The Beginner's Guide to Learn French Vocabulary

June 18, 2021 by Mylene in French Vocabulary

beginner guide french vocabulary

Learning French vocabulary

Numbers, colors, months, food and greetings are often the first language skills that people aim to master when learning a foreign language. As they are widely used and omnipresent in our daily life, they play a crucial part in successful real-life communications. Regardless of the language, such basic vocabulary is a great place to start a language learning journey.

In this guide, we’ll cover the following topics around French vocabulary:

French greeting vocabulary

When it’s time to study French, learning how to greet in French is a common starting point for many learners. Learning how to greet someone is essential as greetings are at the beginning of every conversation. 

In many cases, every conversation is unique because it is associated with different people, different places, different levels of formality in the communication, and of course at different times of the day. 

Therefore, there are many French greeting words to use and the trick is to know which are the appropriate ones to every situation. Let’s discover this vocabulary and start with the most common French greeting words.

What are some common French greetings?

Here are the most common French greetings:

  • Bonjour means good morning
  • Bonsoir means good evening
  • Bonne journée means have a nice day
  • Bonne soirée means good evening
  • Au revoir means goodbye
  • Salut is an informal hi
  • Coucou is an informal hi

Some of these French greeting words can be used in more than one situation to say different things. Let’s see this.

How to properly greet someone in French?

Beyond learning the common French greetings words, understanding when to use and when not to use these greetings is the next step. It is really useful to master many French greetings and salutations. 

As many French beginners, you may be wondering when to use Bonjour? 

When it is better to say Salut? 

When to switch from saying Bonjour to Bonsoir?

Most people know about good manners in their culture, but it is less common to know good manners in another culture or country. 

This is why I prepared a video, find it below, to teach you the French greeting pronunciation. 

I also published an article to help you learn French greetings

These resources detail the most common French greeting words that you should absolutely know as well as some typical mistakes to avoid! 

Learn when to say Bonjour and Bonsoir and understand when to, and when not to, greet people in France!

To learn French greetings click to watch this video.

French Numbers Vocabulary

The truth is that almost no one could imagine a world without numbers. 

We use numbers not only to communicate but to think, to memorize, and manipulate quantities. 

We think about prices and numbers when buying anything. 

We calculate our spendings, estimate our savings, and measure our professional success by looking at performance numbers and promotions.

Learning to count from 1 to 100 in French can be divided into 3 steps:

  1. Learn the basics of French numerals
  2. Understand the process of counting from 20 to 69
  3. Understand the difficulties when counting from 70 to 100

The details of these steps are in the following lesson about numbers in French.

learning french numbers

How to count from 0-19 in French

Would you want to learn how to count in French from 0 to 19?  The following 2 tables cover these numbers. You can read how the number is written in French so you can write correctly.

  • 0: zéro
  • 1: un
  • 2: deux
  • 3: trois
  • 4: quatre
  • 5: cinq
  • 6: six
  • 7: sept
  • 8: huit
  • 9: neuf
  • 10: dix
  • 11: onze
  • 12: douze
  • 13: treize
  • 14: quatorze
  • 15: quinze
  • 16: seize
  • 17: dix-sept
  • 18: dix-huit
  • 19: dix-neuf

Numbers are frequently used in our day to day life. For instance:

  • When buying a croissant: Je voudrais acheter un croissant
  • When buying a bottle of water: Je voudrais acheter une bouteille d’eau
  • When telling time: Je dois partir maintenant, j’ai un rendez-vous à onze heures ce matin.

An important note about the word “bouteille”. In French, “bouteille” is singular and feminine this is why we use une instead of un. “Croissant”, in French, is a masculine word and when it is singular we use un to refer to a quantity of one.

A video to learn French numbers

I’m sure that you’d like to master the pronunciation of French numbers, right? 

If so, I made a YouTube video in which I cover numbers from 1 to 100. 

I repeat every number so that you can do the exercise at the same time. 

This is a great way to learn how to pronounce all French numbers up to 100.

Watch the video here.

French Colors Vocabulary

Colors are also found in nature, in food, and part of many other things in our world. Colors play an important role in trends like clothing, fashion, beauty sector, pastry, and home decorations. 

As any blog post about colors should, I’ll list the most common colors in French and then 

I’ll give additional examples for every color.

colors visual translated english french
Here are 11 popular colors and how to say them in French along an example in a sentence:

  • Blue in French is bleu.
    Vue de l’espace, la planète Terre apparaît toute bleue (From space, the earth looks all blue)
  • White in French is blanc.
    La neige tombe, les flocons sont blancs (The Snow is falling, the snowflakes are white).
  • Red in French is rouge.
    Les tomates sont rouges (Tomatoes are red).
  • Yellow in French is jaune.
    Le maillot jaune est le leader du classement général du Tour de France (The yellow jersey for the leader in the general classification in the Tour de France).
  • Green in French is vert.
    L’incroyable Hulk est vert (The Incredible Hulk is green).
  • Orange is French is orange.
    En automne les feuilles changent de couleur pour devenir orange (During the fall season leaves turn to various shades of orange).
  • Brown in French is marron.
    Marron est l’une des couleurs d’automne (Brown is one of the fall’s color).
  • Pink in French is rose.
    A la fête, j’ai acheté une barbe à papa rose (At the fair, I bought a pink cotton candy).
  • Black in French is noir.
    La voiture du président est noire (The president’s car is black).
  • Gray in French is gris.
    Les cheveux de Michel commence à devenir gris (Michel’s hair is starting to turn gray).
  • Purple in French is violet.
    Le violet est le mélange de rouge et de bleu (Purple is the mixture of red and blue colors)

A video to learn French colors and their pronunciation

Let’s continue talking about colors in French! This is another YouTube video where you can learn:

  • Vocabulary: The most common colors in French so that French beginners can easily master the color vocabulary.
  • Pronunciation: The pronunciation of colors in French so that you’ll be able to learn how to pronounce these colors.
  • Clothes vocabulary: Discover how every color can be used to describe clothes. Examples cover both feminine and masculine nouns that are part of the French clothes’ vocabulary.

