For members


The 11 French phrases you will need to be tech-savvy in France

In an increasingly online world much of what we do on a daily basis involves IT, from reading The Local to filling in your annual tax declaration. So here is the vocab you need to be tech-savvy in France.

The 11 French phrases you will need to be tech-savvy in France
Make sure your French friends are laughing with you not at you. Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Helpfully, IT is one area where really quite a lot of English words have crept into the French language – to the occasional spasm of annoyance from French language guardians Academie française.

So if you're trying to conduct your business online or complain to your IT department that something isn't working, you will find a fair amount of familiar words.

But there are still plenty of French words you will need to know, so here's a selection of the basics.

Computerun ordinateur. If you have a desktop computer, this is still what you call it, while a laptop is un ordinateur portable

However increasingly people are doing their browsing on other devices, including a tablet – une tablette – or smartphone. There is an official word for a phone that also hooks you up to the internet – un mobile multifonction – but in practice many French people (and businesses) use the word 'smartphone' or simply un portable on the basis that these days it's actually pretty hard to find a mobile phone that doesn't have some internet connectivity.

Internetl'internet. The word for internet is the same and a website is un site web or sometimes just un site. If you want to send someone a link to a website that would be un lien.

France is pushing hard to boost its reputation as a destination for tech investment. Photo: AFP

Wifile wifi. One of the Acadamie française's more disastrous tech-related efforts was its attempt to get French people to say l'accès sans fil à internet to describe wireless internet access. Their directive was quietly ignored and instead everyone in France talks about le wifi (pronounced weefee). If you want the wifi password, that would be le code pour le wifi.

Emailun courriel. You will frequently hear French people talking about sending un mail for an email, but the correct term is un courriel and this is what you will see on official forms.

Download – un téléchargement or if you're talking about the verb, it's télécharger.

Passwordun mot de passe

Firewallun parefeu (or sometimes un pare-feu). Important for your security, you will also hear this referred to as 'un firewall' from time to time.

Appune application, frequently shortened to une appli. A translation app (always a handy thing to have on your phone) is une appli de traduction.

Dating siteun site de rencontre. It's not all work online of course, if you're looking for love with the help of technology, you would head to un site de rencontreclick here for a guide to some of the best known French  dating sites.

Other fun pastimes include les jeux vidéo – online gaming – and les services de streaming – online streaming services such as Netflix. A warning though, inviting someone for une soirée de regarder Netflix et se détendre (an evening of Netflix and chill) might not get you the hookup you were expecting as the phrase hasn't really caught on in France.

READ ALSO The five best Netflix series to get you speaking French as the locals do

Subscribes'abonner. As more and more sites prefer the business model of providing high quality content and asking people to pay for it – rather than the model of the earlier days of the internet when almost everything was free but a lot of it was rubbish – you will increasing find French sites asking you to sign up. S'abonner is probably the most commonly used term, especially for news sites where some content will be marked abonnés – only available to subscribers. But you might also be asked to souscrire, inscrire or s'enregistrer – register.

Phishinghammeçonnage. There is a French word for the technique of people who attempt to trick you into revealing private information (for example by sending an email purporting to be from your bank) but again the word phishing is also used quite frequently.



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For members


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.