Fact-Check & Editorial Responsibility: Kris Broholm
Starting a conversation is one of the hardest things to do when it comes to chatting with native speakers. That’s why we’ve put together a bunch of French conversation starters to help you, whether you’re meeting new friends, starting a new job or going to a party!
Important Things to Consider
Before we introduce you to some useful French conversation starters, it’s important to get your head around the basics first. These tips are great for beginner students or any learners who are just about gaining the courage to speak to natives!
Informal vs Formal
In French, both tu (informal) and vous (formal) mean the same thing in English: you. However, there is a difference between how you use you in English, and how you use you in French.
In English, you can use you to address any person or any group of people.
In French, you have to consider a few things before you decide which form of you to use. For example, how well do you know the person? What is your role in the current social situation? How old is the person you’re speaking to?
As a general rule of thumb, vous is a respecful way to address someone that you don't know or someone that is older than you. Tu, on the other hand, suggests familiarity, for example with a friend or family member.
It's impossible to go through every situation you might some across, but here's a quick cheat sheet:
Family members – tu
Friends – tu
Work colleagues – tu/vous
This depends on the hierarchy within the workplace. If you're speaking to colleagues you're more likely to use tu. However, if you are speaking to your boss, or anyone who works above you, you should always use vous. This is the same if you are a pupil speaking to a teacher: whether you're at school, university or an evening course, you should always use vous when you're addressing your teacher.
Meeting new people for the first time – vous/tu
When it comes to meeting people for the first time, choosing between vous and tu will depend on the situation. For instance, if you're meeting new business contacts, you will always use vous initially and then switch to tu (something that is often agreed upon later down the line). If you are meeting your friend’s parents, or grandparents, always use vous as they’re older than you.
If you’re unsure, always use vous to be polite, and wait until the other party suggests a switch to tu.
Changing the Form of Address
When you meet someone new, it’s polite to use vous. Later on, as you get to know each other better, you might decide to change your form of address to tu. However, you’ll need to agree on this change with the other person, first.
Here are a few phrases you could use:
- Est-ce qu'on peut se tutoyer? Can we address each other as ‘tu'?
- On peut se tutoyer, non? We can address each other as ‘tu', don't you think?
- Tu peux me tutoyer. You can address me as ‘tu'.
- Ne me tutoyez pas, s'il vous plaît. Please don't address me as ‘tu.
French Conversation Starters For Every Occasion
Below, you’ll find a number of French conversation starters to use in different scenarios. But first, let’s look at the basics:
6 Basic French Conversation Starters
- Bonjour! Hello!
- Bon Soir! Good Evening!
- Salut! Hi (an informal, friendly greeting)
- Enchante(e)! Nice to meet you!
- Ça va? How are you?
- Ça roule? How's it going?
4 French Conversation Starters For Dating
If you’re living in France for a while, you might be tempted to explore the dating scene. After all, striking up a relationship with a French native is a great way to improve your language skills, and quickly!
- Tu es avec quelqu’un? Are you with someone?
- Tu viens souvent ici? Do you come here often?
- Je peux t’offrir un verre? Can I buy you a drink?
- Pardon, tu aurais du feu/une cigarette? Sorry, do you have a lighter/ a smoke?
8 French Conversation Starters For a Professional Setting
You can use these French conversation starters while at a conference, a networking event, or when you’re in the office.
- Bonjour Madame/Monsieur/Messieurs-dames. Je m'appelle [name]. Je travaille chez [workplace]/Je suis [title]. Hello! My name is [name]. I work at [workplace] / I am a [title]. If you're at a conference, networking event or maybe a corporate event, this is one of the best ways you can introduce yourself. It's simple, straightforward and should get the group talking!
- J'ai une idée! I've got an idea!
- Je trouve votre avis très impressionnante. I found your idea very impressive.
- Est-ce que tu peux m’aider? Can you help me?
- Est-ce que tu sais utiliser ce logiciel? Do you know how to use this software?
- Tu bosses sur quel projet? What project are you working on?
- Tu travailles dans l’équipe de Nicolas? Are you working on Nicolas' team?
- Tu travailles ici depuis longtemps? Have you been working here for a long time?
8 French Conversation Starters For a Social Setting
Why not try out these French conversation starters when you're in a social situation like a birthday party, day-out with friends or at a restaurant?
- Est-ce que vous savez l’heure? Do you know what time it is? If you are at an event, party, cafe or maybe at the park, asking for the time is an easy way to break the ice. Usually, it will open the door for more opportunities. Then you can say things like:
- J’aime votre chapeau/robe/sac a main/sac à dos/manteau/chaussures. Puis-je vous demander où vous l’avez acheté? I like your hat/dress/purse/backpack/coat/shoes, can I ask where you bought them?
- Excusez-moi, est-ce que je peux m’asseoir ici? Excuse me, can I sit here?
This is great when you're looking for a seat in a cafe or if you'd like to share a park bench with someone. French people often share tables outside a cafe, so this won't seem strange to ask!
- Qu’est-ce que vous recommanderiez ici? What would you recommend ordering here?
- Ça a l’air bon! That looks good!
- C’est joli ici : c’est la première fois que je viens ici, et vous? It’s very nice here. It’s actually my first time visiting, have you been before?A useful phrase if you're at an event, or at a tourist attraction in a French-speaking country. You can then follow up with more specific questions depending on where you are, such as:
- Quelles autres attractions touristiques/historiques est-ce que vous avez vues dans la région?
Have you visited any other tourist/historical attractions in the area?
- Avez-vous vu la Joconde/la vue du haut de la cathédrale du Sacré-Cœur/la façade détaillée de la cathédrale Notre-Dame? Have you seen the Mona Lisa/the view from the top of the Sacred Heart Cathedral/the detailed facade of the Notre Dame cathedral?
Getting Started With French
Mastering these French conversation starters is a great way to meet new people and start learning a new language. But, what happens when you want to take your French to the next level?
It might be time to start a new course, listen to a language podcast or even get lost on Youtube. Check out some of our previous posts which list a number of great resources to help you to learn French.
- Bite Size French Course comes complete with 100 lessons of short dialogue, along with comprehensive lesson notes and extra resources.
- 40+ Courses to Learn French
- 19+ Apps to Learn French
- 20+ Podcasts to Learn French
- 28+ Youtube Channels to Learn French
Kris is the founder of Actual Fluency, and has spent the last 8 years becoming an expert in language learning software, methods, and techniques.
Originally from Denmark, he now lives in Portugal and speaks 5+ languages at varying levels. His other interests are Wine, Online Marketing, and Travelling.