But the language of official paperwork can be dense, confusing and very different to everyday conversational French.
So here are some helpful phrases
Attestation – certificate. This is very common and can apply to all sorts of different paperwork. The form that you need to complete before leaving the house during the coronavirus lockdown is officially named the Attestation de déplacement dérogatoire – certificate of travel.
But all sorts of things are named attestation – from your insurance certificate to the attestation de domicile that you can request from your local mairie to prove your residence.
Déclaration sur l'honneur – affidavit. If you don't have the required certificate to prove something, you can also provide a declaration on your honour. While this sounds like a rather old fashioned concept, it is simply a letter where you declare something to be true, and then sign and date it. It's an officially recognised document in France though so if you are found to have lied there could be consequences – and not just for your honour.
Dossier – file. This is simply the collection of paperwork that you submit for most bureaucratic procedures. You will be provided with a list of paperwork needed (which almost always includes ID and proof of address), and you collect then together and send it off.
The collection becomes your dossier. Make sure you follow the instructions given precisely or you will hear the dreaded words votre dossier est incomplet (your dossier is incomplete) which means you won't be getting whatever you need soon.
Also pay careful attention to how the organisation wants you to submit the dossier. One friend of ours received a phone call to say that her dossier had arrived, but it had been sent by normal post and not registered post as requested, so she needed to resend it. True story.
Nom – name. This always refers to your surname, your first name is your prénom
Demeurant – residing. While some forms will simply ask for adresse others, particularly ones where you are making a declaration, might use the word demeurant. It means the same thing – you need to provide your address.
Né(e) le – date of birth. Again more usually seen on declarations, this means 'born on' so is asking you to fill in your date of birth. Date de naissance is the alternative to this.
Je soussigné(e) – I, the undersigned. Whenever you sign an official document in France you will find next to the line for your signature le for the date and à – at, you fill in the place where you are signing the document. You don't need the full address, a town will do. A document is not considered properly signed without these things.
If you are signing something like a rental contract, you also need to write in the words lu et approuvé (read and approved) above your signature, and on each page with your initials.
Effectuer – to carry out
The lockdown form also contains these phrases in the category for permitted essential journeys;
Exercice de l'activité profesionnelle – work-related activity
Achats de première necéssité – buying essential items
Motif de santé – health reasons
Motif famililale impérieux – vital family-related reasons
Activité physique individuelle – individual physical exercise
Some more general things you will see commonly requested on French paperwork include;
RIB (relevé d'identité bancaire) – bank details. When you open a bank account in France you will be given a number of pieces of paper with your bank account details on (and can download more if you have online banking). You will need to supply one every time you do a bureaucratic procedure, including setting up a direct debit.
Fiche de paie – payslip. Many things that require a proof of income will ask for your last three payslips, so make sure your company sends them out regularly and keep them handy.
Justificat de domicile – proof of address. This can be either a rental contract or purchase documents or utility bills, but not a mobile phone bill or correspondence from your bank.