The French jokes that will let you have a laugh with the locals

When it comes to jokes, the French don't have a reputation for being particularly hilarious, but in fact most people are fond of a good joke - especially ones that revolve around a play on words or some kindly mockery of other people.

The French jokes that will let you have a laugh with the locals
In the French jokes, the stupid character is always Belgian. Photo: stockasso/Depositphotos

If you want to get involved with joking around like a local, here are four French humor classics you could try out.

Belgian jokes

As if being taunted for losing their match in the semi-final of the 2018 Football World Cup every time they run into a French person did not suffice, Belgians also have to endure les blagues belges.

Popularised by French humorist Coluche in the 1980s, les histoires belges always portray Belgian people as simple-minded or having absurd behaviour, and are very popular in France.

Pourquoi les belges n'ont-ils pas de glaçons? – Why do Belgian people do not have ice cubes? 

Parce qu'ils ont perdu la recette. – Because they lost the recipe.

READ ALSO Eleven phrases that will let you complain like the French

As well as the 'Belgian jokes' Belgians also have to put up with jokes about the 2018 World Cup semi-final. Photo: AFP

Qui a inventé le sous-marin? – Who invented submarines?

Les Belges, en essayant de construire un bateau – Belgian people trying to build a boat.

Comment reconnaître un Belge dans un aéroport? – How do you spot a Belgian man in an airport?

C'est le seul qui lance du pain aux avions – He is the only one feeding bread to the planes.

Cliché-based jokes are not France's monopoly though. Dutch people also enjoy their blagues belges and Belgian people do have their own stereotypes jokes on French people as well.

Toto jokes

Les blagues de Toto are extremely popular jokes in French culture, particularly for children. These short stories always feature a young boy named Toto and are often related to his life as a primary schoolchild. Toto is always depicted as a joker and a dunce.

French people will likely hear dozens of Toto jokes in their lifetime, especially coming from kids who have a particular fondness for the character.

C’est l’histoire de la maîtresse qui demande à Toto: « Récite-moi le verbe marcher au présent. » Toto répond: « Je…marche…Tu…tu…marches… ». Mais la maîtresse le presse: «Plus vite Toto ! » Ce à quoi il répond: « D'accord, je cours, tu cours, il court… »

This is the story of Toto's teacher asking him to conjugate the verb walk in the present tense. Toto answers: ''I… walk… You… you… walk…'' But his teacher pushes him: ''Quicker than this, Toto!'' to which the child answers: ''Well, I run, you run, he runs..''


Le professeur demande à ses élèves «Où poussent les dattes ?»Toto lève le doigt : «Moi je sais ! Sur les calendriers !»

Toto's teacher asks the class: ''Where do dates grow?'' Toto raises his hand: ''Oh I know! They grow on calendars!''

A punny Toto joke, playing on one of the double meanings of the word propre, here 'clean' and 'proper'.

La maîtresse demande à Toto: « Dans ta rédaction, tu as écrit le mot 'savon' avec un S majuscule. Pourquoi ?» Il répond: « Ben, je pensais que c'était forcément un nom propre !»

The teacher asks Toto: ''You wrote the word soap with a capital S in your essay, Toto. Why?'' He answered: ''Because I thought it would obviously be a proper noun!''

Blonde jokes

Wherever they go, blonde women cannot seem to escape jokes revolving around their hair colour and them supposedly being dumb. And France is no exception: stereotypes around blonde-haired women and les blagues de blondes are still going strong.

Comment une blonde fait-elle pour tuer un poisson? – How does a blonde woman kill a fish?

Elle le noie. – She drowns it.

Would Paris Hilton be the butt of blonde jokes in France too? Photo: AFP

Comment faire rire une blonde le dimanche? – How do you make a blonde laugh on Sunday?

En lui racontant une blague le vendredi. – By telling her a joke on Friday.

And French language learners may have some sympathy with the blonde in this joke, which has the tricky subject of French plurals as the crux of the joke.

Une blonde et une brune se baladent, quand la blonde s'exclame: « Regarde, des chevals! » La brune lui répond : « Ah non, ce sont des chevaux. » La blonde, perplexe, rétorque: «Tu es sûre? Parce qu'on dirait vraiment des chevals! »

Two women, a blonde and a brunette are on a walk. Suddenly, the blonde one shouts : ''Look, some chevals!'' The brunette then says : ''No, those are chevaux.'' Perplexed, the blonde insists: ''Are you sure? Because they really look like chevals!''

Important: chevals is not a real word. The plural of cheval is chevaux, not to be confused with cheveux (hair).

Mr and Mrs jokes

Mr and Mrs jokes always have the same basic pattern, which varies according to the number and gender of children needed to create the perfect pun. This usually looks like this: ''Mr and Mrs XX have a son. What is his name?''

Anybody can come up with Mr and Mrs jokes, so here are a few examples to get you started.

Monsieur et Madame Honnête ont une fille. Comment s'appelle-t-elle?

Camille. Camille Honnête. The imaginary daughter of Mr and Mrs Honnête is transformed into a means of transportation, une camionnette – a van.



