry!

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After a heated debate about pineapple on pizza, you finally settle the argument with an "I agree." Tell me again how you said this in French?

The French don't opt for the verb "to agree" when talking about agreeing with someone. Instead, their version of it is closer to "I am in agreement" in English. This is another one you just have to remember is ever so slightly different from English and doesn't quite work with a direct translation.

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You need to tell your host family that you're going to visit friends this weekend, so you write a note. What does it say?

"Visiter" is almost a fake friend, but only partially (still, we got our eye on you, "visiter"). While it does translate to "to visit" in English, you can only say in the context of a place you're visiting. When you talk about visiting someone, you have to say "rendre visite," or even more simply "voir" (to see, "je vais voir mes amis").

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Impressed with your level of French, a stranger on the metro asks where you're from. Careful, though; as a secret agent, you never know who wants your real identity. Just reply with "I'm from Kansas" to be safe.

In French, you don't use the verb "être" (to be) to describe where you're from. Instead, you use the verb "venir" (to come) to describe this. A direct translation from French leads us to the phrase "I come from Kansas." If only they knew who you REALLY were.

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This is it; you're really having a discussion about Louis Vuitton handbags in FRENCH. Your friend asks what you think translates to "What do you think about this?" What were those French words again?

You did hear them correctly; good job! There's a subtle difference in French between "penser de" and "penser à." While both can technically be translated as "to think about," the former asks more WHAT you think about something, and the latter is used more to highlight that you're thinking about something in particular. Also remember to use "tu" when talking among friends!

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You see it right before your eyes: a man about to step on a bag of croissants. You can't just idly stand by. You want to scream "Stop!", but how?

Whew, that was a close one. Even when you're yelling at someone in French, it's important to use the correct form of the word. In this case, since it's a stranger, you want to use "vous" (Arrêtez-vous!). More and more often in France, you'll see and hear the word "stop," sometimes even on street signs; don't be afraid to just yell stop in a pinch!

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Your house shopping on the island of Martinique, and you want to tell your realtor, "I like the red house." What can you say?

Red is a good color for a house; you've chosen well. When using adjectives in French, it's important to remember whether the adjective comes before or after the noun. In the case of colors, the adjective (rouge) always comes after the noun (maison).

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When travelling anywhere, you're going to need to know how much something costs (unless you really just got it like that). How would you say "How much does it cost?" in French?

This is one of the few times French has a much shorter way of expressing an idea than the English equivalent. A direct translation would be close to "How much that cost?" Don't forget that "combien" is the single word for both "how much" in English.

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Will you ever stop eating croissants? As you munch on your 50th croissant of the week, you exclaim "They're too good!" How would you write this in French?

They really are, though. While there may not be a difference in pronunciation orally, remembering all the letters when using the plural form is important (ilS sont trop bonS). Spelling can be difficult in French because of all the silent letters. If it makes you feel any better, French children also struggle well into their adolescence with spelling, so don't take it personally.

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Well, your French language adventures are coming to a close, but it's certain there are more to come. How do you say "I love French!"?

Well, I'm glad you do because we do too. "Aimer" can mean both "like" and "love" in French, but when you want to exclaim your enthusiastic love for something, the word "adore" is often used in place of "aimer." Good job!

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