The top five phrases not to say in France

Written by on April 19, 2013 in Learn French


Visitors to France often arrive with a head full of expectations and a deep desire to blend in with the country’s inhabitants. This is because the French are stereotypically regarded as casually chic, urbane and quick to judge (and probably dislike) tourists who commit minor infractions against manners and good taste.

While it may be silly to excessively worry about making cultural faux pas, it is worth understanding some of the main differences that make France special. For instance personal conduct is often a crucial part of distinguishing tourists from residents. The French generally tend to talk softly, regardless of whether they’re on a bus or in a restaurant. Loud-mouthed tourists may be frowned upon.

Mastering French

While many people have a basic grasp of French, trying to construct sentences from half-remembered school-learnt vocabulary can have unintended consequences. Even those who learn French in France need to be careful with what they say, as the language’s subtle nuances can give some phrases unintended meanings.

Phrases not to say in France

Here are just some of the more common mistakes by those who’ve yet to fully master the language.

At the end of a meal, the temptation might be to say ‘I’m so full’ by exclaiming ‘je suis tellement pleine!’ Unfortunately, this announces that you are either very pregnant or very drunk.

When someone tells you a tale of derring-do it might seem apt to say ‘that’s so exciting!’ using the phrase ‘c’est excitant!’ What this will convey, however, is that you are aroused.

When in Paris, any tourist might ask someone to take them to the Eiffel Tower using the following phrase: ‘Pouvez-vous me prendre à la Tour Eiffel?’ Surprisingly, this will be interpreted as a request to ‘have sex with me at the Eiffel Tower’.

At the top of the afore mentioned Eiffel Tower, a visitor might like to say that they were scared to death, and pronounce ‘J’ai eu une petite mort!’ This tells their bemused companion that they’ve just had an orgasm.

While it’s generally not a good idea to comment on somebody’s size, those who wish to say comment on a French person’s diminutive stature should definitely not say ‘vous êtes tellement petite!’ as this tells them that you consider their breasts to be small.

By José Calvo

Related Articles

French immersion holiday Dordogne

It’s hard to think of anywhere more enchanting than the Dordogne. Around every corner is something that takes your breath away – stunning landscapes, magical chateaux and historic villages. A discovery tour of this part of France is authentic, cultural and downright delicious – it’s famous for its wonderful gastronomy. Take a tour combined with […]

Continue Reading

5 Best Ways to Learn French Online

Learning French can be difficult for many people. In fact, the internet has plenty of ways to learn French online. We’ve done the research and created a list of the 5 best ways to learn French on the internet. While some of these learning styles are obvious, some of the ways you can learn French […]

Continue Reading

Fantastic French Immersion Courses in Provence

What could be more special and memorable than learning French on a truly exceptional authentic residential immersion course where you stay with a French teacher in her home in lovely Provence. Cassis, Sanary-Sur-Mer, Bandol, Les Calanques, La Ciotat – the names trip of your tongue to conjure up images of the most beautiful of Provence’s […]

Continue Reading

French Immersion course in Provence

If you really want to improve your French, then a total immersion course in France is the very best way to do it. It’s also a lot of fun when you join Goût et Voyage, the taste and travel company, on their fabulous week long cultural and gastronomic full French immersion course in the heart […]

Continue Reading

Why do an Immersion course in France?

Do you speak a little French but want to learn how to speak with a real French accent and increase your knowledge of both the language and France whilst having a brilliant time? Or perhaps you’re a beginner and you would love to start your journey of learning French in a fun and authentic atmosphere. […]

Continue Reading


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.