Anyone who has studied abroad or visited France knows that the last thing you want to do is walk into a bar and alienate yourself by using awkward expressions or overly formal constructions. Slang is a register that helps you shout “I’m casual, easy-going and cool” to anyone who’s listening. And when you’re trying to sound more fluent and speak confidently, it can be very helpful. Also, speaking in an informal register bodes well for beginners as you’re able to make mistakes without worrying about embarrassing yourself. Everyone and everything is relaxed, even the language.
But if you’re not living in the country or spending a lot of time hanging out with French potes, it can be hard to figure out which slang to use and how to use it well, since the good stuff is decidedly missing from your average textbook. To that end, we’ve put together a little list to help you get started. If you want to carry on learning and using French slang, we suggest you get yourself some films and set the subtitles to français so you can be sure to catch all of the subtle ways French speakers use argot in social situations.
L’argot you need to know
Now for the expressions! Let me begin by saying, the majority of these were taught to me by a 78 year-old French grandmother with whom I lived during a summer internship in Avignon at the age of 18. Some of them, je m’en fous for instance, may be considered quite vulgar and could possibly qualify as swear words. Nonetheless, she used them freely and she was a respectable lady, so I adopted them as well. However, they did occasionally make French professors in college wince when I dropped them into class discussion.
8 French Slang Words and Phrases
Le truc, c’est que…– Truc is a fantastic little word. It means “thing” in French and can be used to describe something you don’t know the name for à la c’est quoi ce truc?. It’s much less formal than la chose and is more dynamic too. You can even use it as a filler, particularly when it comes to stalling and giving excuses. Le truc, c’est que … je me suis perdu et c’est pour ça que je suis en retard. The thing is, I got lost, and that’s why I’m late. Right, of course.
Je m’en fous!– I don’t give a damm. I don’t give a shit. I could care less. There’s also a four letter word beginning with ‘f’ that comes to mind. This one is a great way of shrugging things off or expressing invincibility in any situation. He said horrible things to you? Well you know what? Tu t’en fous, you could give a f*ck. Very useful.
Je me casse.– I’m getting out of here. I’ve never been called out for using this phrase and to be honest, I usually said it to my group of friends and used the on se casse? version to distance myself slightly. Nonetheless, there have been reports that it’s a strong sounding phrase to certain ears. You can say je bouge “I move” too if you want to be less offensive.
C’est trop cool.– That’s super cool. You probably know that trop means “too much” but did you know that the French like to use it instead of très to sound cool? Elle est trop belle is literally “she’s too beautiful” but means “she’s gorgeous.” You can use trop for almost every situation, to describe food, weather, your friend’s kindness when she lends you her car, Tu es trop gentille!
C’est dingue ça!– That’s crazy! That’s incredible. This is a great one as it sounds a little like the American slang “dang!” and can be used in pretty similar ways.
C’est mignon.– That’s cute. A great word for when you’re out shopping and you need to comment on a friend’s choice of outfit. Mignon is also a useful word for describing someone you fancy, just like we say “cute” in English to describe people we like. It works for flirting as well! Tu es mignon toi. You’re cute, you.
C’est marrant.- That’s funny. If you don’t know what to say, put a half-smile on your face and use this phrase. If you’re trying to call someone out you can start off with C’est marrant que … you suddenly forgot my phone number. It can also be used as a regular adjective. Il est marrant ce type.
Mes potes– My crew. My friends. My besties. If you want to solidify your relationship with your new group of French friends, this is your term. It comes in singular too. C’est qui ton pote. Who’s your friend?