Useful French Phrases to Know During Your Semester Abroad

Megan Hayhurst headshot
Megan Hayhurst
November 16, 2023

Today I'm here to catch you up on some of the most useful French phrases that I’ve learned during my time abroad. These phrases can’t be learned from a textbook; these terms are fresh off the streets of Nantes, France.  Let's dive right in. 


  1. Wesh les gars  

    First off at number one we have “Wesh (wsh for short) les gars.” This is a phrase that I’ve heard over 20 times during my time in Nantes. Don’t ask me why, I’m just as confused as you are. Apparently, it’s a cool greeting. So, if you want to let people know that you’re cool and hip, say this. It translates to, “Hey guys!” You can also use "wesh" in basically any instance; just change your intonation depending on the situation, and it works. 

  2. Je ne suis pas stupide

    Just to let the French people know that you are in fact intelligent in the English language, just not in French. Or maybe you are intelligent in French. If so, good for you. You can also use this phrase for that situation.  

  3. Je suis confus(e)

    This is an easy way to get someone’s attention. Are you confused but don’t even know what you’re confused about? This phrase is perfect for that.   

  4. Où est la toilette? 

    Practical and necessary. Or if you’re really in a rush: LA TOILET - C’EST OÙ??? Also, good luck figuring out how to actually use it (you have to hold the button down). 

    And to follow up: où est le papier toilette? Because, in many cases, you can’t use one without the other. They’re complementary products.  

  5. À point, cuit, bien cuit, etc. etc.

    It did not occur to me when ordering a steak in French that I would have to also tell the server how I wanted the steak to be cooked. À point = rare, Bien cuit = well cooked, Trés bien cuit = cooked through  

  6. Peux-tu passer l'eau?

    For when you're having dinner with your host family and the glasses of wine keep coming, but the water is on the other side of the table. 

  7. Bah

    Want to impress your host family and fit into French society? Look no further. This perfect sentence-filler gives you an extra second to form your sentence in French. It’s like the more chic version of America’s classic “uh.” Use “bah” at the beginning of a sentence when you’re answering a question: Bah, oui. If you really want to sound French, hold it for a few seconds: Baaaaah, non.  

  8. Pote 

    Think you’ve learned all the vocabulary from your French textbook? WRONG. There’s all sorts of French slang. This one means “ami-e,” and it’s slang for friend. I’m honestly confused about this one too.  


Honorable mention: Chuis. It’s when you say "je suis" so quickly that the words combine into one. 

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Megan Hayhurst headshot

Megan Hayhurst

I became inspired to travel abroad after reading the book "Banner in the Sky" by James Ullman. Since then, I've dreamed of visiting Switzerland and climbing the Matterhorn during the day and snowboarding down the Swiss mountains at night!

2023 Fall
Home University:
Gettysburg College
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