One of the most efficient ways to learn to speak a language is by talking to friends who are native speakers.
Thing is, though, it's really hard to make friends with a native without having minimum speaking and listening skills in their language (unless of course they also speak yours).
So, for you to become friends with a French speaking person, you would first need to be able to hold a typical conversation between friends.
In this post, we look at an example of a conversation in French between two pals.
Obviously, friends may talk about a lot of different things. But here we'll focus on the idea of keeping and sharing secrets, a quite common discussion topic among friends.
Hopefully, after reading the dialogue and explanations and listening to the recordings, you'll be better at exchanging with a French-speaking buddy.
Conversation in French between two friends : the dialogue
Check out the following dialogue in French :
C'était sympa la fête de samedi hein ?
Oui c'était top. Michael a vraiment assuré !
Oui... c'est dommage que Marc ne soit pas venu.
Apparemment, il n'a pas été invité...
C'est vrai ? Comment tu le sais ?
C'est Marie qui me l'a dit. Elle l'a appris par Philippe, qui l'a su par Nadège.
Mais ... pourquoi Michael ne l'a pas invité ?
Eh bien ... je ne peux pas te le dire ... C'est un secret. Marie n'était même pas censée me le dire.
Mais tu peux me le dire à moi, quand même !
Ecoute, elle m'a fait promettre de ne le répéter à personne...
Mais entre nous !
Bon, tu jures de le garder pour toi ?
Oui ! promis juré. Je suis une tombe !
Un peu pipelette sur les bords, quand même ...
Moi ? Pas du tout ! Je ne répète jamais rien !
Bon... mais ça reste entre nous !
Oui bien sûr .
Alors voilà : Michael est fâché contre Marc car il a répété quelque chose que Michael lui avait confié. Ça a fait le tour de la ville !
Ah c'est pour ça !
Oui ! En même temps, je comprends qu'il lui en veuille ! Un ami qui ne sait pas garder un secret, ce n'est pas un ami, tu trouves pas ?
Here's the audio for the French dialogue :
Here's the English version :
It was a cool party saturday, wasn't it ?
Yeah it was awesome. Michael really nailed it !
Yeah ... Too bad Marc didn't come though.
Apparently, he wasn't invited ...
Really ? How do you know ?
Marie told me. She found out through Philippe, who find out through Nadège.
But ... Why didn't Michael invite him ?
Well... I can't tell you ... It's a secret. Marie wasn't even supposed to tell me.
Come on, to me you can say it !
Well you see, she made me promise not to tell anyone ...
It'll be between us !
Well, you swear to keep it to yourself ?
Cross my heart ! I'll be silent as a grave !
Well, you can be a bit of a gossip ...
Me ? Absolutely not ! I never reveal anything !
Well alright ... But it'll have to stay between us !
OK here goes : Michael is upset with Marc because Marc revealed a secret Michael told him. Everyone in town now knows about it.
Oh, that's why !
Yep ! I can understand his being mad at him though. A friend who can't keep a secret isn't really a friend, don't you think ?
Conversation in French between two friends : talking about the party
Our French speaking dialogue starts with the two friends exchanging impressions on the party that they both went to last saturday.
"C'était sympa la fête de samedi hein ?"
Note how Sophie uses the term "sympa". It's short for "sympathique" and means "nice", "cool", "pleasant". It can refer to a place, an event, a person, a movie, or just about anything :
"Il est très sympa ton copain" (your buddy is very nice / cool)
"Sympa ce tableau !" (nice painting !)
"C'est sympa comme voyage" (that's a nice/cool trip)
Note : you can find more examples of the use of "sympa" in the following posts and lessons :
Jean replies :
"Oui c'était top. Michael a vraiment assuré !"
The expression "c'est top" is a highly used colloquial phrase to indicate greatness. It means "it's top notch". As often, French speakers borrow some expressions from English and slightly deform them - including their meaning in some cases.
"Ce film est top !"
"Il est vraiment top cet hotel !"
Jean then says "il a vraiment assuré !". This is another spoken French expression that means "he really nailed it !", in this case meaning, he really knows how to throw a party.
You can find another example use of "assurer" in How to understand spoken French better.
Sophie then says :
"c'est dommage que Marc ne soit pas venu."
She expresses regrets for Marc not being there. "C'est dommage" translates to "it's too bad", it's a shame", "it's a pity". Note that when a verb follows, it is in subjunctive form :
"C'est dommage que tu ne sois pas là" (it's too bad you're not here)
"C'est dommage qu'il ne fasse pas beau" (it's a shame the weather is bad)
"C'est dommage que je doive partir" (it's too bad I have to leave)
Conversation in French between two friends : small secret
Jean answers :
"Apparemment, il n'a pas été invité..."