This Twitter user adds a brutal twist to the joke: ''Mr and Mrs Infertile have no child. The end.''

Monsieur et Madame Bonneau ont un fils. Comment s'appelle-t'il?

Jean. Jean Bonneau. Turning Jean into jambonneau, aka the knuckle of a ham.

And finally, this proud nod to the French people's poor English accent, which is particularly well-known Mr and Mrs Joke in France:

Monsieur et Madame Fly ont trois fils. Comment s'appellent-ils?

Abdul, Yves et Hakim Fly. When pronounced with a thick French accent, this combination turns into the title of the famous R Kelly song, ''I Believe I Can Fly''.





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Le Havre rules: How to talk about French towns beginning with Le, La or Les

If you're into car racing, French politics or visits to seaside resorts you are likely at some point to need to talk about French towns with a 'Le' in the title. But how you talk about these places involves a slightly unexpected French grammar rule. Here's how it works.

An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre.
An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre. It can be difficult to know what prepositions to use for places like this - so we have explained it for you. (Photo by AFP)

If you’re listening to French chat about any of those topics, at some point you’re likely to hear the names of Mans, Havre and Touquet bandied about.

And this is because French towns that have a ‘Le’ ‘La’ or ‘Les’ in the title lose them when you begin constructing sentences. 

As a general rule, French town, commune and city names do not carry a gender. 

So if you wanted to describe Paris as beautiful, you could write: Paris est belle or Paris est beau. It doesn’t matter what adjectival agreement you use. 

For most towns and cities, you would use à to evoke movement to the place or explain that you are already there, and de to explain that you come from/are coming from that location:

Je vais à Marseille – I am going to Marseille

Je suis à Marseille – I am in Marseille 

Je viens de Marseille – I come from Marseille 

But a select few settlements in France do carry a ‘Le’, a ‘La’ or a ‘Les’ as part of their name. 

In this case the preposition disappears when you begin formulating most sentences, and you structure the sentence as you would any other phrase with a ‘le’, ‘la’ or ‘les’ in it.


Le is the most common preposition for two names (probably something to do with the patriarchy) with Le Havre, La Mans, Le Touquet and the town of Le Tampon on the French overseas territory of La Réunion (more on that later)

A good example of this is Le Havre, a city in northern France where former Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, who is tipped to one day run for the French presidency, serves as mayor. 

Edouard Philippe’s twitter profile describes him as the ‘Maire du Havre’, using a masculine preposition

Here we can see that his location is Le Havre, and his Twitter handle is Philippe_LH (for Le Havre) but when he comes to describe his job the Le disappears.

Because Le Havre is masculine, he describes himself as the Maire du Havre rather than the Maire de Havre (Anne Hidalgo, for example would describe herself as the Maire de Paris). 

For place names with ‘Le’ in front of them, you should use prepositions like this:

Ja vais au Touquet – I am going to Le Touquet

Je suis au Touquet – I am in Le Touquet 

Je viens du Touquet – I am from Le Touquet 

Je parle du Touquet – I am talking about Le Touquet

Le Traité du Touquet – the Le Touquet Treaty


Some towns carry ‘La’ as part of their name. La Rochelle, the scenic town on the west coast of France known for its great seafood and rugby team, is one such example.

In French ‘à la‘ or ‘de la‘ is allowed, while ‘à le‘ becomes au and ‘de le’ becomes du. So for ‘feminine’ towns such as this, you should use the following prepositions:

Je vais à La Rochelle – I am going to La Rochelle

Je viens de La Rochelle – I am coming from La Rochelle 


And some places have ‘Les’ in front of their name, like Les Lilas, a commune in the suburbs of Paris. The name of this commune literally translates as ‘The Lilacs’ and was made famous by Serge Gainsbourg’s song Le Poinçonneur des Lilas, about a ticket puncher at the Metro station there. 

When talking about a place with ‘Les’ as part of the name, you must use a plural preposition like so:

Je suis le poinçonneur des Lilas – I am the ticket puncher of Lilas 

Je vais aux Lilas – I am going to Les Lilas

Il est né aux Lilas – He was born in Les Lilas  


Islands follow more complicated rules. 

If you are talking about going to one island in particular, you would use à or en. This has nothing to do with gender and is entirely randomised. For example:

Je vais à La Réunion – I am going to La Réunion 

Je vais en Corse – I am going to Corsica 

Generally speaking, when talking about one of the en islands, you would use the following structure to suggest movement from the place: 

Je viens de Corse – I am coming from Corsica 

For the à Islands, you would say:

Je viens de La Réunion – I am coming from La Réunion 

When talking about territories composed of multiple islands, you should use aux.

Je vais aux Maldives – I am going to the Maldives. 

No preposition needed 

There are some phrases in French which don’t require any a preposition at all. This doesn’t change when dealing with ‘Le’ places, such as Le Mans – which is famous for its car-racing track and Motorcycle Grand Prix. Phrases that don’t need a preposition include: 

Je visite Le Mans – I am visiting Le Mans

J’aime Le Mans – I like Le Mans

But for a preposition phrase, the town becomes simply Mans, as in Je vais au Mans.