Guide To Common French Spoken And Text/Chat Colloquialisms

  • Adrien Renault
    Written byAdrien Renault
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Guide To Common French Spoken And Text/Chat Colloquialisms

The French language is full of some fantastic colloquial expressions that you usually won’t learn about in your French course.

Not the full extent of them anyway, unfortunately.

If you really want to learn French colloquialisms, complete your French knowledge, and start sounding native, it’s time to learn all about French colloquialisms for speech and text chat.

Our guide on commonly used French slang phrases and expressions covers a few phrases that you should add to your vocabulary.

But in this guide, I’m going to explore several more French expressions for speech and text chat, and cover how to learn them.

I’ll also mention the contexts in which they should be used and the importance of verlan.

Let’s get started.

French slang words and expressions to listen for and practice

Let’s start with a list of common text/chat terms used by French speakers.

Examples of text/chat language in French

We’ll begin with different shortened text speak language used by French natives when chatting online or sending messages via mobile apps.

Do you recognise any of these?

MDR

MDR means mort de rire.

It’s the French equivalent of the phrase “laugh out loud”, and is similar to the shortened abbreviation LOL. This is more of an informal text abbreviation.

OKLM

This French slang text abbreviation is the shortened version of the phrase au calme.

It translates to English as “chill out” or “no stress” and is normally used between friends informally.

SVP

We use SVP when sending a message to someone formally and want to say s’il vous plait, meaning “please” in English.

You might use it when sending a message to your boss.

PKOI

PKOI is the shortened versión of pourquoi, which translates to English as “why?”

It’s a frequently used abbreviation used between friends in informal texts and messages.

PK

PK is another similar version of the text phrase pourquoi.

Depending on the style of the person writing the message, you might see either PK or PKOI being used.

REBJR

REBJR is a shortened version of the phrase re-bonjour.

It is used in text messages or chats to say hello to someone who you have already said “hello” to, or are greeting them again.

DSL

If your friend or family wants to apologise to you in a chat or text message, they will sometimes use DSL, which is short for désolé or désolée.

BCP

BCP might accompany the word merci in a chat since it means beaucoup.

This translates to English as “very much” or “so much” or “a lot”.

SLT

If you’re greeting a French-speaking friend, you can use the abbreviation SLT to greet them or say goodbye to them.

This one means salut, which means “hi” or “goodbye” in English.

B1SÛR

B1SÛR is the shortened text or chat abbreviation that means bien sûr.

In English, this translates to “of course”.

STP

This abbreviation is the informal version of SVP, described above.

It means s’il te plait (or “please” in English) and you can tell that it’s informal because the T stands for te.

C CA

If you want to agree with someone, or use an interjection to say that someone’s right, this text abbreviation is ideal.

It means c’est ça, which means “that’s right!” in English.

TT

You might be sending a group message to several people.

In that case, you could use this abbreviation to address them or speak about several people. It means tout, or “everyone”.

JE RE

If you’re leaving the chat for a moment but will be returning, you can use JE RE to tell the person you’re speaking to that you’re coming back soon.

It means je reviens tout de suite.

A TT

This short version of the phrase à tout à l’heure translates to English as “talk to you later”.

It’s similar to using the English abbreviation TTYL (talk to you later) in a chat or message.

ALP

If you’re ending a conversation via text or chat, and you want to tell someone that you’ll see them soon or say goodbye to them, use ALP. It means à la prochaine.

BIZ

This abbreviation is another one for ending a conversation or chat.

Meaning bises or bisous, think of it as a phrase that has a similar meaning to signing off with little “xx” or two kisses.

CC

Used between friends, CC stands for coucou.

It’s a French greeting that means “hey!” and can be used to begin a conversation—just like saying “hi”.

MDA

This is used in formal circumstances.

You might be sending a message to your boss or someone you don’t know very well and use this abbreviation to say merci d’avance - “Thanks in advance”.

JTM

Use this abbreviation to show how much you love someone.

It stands for je t’aime, meaning “I love you” and, of course, should be reserved for informal situations.

QDN

A common slang greeting used is quoi de neuf?

This is also used in text or chat messages and takes the form of the abbreviation QDN, meaning “what’s up?” or “what’s new?”

TLM

Just like the abbreviation TT, you can use TLM to address a whole group of people or refer to many people, as it means tout le monde or “everyone”.

French colloquialisms used in conversations with friends and family

This next section contains colloquial words and expressions used in spoken French.

You’ll see examples of how the verlan rules (explained below) apply to French slang words in this part.

Genre

Use genre as a filler word when you want to say “like”, or pause for a moment when comparing two things.

It can also be used when you’re recounting the story of something that happened to you, or to refer to someone within your story as “that type”.

Ouf

Ouf is one example of the verlan rule in action.

It’s the inverse of the word fou and translates to English as “crazy” or “insane”.

It’s used frequently in informal French conversations with friends.

You might hear someone say un truc de ouf, which means “what a crazy thing”.

Cimer

If you have been searching for a neat and interesting way to say thank you in French, cimer is the word you’ve been looking for.

This French colloquial word means thank you. It’s another verlan word that inverts the spelling of the word merci.