Here, the word "apparemment" suggests there's a story behind the fact Marc wasn't invited, which stirs Sophie's curiosity. Jean could have instead chosen not to said anything to avoid more questions.
As one might expect, Sophie digs deeper :
"C'est vrai ? Comment tu le sais ?"
Other typical phrases Sophie might have used in place of "c'est vrai ?" :
"Ah bon ?"
"Ah oui ?"
And of course, by asking "comment tu le sais ?", Sophie seeks to know more about the story behind Marc's not attending the party.
Jean then starts getting Sophie hooked with some juicy information :
"C'est Marie qui me l'a dit. Elle l'a appris par Philippe, qui l'a su par Nadège."
Note the construct "c'est Marie qui..." using this construct, as opposed to "Marie me l'a dit", serves to emphasize Marie rather than what she said. It's like saying "Mary is the one who told me".
"C'est toi qui me l'a apporté" (you're the one who brought it to me)
"C'est eux qui m'ont fait ça" (they're the ones who did that to me)
"C'est elle qui le veut" (she's the one who wants it)
For more examples of using this construct click right here.
Jean reveals how the information got around through word of mouth :
"elle l'a appris par Philippe"
"Philippe l'a su par Nadège"
Here, the verbs "apprendre" and "savoir" both have a meaning of "to find out" - even though their usual meaning is "to learn" and "to know".
Notice also the use of "par" for "through" :
"Je l'ai su par mes collègues" (I found out through my colleagues)
"Nous l'avons appris par la télé" (we found out through television)
Equivalent to "il l'a su" is "elle le sait" (present tense) :
"Philippe le sait par Nadège" (he found out through her)
"Je le sais par le chauffeur" (I found out through the driver)
Conversation in French between two friends : unearthing the secret
Sophie logically asks why Marc was not invited, to which Jean replies :
"Eh bien ... je ne peux pas te le dire ... C'est un secret. "
These are very typical phrases we use in spoken French when saying something is a secret - it's the same in most languages (can't tell you, it's a secret)
He then adds :
"Marie n'était même pas censée me le dire."
He's suggesting he himself isn't supposed to know about it, as Marie wasn't supposed to tell him. "Etre censé faire quelque chose" basically translates to "to be supposed to do something". Examples :
"Tu es censé t'excuser !" (you're supposed to apologize !)
"Il est censé m'apporter l'argent du loyer" (he's supposed to bring me rent money)
"On était censés partir hier" (we were supposed to leave yesterday)
Note he uses "même pas" (not even) to convey that even he should not know about the secret :
"elle n'était même pas censée me le dire"
For example, suppose someone comes uninvited to an event, and later complains about the event. You may respond :
"Il n'était même pas censé être là !" - he wasn't even supposed to be here - implicitly you're saying he's not entitled to complain !
Conversation in French between two friends : negotiating
Sophie then begs Jean:
"Mais tu peux me le dire à moi, quand même !"
This is a typical phrase to say when you're asking someone to reveal something to you - and only to you. Notice the use of "à moi", which is redundant after "tu peux me le dire". It means "To me you can say it !"
The phrase is futher reinforced by "quand même", which in this context means something like "for god's sake" and here means "even if it's a secret, I'm not just anyboady, I'm your friend, someone you trust".
Another example of using this construct might be :
"Tu peux me faire confiance à moi quand même !" (something like : me you can trust, even if you can't trust others)
Again, the redundant "à moi", emphasing the idea of "it's me !", and "quand même", which is like saying "for god's sake!"
Jean is still reluctant to let her in on it, and further emphasizes the importance of the matter :
"Ecoute, elle m'a fait promettre de ne le répéter à personne..."
Saying "Ecoute" gives more weight and significant to what follows :
"Ecoute, il faut que je te dise quelque chose ..." (listen, I need to tell you something)
"Ecoute, on a un grave problème" (listen, we have a serious problem)
He then says "Elle m'a fait promettre" (she made me promise). Faire + verb translates to make + verb :
"Tu me fais faire des bêtises" (you make me do stupid things)
"Elle me fait perdre la tête" (she makes me lose my head)
"Ils me font travailler dur" (they make me work hard)
In our dialogue, Jean says "elle m'a fait promettre de ne le répéter à personne" (promise not to tell anyone). Notice the use of "répéter" - literally "repeat" - to mean "reveal", "tell"
Notice the use of "ne" + verb + "personne". Example :
"ne parler à personne"
"ne voir personne"
"Je promets de ne faire de mal à personne" (I promise not to hurt anyone)
The takeaway from this section : if you don't want to reveal something someone told you, you might just say :
"il/elle m'a fait promettre de ne le dire / répéter à personne."
