Embarking on the journey of learning a new language is an exciting and rewarding endeavor. As a beginner learning French, it is crucial to establish a solid foundation in vocabulary to facilitate effective communication and comprehension. Mastering essential French vocabulary will not only help you build confidence in your language skills but also serve as a stepping stone to understanding the language structure and grammar.

It is never too late to learn a new language, as long as you have sufficient patience and discipline. However, starting language learning as a child has multiple benefits from cultural understanding to early fluency. If you’re helping a child learn French, you can read this blogpost for more information on The Importance of Early Language Learning.

Essential vocabulary categories

This blog post will provide you with a comprehensive guide to essential French vocabulary categories that every beginner should know. We will cover greetings and basic expressions, numbers, days of the week and months, colors, family and personal relationships, food and dining, travel and directions, common verbs and conjugation, and adjectives and adverbs. By familiarizing yourself with these fundamental vocabulary categories, you will be well-equipped to start conversations, ask for directions, and express your thoughts in French. If you’re a parent wanting to support your child in learning French, check out this blogpost on Building Strong Vocabulary in Children for language learning tips and tricks.

Tips for memorizing vocabulary and language-learning strategies

As you start learning French vocabulary, it is essential to develop effective memorization techniques and learning strategies to retain new words and phrases. Here are some tips to help you along the way:

Repetition: Regularly review and practice new vocabulary to reinforce your memory. Flashcards, mobile apps, or spaced repetition systems can be helpful tools for this purpose.

Context: Learn words and phrases within the context of sentences or real-life situations. This approach will help you understand the proper usage and meaning of new vocabulary.

Association: Create associations between new words and familiar concepts or images. For example, you could associate the French word “pomme” (apple) with a picture of an apple or the similar-sounding English word “palm.”

Practice: Engage in conversations with native speakers, join a language exchange group, or practice speaking aloud to improve your pronunciation and fluency.

Immersion: Surround yourself with French through listening to music, watching movies, reading books, or following French-language social media accounts. This exposure will help you become more familiar with the language and reinforce your vocabulary.

Cultural context and appropriateness of using different greetings

Understanding the cultural context and the appropriate use of different greetings is essential for effective communication in French. French people place great importance on politeness and formality, and using the right greeting for a particular situation will help you make a positive impression. Here are some key points to consider when using French greetings:

Formal vs. informal greetings: The level of formality in your greeting depends on your relationship with the person you are addressing and the situation. “Bonjour” (Hello/Good day) is a formal greeting appropriate for most situations, especially when addressing someone older or in a professional context. “Salut” (Hi) is a more informal greeting, suitable for close friends, peers, or younger people.

Time of day: French greetings can change depending on the time of day. “Bonjour” is used during the day, while “Bonsoir” (Good evening) is used in the evening. It’s important to make this distinction to show that you are aware of the time and to demonstrate respect and politeness.

Familiarity: In French culture, it is common to greet acquaintances, colleagues, or even strangers with a polite greeting, such as “Bonjour” or “Bonsoir.” A simple acknowledgment, like a nod or a smile, may also be considered appropriate when passing by someone you know.

Physical greetings: In France, it is customary to greet close friends and family with “la bise,” a light kiss on each cheek. However, this is typically reserved for people you are familiar with and not used in professional settings or with strangers. In formal or professional situations, a firm handshake is a more appropriate way to greet someone.

Titles and formality: When addressing someone you don’t know well or in a formal setting, it is polite to use “Monsieur” (Sir) for men and “Madame” (Madam) for women, followed by their last name if known. This shows respect and courtesy.

Examples of common greetings and basic expressions

As you begin your journey into the French language, it is essential to familiarize yourself with common greetings and basic expressions. These phrases will help you navigate everyday conversations and demonstrate politeness and courtesy when interacting with native French speakers. In this section, we will explore some of the most frequently used French greetings and expressions that will serve as building blocks for your conversational skills. By mastering these fundamental phrases, you will be well-prepared to engage in simple yet meaningful interactions in French.

Common French greetings

  • Bonjour – Hello/Good day
  • Salut – Hi
  • Bonsoir – Good evening
  • Au revoir – Goodbye

Basic expressions for politeness and daily use

  • Merci – Thank you
  • S’il vous plaît – Please
  • Excusez-moi – Excuse me
  • De rien – You’re welcome

Counting in French

Mastering numbers in French is essential for various daily situations such as shopping, telling time, or giving and receiving directions. Here is a list of French numbers from 1 to 20:
  • Un
  • Deux
  • Trois
  • Quatre
  • Cinq
  • Six
  • Sept
  • Huit
  • Neuf
  • Dix
  • Onze
  • Douze
  • Treize
  • Quatorze
  • Quinze
  • Seize
  • Dix-sept
  • Dix-huit
  • Dix-neuf
  • Vingt

Counting by tens up to 100

Once you have learned numbers 1 to 20, you can easily progress to counting by tens up to 100:
  • Trente
  • Quarante Cinquante
  • Soixante
  • Soixante-dix (literally “sixty-ten”)
  • Quatre-vingts (literally “four-twenties”)
  • Quatre-vingt-dix (literally “four-twenty-ten”)
  • Cent

Tips for remembering French numbers

Memorizing French numbers can be challenging, but with the right approach, you can quickly master them. Here are some tips to help you remember French numbers:

Break down larger numbers: For numbers between 21 and 69, break them down into their components (tens and units). For example, 42 is “quarante-deux” (forty-two). For numbers 70 to 99, remember the unique structure of French numbers, combining 60 or 80 with additional numbers.

Practice regularly: Consistent practice is key. Recite the numbers aloud or write them down daily to reinforce your memory.

Use memory devices: Create associations, rhymes, or mental images to help you remember numbers more easily. For example, you could remember “trois” (three) by thinking of a triangle with three sides.

