So you've mastered the basics of spoken French. Your next challenge ? Being able to participate in more involved conversations and debates, in which you ask people for their opinion and share yours.
Formal debates in an academic or professional context are one thing, but informal debates of opinion among friends or acquaintances is where your speaking skills are really put to a test.
If your spoken French skills are not up to speed, the opinions you express, or the way you ask for people's, may be perceived as "simplet" (basic, a bit dumb) which in France is a really bad tag to have, and a tough one to get rid of.
That is, French people often judge you from the way you express yourself, readily forgetting the fact you're still learning the language.
So if you're looking to fit in and maintain a decent social life in a French environment, it is crucial that you learn how to express and ask for opinion in French like a native speaker would.
In this post, I'll start by reviewing some major French expressions and phrases for asking for someone's opinion. Then, I'll look at different ways to express your own, and how to express agreement and disagreement.
As usual, I'll illustrate many of these expressions with typical real-world examples from French life, complete with audio.
How to ask for someone's opinion in French
1. What do you think of ...
Suppose you're at a buffet party, trying out a Bordeaux wine. You ask your friend :
"Que penses-tu de ce petit Bordeaux ? Pas mauvais hein ? " (what do you think of this little Bordeaux ? not bad huh ?)
Or alternatively "qu'est-ce-que tu penses de ce petit Bordeaux "
This is an open question, you're asking for your friend's opinion about the wine. You friend may reply :
A more colloquial phrasing you can use is :
"Qu'est-ce-que tu en penses, de ce Bordeaux ?" or "Tu en penses quoi, de ce Bordeaux ?"
Another expression for asking her opinion about the wine is to say :
"Comment tu trouves ce petit Bordeaux ?" (again, what do you think of it, but literally "how do you find it")
Your friend may answer :
"Il n'est pas mal du tout" (yes it's not bad at all)
or "Je le trouve très bon, et toi ?" (I find it very good, what about you ?)
Note you can also use "comment tu trouvers" to ask someone about how you look :
"Comment tu me trouves ?" (how do I look ?)
"Super, ça te va très bien !" (great, it looks very nice on you)
2. Do you think ...
Suppose you want to ask your friend's thoughts about some specific fact rather than about some object (the wine in our example). For example, you want to ask her about the party :
"Tu penses qu'il y aura du beau monde ce soir ?" (you think there will be prestigious people tonight ?)
Or, alternatively : "Tu crois qu'il y aura du beau monde ?"
Other, equivalent phrases :
"A ton avis, il y aura du beau monde ?"
"Il y a beaucoup de gens célèbres, selon toi ?" (dp you think there will be many famous people)
"Il y a aura un bon buffet d'après toi ?" (a nice buffet)
"Pour toi, il y aura de la bonne musique ?" (good music)
A possible replies from your friend :
"Je pense que oui" , "je pense que non"
3. What is your view about ...
When you need to ask someone's view about a general issue, you can use the construct :
"Quel(le) est ton/ta (view, belief) sur (issue)" ?
For example :
"Quel est ton avis sur l'égalité sociale ?" (what's your opnion about social equality ?)
"Dis moi quelle est ta position sur la politique actuelle ?" (what's your position about the current policy ?)
"J'aimerais connaitre ta conviction sur cette histoire ?" (What's your conviction about this story ?)
In all these examples, these are open-ended questions that allow the person total freedom for expressing their thoughts about the issue.
4. Don't you agree that ...
Many times, you want to know if the a person shares your opinion on something. Instead of an open question, you ask for a confirmation :
"Tu ne trouves pas qu'il fait frais ce soir ?" (don't you think the weather is cool tonight ?)
or "Il fait frais ce soir, tu ne trouves pas ?" (the weather is cool tonight, don't you think ?)
"Tu ne crois pas qu'il y a trop de sel dans ce plat ?" (don't you think there's too much salt in this dish ?)
"Tu es d'accord que notre hôte est très en beauté ?" (do you agree our host is looking very nice ?)
"Notre hôte est très en beauté, tu n'es pas d'accord ?" (our host is looking very nice, don't you agree ?)
