The most spoken words in French

by Audrey Sivadier
February 02, 2021
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When you start learning a language, you start from scratch, and this can be discouraging. But did you know that most French people only use 5,000 words to express themselves and make themselves understood? What’s more, it is estimated that only 300 words are enough to get by in everyday life. Here is a list of the most commonly used words in French to help you out!

The most commonly used words in French

Little French words

According to a list compiled by the French Department of Education website, eduscol, the most spoken words in French are small words. Here are the top 10 most used small words in French

1. le/la/l’ (determiner) – the

2. de (preposition) – of

3. un/une (determiner) – a/an

4. être (verb) – to be

5. et (conjunction) – and

6. à (preposition) – at

7. il (pronoun) – he

8. avoir (verb) – to have

9. ne (adverb) – no

10.   je (pronoun) – I

What does this list tell you?

  • First of all, we use a lot of determiners in French, these are the little words before a name. They are essential to know the gender of a name (feminine or masculine).
  • The list also has prepositions such as ” à ” and ” de ” which are essential to express location or possession. There is a conjunction ” et ” which serves as a link between two ideas.
  • Personal pronouns for speaking about oneself (je) or speaking about others ( il). ” Elle «  (she) comes in 18th place in the ranking… Something to think about the place of female subjects in the French language…
  • In 4th and 8th positions, these are the two most used verbs in French, as they are also used to form the « passé composé «  (past tense). So, if you have two conjugation tables to know, concentrate on those two!

Finally, an adverb: “ne” which with “pas” will form the French negation by framing the verb.

Most spoken French verbs

Let’s take a closer look at the 10 most frequently used verbs in French:

1. être – to be

2. avoir – to have

3. faire – to do

4. dire – to say/to tell

5. pouvoir – can/to be able to

6. aller – to go

7. voir – to see

8. vouloir – to want

9. venir – to come

10.  devoir – must / to have to

I have some very sad news: they are all irregular verbs whose conjugation is particular to each one. In a certain sense, this is logical: the most frequently used verbs are often the most mistreated by their speakers. They have been used so much that they have been “deteriorated”.

Verbs are important elements of French, we often put them at the beginning or at the centre of our speech.

What does this list tell us?

  • The verbs ” être ” as well as ” avoir ” are often used to speak about oneself, or as said before to form the past tense.
  • ” faire ” is a very generic verb, it can be used for many actions!
  • There are verbs to express a word (dire), a will (vouloir), a displacement (aller, venir), to describe our vision (voir) and also obligation (devoir).

Common nouns in French

Here are the words that contain our ideas and the concepts we want to address: common nouns, also known as substantives.

1. homme – man

2. mari – husband

3. femme – woman/wife

4. jour – day

5. mer – sea

6. temps – time

7. main – hand

8. chose – thing

9. vie – life

10.  yeux – eyes

What does this list tell you?

  • The first and most frequently used nouns have to do with our gender, but also with our relationships. If ” homme ” and ” mari ” are two distinct words, the word ” femme ” in French designates both gender and marital status.
  • The word ” jour ” is widely used to express temporality but also refers to the light of day (“il fait jour” as opposed to “il fait nuit”).
  • “La mer” is an important element for France (it is surrounded by 4 seas: the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the English Channel and the North Sea) and since with its overseas territories, it is located on all continents.
  • ” chose ” is a very useful word when you don’t know the word of an object.
  • And finally, « temps “, ” main “, ” vie “, ” yeux ” are present in many conversations, especially in many French expressions.

Popular adjectives in French

Once you have expressed your ideas and concepts with nouns, you can qualify them, specify their size, shape, colour, specificity with adjectives.

Here are the 10 most used adjectives in French.

1. tout – all

2. grand – big/tall

3. petit – small/little

4. même – same

5. autre – other

6. seul – alone/only

7. jeune – young

8. premier – first

9. bon – good

10.  quel – what

What does this list tell you?

  • No. 1 can be quite tricky, especially in its pronunciation. It can take the form of ” tout “, ” toute / toutes ” or ” tous “.
  • Then there are adjectives that come in pairs and are exact opposites: grand/petit, même/autre.
  • Finally, the last adjective would allow you to exclaim surprise, joy, sadness… So pay attention to the context! For example: « quelle agréable surprise ! » / « quelle horrible surprise ! ». (what a pleasant surprise! “/ “what a horrible surprise! ». )

The most spoken words in a language always say something about the language you are learning. Are they the same in your mother tongue? Visit the Lingoda website and take advantage of your free 7-day trial.

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