And that’s not all!!! Check our article dedicated to learning colors in French.

In that article, I teach you how to correctly write the French colors and master the basics of the French grammar rule of color/noun agreement with masculine, feminine, singular, and plural go to our delightful blog post on the same topic.

French Months Vocabulary

As everyone knows, there are twelve months of the year in French. 

The following table lists the months in order from January to December and shows the correct way to write the French months’ names.

  • January is Janvier in French
  • February is Février in French
  • March is Mars in French
  • April is Avril in French
  • May is Mai in French
  • June is Juin in French
  • July is Juillet in French
  • August is Août in French
  • September is Septembre in French
  • October is Octobre in French
  • November is Novembre in French
  • December is Décembre in French
french months vocabulary

French Seasons Vocabulary

You already know that a year has 4 seasons. A season is “une saison” in French. In plural, a silent s is added at the end of the word. For example, les 4 saisons (the 4 seasons).

  • Winter is hiver.

The season of winter is from December 21-March 21. This is the coldest time of the year in terms of temperature.

  • Spring is printemps.

The season of spring is from March 21-June 21. The flowers bloom in spring.

  • Summer is été.

Summer is from June 21 to September 21. The sunny season is traditionally the right time to take well deserved holidays.

  • Fall is automne.

Fall (autumn) is from September 21-December 21 and it is the back to school season. 

Audio recordings for basic French words

Start building your vocabulary and learn the pronunciation of simple and easy French words. 

This is one of the reasons you should check the complete article on how do you say French months and French seasons

In the same article, you’ll find the audio recordings to learn then repeat the pronunciation of months and seasons in French.

four seasons in french

Healthy Food in French

Preparing and sharing food is one of, perhaps the essential, pleasures of French culture.  You have to know the French food vocabulary for eating healthy.

In the next paragraph, I’m going to give you four tips that will help you to eat healthily.

  1. Consume fruits and vegetables such as:
    • la pomme: apple
    • la poire: pear
    • le pamplemousse: grapefruit
    • la fraise: strawberry
    • la tomate: tomato
    • le concombre: cucumber
    • la carotte: carrot
    • l’asperge: asparagus
    • l’endive: endive
    • les épinards: spinaches
    • la betterave: beetroot
  2. Eat in moderation in particular starchy foods such as:
    • le quinoa: quinoa
    • la semoule: semolina
    • l’avoine: oat
  3. Cook more
    • Avoid consuming a frozen pizza instead, if possible, cook a pizza yourself.
  4. Diversify what you eat for example:
    • le fromage frais: fresh cheese
    • la viande rouge: red meat
    • les oeufs: eggs
    • le poisson: fish

Click on the link to learn more about the vocabulary related to food in French and the French habits.

To make this easy for you, I prepared a video: the French food vocabulary for eating healthy.

YouTube video

Birthday Vocabulary in French

A birthday is the anniversary of the day on which a person was born. French birthday celebrations tend to be simple. Let’s discover the French birthday vocabulary and how to wish someone a happy birthday.

The most common expression for saying happy birthday in French is: Joyeux Anniversaire!

You’ll learn other expressions such as:

  • Bon anniversaire: Happy birthday!
  • Je te souhaite un bon anniversaire! I wish you a happy birthday
  • Quelle belle journée pour fêter ton anniversaire! May this birthday be particularly happy!

Then you’ll read what a typical birthday party in France looks like and you’ll learn:

  • Birthday vocabulary
  • Cake birthday vocabulary
  • French party vocabulary
  • French gift vocabulary
  • Age vocabulary in French
  • Decoration birthday in French
  • Birthday questions asked in French
  • French birthday song

I go through the many French words that are used for birthday in Happy Birthday! Learn Birthday Vocabulary in French

french birthday vocabulary

French Words used in English

One of the best things about learning French from English is that the French language has greatly influenced the English vocabulary. 

Up to 30% of the English words have their origin in French. 

This makes learning French much easier for English speakers. Even if many French words are used in daily English conversations, these words seem to be sufficiently English in most situations.

With cognate words, you’ll instantly boost and grow your French vocabulary. For instance, words like president, conclusion, solitude, and possible are the same in French and English. Such words are called cognates

By definition, cognates are words from two languages that have the same or similar.

You’ll often find French-English cognates in words the following situations:

  • French Words ending with “ent” such as accident, absent, intelligent
  • French Words ending with “ble” such as capable, admirable, probable
  • French Words ending with “ion” such as passion, religion, nation
  • French Words ending with “ure” such as architecture, nature, agriculture
  • French Words ending with “ible” such as possible, invisible, flexible

I go through the many French words that are the same in English in 18 Words You Use Without Realizing You’re Speaking French

Besides, you’ll discover many beautiful quotes, by Victor Hugo, that include at least one French-English cognate.

Language learning software

The number of words a person knows is one of the most reliable indicators of his/her current level. Assuming, of course, that you learn the right words. When starting to learn French or another language, you can use an app or a language learning software. 

To help you make an informed choice you might want to look at this research on the best language learning software where 30 software were analyzed. Based on the in-depth review in terms of cost, educational model, customer experience as well as other additional features, the study narrows the choice down to five options.

french words used in english illustration

Keep growing your French vocabulary

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