You may know your basic French greetings, however engaging in a conversation in French is another story. So today, we’ll study the French conversation starters, I’ll offer some cultural tips and then illustrate how to open a conversation in French with a real-life like bilingual story.
In this lesson, I am not going over the typical French greetings and politeness: I have a whole audio lesson dedicated to that subject since they are of the utmost importance in French.
However, what comes next? How do you start a conversation in French? How do you engage a French person? And then, how do you talk about yourself and keep the conversation flowing naturally?
Here are my tips, including useful French conversation starters, and finally, a real-life like French English bilingual conversation.
1 – French Conversation Opening Lines
Here are some typical French conversation starters examples.
To start a conversation in French, talk about the place, the weather ask why the person is there – if you are at a party, how you know the hosts… then try to merge such a statement with a direct question.
- C’est joli ici : c’est la première fois que je viens ici, et vous ?
How nice (it is) here: it’s my first time here, and you?
- Pierre est vraiment un bon cuisinier. Son buffet est délicieux. Est-ce que vous aimez cuisiner ?
Pierre is really a good cook. His buffet is delicious. Do you enjoy cooking?
- Ce petit restaurant est vraiment une bonne trouvaille. Est-ce que vous venez souvent ici ?
This little restaurant is really a great find. Do you come here often?
- Ahhh, comme il fait beau. Enfin du soleil ! C’est bien agréable, vous ne trouvez pas ?
Ahhh, it’s so nice out. Sun, at last! It’s so pleasant, don’t you agree?
2 – Direct Approach: Introduce Yourself
If the context is right, you may want to be more direct than using a typical conversation starter and introduce yourself.
Here are some typical French introduction sentences: however, after you introduce yourself in French start with your relation to the place, the host, etc…
A smooth way to engage a conversation in French is to ask whether you’ve already met the person.
- Bonjour, je m’appelle Claude. Pierre est un collègue. C’est la première fois que nous nous rencontrons, n’est-ce pas ?
Hi, my name is Claude. Pierre is a colleague (of mine). It’s the first time we meet, right?
- Bonsoir, je m’appelle Sophie. Il me semble qu’on s’est déjà vus quelque part. Je suis la femme de Patrick, et une bonne amie de Chantal. Et vous ? Comment connaissez-vous Chantal et Pierre ?
Hi (in the evening), I’m Sophie. I believe we’ve already met some place. I’m Patrick’s wife, and a good friend of Chantal. And you, how do you know Chantal and Pierre?
- Salut, moi, c’est Ingrid. On se connaît de vue je crois. Je viens souvent ici, il me semble que je t’ai déjà aperçu(e).
Hey, I’m Ingrid (informal). I’ve seen you before I think. I often come here and I believe I’ve seen you around.
3 – Don’t Forget to Return the Questions!
One of the big problems that students of French have is that they don’t usually know how to lead a conversation in a foreign language. In a French class, the teacher usually does all the work, asks all the questions. The students only answers them.
But in a real-life situation, if you don’t ask questions, you are going to come out as a selfish person. So, come out of your shell, and ask questions: being able to quickly come up with a question or a follow up in French is the secret of French conversation.
Or, at the very least, return the question back to your interlocutor. Talk briefly about yourself, then ask “et toi / et vous”? (and you in French) – it’s that easy!
During my French Skype lessons, I sometimes train my students to develop this conversation habit. I ask a question: they have to answer in one or two sentences max, then send it back to me. I then answer, end with another question, and voilà: one subject leading to the other, we enjoy a natural conversation.
4 – Typical French Conversation Subjects
The weather is always a good conversation starter. Food is too… and travel, hobbies, sports…
Current events are OK but stay away from politics and religion, or anything too personal/deeper questions: keep the conversation light.
Check out my French audiobooks to see/hear typical conversation vocabulary and topics used in context.
And now let’s practice engaging someone in a conversation in French, and talking about yourself in French.
5 – French Dialogue – Starting a Conversation in French
Felipe is in a café in Paimpol, sitting under the covered patio. It was nice out until now. Sitting at the next table is a woman, drinking a coffee and looking out at the harbor.
Use the floating blue icon in the bottom right to hide/reveal the English translations below.
Oh non ! Il pleut encore ! Il faisait si beau ce matin.
(Il se tourne vers Camille) Quel dommage, la Bretagne est si belle, mais le temps est si imprévisible. Vous ne trouvez pas ?
Oh no! It’s raining again! It was so nice out this morning.
(He turns towards Camille) What a shame, Brittany is so pretty, but the weather is so unpredictable. Don’t you think?
Oui, vous avez raison. Mais s’il faisait beau tout le temps, tous les Français habiteraient ici !
Yes, you are right. But if the weather was always nice, all the French would live here!
Vous habitez à Paimpol ?
Do you live in Paimpol?
Mon mari, ma fille et moi habitons ici. Et vous ?
My husband, my daughter and I live here. What about you? (See how I discreetly mentioned I was married…)
J’habite à Barcelone, mais je viens souvent en Bretagne. J’ai de bons amis à Paimpol. Est-ce que vous connaissez l’Espagne ?
I live in Barcelona, but I often come to Brittany. I have good friends in Paimpol. Have you been to Spain (check out my article about to know in French to see why I translated this by “have you been”)
Oui, plusieurs fois. C’est un beau pays.
Yes, several times. It’s a beautiful country.
Où êtes-vous allée en particulier ?
Where have you been in particular?
(Parle de l’Espagne) Et vous ? Vous aimez voyager ?
(Talks about Spain) And you? Do you enjoy traveling?
And here you go… the conversation moves on from traveling, to specific places they particularly like, to museum and arts, to food… Remember, always send the question back thanks to “et vous / et toi”.
Relax, speak slowly and loud enough so you can be easily heard – smile, and enjoy yourself!
And here are my tips should the French starts speaking in English to you.
If you enjoy learning French in context, check out French Today’s downloadable French audiobooks: French Today’s bilingual novels are recorded at different speeds and enunciation, and focus on today’s modern glided pronunciation.
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