For members


36 vital phrases to use in the French workplace

Working in a French office can be daunting, especially if you aren't yet fluent in French. But fear not, we've put together a list of vital phrases to use at work, whether for chatting to colleagues, asking for a pay rise or quitting.

36 vital phrases to use in the French workplace
Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Life in France can be frustrating for a foreigner if you can't express yourself in the local lingo.

This problem can be exacerbated at work, when your French colleagues are a little more stressed out than the ones you meet at dinner parties and you might not have as much time to make your point heard.

And when it comes to talking to workmates and especially your boss, it's vital you make yourself understood, so here are some phrases to help you out. They range from the basic to certain choice expressions that could win you new friends.

We'll take you from the beginning, your first day on the job to your parting shot to your boss as you quit. 



“Salut, je viens de commencer. Vous travaillez ici depuis longtemps?” (“Hi, I’m new. Have you worked here for long?”) 

It’s your first day so start with this easy loosener. Be sure to address people as ‘vous’ to start with at least, especially your superiors.

“Quoi de neuf?” (“What's up?”)

Say this if you are feeling a bit more chummy with colleagues. This basically means “What’s new” or “what’s up”.

“Re-bonjour” (“Hello again”)

In France it can seem odd to say ‘bonjour’ again if you’ve already seen someone once, it suggests you have forgotten seeing the person the first time! In the office you’ll often see people more than once, so all you need to do is add a ‘re’ – ‘re-bonjour!’

“Tu as passé un bon weekend?” (“Did you have a good weekend?”)

Typical Monday morning polite expression. Use it in the lift when you are stuck for something to say, and of course revert to the vous form if you're not yet bosom buddies. 

How France is a better place to work than the UK or USPhoto: AFP


“Quelqu’un veut un café ou un thé?” (“Anyone want a coffee or tea?”)

The French really appreciate, even expect politeness, so there's no better place to start than offering to make them a tea or coffee.

“Vous aimeriez déjeuner avec moi (tous ensemble)?” (“Would you like to go for lunch with me?”)

Lunchtimes are taken seriously in France and they can last a long time so you might  as well try and share it with someone. 

“Tu veux aller prendre un verre après le boulot?”/ “Tu veux boire un coup, après le taf?“(“Would you like to go for a drink after work?”)

French colleagues are not known for socializing together, as much as their Anglo counterparts, however times are changing so if you are short of mates and get on with your colleagues then give it a go.

Dealing with the boss

Again knowing what to say to your French boss is vital. Your future may depend on your relationship with him or her.

“Oui, je vais le faire tout de suite.” (“Yes, I’ll get onto it right away!”) 

However long your ‘to-do’ list is you'll always need this phrase.

“Désolé d'être en retard” (“Sorry I’m late!”)

 The chances are you will never be later than your boss, or even late at all as generally Anglos should be able to cope with the 10am starts, but you never know.

“Faire d'une pierre deux coups” (“To kill two birds with one stone”)

Your boss will love efficiency so if you ever get the chance to use this phrase, do so.

“Quel est le deadline? or Quel est le delais?” (“When’s the deadline?”)

“Est-ce que je peux avoir une augmentation de salaire?” (“Can I have a pay rise”)

Your boss will then either say no or ask you to justify it. To which you could respond:

“Je travaille à la sueur de ma front” or “J'ai travaillé jusqu'à pas d'heure”  (I am working my fingers to the bone)

Photo: Fortune Live Media/flickr

Computer/work speak

As everything is done on computers these days, knowing IT terminology in French is vital. Here are a few starters for you.

“Vous pourriez/tu pourrais m’envoyer un email?” (“Could you send me an email?”)

A nice and easy request. Otherwise…

“Est-ce que vous pourriez me le transmettre par email?” (“Could you forward it to me by email?”)

“Je ne sais pas, regard sur Google” –  (“I don't know. Google it.”)

“J’ai mis le fichier à jour (“I have updated the file”)

Although ‘updating’ files may not the most interesting of tasks, “mettre à jour” is an essential term when it comes to computers.

“Avez-vous le mot de passe pour se connecter au wifi?” (Do you have the password for the wifi)

A vital question when starting a new job.

“On se fait un brainstorming?” (“Let’s brainstorm!”)

An excellent way for you to use your perfect franglais

Tech breakdown

This comes to us all at some point, every single day, so it's a good idea to be ready. These all speak for themselves.

“Mon PC est lent, je pense qu’il a un virus” (“My computer is slow, I think it’s got a virus”)

Another word that may come up for PC is ‘ordi’ – don’t be confused, it’s just short for ‘ordinateur’. 

“J'ai perdu ma connexion internet! Tu as toujours la tienne?” (“I’ve lost internet connection! Do you still have yours?”)

“Le serveur a crashé. Il faut que je redémarre l'ordinateur.” (“The system has crashed again, I need to reboot”)

“Il n'y a rien qui marche dans cette boite (de merde)” (“Nothing works in this bloody company”)

Let your frustration out. The chances are your Gallic colleagues will do the same.

“À boire ou je tue le chien” (“Someone bring me a drink or I’ll kill the dog!”)

For use when times get really tough.

Getting on with colleagues (or not)

You'll need to work closely with colleagues, some of whom may not be to you liking and you may need to put them in their place. 

“Oui, je suis sous l’eau pour l’instant mais demain j’aurai le temps!” (“Yes, I’m a bit bogged down just at the moment, but I’ll be able to do it tomorrow”)

Always good to say you are snowed under.

