In the last chapter we talked about the best apps for learning French. In this chapter we are going to talk about 100 most common words in French. When you start learning French, it makes sense to familiarize yourself with some basics of the most common words and learn how to make simple sentences with them.
The mistake some beginners make when they get started with learning French, is that they plug the words into an app, such as Anki flashcards and they only focus on memorizing the new words separately. This is not highly effective because it won’t help you to converse in French, since the words are detached from one another.
In other words, you need to connect the words together in a flowing way in order to converse in French. For example, the French word for water is eau. It’s pronounced sort of like the English ‘oh’. If you go to a French-speaking area and need water, nobody is going to understand you if you say ‘oh’, because the French language requires you to say de l’eau, which means ‘some water’.
So that’s why this chapter and the next do not only introduce the most common 100 French words, but they also encourage you to string those words together into sentences that are actually used in the French language. We will introduce the most common verbs of the French language, starting with the two most important verbs être and avoir, which mean ‘to be’ and ‘to have’.
Most common words in French
French is a language where nouns take on a masculine or a feminine form. In English, we say ‘the’. In French it is le for masculine and la for feminine. In English we say my, in French you have to match it to the masculine or feminine noun by saying either ‘mon’ or ‘ma’. To say a table, you also need to match the gender in French. Here un is masculine and une is feminine.
la table, ma table, une table the table, my table, a table
le ciel, mon ciel, un ciel the sky, my sky, a sky
Instead of le and la you use an l + an apostrophe when a word starts with a vowel of a silent h. For example: l’horloge. Also even feminine words take on the mon, such as mon horloge which means ‘my clock’ or ‘my wristwatch’.
For masculine words, for example le miroir, mon miroir the mirror, my mirror.
In French, there is also a plural form of the and ‘my’. So here you have, the mirrors, my mirrors: les miroirs, mes miroirs
In French he and she are: il and elle.
So let’s look at how we say she is in front of the mirror and he is at the table in French:
Elle est devant le miroir. Il est à table. Notice to be at the table is an idiomatic expression in French and you don’t need to say à la table.
As we mentioned earlier, in French you need to know whether a noun is masculine or feminine. While in English we say ‘a street’ and ‘a building’, in French you need to know whether these words are masculine or feminine so you can use the right form for ‘a’. So in French it would be une rue and un bâtiment. Une is feminine and un is masculine. To say ‘a street and a building’ you say une rue et un bâtiment.
Besides être and avoir, a few of the most common verbs in French are:
allerfairepouvoirvouloirsavoirvoirdireto goto doto be able toto wantto know (something)to seeto say
To introduce a few new words: in French, ça means this or that. While ‘they’ uses the form ils unless it is exclusively a group of females, in which case it would be elles.
36 most common French words
Here are 36 of the most common French words to get you thinking about what sentences you might want to string together:
Avoirto haveÊtreto bejeIBesoinneeddeof, from, someLethe (masculine)Lathe (feminine)EauWater NenotpasNotSoifThirstTuYou, (singular - familiar)VousYou, (plural - polite)NousWeQuiWhoTableTableCielSkyHorlogeClock, WristwatchMiroirMirrorIlHeElleShe, herDevantBefore, In front ofRueStreetBâtimentBuildingUna (masculine)Unea (feminine)Allerto goFaireto make, to doPouvoirto be able to Vouloirto wantSavoirto know (how to)Voirto seeDireto sayÇathatIlsTheyEllesThey (only females)
100 most common French words
Now that you’ve got a nice taste of 36 words, why not keep building up to 100? You’ve got an idea of how to construct some sentences, so go ahead create some sentences of your own with a total of the 100 most common French words.
PourFor, in order toDansIn, intoCe This, thatSurUpon, on, (also means sour but that’s just a coincidence)Seused in reflexive verbs and for oneself, himself, herself, itself, and themselvesPlus More, no moreParByAvecWithToutallSa, son, sesHis and hers (in feminine, masculine and plural forms)Mettreto putAutre OtherOnOne (to replace a pronoun and talk of generalities) we — uses the 3rd person singular conjugationMaishowever, butCommeas, likeoùWhereOu OrSiif, whether, (also the adverb ‘so’)sìused to say yes to a negative questionLeurTheir, theirs, themYThere, (also the pronoun it)Direto sayDevoirto be obliged to, to oweAvantBefore, frontDeuxtwoMême SameResterto stayBon, bonne, bons, bonnesGoodPeu(a) littlePetit, petite, petits, petitesSmall venirto comeDenierLastAprèsAfterTrouverto findMondeworld, peopleTrèsVeryTempstime, weatherLui HimEux ThemJourDayNuitNightHeureHour, timeMoinsLessEncoreStill, again, yetPersonneperson, anybody, nobodyDemanderto ask forRaison reason (to have reason is to be right)Tortwrong (to ‘have’ wrong is to be wrong)Point at allAinsiThusPendantDuringBienWellMalPoorlyFois (a) time (as in how many times?)Falloirto require, needLequelwho, whom, whichPasserto passDormirto sleepPenserto thinkPremierFirstTroisThreePourquoiWhySouventOftenBeaucoupMany, lots
It might be hard to believe, but you’ve got the most common 100 French words right here on one page. See how creative you can be as you make your own sentences with these 100 most common French words. For the nouns, see if you can determine whether they are masculine or feminine. Remember that masculine will use le, un and feminine will use la, une.
Also there are some expressions such as il y a, which means ‘there is’ and c’est ça which means ‘that’s it’ which are very useful and which you can make using the 100 most common French words.
Ready for some more? In the next chapter, we are going to introduce some French exercises for you to build on this chapter so you can get used to making sentences in French. Start practicing your French skills right away with our list of exercises in the next chapter, where you can improve your writing, vocabulary, and grammar knowledge.