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Business French For Beginners
Can you imagine going to a business meeting in France without knowing business French? With a little calculation and preparation, you can save yourself a lot of trouble. All you need is a small set of business phrases in French.
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Working life can be very different from country to country, and when you’re traveling for business – permanently or as a visitor – you’ll need to find your footing quickly to make the most of your new business environment.
In this guide to phrases for business in French, you will learn everything you need to work in France or to do business with French partners. We’ll cover everything from collaboration and meetings to job interviews, letters and even professional phone calls. Let’s take care of business!
Before we dive into specific business French phrases, we’ll cover the basics and work on your first impressions.
In this section, you will learn how to say hello, how formal you should be, and what words and expressions you need to know if you want to work or do business in French.
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When meeting someone for the first time, you might want to add “Nice to meet you.” Here are some options:
→ To learn more about greetings and polite expressions, be sure to read our complete guide on how to say hello in French.
Parting is even simpler. In any formal situation, always stick to Au revoir (“Goodbye”), and nothing else. Then, until you become more casual with co-workers or business partners, you can use a relaxed Salut (“Hello”) or another similar option.
→ You will find all about saying “Goodbye” and “See you later” in our blog article on Greetings in French.
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The French have two different pronouns for “you”: vous and tu (formal and casual “you”). When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with vous.
A simple rule: Follow the instructions of your partners or associates. If they use tu when addressing you, respond with tu. Otherwise, just stick to a formal vous.
Now we will introduce you to some of the most useful business French dictionaries. These are words and expressions that you will often hear and use in the French working world, so we recommend that you memorize the ones that are most relevant to your situation.
You’ll notice that some words have a feminine form and some don’t. I only add the feminine form where relevant and in common usage. This is because in many cases it is still common to use the masculine form for either gender.
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Now that you have a large business vocabulary for talking about companies and money, let’s tackle more specific topics, starting with meetings for associates. Good program, isn’t it? Don’t worry, it will be easy!
Now let’s move on to the most useful French business phrases for interacting with colleagues and speaking in business meetings.
In France, it’s okay to ask for help if you don’t understand something, if you need important information, or if you think a task should be handled with outside help.
Below, I’ll write a few example sentences using tu (the relaxed “you”), as this is by far the most common way to address your co-workers unless you work in an unusually tense work environment.
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You can have many reasons to express your concern, and in most places French employees do so freely. If something is wrong, good managers would rather know the hard facts than sugar coat it and find out the truth later.
Ideally, you should express your concerns in a polite and constructive way, showing that you want to solve the problem, not just complain about it.
When the French complain about their busy lifestyle, lack of free time, or how they have difficulty balancing their professional and private lives, they use the term: Métro, boulot, dodo. (“Metro, work, sleep.”). This is like talking about the rat race.
→ For many other useful resources, don’t miss our list of free business idiom dictionaries, with pronunciation practice recordings.
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We all make mistakes and as long as you don’t deny it and take responsibility, you should be fine!
→ There are many ways to say “I’m sorry,” and this is one situation you don’t want to mess up. Check out our glossary of common ways to apologize, or if you want to know all about it, check out our Complete Apology Guide on the blog.
Getting to know your colleagues or business partners is important, and France has a long tradition of making critical decisions and concluding lucrative deals at what we call the déjeuner d’affaire (“business lunch”).
It is also common among colleagues to have a drink after work or meet in an informal setting to get to know each other better.
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→ If you don’t feel comfortable making small talk and asking questions, be sure to go through our 15 most important interview questions you should know.
If there’s one situation where you’ll need a lot of business phrases and vocabulary, it’s definitely a job interview. You may have done well with your letter and no one saw you sweat during the phone interview, but can you handle a real interview? Now is your time to shine.
It’ll take some practice to up your game, but once you know what to say and how to answer the most common questions, you’ll be fine once you’re done. I’m working out!
→ If you don’t feel comfortable with an introduction, I suggest you check out our free vocabulary list of 10 lines where you’ll need to introduce yourself.
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Now, here are some examples of common job interview questions and how to answer them:
What are your degrees? (“What degrees do you have?”) Quel est votre parcours scolaire ? (“What is your education?”)
➢ I worked at Yves Rocher for 4 years. (“I worked with Yves Rocher for four years.”)
➢ Travaille pour Remedy Software depuis 2 ans. (“I’ve been working for Medicine Software for two years.”)
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→ For more details on how to handle the interview and many more sample questions, be sure to visit our complete guide on how to get a job in France.
Let’s face it, you probably won’t send a real letter for business purposes in France. Surprisingly, we still use paper for most of our administrative procedures, but private companies moved into the digital age decades ago.
However, you can read the word une lettre (“letter”) in a business context. Remember that we usually do not mean a paper letter, but an e-mail. This is the case, for example, in the case of une lettre de motivation (“covering letter”), which no one sends by post anymore.
When writing a business letter from France, you’ll usually want to consider three things before getting down to business:
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2. Information about the other person, to make sure it ends up in the right hands. If you do not know the person’s name, you can provide the name of the department. Another option is to write the name of the company and add à qui de droit (“to whom it belongs”).
3. [Optional] Content of the letter, for example Candidature pour un poste de professeur d’Anglais (“Application for the position of English teacher”) or Récapitulatif de nos conditions de distribution (“Summary of our distribution conditions”).
Then you should open the greeting letter. If you know your reader’s name, feel free to use it. For example:
There are many options for completing an email or business letter from France, but you don’t want to be too tame or old-fashioned. Here are some endless options:
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In many large companies, Skype, Teams or other similar solutions for audio conferencing are already far more popular than phone calls. At the last company I worked for, I don’t believe I saw more than a few phones for 200 people.
However, in small businesses and administrations, the telephone is still alive and well. Fortunately, the phrases and vocabulary are pretty similar to what we’ve already covered, except for some additional technical terms for online solutions.
Then you should check if you dialed the right number or if you are talking to the right person:
If you’re on the other end of the phone, here are some useful phrases for handling calls:
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→ You can find more examples with audio recordings in our dictionary list of useful phrases for phone calls at .
In this guide, you’ll learn all about business French phrases, from useful French vocabulary to business letters, emails, phone calls and workplace interactions. Did I forget something?