"Es-tu d'avis que ce pâté n'est pas terrible ?" (would you agree this paté is not very good ?)
"Ce pâté n'est pas terrible, tu n'est pas de mon avis ?" (wouldn't you agree ?)
How to express your opinion in French
Whether or not someone specifically requests your opinion about something, you'll often want to share what you think in a conversation. Let's see some common phrases for expressing your opinion in spoken French.
1. Just saying what you think
Remember how we use "penser", "croire" and "trouver" when asking for someone's thoughts in French ? They can also be used to state what you think. Here are some examples from our dinner party :
"Je pense que c'est une belle maison" (I think this is a nice house)
"Je crois que c'est la meilleure soirée de l'année" (I think it's the best party of the year)
"Je trouve que le serveur est mal élevé" (I think the waiter is rude)
Note that "je pense" and "je crois" can also be used to express a simple fact with a degree of uncertaintly, e.g. :
"Je crois que c'est lui le propriétaire" (I think he's the owner = he may be the owner)
In this case, you're not really expressing your opinion, rather, you're saying you believe the person may be the owner. In the previous example, on the other hand, you expressed your view that this is the best party of the year.
You can also use other phrases we've seen in the previous section :
"Selon moi, il ne dit pas toute la vérité" (according to me, he's not saying all the truth)
"D'après moi, il ment" (if you ask me, he's lying)
2. Really personal views
"J'estime que cette soirée mérite des félicitations" (I believe this party deserves some praise)
"Je considère qu'un évènement comme celui-ci est très rare".
You use "estimer" and "considérer" when expressing a really personal opinion in French, that is, you're not just joining other people in thinking that way, you're expressing your own special point of view.
Other ways to express a very personal opinion in French :
"A mon point de vue, ce genre de soirée est très rare" (from my point of view, this kind of party is very rare)
"Personnellement, je trouve que cette soirée est super" (personally, I think this party is great)
Notice we've prefixed "je trouve" with "personnellement", making the opinion even more personal
"En ce qui me concerne, c'est une super soirée" (as far as I'm concerned, it's a great party).
Note there's no need to add "je trouve" after "en ce qui me concerne", we can just state our opinion as a fact.
A similar expression to "en ce qui me concerne" is "pour ma part" :
"Pour ma part, je trouve cette soirée vraiment géniale" (as far as I'm concerned, I think this party is really awesome)
Like with "personnellement", we typically add an opinion verb ("je trouve" here) before stating the fact - omitting it (just saying "cette soirée est géniale") would sound strange.
The following phrases are used in French for expressing a view you firmly believe in, i.e. a conviction :
"Je suis certain(e) que cette soirée a coûté beaucoup d'argent" (I'm certain this party cost a lot of money)
"Je suis sûr(e) que personne d'autre n'est capable de faire une soirée comme celle-ci" (I'm sure no-one else can thrown a party like this one)
"Je suis convaincu(e) que le cuisinier est parisien" (I'm convinced the chef is a Parisian)
"Je suis persuadé(e) qu'elle va arriver en retard" (I'm sure she will arrive late)
Note that you may use "certain", "sûr", "convaincu", "persuadé" interchangeably to express a strong opinion in French.
4. Uncertain opinions
Other phrases serve to express opinions that are unsure, things you believe might be true but you're not certain about :
"Il me semble que c'est un brave homme" (it seems to me he's a nice man)
"Je suppose que c'est un brave homme" (I suppose he must be a nice man)
"J'ai l'impression que c'est un brave homme"
Note that, like for "je pense" and "je crois", the above phrases can also be used to express doubt without necessarily expressing an opinion, e.g. :
"Il me semble / je suppose / j'ai l'impression qu'il est presque midi" (it seems to me it's almost noon)
Here the person is not expressing her opinion, just stating a simple fact she's not 100% sure about.
How to agree with someone's opinion in French
So you've seen common ways of asking for an opinion and stating your own, sollicited or not. Now let's look at how to indicate agreement with someone who's expressed a view1.
