Useful French Phrases You Won’t Learn in School

Even though I came to France to practice my French, I felt pretty confident that I was starting from a good level. I have been studying it since I was 11 and have a degree in it so that had to count for something right?! I will say that I actually did manage pretty well when I arrived but there were still some phrases or ways of saying things that I just could not make out or understand. In cafes and restaurants, in reply to thank you or even just sounds littered into speech, there were lots of bits and pieces of language that took me by surprise. A year on, these are all phrases that I use daily and have helped my French feel so much more natural!

Pas de soucis

Meaning ‘no worries’, I have found this to be used much more often than ‘de rien‘. I like it because I feel like it rolls off the tongue easier than having to wrangle the French ‘r’, plus there’s a level of familiarity with ‘pas de soucis‘.

Je t’en prie / je vous en prie

This is the same phrase, just in second person singular and then second person plural or formal. It is another alternative for ‘de rien’ or ‘your welcome’. I had genuinely never heard this before moving to France and it took me a bewildered few weeks to figure out what it meant. It can be translated as ‘don’t mention it’ or ‘that’s alright’.

T’inquiète (pas)

‘Don’t worry!’ This simple and useful phrase confused me for a while because even though it is used to tell you not to worry, it is often shortened so much that both parts of normal French negation are removed, not just the ‘ne’ which I spoke about above. You can include the ‘pas’ if you wish but it’s not necessary and if someone says ‘t’inquiète’, they’re not ominously telling you that you have something to be worried about.

Ne … pas

Let me get a bit grammatical for a moment. The normal way of negating a verb in French means sandwiching the conjugated version of that verb with ‘ne’ before and ‘pas’ after, for example ‘je ne sais pas’ (‘I don’t know’). However in common French it is very common to skip the ‘ne’ entirely so ‘je ne sais pas’ becomes ‘je sais pas’. It goes a step further with this particular phrase where it gets all squished together to become ‘j’sais pas’.


One of the famous ‘false friends’ you’ll have heard your French teacher warn you about in high school. If you want to let someone know that you’re on your way, your first thought might be to reach for the verb ‘venir‘ (to come). But you would be wrong! You will still be understood but it’s very clunky and a native French speaker would never say it like that. Instead the right phrase to use would be ‘j’arrive‘.


You will hear this said in restaurants after you say thank you, if they have taken your order or delivered your food for example. It’s an abbreviation of the phrase ‘à votre service’ meaning ‘at your service’.

Ça a été?

Something else that you might hear in a restaurant, ‘Ça a été?’ is a rather informal way of asking ‘How was everything?’. You can respond with ‘oui’, ‘non’, ‘très bien’, depending on how your meal was. You won’t only hear it in a restaurant though, it can be used to ask about anything! For example, ‘ça été, ton examen?’ – ‘How was your exam?’

Ça sera tout?

Another common phrase, more likely to be heard in a boulangerie or a cafe, used to ask if you want anything else. It means ‘Is that everything?’ or ‘Is that all?’. If you don’t want anything else, the way to respond is ‘Oui, ça sera tout, merci‘ (‘Yes, that’s everything thank you.’).

Du coup

‘Du coup’ means ‘so’ or ‘as a result’ but it is used for much more than this, particularly in spoken French. Much like ‘so’ in English, you will often find it at the start of a sentence, just as a kind of soft introduction to what is being said. It’s used similarly to ‘alors’ in that way.

En fait

Similar to ‘du coup‘, ‘en fait‘ is often found at the beginning of a sentence. The meaning, however, is slightly different. ‘En fait‘ is used to indicate that what you are about to say is contradictory to what has just been fed, similar to saying ‘(well) actually’ or ‘in fact’.

Quand même

Quand même‘ is a miraculously versatile word that I did learn in school, despite the title of this blog post, but I did not appreciate all of its many, many uses. It ranges from ‘anyway’, ‘even so’ and ‘all the same’ to ‘nevertheless’, ‘really’ and ‘finally’ and even ‘how about that’! Honestly, my general attitude is if in doubt, sticking a ‘quand même‘ onto the end can’t hurt!


You will quickly get used to the little sounds that French speakers make which aren’t exactly words, but still convey meaning. For example:

  • ‘Bah…‘ – ‘Uh…’ (when you are unsure about something, when something is obvious or when you don’t understand something)
  • Bof‘ – ‘Meh…’ (when something is average or just ok)
  • Bon‘ – ‘Right, well’ (to express satisfaction, impatience or, when combined with ‘ah‘ to become ‘ah bon‘, surprise)
  • Euh‘ – ‘Er, um, uh’ (for hesitation, uncertainty, doubt)
  • Hein?‘ – ‘Huh?’ (used when you don’t understand something or when you want to check that you or someone else has understood something)

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