Céfran

Use this verlan phrase if you want to say that something or someone is French.

Céfra is French slang for the word Français, which means “French” in English.

Un boulot

Un boulot refers to a job.

In particular it can be used to describe additional jobs or part-time gigs where you earn extra money.

It is the French slang expression for the phrase un travail, which also translates to English as “a job”.

La bouffe

This French colloquial phrase is used when referring to food.

In other words, it replaces the noun la nourriture in French. It’s a commonly used word in France, along with bouffer, which replaces the verb manger in informal conversations.

La thune

Use this French slang phrase to talk about money as la thune means money.

There are a few other French colloquial phrases for money as well, one of which is la fric.

Une boite

Instead of using the phrase une entreprise, in informal conversations you might hear French speakers using the colloquial noun une boite.

You might decide to use this phrase to refer to a company or an organization or business.

Une taffe

If you smoke, you might have heard this phrase being used. Une taffe is a colloquial French phrase that translates to English as “a drag”.

It can be used when you’re referring to the act of taking a drag of a cigarette.

Se fringuer

If you need a French colloquial phrase to tell someone you’re getting ready to go out, use this French phrase.

Se fringuer means “to get dressed”. It’s a reflexive colloquial verb that can be conjugated for different users. It means s’habiller in French.

Une bagnole

Une bagnole is a feminine colloquial French noun that translates to English as “a car”.

You’ll hear French speakers using this phrase in informal situations, as opposed to la voiture, which is the standard noun.

Un machin

Use un machin when you’re stuck trying to remember the name of something or or someone.

It literally means “something” and in French, the equivalent would be quelque chose.

Grave

This French colloquial term can be either a good thing or a bad thing.

You might say c’est grave to emphasise how serious or bad a situation is. You might, alternatively say grave on its own to say that you agree with someone or to say “you’re right”.

Mytho

Use mytho to describe someone who has shared information with you, but the source of the information is sketchy or unverified. Mytho means myth.

Kiffer

You’ll hear kiffer being used by French speakers informally if they enjoy something or like something.

You can even conjugate this one, as it’s a verb. So, you might say je kiffe trop or je kiffe ça to emphasise how much you like something.

Avoir la flemme

Avoir la flemme translates to English as “to be lazy”.

It can be conjugated and refer to different people in a sentence. If you wanted to say “I’m lazy”, you would say je tourne la flemme.

Vas-y

If you wanted to say goodbye to a friend, a colloquial way to say it is with the phrase vas-y.

It means “see you later on,” or “talk to you later”, so you can end a phone conversation with this phrase or part ways by saying vas-y.

Se barrer

If you’re getting together with your family and one of your family members or friends chooses to leave, you might use this slang phrase to tell someone they’ve left.

Se barrer means “to leave”. It’s a French colloquialism that is commonly used at parties.

Déchiré

Another one for nights out and parties - déchiré is a French colloquial phrase used to say that someone is drunk.

Though the translation will give you “torn”, it means “drunk” or “high” as a French colloquial term.

Pote

Pote translates to English as “friend”.

It can mean “buddy” or “mate” as well, and it’s the slang, colloquial French term for ami.

Péter un cable

This French slang phrase is ideal for describing situations where you’re furious or frustrated in a situation.

Péter un cable means that you’re going crazy with anger or that you’re seeing red due to a situation.

C’est mort

Although this French slang phrase literally means “it’s dead”, you can use it when you want to mention that it’s unlikely something will happen, or that there’s no hope that something will occur.

Vénère

Here’s another example of the verlan rule being used.

The word vénère is the modified version of the word énervé. You’ll hear French speakers who are in a bad mood using this French slang word to express their anger.

Chialer

For those sad times when you feel like you want to cry, you’ve got this French slang term to describe how you feel.

It means “to cry” and is a colloquial verb that can be conjugated. Its French equivalent is pleurer.

Hyper

Hyper is a French colloquialism that is used to emphasise how great something is or, in contrast, how bad something is.

Hyper modifies the emphasis of an adjective and is like saying “very”. For instance, you might say la situation était hyper triste.

Soum soum

Use this French colloquialism to describe an action that you’re doing secretly and to avoid suspicion.

For instance, if you wanted to get your friend a present, you would ask them discreetly. This discreteness can be described with the phrase soum soum.

Un blase

Do you have a nickname? This, in French, would be your blase.

Un blase is a colloquial noun that means “nickname” in English. So, if someone calls you Jackie, when your name is Jacqueline, you can say c’est mon blasé.

Pécho

This French colloquialism means “to grab”.

If you needed to grab an object you might use this French slang to describe the action.

It can also mean “to kiss” in other contexts.

Baraque

Use this French slang word if you want to describe a house, as this is exactly what it means.

Baraque is a French colloquialism for the word maison. It’s a feminine noun.

Cabot

Do you have any pets - like a dog? If so, you can use this French slang noun to talk about it with your friends.

Cabot means “dog”. The French equivalent of cabot is le chien, which is a masculine noun.

Bleu

If one of your friends is a complete novice at skating or a type of sports, you might use this colloquialism to describe them.

Bleu means “novice” in English and, in French, means amateur.