Oh putain, Il y a de l'eau dans le gaz… (“They are having an almighty row”)

Chances are you can view this at your leisure as the French are not scared to have huge slanging matches at work.  

“Il est de mauvais poil” (“He's in a bad mood”)

Again this may come in handy if your colleagues' temperaments are, let's say, typically Gallic.

“Tu me cours sur le haricot!” (“You are really getting on my nerves, or literally you are running on my bean)

Use at your discretion. The chances are if you say this great French expression, any tension will melt away.

Departures/ leaving work

“A tout à l’heure” (“See you in a bit”)  Ciao” – (“bye”) “Bonne soirée” – (“Have a good evening”)

“Bon weekend, amusez-vous bien/Profite-en bien” (“Have a good weekend, enjoy yourself/Have a good time!”)

“Bonnes vacances. A bientôt. Repose-toi /Reposez-vous bien” (“Have a good holiday/ See you soon/ Relax, get some good rest”)

Quitting a job

“J'ai le regret de vous informer que j'ai pris la décision de démissionner”  (“I am sorry to tell you, I have decided to resign”)

Break the news like this if you want to be formal and polite. But use the following if you really want to make your feelings known…

“J'en ai marre de ce boulot : je démissionne!” (‘I’m sick of this job: I quit!”)

“Je dois quitter ce travail, je m’ennuie comme un rat mort” (“I’ve got to quit this job! It’s boring me to death!” – like a dead rat in fact.)

An earlier version of this article was published in 2014.

by Isy Orange

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


How to get a summer job in France

As the summer holidays approach in France, many employers are looking for seasonal workers - so if you're looking for a summer job, here's how to go about it.

How to get a summer job in France

There are thousands of employment offers in France – a simple internet search for jobs d’été came up with numerous jobs boards offering work in France, while the government-backed Centre d’Information et de Documentation pour la Jeunesse (CIDJ) offers advice and information on all aspects of life for young people in France, including finding seasonal work and summer placements.

Sectors including agriculture, hospitality and tourism are always recruiting in the summer, seeking fruit-pickers, holiday camp workers and serving/hotel staff.

But what are the rules for people seeking summer jobs?

READ ALSO Vendange: What you really sign up for when you agree to help with the French wine harvest


Children from the age of 16 (under certain circumstances, the age limit drops to 14) who are legally resident in France can work as long as they have written authorisation from their parents or legal guardians. A model authorisation letter is available here

Those under the age of 18 cannot undertake certain jobs for health and safety reasons.

In the following circumstances, children as young as 14 or 15 can work during school holidays.

  • The holidays must last at least 14 days;
  • The child must work no more than half the days of the holiday – so, if a vacation period is two weeks, they can work for no more than one of those weeks;
  • The child is given ‘light duties’ that offer no risk to their safety, health, or development;
  • From the age of 15 and if the child has completed their troisieme education, a minor can register for an apprenticeship. 


Salary is usually paid monthly and will have a payslip. For those aged 18 and over, pay will be at least equal to the minimum wage.

 For those aged 14 to 17, who have less than six months’ professional experience, the minimum allowed rate is 80 percent of the minimum wage. For those aged 17 to 18, the rate rises to a minimum of 90 percent of France’s minimum wage.

  • The minimum wage in France is currently €10.85 gross per hour (€1,645.58 gross per month based on a 35-hour week);
  • the employment contract is fixed-term and can take different forms (fixed-term contract, seasonal employment contract, temporary employment contract, etc);
  • Seasonal employees are subject to the same obligations as the other employees of the company and have access to the same benefits (canteens, breaks, etc.).

Under 18s have certain additional protections:

  • between the ages of 14 and 16, during school holidays, employees on any contract cannot work more than 35 hours per week nor more than 7 hours per day;
  • They cannot work at night;
  • Those aged 14 to under 16 working during their school holidays can only be assigned to work which is not likely to harm their safety, their health or development.

Right to work in France

If you’re a French citizen or hold permanent residency in France then you have the right to work, but for foreigners there are extra restrictions.

Anyone who holds the passport of a EU/EEA country or Switzerland, is free to work in France or to travel to France seeking work without needing a visa or work permit.

Most other people will need permission to work in France – even if it’s only for a short period or for casual work such as grape-picking. Depending on your country of origin you may need a visa – everything you need to know about that is here.

In addition to the visa, you may also need a work permit, which is the responsibility of the employer.  To employ anyone in France for less than 90 days, an employer must get a temporary work permit – before the prospective employee applies for a short stay visa. This permit is then sent to the embassy at which the employee is applying for a visa.

If you come from countries including the UK, USA and Canada you can spend up to 90 days in France without a visa – but you may still need a work (convention d’accueil) if you want to work while you are here.

READ ALSO Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in France

Certain countries have specific ‘seasonal worker’ visas on offer, for certain sectors which allows – for example – Canadians to come to France and work the ski season. 

Cash-in-hand jobs

Certain sectors which have a lot of casual workers – for example seasonal fruit-picking – do have cash-in-hand jobs, known in France as marché noir (black market) or simply travail au black (working on the black, or working illegally). 

This is of course illegal and working this way carries risks – as well as the possibility of losing your job if labour inspectors turn up you are also in a vulnerable position. If your employer suddenly decides not to pay you, or make unexpected deductions from your wages, there is very little you can do about it since you won’t have any kind of work contract.