1. It's true / obvious
One common way the French express agreement with an opinion someone is expressing, is by saying that the stated opinion is an obvious fact, or by saying the person is right :
"C'est vrai" or "oui c'est vrai" (that's true)
The French start a lot of sentences with "c'est vrai que ...", even when they're not stating an opinion but merely stating commonly known facts :
"C'est vrai que le chômage continue à augmenter" (unemployment keeps going up)
Compare this to :
"C'est un très bel arbre, tu ne trouves pas ?"
"C'est vrai qu'il est magnifique"
While the first example states a mere fact, the second one serves to indicate agreement with a stated opinion. More on "c'est vrai que" in the next section.
Some other similar phrases for expressing agreement are :
C'est clair !" (clearly so !)
"Tu as raison" (you're right)
"Tout à fait", "absolument" (definitely, absolutely)
2. Agreeing explicitly
These are very explicit ways to agree with someone :
"Je suis d'accord (avec toi)" : I agree (with you)
"je pense qu'il faut beaucoup de courage pour sauter du haut d'un pont" (I think it takes a lot of guts to jump off a bridge)
"C'est vrai, tu as raison ! Je suis d'accord."
"C'est ce que je pense aussi" (that's also what I think)
"Je suis de ton avis", "je suis du même avis que toi", "c'est aussi mon avis"
For example, you may say to your spouse :
"Il faut vraiment que les enfants se calment." (the children really need to calm down)
"C'est aussi mon avis !"
"Je suis bien de ton avis !"
3. Agreeing reluctantly
The French are often reluctant to express complete agreement with someone, they will typically come up with "ifs" and "buts", sometimes just for the sake of it. To many French people, fulling agreeing with someone without discussion makes you look like a naive person who lacks no personality.
What's more, it's important to always start by saying no and doubting what the other person is saying. It's part of the French culture of "avoir the l'esprit" (being smart) and "avoir de la répartie" (being quick-witted).
Appearing as a credulous, naive person is often seen as a lack of cleverness. Being critical of everything is a sign of a smart person (hence the constant complaining).
So typically, when you state an opinion, a person who does agree with you will start with "c'est vrai que ..." , indicating they're not just accepting your opinion right away. Their first reaction has to be one of doubt and skepticism towards your statement, then as they think about it more, they find arguments to agree with what you said.
That's why quite a few phrases for indicating agreement in French seem to suggest the person reluctantly agrees with you :
"Je dois reconnaitre que tu as raison" (I must admit you are right)
"je dois admettre que c'est vrai" (I must admit it's the truth)
"Oui sans doute" (probably, I guess)
A colloquial expressions people say a lot nowadays is
"c'est pas faux" (it's not false)
It's sometimes said a bit jokingly but is slowly gaining traction in everyday street French. This phrases is another example of a very common language pattern in French, called litote. Here's a definition :
Litote : ironic understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary
So our example is a perfect example of a litote since "C'est pas faux" is used for "c'est vrai"
Another street French expression os "grave !", which expresses complete, emphatic agreement with what the other person is saying :
"Il y a beaucoup de belles filles ce soir !" (there are a lot of pretty girls tonight)
"Grave !" (totally !)
How to disagree in French
1. strong and upfront disagreement
When arguing about something, one way to express your view is to brutally question your the truth of what the person is saying. For example, someone might say to you :
"Toi tu es très paresseuse" (you're very lazy)
Feeling offended, you may reply :
"Ça ce n'est pas vrai !" (that's not true)
"Pas du tout !" (absolutely not !)
You might add something like
"c'est toi qui est paresseux !" (you are the lazy one)
or "comment oses-tu dire ça !" (how dare you say that)
2. Polite disagreement
A more moderate way of responding to someone you disagree with is :
"Je ne suis pas d'accord avec toi" (I don't agree with you)
or "je ne suis pas d'accord."
You may also say :
"Ce n'est pas mon avis / opinion" (that's not my opinion)
The following phrases are less strong than the preceding ones as they tend to express skepticism rather than irrevocable disagreement :
"Ça m'étonnerait" (I doubt it, literally that would suprise me)
"Cette voiture est la plus rapide du monde !" (This car is the fastest in the world)
"Alors là, ça m'etonnerait ..."
