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First impressions matter and one of the keys to making a good first impression in France or other in French-speaking areas is to make a proper introduction.
One of the first things that a good language learning tutor or course in French – or any other language -- will try to teach you is how to properly introduce yourself.
Knowing how to introduce yourself in French is important to developing your communication skills. It is a way to make friends quickly or cultivate important business relationships.
In this post, we’re going to run you through five important steps that you need to take to introduce yourself in French. This starts with greetings and ends with “icebreaker” questions that will help you have a proper conversation with your new French-speaking acquaintance.
Of course, the first thing that you need to do when you want to start a conversation is to greet the other person. Whether you have encountered an old friend, are meeting up with a colleague, or looking to make a new acquaintance, it starts with a French greeting.
Bonjour (good day)
This is the most basic way to say hello in French. As long as the sun is in the sky, this is how to greet someone in French.
This is another way to greet someone in French. This is appropriate to use during the day or the night. Be aware, however, that this phrase is a little informal. So, use it to greet friends or in casual situations but stick to “bonjour” in formal situations.
Bon matin (good morning)
This translates to “good morning” and can be used in place of “bonjour” from any time from sunrise to around lunchtime.
Bonsoir (good evening)
This is the French word for “good evening” and is used to greet someone after the sun has gone down
Bonne nuit (good night)
This translates to “good night” and can also be used to say hello in French if it is already the evening. However, it’s more commonly used to say “goodbye” during the evenings.
After you have exchanged greetings, if you are meeting someone for the first time, the next thing that you need to do is introduce yourself. Here are the most common French phrases to use when introducing yourself to someone.
je m’appelle (I call myself)
Je sui (I am)
While these two phrases translate a little differently, their meaning is basically the same. If you want to introduce yourself, just say one of these phrases and add your name.
Of course, after you’ve introduced yourself, it’s only appropriate and polite that you ask what the name of your new friend likes to be called. Here are the most common ways to ask someone what their name is in French.
Comment vous appelez-vous? (formal)
Comment t’appelles-tu? (informal)
These two phrases mean the same thing, but one is considered more formal than the other, you should keep this in mind as you will need to make a choice on which to use depending on the situation.
If you are in a formal, business situation, you should stick to “comment vous appelez-vous”, it’s also what you should use if you are speaking to someone who is older than you.
In a casual situation, such as at a party or in a bar, you can use the informal “comment t’appelles-tu”.
Sometimes, even before you ask them to introduce themselves, the person you are speaking to might ask you to introduce yourself.
If so, you should respond with “je m’appelle/je suis (your name)” then say:
E vous? (formal)
Et tu? (informal)
Both these French phrases translate to “and you?”. The appropriate response from the person you are speaking to will be to give you their name.
Having regular conversations in French with native speakers is one of the best ways to learn. Your end goal in trying to introduce yourself to a French speaker and have a conversation with them is because you want to practice your French.
While you want to have “natural” sounding daily conversations in French, it might take some time before you are really comfortable speaking and thinking in French. This is why it’s important to let the people you are trying to talk to know that you might need them to be a little more patient with you.
Here are some good phrases that you should know to be able to introduce yourself as a French language learner.
Je parle francais (I speak French)
Je parle un peu de francais (I speak a little French)
J’apprends le francias (I am learning French)
Comment/Pardon? (Excuse me? Sorry, excuse me?)
Je ne comprends pas (I don’t understand)
Parlez lentement, s’ik vous plait (Speak slowly, please)
Répétez, s’il vous plait )Repeat please)
After you’ve initiated the introductions and indicated that you want to have a conversation, here are a few ways to prolong the conversation.
Basically, you now want to start some “small talk” and these are phrases to start with (and also some topics to start with).
Ask where they are from
If you want to make friends, you need to know a little more than someone’s name. Here are a few questions that you can ask to get to know more about your new friend.
D’où venez-vous? (formal)
D’où viens-tu ? (informal)
These are phrases that you can use to ask someone where they are from. If the French speaker you are talking to asks you this first, you can answer by saying:
Je viens de (I am from)
Just add the country or city that you want to say you are from. Then maybe say “e vous/e tou” to ask where the other person is from.
Ask how old they are
Quel âge avez-vous? (formal)
Quel âge as-tu ? (informal)
These phrases translate to “how old are you”. While asking someone how old they are is a “classic” conversation gambit, it might not really be appropriate anymore. Some people can be touchy about their age, so you might want to hold off on this one.
Ask what they do for a living
Quel est votre travail? (formal)
Quel est ton travail? (informal)
This French phrase means’s “what is your job?” Again, consider the situation and who you are talking to before deciding if you will use the formal or informal phrase.
If you are asked this question, the proper response is to use the phrase below:
Je suis (I am)
Then just add what your job or your profession is.
Ask what their hobbies are
After asking what they do for a living, try asking what they do for fun. People all over the world tend to love to talk about their hobbies and it is a great way to not just find out more about them but to bond.
Here are a few good French phrases to use to start a conversation about hobbies.
Qu’est-ce que vos aimes faire? (formal)
Qu’est-ce que tu aimes faire? (informal)
This is a general phrase that asks “what do you like to do?” When you say this to a French speaker, you are encouraging them to tell you about their hobbies or what they like to do when they are not at work or in school.
You can also start things off by telling people what you like to do, or ask them if they like to do something specific.
J’aime (I like)
Je m’intéresse (I’m interested in)
Aimez-vous (Do you like)
Just add the hobby or activity that you are interested in talking about afterward.
The phrases we discussed are some of the most basic phrases you will need to introduce yourself and start a conversation in French. Learning these and other common phrases in French is an important part of your language learning journey.
French is a beautiful language that is rich with unique idioms that you will need to learn to participate in daily conversations. We recommend that you work with a native French-speaking tutor who you can practice having actual conversations in order to prepare yourself for the day when you travel to a French-speaking area.
Word of advice though, do your research and try and figure out what variant of French is spoken in the area you are going to travel to. French is spoken all around the world and, while many will understand standard French, the different regional varieties (such as Belgian French or Canadian French) might be slightly different.
It would be smart to learn the specific accent or expressions and idioms that are in use in the French-speaking area that you will be traveling to. It will enable you to grasp what is being said around you quickly and make it easier for you to participate in daily life.
Bonjour (good day) This is the most basic way to say hello in French. As long as the sun is in the sky, this is how to greet someone in French. Salut (hello) This is another way to greet someone in French. This is appropriate to use during the day or the night. Be aware, however, that this phrase is a little informal. So, use it to greet friends or in casual situations but stick to “bonjour” in formal situations. Bon matin (good morning) This translates to “good morning” and can be used in place of “bonjour” from any time from sunrise to around lunchtime. Bonsoir (good evening) This is the French word for “good evening” and is used to greet someone after the sun has gone down Bonne nuit (good night) This translates to “good night” and can also be used to say hello in French if it is already the evening. However, it’s more commonly used to say “goodbye” during the evenings.
1. Properly greet the other person. 2. Introduce yourself. 3. Ask them to introduce themselves. 4. Tell them you are learning French. 5. Start the conversation!
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