How to Sound More French When Speaking

Learning another language takes time and hard work. Not only do you have to learn vocabulary and grammar, but you also have to struggle with pronunciation. After all, some French sounds don’t exist in our native languages. This gets especially harder as we grow up.

Eliminating an accent is really hard and may even be impossible. At most, we can reduce it, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. However, that’s a whole different subject. Today, I want to share some tips with you on how to sound more natural when you speak French. I’m not talking about accents but words or expressions that native French speakers use in daily life. Let’s learn how to sound more French when speaking, shall we?

Stop Using Nous

When we studied subject pronouns, we learned that we translates as nous in French. This is standard French, and you shouldn’t have any problems when using it in a formal setting. However, in an informal setting, the French don’t really use it. Instead, they use the pronoun on.

Look at the following examples:

Nous sommes heureux = On est heureux (We are happy).

Nous avons faim = On a faim (We are hungry).

You can use them interchangeably, but remember that on is more common in informal settings.

Drop Ne

In another lesson, we learned that negation is expressed by using ne + pas in most cases. However, in real life, French natives usually drop ne and just use pas. Look at the following examples:

Je ne sais pas = Je sais pas (I don’t know).

Je ne peux parler anglais = Je peux pas parler anglais (I can’t speak English).

Your French teacher might cringe at this, but it’s important to learn how real people talk and not just proper French.

Use More Contractions

Although contractions are common and mandatory in most cases, in some they’re still optional. Look at the examples below:

Tu as faim? = T’as faim? (Are you hungry?)

Tu es content? = T’es content? (Are you happy?)

Je suis fatigué = J’suis fatigué (I’m tired).

Il y a 5 ans… = Y’a 5 ans (5 years ago).

Use Filler Words

Young man and woman talking and laughing.

Just like English and other languages, French also has its own filler words. These are some of the most common ones:

  • Alors = So
  • Euh = Uh, um
  • Quoi? = You know?
  • Hein? = Huh?
  • Bref = Basically, long story short
  • Bah oui/Bah non = Well, yes/Well, no
  • En fait = In fact, actually
  • Genre = Like


Alors, tu viens? So, are you coming?

Est-ce que je peux avoir, euh…un café? Could I have, um…a coffee?

J’adore les hamburgers, quoi? I love burgers, you know?

Hein? T’as dit quoi? Huh? What did you say?

Bref, il est un crétin. Long story short, he’s a jerk.

T’en veux? Bah, oui. Would you like (some)? Well, yes.

J’aime Paris. En fait, je l’adore. I love Paris. Actually, I adore it.

Tu as, genre, un autre stylo? Do you have, like, another pen?

*Important note: except for alors and en fait, the rest of the filler words are only used in informal settings.

Use Voilà as Much as You Can

Voilà literally means see there, but it also serves other purposes depending on the context. These are some of the most common uses:


Voilà notre église. (There’s/Here’s our church).


Voilà pourquoi il n’y va plus. That’s why he doesn’t go anymore.


J’ai fait une erreur. Voilà! I made a mistake. Exactly!

Filler Word

C’est mon copain, voilà. He’s my boyfriend (and that’s all).

Grave, Grave, Grave

Grave is used in both formal and informal situations, but its meaning depends on the context. It means serious in French. However, in informal spoken French, it translates as seriously, for real, absolutely, or indeed. Examples:

Il fait chaud, hein? Grave! (It’s hot, huh? Absolutely!)

C’est un peu loin! Grave! (It’s a little far. Indeed!)

Learn Slang

It’s impossible to list all the slang words there are, but you should be aware that younger people tend to use words older people don’t. If you learn slang and incorporate it when you speak French, French people will be impressed. Check the video below for a few ideas:

Throw In A Few Curse Words

The French curse a lot. It’s not uncommon to hear your neighbor, your friends, or even a stranger on the street curse. Probably, the most used curse word is putain, which translates as f**k. Another common word is merde (sh*t), but there are many more.

