10 French phrases that will let you have a good gossip

As cafés reopen and we can meet up with friends again it's time to resurrect a true pleasure - having a good old gossip, writes Llayne Stanfield.

10 French phrases that will let you have a good gossip
You'll never guess what she said last night . . . Photo: AFP

The French, like everyone else, enjoy a good gossip about friends, colleagues, families, celebrities and enemies and it's a good way to fit in if you can join in the chat.

The French word bavarder means to chat or to gossip, but there are a couple of more informal options too.


Here's to gossiping, it's just not the same on zoom. Photo: AFP

Les potins means the gossip, so you could say

J'ai rencontré des vieux amis et on s'est raconté tous les vieux potins – I met up with some old friends and we had a right good gossip.

Les filles c'est quoi les derniers potins – Hey girls, what's the latest gossip?

This word is the nicer way of saying gossip, in the sense of a good catch-up of news and chat.

In the more malicious sense of gossip is le ragot, which means cruel, damaging and possibly untrue rumours.

Il n'y a que très peu de vrai dans les ragots de Jean-Marie – There's very little truth in the gossip spread by Jean-Marie

While if you are a woman well known for your tattling tongue, you risk being known as une commère – a gossip.

Other options for the person who is always first with the news include concierge – from the classic stereotype of the building caretaker who is constantly spying on her neighbours – and the more informal une pipelette (a feminine word again – sexistes, les français?)

So now you know how to describe it, here's some phrases to help you get stuck right in to a gossiping session over your coffee and baba au rhum.

1. Il serait trop paresseux/ stupide/ pour ce projet – He'd be much too ​lazy​/ stupid for that project.

2. Allons, ne sois pas bête, dis-nous – Come on, don't be ​silly, spill.

3. Ça explique ton comportement grincheux d'hier soir –  That's why you were ​so ​crabby last night.

4. On m'a dit que t'étais lunatique – I was told you were a ​lunatic​.

5. II semble tellement innocent, presque délibérément naïf – He seems so innocent, almost deliberately ​naive​.

6. Quel mec prévenant, compréhensif et gentil – What a considerate, ​understanding​ and kind guy.

7. Il restait absolument calme et serein alors que tout le monde criait – He was completely ​calm​ and unfrazzled as everyone yelled and screamed.

8. Ambitieux, cultivé, et honnête, tu dois rencontre François – Ambitious​, educated, and honest, you've got to meet François.

9. Desolé, j'ai été malpoli, égoïste et insultant – Sorry, I was being rude, ​selfish​ and disrespectful.

10. Elle est magnifique, Antoine, et très charismatique – She is beautiful, Antoine, and so ​charismatic​.

If you're worried about falling out with your friends or colleagues you could always confine your gossip to celebrities, politicians' sex tapes or other outrages – here is our guide to some of France's biggest scandals

As a trained actor and language coach, obtaining a good French accent is a focal point for Llyane Stanfield’s online classes, in addition to conversation fluidity. Passionate learner, Llyane likes to put herself in her students’ shoes, and she is currently in training for holding the Higher Education Teaching Certificate at Harvard University. She offers private classes by Skype/Zoom, which you can preview in her free French Crash Course for Easy Conversation guide. Find out more here.

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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.