french conversation starters

9 Effective French Conversation Starters That Will Get You Speaking Right Away

Heading to a French social event can be a bit intimidating if you're not a native speaker. But don't worry, I've put together nine typical French ice breakers that will help you start conversations effortlessly.

You can use these whether you're at a chic party in Paris or a casual gathering. These phrases will help you blend in and make new friends.

1. Bonjour, [mon prénom]

Walking up to someone and saying something like "Bonjour! Marie..." (meaning "je suis Marie") immediately creates a relaxed and friendly vibe. The other person may extend their hand and say "Jacques, Enchanté".

This is a a good way to start a conversation, following up with something like "vous êtes un(e) ami(e) de Nathalie?"

2. Vous connaissez [nom] depuis longtemps ?

With this ice breaker, you ask the other guest at the event whether they know the host and if they've known them for a long time:

"Vous connaissez Nathalie depuis longtemps?"

This is a way to look for things or acquaintances you have in common, in this case Nathalie. The other person might say "On bosse ensemble depuis 2 ans", and you might following up with "ah vous aussi vous êtes chez Bouygues." (you're work at Bouygues).

3. C'est la première fois que vous venez ici ?

"Is it your first time here?" Another way to ask is "Vous venez ici souvent ?" (do you come here often?)

The other person might respond with:

"Oui, c'est la première fois, et vous?" (yes first time, and you?)

or: "Non, je suis déjà venu plusieurs fois." (no, I've been here several times before)

You might continue the conversation by saying:

"Je ne suis jamais venu(e) non plus" (I've never been here either)

4. Vous êtes du coin ?

This simple question is an effective way to find out if someone is local:

"Vous êtes du coin?" or "vous êtes de la région?" (Are you from around here?)

It's a great way to start a conversation about the area or why they're visiting. The other person might respond:

"Oui, j'habite ici depuis plusieurs années" (Yes, I've lived here for several years)

or: "Non, je suis de passage pour le weekend." (No, I'm just visiting for the weekend.)

This can lead into more conversation about their experiences in the area, or what they enjoy doing.

5. Je vous conseille le [plat ou boisson]! Il est délicieux.

A friendly recommendation to try a particular dish or drink:

"Je vous conseille la salade de fruits de mer! C'est une tuerie." (I recommend the seafood salad! It's a killer!)

The other person might respond:

"Ah oui ? Merci du conseil, je vais la goûter alors," (Oh really? Thanks for the tip, I'll try it then)

Or: "Ah oui elle est vraiment bonne!"

This generally opens up further discussion about food preferences, favorite cuisines, or other recommendations.

6. Sympa comme soirée, n'est-ce-pas?

This means "Cool party, isn't it?" The other person might reply:

"Oui très sympa. J'ai bien fait de venir!" (yes really nice, I'm glad I came)

You can then follow-up with another one of the previous conversation starters e.g. "vous connaissez [host] depuis longtemps?" or "vous êtes de la région?" (are you from the area?)

Note: notice the use of "comme", which can translate to "as an evening". It's a common pattern used in French:

"C'est pas mal comme endroit." (it's not bad for a place, i.e. this place isn't bad)

"Plutôt joli comme bijou" (quite pretty as a piece of jewelry)

7. Vous êtes aussi dans le [domaine] ?

This is a good one you can ask if there are many guests in the same line of work or from the same company.

"Vous êtes aussi dans le médical?" (are you also in the medical space?) This is less inquisitive than "are you also a doctor?

"Vous êtes aussi dans la construction?"

"Vous êtes aussi dans les telecom?"

You might also ask: "Vous êtes aussi chez Peugeot?" This works well if there are at least one or two other Peugeot co-workers at the event, or if you work there yourself.

8. Vous ne sauriez pas où sont les toilettes?

This means "You wouldn't know where the restroom is, would you?" A utilitarian ice breaker that always works. The person might say:

"Oui, c'est en haut à gauche."

Possible response: "Ah merci, c'est pas évident à trouver. Apparemment personne ne sait!" (thanks, it's quite hard to find. No-one seems to know).

You might follow-up with something like "Vous êtes déja venu(e)?"

9. Plutôt rétro la musique, non?

"The music's quite retro, isn't it?" This can engage a discussion about the music. The use of "plutôt" softens your statement and make it more of a casual observation, rather than a critical one.

You're opening up a conversation about the music’s style by suggesting it has a retro quality, without being too definitive about it. It invites agreement or further discussion from the other person.

Adding "non?" at the end further encourages a reaction. It's a gentle way to engage in conversation.

French people also often use a more critical statement as a conversation starter:

"Pas terrible, le buffet, hein?" (the buffet isn't great, is it?)

This kind of comment can quickly break the ice and a little camaraderie over something that might not be up to par, like the buffet. Generally speaking, the French are always up for a little mockery, irony, or snarkiness, as it shows you have "de l'esprit" (quick wit).

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