People of all ages and social classes swear. Of course, there are exceptions, but swearing is extremely common in France. You can tone it down if there are children around or if you don’t feel comfortable swearing.

Use Salut Instead of Bonjour

The French use salut a lot as a common way of saying hi or goodbye. Confusing, huh? However, be advised that this is only okay in informal settings. It’s okay to use it with friends and family, but other than that, it’s considered inappropriate. Be careful whom you say it to.

Don’t Say Oui

Okay, here’s my favorite. Do you remember Inspector Jacques Clouseau from The Pink Panther Show? He would always scold Sergeant Deux Deux for saying si instead of oui. Well, this is slightly different. Instead of saying oui, you should say ouais. They mean basically the same thing, but oui translates as yes, while ouais translates as yeah. Therefore, only use ouais in informal situations.


If you follow the suggestions above, you will sound more French when speaking the language. Your French friends will be impressed! Summarizing, you will sound more natural by:

  • Using on instead of nous.
  • Dropping ne and just using pas for negation.
  • Using more contractions.
  • Using filler words.
  • Using voilà.
  • Using grave.
  • Using slang.
  • Saying a few curse words.
  • Using salut instead of bonjour.
  • Using ouais instead of oui.

Remember these suggestions should only be followed in informal settings. It’s okay to use them with family and friends, but in other situations, stick to proper French.

Also, keep in mind that there are no excuses for not learning proper French. You need to learn it, especially if you’re planning to study or work in France or any other French-speaking country.

What do you think? What other things do you recommend for sounding more French? Let me know in the comments below. Au revoir, les amis!

How to Sound More French When Speaking.


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8 thoughts on “How to Sound More French When Speaking”

  1. These have been a lot of useful tips. I have been learning French for about 4 years. And I haven’t done that much progress. But during this quarantine I have learn more French than during all the previous years combined. The thing is that I am sensitive now to these things and know were I could sound more French. Dropping ne and using pas for negation is a good one, in my book.

    • Hey, Paolo,

      Don’t give up. I know how frustrating it can’t be. You need to find something that works for you. Don’t try to force yourself to do something you don’t like. 

      For starters, I’d recommend you hire a teacher/tutor. This way you’ll feel accountable for your progress. You can also join language exchange sites like Conversation Exchange and Tandem. You will be able to practice the language and even find a few good friends.

      Feel free to leave me any more questions you might have.

      Thanks for commenting.

  2. Okay! This is actually good for me to know of. I have taken some French courses and also tried to learn through an app but deep down in me, I knew that something is still off and that is the reason I am willing to out in the effort to actually get the very best tips and all. Worthy information is all that you have provided here for me. Thanks

    • Hey, Darmi,

      Glad to hear you found this useful. Sometimes all we need to do is refocus and find another way.

      Thanks for commenting.

  3. You are very right here, learning a new language is never easy and one will need to understand not just the words, but also understand how to pronounce and how to join the words together as well. For French, I feel pronunciation is one of those things that makes it a distinct language, just like Spanish. I speak French but not like the French will and your post has made me understand how to speak even better. Thank you!

    • Hi, Jackie,

      You’re right. Pronunciation is key. And yeah, even after years of learning, we always learn something new.

      Thanks for commenting.

  4. I took one semester of French at University long time ago. I can read and understand it. But have never spoken on daily basis. Many French words are used in English, but people don’t see that because the graphic accent (á é í ó ú) is not used in English.

    The typical example I use is this: Resume (to continue anything began); Resumé (In Spanish): a summary of studies and work experience used when looking for job; and Résumé in French, with same meaning as Spanish. That’s when I send it to USA or English country I used Résumé

    Those changes ocurred by generations, mostly.

    • Hi, Luis,

      Practice is key. If you don’t live in a French-speaking country, you can try tandems. They’re very effective and fun.

      And yeah, you’re right, English has borrowed many words from other languages, including French. The only thing is that they don’t always respect the spelling.

      Feel free to check my other articles for more info and tips on the French language and culture. Thanks for commenting.


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