Learn Basic French: The bits you really need to know

Posted: March 29 2021

Learn Basic French with Memrise

When you want to learn to speak French, the best place to start is with basic French words and phrases. However, knowing where to find them could be tricky. You can learn French words (and really, the basics of the French language) fairly easily if you know where to look and how to fit learning into your life. Whether you’re planning on visiting France as a tourist, or you’re a beginner just starting out, we’ve got you covered with loads of basic French phrases that are incredibly useful to know. Read on for more info on learning basic French!

Why learn basic French?

There are many reasons to learn basic French. The main reason is to create connections with others. Being able to communicate and connect with someone in their native language is amazing! You get to experience their culture and get to know them more. When you learn basic French, you also have a chance to strengthen your career prospects (you never know when it could come in handy!), gain a different perspective of the world and do some brain training all at the same time. 


Top tips for learning basic French 

Forget about the F-word 

We don’t mean that one (you can learn those if you really want to!) we’re talking about fluency. It’s important to note that fluency doesn’t come overnight! To speak French fluently, you need to proactively make time to learn and stick with it for a long period of time. 


Of course, you want those interpersonal connections as quickly as possible to feel like you’re succeeding in having a decent conversation! But it does take time. When you’re just starting out, it’s more fun to make someone laugh with a silly mistake than to correctly use the imperfect subjunctive - we promise! 


Don’t be afraid to make mistakes in French

Linked to the point above, mistakes help your understanding and teach you new things. Of course, It’s natural to make mistakes when learning a language, so it’s natural to worry about them. Who hasn’t got their French pronunciation wrong, mixed up the gender of a noun, or been tripped up by a faux ami? (a.k.a a false friend: words that look or sound similar in another language, but mean something totally different).


But mistakes aren’t something you should worry about. In fact, they’re actually doing you a massive favour. Messing up will make you think about why what you said was wrong. And by figuring out the reason it was wrong, you’ll start to understand the right way to say it. 


So, how do we help your understanding? Memrise encourages you to start speaking, right from the off. If you make a mistake when you’re learning new words, it’ll be marked as “Difficult Words”, and it'll be tested again with extra emphasis. This’ll form the beginnings of a home for the information to store itself in your brain.


Use online resources to learn basic French 

Learning French words and phrases online is another great way to bring French vocabulary into your life. You could find a French ebook to help with remembering spelling, genders and grammar. If you’re someone that learns by listening, find a French podcast or watch videos by a French YouTuber. The internet is your friend when it comes to learning French. (We love Loïc Suberville!)


Another fantastic online tool to help you learn basic French is online streaming platforms. You can access hundreds of French TV series, films and documentaries. If you’re a visual learner, it’ll help to keep your attention and not let it drift away and onto Instagram (we’ve all done it). Plus, it can help you with tone, gesture and intonation in the French language. 


Please could you repeat that?





Easy French words and phrases to learn

Here are a few quick, basic French phrases you can pick up easily.

Hi/Hello / Salut



How are you? /Comment ça va?

Comment ça va?


Nice to meet you / 




What's your name? /

Comment tu t'appelles ?

comment tu tappelles ?


My name is / Je m’appelle

je mappelle


Thank you / Merci



Goodbye / Au revoir

Au revoir


Okay, Alright / D’accord



I love it / J’adore

jadore !


Really? / Ah bon ?

ah bon


I’m sorry / Je suis désolé(e) 

Je suis désolé

I don't like it / Je n’aime pas

Je n’aime pa

Me too / Moi aussi



Me neiter / Moi non plus

Moi non plus


Then once you’ve got these simple French sentences nailed, it’s time to head out and try them! You’ll need to put yourself out there. It might seem scary but try to forget about perfectionism. The best approach to learning conversational French is “Je ne parle pas parfaitement, mais je me fais comprendre!”, which means “I don’t speak perfectly, but I make myself understood!” Remember: everyone makes mistakes. That’s the best way to learn!

You can also learn loads more basic French phrases easily with our dedicated French phrasebook!


French Vocabulary

To master French vocab, you’re probably thinking you’ve got to knuckle down and direct your learning to French colours like bleu (blue), vert (green) and rouge (red), animals (you probably already know chat (cat), chien (dog), poulet (chicken)) and family members (such as père (father), mère (mother), grand-mère (grandmother)). 


If you don’t know those, don’t sweat it. We all start somewhere! And we’ve included the English translations too, to help you out just in case. 


This is fine if you want to know lots of random words or bits of information. But honestly, you’re not likely to be learning so you can play 20 Questions in French (if you are, fair play - that’s dedication!) 


While learning the basics like yes and no (‘oui’ and ‘non’), the alphabet and numbers is important, they’re not super helpful when it comes to actually having a real-life conversation, which we would assume is the goal here. As always, there are some useful exceptions, like learning the words for different feelings/emotions like happiness (joie/bonheur), sadness (tristesse) and anger (colère), or learning how to ask for water (Est-ce que je peux avoir de l’eau s'il vous plaît ?) 


If you want to expand your vocabulary, by all means, you can go and learn the topics mentioned above. But to get around Paris, order a beer in Marseille or just make friends with the locals, learning conversational vocabulary is going to be way more important. (See our Phrasebook linked above!)


I'm a bit confused


je suis un peu perplexe



The key to learning basic French

The best way to learn basic French is to just get started! However, we don’t think you should go out and buy the first French grammar book you can see, or sign yourself up for dull-as-ditchwater robotic online classes. Those things take time, money and a LOT of your patience. Learning French should fit into your schedule, not the other way round! The key to success in learning basic French is to integrate regular exposure to French content into your daily routine - i.e. to practice! You should combine listening to native speakers with some key vocabulary in the form of some basic French words. Add a couple of simple French sentences and a few clever language hacks and you have a magic recipe for basic French conversation.


We’ve got it all here for you, in one handy course! Check it out and tag us on social media when you’ve completed it and moved onto the next level (Look at you go! Smashing it 🚀)


With these basic French phrases, you’ll be sure to enrich your world by learning some basic conversational French vocabulary. If you found this useful, find out more about learning French now! 


Start learning for free!