Confused in French - how to show you're lost or not getting it

Spoken French Expressions for Being Confused: Showing You’re Lost or Not Getting It

Feeling lost in a French conversation? You may be stuck on unfamiliar words ,or you simply can't follow the flow. Knowing how to express your confusion is important to keep the conversation rolling.

This post sets you up with 10 very commonly used spoken French expressions that show when you’re not quite getting it. Each phrase comes with a typical use example and an audio clip for pronunciation. Go through them and repeat them, there will be a quiz on them!

1. Je ne comprends pas

"I don't understand". You probably know this one, it's the most obvious and basic way to express your confusion. It's often used in real-life French conversations.

"Je suis allé à la plage aujourd'hui."
"Mais je ne comprends pas, tu ne devais pas travailler aujourd'hui?"

I went to the beach today.
But I don't understand, didn't you have to work today?"

Another related phrase is "je n'ai pas bien compris" (I didn't quite get it)

A common informal alternative to "comprendre" is "piger" (as in to get):

"Je pige pas ce qu'il raconte." (I don't get what he's saying.)
"J'ai pas bien pigé" (I didn't quite get that)

Another common variant is: "Je n'ai pas capté" - or "j'ai rien capté!"

Capter, piger, percuter, imprimer = comprendre in colloquial French

2. Comment ça?

Literally "how that?", it can translate to "What do you mean?" It's typically used to express a mix confusion and surprise, and asks for clarification:

"Comment ça, tu pars demain ?"

What do you mean, you're leaving tomorrow?

3. Je suis perdu(e)

Used when you feel lost or confused.

"Alors, tu prends la rue à droite, ensuite tu passes deux feux, puis tu tournes à gauche après la boulangerie, et enfin tu verras le café sur ta droite."
"Ouh là là, je suis perdue... Tu peux répéter?"

- So, you take the street on the right, then you go through two traffic lights, then you turn left after the bakery, and finally, you will see the café on your right.
- Oh my, I'm lost… Can you repeat?

Instead of "perdu(e)", you can use "paumé(e)" or "largué(e), which are both colloquial alternatives:

"Alors là, je suis complétement paumé..."

Well now, I'm completely lost.

"Je suis complètement largué(e). Tu peux redire ça?"

I'm completely lost. Can you say it again?

"Je suis perdu/paumé/largué avec ce nouveau logiciel."

I'm out of my depth with this new software.

4. Ça n'a pas de sens.

This translates to "It doesn't make sense."


"Il a dit qu'il allait au cinéma, mais ensuite il m'a envoyé une photo de lui à la plage."
"Ça n'a pas de sens!"

- He said he was going to the movies, but then he sent me a picture of himself at the beach.
- That doesn't make sense!

5. Qu'est-ce-que ça veut dire?

This simply means "what does it mean?" It's commonly used to express confusion and ask for clarifications.

"Tu devrais peut-être être plus direct avec elle."
"Qu'est-ce-que ça veut dire?"

Maybe you should be more direct with her.
What does that mean?

A commonly used alternative expression is "Je ne vois pas ce que tu veux dire." (I don't see what you mean):

"Je ne vois pas ce que tu veux dire par là."

I don't see what you mean by that.

6. Je ne vois pas où tu veux en venir.

This is used when you don't understand the other person's point.

"Je ne vois pas où tu veux en venir avec cette histoire."

I don't see where you're going with this story.

7. Je n'y comprends rien.

Used to convey you don't understand a word about what someone is saying, indicating complete confusion.

"Je n'y comprends rien" generally means you don't understand their point rather than their words (in this case you would typically say "je ne comprends pas" or "je n'ai pas compris").

"Elle a dit qu'elle ne voulait plus te voir."
"Mais pourquoi? Qu'est-ce-que j'ai fait? Je n'y comprends rien!"

She said she doesn't want to see you anymore.
But why? What did I do? I don't understand anything about this!

8. Je ne vois pas le rapport.

Literally "I don't see the connection". This basically means "what does it have to do with it?"


"Je pense que tu devrais t'excuser auprès de Marie. En plus, elle vient de perdre son job."
"Je ne vois pas le rapport."

I think you should apologize to Marie. Besides, she just lost her job.
What does it have to do with it?

9. Ça me dépasse.

This literally means "this goes over my head". It's used e.g. when something technical is hard to understand, but also for all kinds of things:

"Paul a décidé de quitter son travail bien payé pour voyager à travers le monde."
"Alors là, ça me dépasse!"

Paul decided to quit his well-paid job to travel the world without money.
I can't understand that!

10. C’est du chinois pour moi.

This roughly translates to "it's all Greek to me."


"Pour configurer ton compte email, il faut paramétrer le serveur SMTP.
"Hein? c’est du chinois pour moi..."

To set up your email account, you need to configure the SMTP server settings.
Huh? This is Greek to me...

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