Bombasse

Use this French slang word to describe a girl who is very beautiful.

Bombasse is a colloquial French noun that means “attractive or beautiful girl”.

Capter

If you are struggling to understand what your friend is talking about you can use this French slang word to tell them.

Capter means “to understand.”

It’s a verb that can be conjugated and, in French, means comprendre.

Cheum

Cheum is a slang adjective that means “ugly” in English.

Again we can notice that it uses verlan rules, since it’s the inverse of moche (and this latter adjective also translates to English as “ugly”).

Clope

If you smoke or are trying to quit smoking, you will need this adjective to either ask someone for a cigarette or explain to someone that you don’t want one.

Une clope is a slang term for “cigarette”.

It’s a feminine noun.

Déconner

Say you’re making loads of jokes or making fun of someone.

This is the French phrase you’ll need.

Déconner means to have a laugh or to make jokes. It’s another French colloquial noun that can be used in informal circumstances.

Emmerder

When someone is irritating you or bothering you, you can use emmerder to express your annoyance.

Emmerder is a phrase that can also mean “piss off” and can describe the action of annoying someone.

Flipper

If someone you know is feeling anxious, this French colloquialism is ideal to describe them.

Flipper means “to worry” in English.

Which register should you use when using informal French?

Always keep in mind that since French slang should be used in informal circumstances, you should use an informal register if you’re in France.

This means that in situations where you’re speaking with your friends or in-laws, and you decide to use French slang, remember to use the tu form when speaking and not the vous form.

You’ll find that this might differ in Quebec, though.

Continue reading for some of the differences between the registers used in French and Quebec informal circumstances.

How is the French slang spoken in Quebec similar and different to France?

Quebec French

The regional differences between different French-speaking countries means that there are different types of French slang and expressions used in each geographical location.

This also applies when we compare Quebec to France.

One of the main differences between the French slang spoken in Quebec is the register used.

It’s normal for French speakers in Quebec to use the tu form when addressing anyone - no matter their age or class.

And, as mentioned earlier, in France, different registers are used for formal and informal circumstances, with tu being used for informal situations and vous being used for formal ones.

What’s also interesting is that the action of swearing or using slang curse words in Quebec is literally labelled se consacrer “to consecrate”, and some of the words used by French speakers to swear include religious phrases (e.g. tabarnak which literally means tabernacle is basically equivalent to the ‘F’ word in English).

This is mainly due to the revolution against the extremely religious context that preceded it.

Also, some slang words in Quebec are different versions when compared with the French ones spoken and heard in France. Take the French slang word mec; in Quebec, the slang word used is ga, which is short for garçon.

Or the word email (which is an adopted Anglicism), in Quebec this colloquial phrase is not used - French speakers in Quebec use courriel.

Typical contexts in which you might hear or use French colloquialisms

There are a few common circumstances where you might hear or use this kind of informal French.

If you’ve gone out with your friends on a night out, or going to the cinema, you will typically hear French slang being used since it’s a more casual and informal context compared with a work environment or a situation where you’re speaking with a stranger.

If you’re sending a text message to your friends or in-laws, you might use French slang and shortened French expressions (see above) to describe a circumstance or situation. This is also done in English.

For instance, in English we might use the shortened abbreviation BRB to explain that you might not be present at the computer for a short while, but that you’ll be right back.

French has its own range of text/chat informality, which is a form of slang, and the list above features a few examples of French text speak if you’re curious to know what the most common ones are.

What is verlan in French?

French slang phrases spoken in France use an intriguing reverse structure labelled verlan.

Verlan (which itself is the reverse of the phrase à l’envers), literally means “backwards” in English; it describes French words that have been inverted in terms of their structure to produce a new colloquial phrase or expression.

Why is understanding verlan important and how does it work in French?

Since so many colloquial words use the verlan rule in their structure, it’s critical that you understand verlan.

It works by taking the final syllable of one word and putting it at the start of the word. One example of this would be the word relou.

It is the inverse of the word lourd, and means “annoying” in English

What is the best method to learn French colloquialisms?

Wondering how you can learn French slang with ease?

Though it might sound challenging, you actually have a broad range of French slang and vocabulary all around you.

You’ve got French Netflix, French songs, YouTube channels, blogs and you can even pair up with a French native speaker to learn the latest French slang.

Using the media around you is crucial since it keeps you up to date and will reflect the evolution of street French.

It’s a handy way to remember new vocabulary and start using French colloquial words and phrases.

If you’re an absolute beginner, starting off with a list of French colloquial expressions and learning their meanings is a good way to begin.

Following this, you should jump on italki and find a young French speaker to banter with.

Learn French colloquialisms to enhance your knowledge

French colloquialisms can be tricky to learn without context (like being out of the country), the verlan rules and the challenge of memorising them. But it is so worth trying to learn them.

As mentioned, start with lists and flashcards if you’re a complete novice.

Try to commit them to your memory and then dig a little deeper by listening to French natives using them.

In next to no time, you’ll sound like a native and impress your French-speaking friends with your French colloquialisms.


Know any other French colloquial terms or expressions?

Comment below.

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Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
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