Apprendre la Langue Française (Part 82): communication et savoir-faire, les sommaires (premiere partie)

I have shared quite a lot of notes about French here at my apprendre la langue francaise series. We learned about the grammar, the phonetics, the verb conjugations, some vocabularies, several expressions, among others.  Yet it’s also equally important to understand how we can apply all these, and I’ll try my best, as I am no expert, to demonstrate it here and likewise, share my personal observations and insights as I learn the language while living in Geneva, where my French connection begins.

1) Saluer
Whether the person is someone you are familiar with or not, greeting others seems to be a common gesture for French-speaking people.  There are numerous expressions you can use depending on the situation (read: les usages – la politesse part un and part deux). To come in handy nevertheless, these are amongst the most common French salutations used:

Bonjour (Monsieur/Madame/Madamoiselle)!
It specifically means “Good morning” and this expression can be used as soon as the morning starts (6AM) until the afternoon (6PM). The expression, Bonsoir, is then used in the evening (6PM onwards); and another expression is used, Bonne nuit, most likely before someone goes to bed, or if it’s midnight.

I do hear Bon apres-midi and Bon midi for quite a few occasions, and I heard these mostly from old folks around, so I personally think that these two expressions are seldom used at this time and age.

I also observe that most people greet Bonjour to each other even if it’s way past evening. Later I did learn that Bonjour is also a rather formal way to say “Hello” to a stranger, regardless of time.

I find this rather interesting because this salutation could either mean “Hello” or “Goodbye.” So when you quickly meet someone halfway, you’d say Salut! two times? That’d sound technically right but totally weird. So no, not really. One Salut will be just fine (and quickly walk away if you may).

This expression is particularly used to informally greet a person you are closely associated with like family members, friends, work colleagues, etc. Well, when a stranger says Salut! to you, be very afraid…

These days, Salut! is more regularly used as “Hi” than as “Bye!” Because there’s another (and I’d say, better) way to say goodbye in French.

One more thing, this is neither associated with the word, “salute” nor it is pronounced similarly as well. Very French (c’est chic!), you won’t pronounce the letter T at the end (it’s /sah-lyoo/).

Au revoir (Monsieur/Madame/Madamoiselle)!
More of a formal expression, this exactly means “Goodbye.” What is good about this expression is that, this is not time-bound – and perhaps not even to how closely related you are with the other person (you can say Au revoir to a classmate, for instance). This is quite a handy expression I ought to know!

Again, very French, there’s a different way to pronounce it (read: la pronunciation du français), and it’s /aw-vwah/.

Bon journée!
This is also a formal expression of saying goodbye, but this time, it is time-bound. If we have Bonjour to say hello, we have Bon journée to say goodbye in the morning until afternoon; if we have Bonsoir, there’s Bon soirée.

If we have Salut! for “Hi!” we have Tchao! for “Bye!” Sounds familiar but yes, it is an Italian expression adapted into the French language, so as not to use Salut as a way to say good-bye, I guess…

À bientot. À demain.  À lundi. À week-end…
Apart from Au revoir, Tchao, Bon journee, and Bon soiree, you can also greet the person with salutations like À bientot or À demain.These two expressions mean “See you soon!” and “See you tomorrow!” respectively. When you are about to meet the other person on any days of the week, you can say À lundi (read: 12 mois et 7 jours) or on weekends, À week-end. This also goes to show that you are eager to be with the person soon.

2) S’excuser
Expressing apologies, requests, or gratitude is a common thing to do and here’s how to say it in French:

  • Excusez-moi means “Excuse me.”
  • S’il vous/te plaît? is normally added after saying a request or plea, and this phrase simply means “please.” Vous is used when you speak to more than one person, or when you have to speak formally to the other. Te (changed form of the pronoun, tu) is used when you speak to one person informally.
  • In saying sorry, you can say Pardon or (Je suis) désolé.
  • In thanking someone, you can say Merci (beaucoup). And in saying “You’re welcome,” you can either say: De rien which also means “It’s nothing;” or Je vous en prie which means “It was my pleasure” (or Je t’en prie for someone you are familiar with).

3) Se présenter / Présenter quelqu’un / Demander à quelqu’un de se presenter
Geneva is a melting pot of different nationalities. Hispanics, Africans, Middle Easterners, Asians, Americans, Europeans, it seems likely that each country of the world is well-represented in the city.  So apart from introducing myself whenever I meet new people, it is no longer surprising as well to tell them that I am a Filipino. Everyone does ask; we’re equally curious to know.

When people ask my name (le nom), they’d say, Vous vous appelez comment? (or Tu t’appelles comment? when informal), which literally means “How are you called?” And I’d respond, Je m’appelle (votre nom) and this literally means “I call myself (your name)” but of course, it equally means “My name is…” or “I am…”. Or informally, you can say, C’est (votre nom), which means “It’s (your name)” (read: les expressions – c’est vis-a-vis il est). Then people ask a few more information about you like (read: l’interrogation (adverbes interrogatifs) and l’interrogation (que, quoi ou quel?)):

age (l’age)
(Vous/Tu avez/as) quel age? What is your age?
J’ai vingt-huit (28) ans. I am 28 years (old).

where you live
Vous/Tu habitez/habites où? Where do you live?
J’habite à Geneve en Suisse. I live at Geneva in Switzerland.

nationality (la nationalité)
Quelle est votre nationalité? What is your nationality?
Je suis philippin. I am Filipina.

A quick note, in French, nationalities are treated as adjectives, not nouns. This also means that adjectives of nationalities have genders and the spellings differ to identify which one is for male and the other female (read: les adjectifs de nationalité).

In presenting someone, use pronoun, Il, if you introduce a male, and Elle, female. Note that there’s a different conjugation assigned for these pronouns (read: les verbes -être, s’appeler, et  avoir (conjugaison au présent)).

Il s’appelle Ben. Il est tunisien et il habite en France. Il a 30 ans. He is called Ben. He is (a) Tunisian and he lives in France. He is 30 years (old).

Elle s’appelle Marie. Elle est tunisienne. Elle a 20 ans. Elle habite à Zurich en Suisse. She is Marie. She is (a) Tunisian. She is 20 years (old). She lives at Zurich in Switzerland.


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