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Learning French: Vital phrases to use at work
Vital French phrases to use at work in France. Photo: Fortune Live Media/flickr

Learning French: Vital phrases to use at work

Published on: 05 Feb 2014 14:37 CET

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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 so don't have the time to let you try five different ways to say what you mean.

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 or lose you your job - use with caution!

We'll take you from the beginning, your first day on the job to your parting shot to your boss as you quit. Send us in your own suggestions that we can add to the list.


"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. 

"Tu étais bourré samedi soir?" ("Were you drunk on Saturday night?")

You could say this to your boss at an Anglo company and get an honest answer but it France the question “Were you pissed on Saturday night” should be reserved for colleagues you are close to and preferably ones who regularly get drunk on Saturday nights.

Socializing/cracking on to colleagues

"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. You can always use this line to ask someone you fancy out to drink too. 

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 toute 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? Ou 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 le sueur de ma front" or "J'ai travaillé jusqu'à pas d'heure"  (I am working my fingers to the bone)

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. 

"Arrête de m’envoyer du porno, tu vas m’attirer des ennuis!" (“Stop sending me porn, I’ll get in trouble!”)

Hopefully you will never have to use this. But you never know. 

"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.

"Je m’en fou ! Tu es coincé du cul !" (I don't care, you are up your own arse)

This one really tells them how it is. And you may need it, especially in Paris.

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.)

by Isy Orange

If you have any useful phrases of your own that can used at work, then let us know.

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