Commonly used expressions in French

Dear Readers, we will now see various French expressions that are commonly used in diverse and different contexts. Some of these expressions are idioms, and the others are colloquial expressions, but either way, using them will make you sound like a native French speaker and will also help you communicate in French in different ways.

Ça roule ? – How’s it going?

Meaning: This is an informal way of “how are you?” 


Ça va le travail/le boulot/le taf ? – How’s work? 

Meaning: boulot and taf are much more informal words for “work” that you may hear. This is an informal way of asking “how is work?”


Il n’y a pas de quoi – It’s nothing/don’t mention it 

Meaning: If you do something good for someone and they say “merci”, 

Example: -Merci – Y’a pas de quoi; Il n’y a pas de problème.

Vas-y, Allez-y – Go on, go ahead 

Meaning: a way to tell somebody to advance, move forward; also to tell someone they can do something

Example: vas-y, sers-toi ! “Go ahead, help yourself!”

Tiens-moi au courant ! — Keep me up to date!

Meaning: This is the perfect French phrase to use as you’re waiting to see how things play out in a friend’s life. Perhaps they just started a new job, or moved to a new city, and you want to know how things are evolving.

Example:vas-y, sers-toi ! “Go ahead, help yourself!”

Bref — In short/To make a long story short

Meaning: Bref is only ever used to summarize something or to give one’s final impression of something after a lengthy story’s been told.

Example: Bref, elle m’a largué. (In short, she dumped me.)

J’ai le cafard… — I’m feeling a little down…

Meaning: This is an informal way of expressing your sadness. It literally means, I have the cockroach, but to use the verb phrase avoir le cafard simply means to be depressed or to feel down. 


Revenons à nos moutons ! — Let’s get back to the point!

Meaning: This is a perfect little expression to use after the conversation has strayed from the original topic, and literally means let’s get back to our sheep! It actually means Let’s get back to the subject at hand! or Let’s get back to the point!


Ça te changera les idées… — It’ll take your mind off things…

Meaning: Use this French phrase when consoling a friend who’s down. Offer to go with them to a movie or to a café to grab a cappuccino. Make your proposition, then use this argument to get them out of their funk.

Example: Viens avec moi au ciné ! Ça te changera les idées ! (Come with me to the movie theater! That’ll take your mind off things!)

La nuit porte conseil. “The night brings advice.”

Meaning: This is the equivalent of “sleep on it”. Or, in other words, take your time before making a decision.

Example: – Je ne sais pas si je dois accepter ou pas. (“I don’t know if I should accept or not.”) – La nuit porte conseil. (“Sleep on it.”)

Impossible n’est pas français. “Impossible isn’t French.”

Meaning: Famously attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte, impossible n’est pas français is the French equivalent of “nothing is impossible”. While it may seem very patriotic, français here doesn’t refer to the French people, but rather to the French language. As in “impossible is not a French word”.

Example: – Je ne peux pas le faire, c’est impossible ! (“I can’t do it, it’s impossible!) – Impossible n’est pas français. (”Nothing is impossible.“)

Mieux vaut tard que jamais. “Late is worth more than never.”

Meaning: “Better late than never.” This is another French saying that is also very common in English. You can use it to tell someone that is better to do something late than not to do it at all.

Example: – J’ai 20 minutes de retard au gymnase. Mais mieux vaut tard que jamais. (“I’m 20 minutes late to the gym. But it’s better to be there late than never.”)

Mieux vaut être seul que mal accompagné. “Better alone than in a bad company.”

Meaning: It’s better to be alone than to be accompanied badly or by someone who isn’t good company. This can apply to all kinds of relationships and even to other unfortunate situations in someone’s life.

Example: – La copine de Jacques vient de le quitter. (“Jacques’s girlfriend just left him.”) – Mieux vaut être seul que mal accompagné. (“Better alone than in a bad company.”)

Après la pluie, le beau temps. “After the rain, good weather.”

Meaning: This is a way of encouraging someone to “hang in there”. Even if things are bad now, everything will eventually get better.

Example: – Je viens de perdre mon emploi mais je ne vais pas perdre l’espoir. Après la pluie, le beau temps. (“I’ve just lost my job but I won’t lose hope. After all, after the rain, good weather evetually comes.”)

Les murs ont des oreilles. “The walls have ears.”

Meaning: Pay attention to what you say because there’s a chance you could be overheard.

Example: – Voulez-vous savoir ce que j’ai acheté pour l’anniversaire de maman? (“Do you want to know what I bought for mom’s birthday?”) – Shhh ! Les murs ont des oreilles. (“Shhh! The walls have ears.)

You’ll be astonished at how far simple greetings, questions, and basic words of politeness will lead you in your first French discussion.

Now, all you have to do is book a free session with us to see and practice these expressions.