50 ways to speak in French

It's not always what you say, but how you say it that matters...

Le déjeuner des canotiers (Luncheon of the Boating Party) (1881) Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Le déjeuner des canotiers (Luncheon of the Boating Party) (1881) Pierre-Auguste Renoir

You've mastered parler (to talk, to speak) and dire (to say, to tell), but the subtleties of speech often need more than these to best convey how we speak.


Baby talk:

Babiller - to babble

Gazouiller - to babble

Saying it softly:

Murmurer - to murmur, to whisper

Chuchoter - to whisper

Bruire - to whisper (less common)

Marmonner - to mumble

Un murmure - a whisper

Un chuchotement - a whisper

Un bruissement - a whisper

Parler doucement - to talk quietly



Between friends:

Bavarder - to chat

Jaser - to gossip

Potiner - gossip

Faire la causette - to chin-wag

Blaguer - to joke

Discuter - to discuss

Papoter - to natter

Jacasser - to cackle, to prattle

Plaisanter - to joke, to banter

Taquiner - to tease



To win someone over:

Draguer (quelqu'un) - to chat up or flirt with (someone)

Flagorner - to flatter, to sweet-talk

Flatter - to flatter

Courtiser - to flatter, to woo



To disagree or complain:

Se disputer - to argue, to quarrel

Argumenter - to argue

Débattre - to discuss, to debate

Râler - to gripe, to whinge

Se plaindre - to complain, to snivel

Bagarrer - to quarrel

Se chamailler - to squabble

Négocier - to discuss, to negotiate

Grogner - to grumble

Rouspéter - to grumble, to grouse



To be understood:

Expliquer - to explain

Justifier - to justify, to excuse

Démontrer - to demonstrate, to explain

Éclairer - to enlighten, to clarify

To be heard:

Crier - to shout, to scream

Hurler - to scream, to yell

A voix haute - with a high voice, with a loud voice

A haute voix - aloud, out loud

As the French might say... :

Parler comme quatre - to be very talkative...

La langue de bois - political cant, smooth talk

Avoir la langue bien pendue - to have the gift of the gab

La flagornerie - sweet-talk

Bêler une chèvre - to speak with a shaky voice (litterally 'to bleat like a goat')

Parler entre ses dents - to mumble

Le charabia - gobbledygook

Le baratin - waffle, claptrap



When words fail:

Bégayer - to stutter

Zézayer - to lisp

Zozoter - to lisp

Avoir un chat dans la gorge - to have a frog (litterally 'a cat') in your throat

Être à bouche bée - to be speechless

Être sans voix - to be speechless

Muet (m) / muette (f) - mute

Communiquer en langue des signes - to communicate in sign language

Mimer - to mime

Mime artist Marcel Marceau
Mime artist Marcel Marceau


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