Another way to express skepticism is "je ne pense pas" :
"Il parait qu'ils ont gagné des millions d'euros" (I heard they've made millions of euros)
"Je ne pense pas, non" (No I don't think so)
Or, to indicate more doubt, you can say "je ne suis pas convaincu" (I'm not convinced)
4. Rough contradiction
The art of debate is not really a French tradition - debating on ideas is not typically taught in French school like it in the U.S for example. French debates often become quite harsh and disrepectful. People participating in discussions often get upset or condescending, and often reject diverging opinions as not worth considering.
Some typical phrases for disagreement reflect this tradition :
"C'est n'importe quoi!" (that's bullshit) is used quite often. A variant is "Tu dis n'importe quoi!" (stop saying BS), an expression teachers use a lot in classrooom for example.
Another such typical phrase, more slangy than the previous is "c'est des conneries" (that's bullshit) or "ne dis pas de conneries" (stop saying bs). Avoid using it when arguing with your boss.
5. Polite disagreement
There are of course more polite and formal ways to express disagreement. You can say :
"Je ne vois pas les choses ainsi" or "je ne vois pas les choses de cette manière" (I don't see things that way).
"Je pense différemment" (I think differently) is also a cordial way to express contradicton.
You may add, before contradicting someone :
"Ne le prends pas mal mais ..." (don't take it the wrong way but ...)
Or : "Sans vouloir te contredire, ..." (I don't want to contradict you but ...)
For example, you may say
"Ne le prends pas mal mais je pense que tu te trompes" (I think you're wrong)
Expressing neutral or no opinion in French
The last aspect we'll discuss is what to say when we want to avoid expressing our opinion, or when we don't have one about the issue at hand.
1. No opinion, don't know
The most obvious thing to say when you don't have any opinion is :
"Je ne sais pas" (I don't know)
or "je n'en sais rien" (I have no clue)
or "je ne sais pas trop" (I'm not sure)
Another typical answer indicating you don't have an opinion is "Aucune idée !" (no idea)
You might also say outright "je n'ai pas d'idée sur la question" (I don't have any idea on the question)
2. Need to think about it
If you want to suggest you haven't yet formed an opinion and need to think about it some more, you may say :
"Je dois y réfléchir" (I must think about it)
"Faut voir" (this requires some thought)
"Ça dépend" (it depends)
For example, someone asks you :
"Tu crois que ça vaut la peine de prendre cet abonnement ?" (you think it's worth subscribing to this thing ?)
"Faut voir" (gotta look into it)
3. Expressing indifference
When asked for your opinion about something in French, you may want to indicate you don't really care. The most typical expression to do that is to say :"
For an in-depth reflexion on the uses and meanings of "bof", "bah" and other interjections in French, check out How to use Bof in French.
You may also explicitly express your indifference saying :
"Ça m'est égal" (I don't care)
This phrase is typically used when asked for your opinion in choosing between 2 alternatives, for example :
"Tu préfères le bleu ou le rouge ?" (do you prefer the blue one or the red one ?)
Another way to express the same thing is to say :
"Pour moi c'est pareil" (to me it's the same) or "pour moi c'est kif kif" - kif kif is a colloquial expression derived from Arabic, meaning "the same".
You can aslo say "c'est du pareil au même" , a colloquial expression also meaning "it's the same".
If you want to be rude, you can say "je m'en tape", i.e. "I don't give a damn".
4. Holding back
If you do have an opinion but prefer to to say it (e.g. due a tense context), you can say :
"Je prefère m'abstenir" (I'd rather not say, refrain from saying)
or "je préfère ne pas me prononcer" (same meaning)
Now you know everything you need about expressing, requesting, agreeing or disagreeing with, and refraining from sharing, an opinion in French.
Depending on your background, hopefully you'll begin to not only successfully exchange ideas with French speaking natives, but you might also influence things and help them improve their debating skills over time.
Be sure to share your experiences with us in the comments section below. If you have specific questions about expressing opinions in French, feel free to ask as well- we're always quick to post a reply.