Sophie begs :
"Mais entre nous !" (literally, but just between you and I !)
This is another common French expression you use to push someone to reveal a secret to you in the name of the trust that exists between him and you.
"Entre nous, combien d'argent a-t-elle gagné ?" (between you and I, how much money did she make ?)
Conversation in French between two friends : hesitation
In our conversation between two friends, Sophie has just about convinced Jean to reveal the secret to her. Before doing so Sophie says :
"Bon, tu jures de le garder pour toi ?"
The leading "bon" indicates he's about ready to let it out, but before he does he wants one last reassurance that the secret will be safe with Sophie.
Note the phrase "garder pour toi", equivalent to the English "keep to oneself". In spoken French we commonly say :
"Tu promets de le garder pour toi ?" ("le" here referring to some revelation we're about to make)
Or, after revealing it, you might say "tu gardes ça pour toi hein !" (keep that to yourself OK ?)
Sophie's response : "promis juré" is a child expression sort of like "cross my heart, hope to die".
"Tu promets de finir tes devoirs avant de sortir ?" (you promise to finish your homework before you go out ?)
"Promis juré !"
Sophie then adds "je suis une tombe", meaning, I'll be silent as a grave, I won't ever tell anyone. A similar expression is :
"je serai muet / muette comme une tombe" (literally, I'll be mute as a grave)
Jean then teases :
"Un peu pipelette sur les bords, quand même ... "
The word "pipelette" means a gossip, blabbermouth, someone who talks a lot all the time. A very common French phrase is :
"tu es une vraie pipelette !"
Another common term for gossip is "concierge" : "C'est une vraie concierge"
The expression "un peu ... sur les bords" is also a very commonly used colloquial expression. It literally means "a little [adjective] on the side". It's like hinting the someone is a bit [adjective] :
"Il est un peu radin sur les bords" (he's a little bit cheap)
In our conversation between friends, "pipelette" is not really an adjective but used as one : "tu es un peu pipelette sur les bords". Jean is suggesting that Sophie does tend to be a bit of a gossip sometimes.
Sophie stronly disagrees with her friend's accusation :
"Moi ? Pas du tout !" (me ? absolutely not !).
"Pas du tout" is used all the time in spoken French. It also means "not at all" :
"Tu as froid ?" "Non, pas du tout" (Are you cold ? No, not at all)
"La fumée te dérange ?" "Pas du tout" (does smoke bother you ? not at all)
She adds to her disagreements saying "Je ne répète jamais rien !"
Here again, "répéter" is employed to mean "reveal" rather than "repeat".
Also notice the construct "ne ... jamais rien", which means "never ... anything" :
"On ne fait jamais rien" (we never do anything)
"Elle ne voit jamais rien" (she never sees anything)
Conversation in French between two friends : caving in
Jean next goes "Bon... mais ça reste entre nous !"
It's the second time he says "bon", suggesting Sophie's arguments ended up convincing him and he's ready to reveal the big secret. He does issue one last warning :
"Mais ça reste entre nous !"
The expression "ça reste entre nous" (it'll stay between us), like in English, is often used to say "you won't tell anyone else" :
"On m'a dit que le patron démissionne ... Ça reste entre nous hein!" (I was told the boss is resigning... That info shall stay between us, OK ?)
Another expression often used in secretive situations is :
"Je ne t'ai rien dit hein ?" (literally, I haven't told you anything OK ?)
It's like saying, if anyone asks, I'm not the one who told you.
After Sophie agrees to keeping the secret, Jean says "alors voilà" to get Sophie's full attention and announce he's about to say something important. It's like saying "here goes !"
He then explains why Michael is upset with Marc : "Michael est fâché contre Marc". "Fâché contre" can mean "angry at", "upset with", "mad at".
Another equivalent French expression often used is "en vouloir à":
"Il en veut à Marc" (translates to something like "he has a grudge against him")
Another one is "ne pas être content après quelqu'un" :
"Il n'est pas content après Marc" (literally he's not happy with him). This expression is a bit weeker than the preceding one.
Note that "fâché" reflects an argument, a quarrel, whereas "en vouloir à" is more serious, often due to something bad that happened between the two persons.
