These contain some examples of vulgar language.

DownloadDownload mp3 (file size 1 MB) - right click and choose 'save target as'
Print Get a print version of this page

It's a fact that the French language can sometimes seem tricky or obscure to foreigners. It's also a fact that the French are very proud of it. Although they may make grammatical mistakes themselves, they always assess a foreign person's command of French by the quality of their grammar and vocabulary.
However, communicating with French people doesn't just mean repeating grammar rules tediously. The French spoken language is full of these peculiar words that punctuate every other sentence, one of the most famous being Oh là là !
Here is a list of these interjections that should help you impress your French friends in various situations.

Annoying situations
Noises
Food
Handy words that mean nothing

(* = familiar, ** = very familiar, *** = vulgar, v = Verlan (back-slang), Lit. = literally)

Annoying situations

Aïe ! Ouch ! Pronounced like "eye".

Ouïe ! Ouille ! Ouch! Pronounced "oo-y". Just because you've hurt yourself, it doesn't mean you shouldn't vary your expressions.

Holà ! Hey! Whoa!
As in "Whoa! Hold your horses, be careful, etc."

Ouf ! Phew!
Sometimes you escape annoying situations, just about. Ouf can also be used in another expression:
Je n'ai pas eu le temps de dire ouf. I didn't even have time to catch my breath.

Oups ! Oops!
Probably comes from its English equivalent, only the spelling has changed.

Zut ! (*) Blast!
A classic. Although very old and very "proper", zut is still very popular.

Merde ! (***) Shit!

back to the top

Noises

Et toc ! C'est bien fait pour toi ! (*) Serves you right!

Toc, toc ! Knock knock!
Can also be used in a totally different context as above.

Boum ! Boom! Bang!
Very handy as it designates heartbeats as well as explosions, slammed doors and many other loud noises.

Pan ! Bang!
Even French guns have an accent.

back to the top

Food

Miam miam ! (*) Yum yum!
A must in "ze" country of food.

Beurk ! Berk ! (*) Yuk!
Unfortunately, you may come across terrible food as well.

back to the top

Handy words that mean nothing

Ho ! 1. Wow! (admiration) 2. Hey! (calling somebody).
Amazing how such a small word can express different things.
Hé ! Same use as Ho !

Hein ? (*) Eh? What?
Hein ? punctuates a lot of sentences and is often the equivalent of English question-tags.
C'est chouette, hein ? (*) Great, isn't it?

Bon ! Right, so, well, etc.
Often acts as a transition between two sentences.

Ben...euh... Well, er...
Probably the most famous French interjection. Particularly useful when you hesitate or when you don't have anything particular to say but don't want to say nothing.

back to the top


Argument Class Drinking Family
Food Friends Going out Health
Interjections Money Moods Music
Play up/Play down Politics Professions Pulling

More French from BBC Languages
More from BBC Languages

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.