Incorporate numbers into daily life: Practice counting objects around you, like stairs or items in your shopping cart, to help reinforce your number knowledge in a practical context.

Expressing age, prices, and time using numbers

Being able to express age, prices, and time using numbers is crucial for everyday communication in French. Here’s how to use numbers in these contexts:

Age: To express age, use the verb “avoir” (to have) followed by the number representing the age. For example, “J’ai 25 ans” means “I am 25 years old” (literally, “I have 25 years”).

Prices: When discussing prices, use the word “euro” or “euros” depending on the amount, and “centime” or “centimes” for smaller denominations. For example, €4.50 would be “quatre euros cinquante centimes.” In a conversation, you can also say “quatre euros cinquante” without mentioning “centimes.”

Time: Telling time in French involves using numbers along with specific phrases. For whole hours, use “heure” or “heures” depending on the number. For example, “3:00” would be “trois heures.” For minutes past the hour, simply add the number of minutes after the hour. For example, “3:15” would be “trois heures quinze.” Note that the 24-hour format is commonly used in France, so 15:00 would be “quinze heures.”

Days of the week, months, and seasons

Understanding the days of the week, months, and seasons in French is essential for making plans, scheduling appointments, and discussing events or weather conditions. Here are the days of the week, months of the year, and seasons in French:

Days of the week

  • Lundi – Monday
  • Mardi – Tuesday
  • Mercredi – Wednesday
  • Jeudi – Thursday
  • Vendredi – Friday
  • Samedi – Saturday
  • Dimanche – Sunday

Note that days of the week are not capitalized in French, unlike in English.

Months of the year

  • Janvier – January
  • Février – February
  • Mars – March
  • Avril – April
  • Mai – May
  • Juin – June
  • Juillet – July
  • Août – August
  • Septembre – September
  • Octobre – October
  • Novembre – November
  • Décembre – December

Similarly to days of the week, months are also not capitalized in French.


Printemps – Spring: Printemps is characterized by warmer weather, blossoming flowers, and longer days. It typically lasts from March to May.

Été – Summer: Été is the warmest season of the year, with long days and plenty of sunlight. Summer in France usually spans from June to August.

Automne – Fall: Automne is a transitional season, with falling leaves and cooler temperatures. It generally occurs from September to November.

Hiver – Winter: Hiver is the coldest season, marked by shorter days, colder temperatures, and sometimes snow, depending on the region. Winter in France typically lasts from December to February.


A solid understanding of colors in French is essential for describing objects, expressing preferences, and even using idiomatic expressions. In this section, we will cover common colors, how to describe objects using color vocabulary, and some popular French idioms that incorporate colors.

List of common colors

  • Blanc/blanche – White
  • Noir/noire – Black
  • Gris/grise – Gray
  • Rouge – Red
  • Bleu/bleue – Blue
  • Vert/verte – Green
  • Jaune – Yellow
  • Orange – Orange
  • Rose – Pink
  • Marron – Brown
  • Violet/violette – Purple

Note that some color adjectives, such as “blanc,” “noir,” and “gris,” have different masculine and feminine forms.

Describing objects using color vocabulary

To describe objects using color vocabulary, place the color adjective after the noun it modifies. For example:

  • Un chapeau rouge – A red hat (or directly translated: a hat red)
  • Une voiture bleue – A blue car (directly translated: a car blue)
  • Des fleurs blanches – White flowers (directly translated: flowers white)

Remember to match the color adjective’s gender and number to the noun it modifies.

Idiomatic expressions using colors

French is rich in colorful idiomatic expressions that incorporate color vocabulary. Here are a few examples:

  • Voir la vie en rose – To see life through rose-colored glasses (literally, “to see life in pink”)
  • Être vert de jalousie – To be green with envy
  • Donner le feu vert – To give the green light
  • Avoir une peur bleue – To be scared stiff (literally, “to have a blue fear”)
  • Rire jaune – To give a forced laugh (literally, “to laugh yellow”)

Optimize your learning with a French tutor

Learning French with the guidance of a tutor, teacher, or through a language school or class can make a significant difference in your language learning journey. Here, we discuss the relevance and benefits of these resources and provide some tips on finding the right options for you.

Benefits of a French tutor

Personalized learning: A tutor or teacher can tailor their teaching methods to suit your learning style, ensuring that you progress efficiently and effectively.

Immediate feedback: Tutors and teachers can provide real-time feedback on your pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary usage, helping you to correct mistakes and improve faster.

Structured learning: Language schools and classes offer a structured curriculum, which can help you stay on track and maintain a steady learning pace.

Motivation and accountability: Having a tutor, teacher, or attending a class can keep you motivated and accountable for your progress, ensuring that you stay committed to your language learning goals.

Cultural insights: Tutors, teachers, and language classes often incorporate cultural elements into their lessons, providing you with a deeper understanding of French culture and customs.

Tips for finding a French tutor, teacher or language class

Local language schools: Check with local language schools in your area for French courses. For example, search for “French class London” or “French course Manchester” online to find options near you.

Online tutor platforms: Websites like meet’n’Learn offer a database of French tutors, some of whom may be located in your specific area. Search for “French tutor Leeds” or “French teacher Glasgow” to find suitable options.


Beginning your adventure into the French language is an exhilarating and rewarding experience. With a strong foundation in essential vocabulary, you will be well-prepared to communicate effectively and understand the language on a deeper level.

Utilizing resources such as French tutors, teachers, or language classes can enhance your learning experience and provide valuable guidance and support on your language learning journey. As you expand your French vocabulary and skills, embrace the opportunities to practice speaking, immerse yourself in French media, and engage with native speakers to solidify your understanding and proficiency in this beautiful and captivating language. Bonne chance!