The reason Michael is angry at Marc is :
"il a répété quelque chose que Michael lui avait confié"
Here, "confier quelque chose" means make a confidence, to share a secret with someone. Note that "confier" also has other different uses, such as entrusting someone with something for example.
Grammar note : Jean says "quelque chose que Michel lui avait confié" : he uses the plus-que-parfait tense because the action of sharing the secret ("il lui avait confié") is anterior to the action of unduly revealing it ("il a répété").
Jean adds "Ça a fait le tour de la ville !". This spoken French idiomatic expression literally means "it went all around town" and means that everyone found out about it.
"Un divorce retentissant qui a fait le tour de la ville !" (a resounding divorce everyone in town heard about)
Sophie is happy and relieved to finally understand the reason for Marc not being invited :
"Ah c'est pour ça !" (oh that's why !)
This phrase is used all the time by native speakers when they get the final word for something they were wondering about :
"Mais, tu as déplacé tous les meubles !" (But, you've moved all the furniture !)
"Oui, je fais repeindre l'apartement." (yes, I'm having the apartment repainted)
"Ah c'est pour ça ..."
If the reason for the event was particularly mysterious or obscure to you, you might say :
"Ah c'est donc pour ça !" (oh, so that's why !)
Conversation in French between two friends : Jean's concluding remark
At the end of our friendly conversation, Jean says to Sophie :
"En même temps, je comprends qu'il lui en veuille ! "
"En même temps" usually means "at the same time", but here it's used in a colloquial way to mean "in a way" or "on the other hand". To clarify this, let me go back one notch in the conversation and rephrase it :
"Michael is mad at Marc because he told Marc's secret".
"Oh, that's why he's upset !"
"Yes, that's the reason. In a way, I can understand why he'd get mad..."
The colloquial use of "en même temps" in everyday spoken French serves to evaluate something by weighing the pros and cons, or to compare alternatives :
"Il n'aurait pas dû frapper ce type." (he shouldn't have hit the guy)
"Oui mais en même temps, il l'a bien cherché !" (yes but on the other hand he really asked for it)
Another example involving alternatives :
"Il vaut mieux qu'on prenne le train non ?" (it's better we take the train)
"Bah, en même temps, c'est presque le même prix que l'avion" (on the other hand, it costs almost the same as flying)
Jean says :
"je comprends qu'il lui en veuille" (I can understand his bearing him a grudge)
Here he uses the expression "en vouloir à quelqu'un" we talked about earlier. Note the verb "vouloir" is in subjunctive form after "je comprends que". Examples :
"Je comprends que tu veuilles partir"
"je comprends que tu aies besoin d'argent"
In Jean's last sentence :
"Un ami qui ne sait pas garder un secret, ce n'est pas un ami, tu ne trouves pas ?"
he employs the expression "garder un secret" which literally translates to "to keep a secret" :
"Tu peux garder un secret ?" (can you keep a secret ?)
"Il ne sait pas garder un secret" (he can't keep a secret)
"C'est un secret bien gardé" (it's a well-kept secret)
Notice he says "un ami qui ... , ce n'est pas un ami" instead of just saying "n'est pas un ami". This is a way of emphasizing and reinforcing his statement about bad friendship. It's like saying :
"A friend who can't keep a secret, well that's not a friend!"
He adds "tu ne trouves pas ?" which means "don't you think ?" :
"Il fait chaud aujourd'hui tu ne trouves pas ?"
Of course, it's quite ironic he should conclude with a sentence like that, as everyone in this story has been revealing friends' secrets left and right !
[emaillocker]Click here to download the mp3 files for this article (zip)[/emaillocker]
Time to test yourself
As usual, let's see how well you've digested this article. Look at the following questions and select the best answer. Just write your answers in the comments section below.
The correct answers will be published here once enough readers have added theirs.
If you want to get the correct answers sooner (and you're not a registered user) just write down your email address with your answers in the comments - I will delete your email right after sending you the answers (so your email doesn't stay on the page).
1) You ask a friend to tell you what someone said about something, but your friend says "j'ai promis de ne rien dire...". Which of the following is an appropriate response ?
A. Tu peux garder un secret ?
B. Tu peux me le dire à moi !
C. Tu es une vraie pipelette
2) A friend tells you about a person pulling a bad trick on her. Which of the following might you ask ?
A. Tu lui en veux ?
B. Elle est fâchée contre toi ?
C. Il n'est pas content après eux ?
3) You share something with your friend, and she asks you "comment tu le sais ?" Which of the following is the most appropriate response ?
A. Ça reste entre Roger et moi
B. Roger m'a fait promettre de ne rien dire
C. Je l'ai appris par Roger
Good luck !