How To Ask For Help In French: Essential Phrases For Travel
- Written byAdrien Renault
- Read time7 mins
There are many different situations where you might need to ask for help in French.
Whether it’s a life-threatening circumstance or a situation where you need someone’s assistance briefly, knowing the French phrase for “help” is important.
Though you might know some of the basic phrases for “help” in French, each circumstance will require a different phrase.
That’s where this guide I’ve put together can help.
Take a look to find out the many ways to ask for help in French.
What is the French translation of “help”?
The French translation of “help” as a noun is aide, which also means “assistance”.
The infinitive verb form of “help” in French is aider.
If you needed to ask for help with your luggage in a French airport, for instance, you’d use the following phrase:
Pourriez-vous m’aider avec mes sacs?
When speaking about different people in a sentence, we conjugate the French verb aider by changing the verb endings.
Here’s how to conjugate aider:
|Subject pronoun||Aider in the present simple|
How should you use aider as an imperative?
Aide can also be used as an imperative, which is like commanding someone to help another person.
For example, if you notice that someone has been injured, but you have no medical knowledge, you might ask someone to help the injured person using the imperative.
This is how to conjugate aider in the imperative mood:
|Subject pronoun||Aider in the imperative form|
As you can’t instruct yourself to help someone using the imperative mood, and you use the present or future tense with the third person singular to say “he or she helps/will help”.
These subject pronouns don’t exist for the imperative mood.
If you wanted to instruct someone to help you, you would use the phrase aide-moi (which uses the tu form and should be used in informal contexts) or aidez-moi (which uses the vous form and should be used in formal contexts or when addressing several people, you don’t know).
Aide-moi! Cet homme a volé ma bague!
Aidez-moi, monsieur! Cette femme a volé mon portefeuille!
How do you pronounce aidez-moi
You should pronounce the phrase aide-moi like this:
Other phrases to ask for help in French
There are a few other ways to ask for help in French.
You’ll find some of the most common examples in the table below:
|French phrase||English phrase|
|Je peux demander un service?||Could I ask you a favor?|
|Tu peux me filer un coup de main||Could you give me a hand with…|
|Au secours !||Help!|
|A l’aide !||Help!|
|Est-ce que vous pourrez m’aider?||Can you help me|
How should you use the phrase un coup de main?
Un coup de main translates to English as “a helping hand”.
You’d use it for smaller favours, or to ask someone to help you out with something.
For example, if you need to help a friend with choosing a gift for someone’s birthday, you might say:
Tu peux me filer un coup de main? Je dois choisir un cadeau.
Un coup de main is normally considered an informal phrase that you would use with friends and family.
You can tell that it’s informal as, in the example above, the speaker says tu peux me… and not vous peux me…
Speaking with store assistants: what does est-ce que je peux vous aider mean?
The phrase est-ce que je peux vous aider translates to English as “can I help you?”
You’ll normally hear it in a retail store when you’re searching for clothes or shoes and you’ve been unable to discover the item you’re looking for.
Note, the store assistant will use the vous form because they don’t know you.
The responses you’ll give depend on what you’re looking for.
If you’re just browsing, you might say:
Merci, mais je regarde tout simplement.
Or you might be specific when stating what you need help for and say:
Ces chaussures sont-elles disponibles en taille 39?
Which phrase should you use to offer someone help in French?
Say you’re offering new neighbours who are older than you a bit of help in France to move their items into their home.
The phrase you’ll need ask someone you don’t know if they need help is:
Avez-vous besoin d’aide?
Take note that as you don’t know the new neighbour and they’re also older than you, you’d use the vous form.
When should you use a l’aide or au secours to ask for help?
There are specific, severe circumstances where you would use a l’aide or au secours to ask for help.
If you’ve witnessed a crime and need help, both a l’aide and au secours can be used to ask anyone for help.
For example, if you saw someone being attacked in an alleyway (and I hope you don’t), you might shout:
Au secours! Elle l’a attaqué ! Appelez la pólice!
Asking for help from your colleagues using the subjunctive
If you need help from your colleagues to put together a presentation, the phrase you’ll need is:
Je veux que vous m’aidiez tous avec cette presentation.
What you’ll notice about this phrase is that it uses a formal, plural pronoun vous, to address the colleagues that the speaker doesn’t know.
But it also uses the present subjunctive form of the verb aider; instead of aidez, it uses the verb aidiez.
The reason it uses the subjunctive is that there are two main groups of people in this situation — the speaker and their colleagues.
In the sentence you’ll also see the word que, which must be used with the French subjunctive.
This sentence structure works for many situations.
If you want your family to help you clean the house, you’d use the informal tu, but the structure would still use the subjunctive mood (which is indicated by the word que):
Je veux que tu m’aides à nettoyer.
What to remember when asking for help in French
If you’re in a situation where you need help in French, keep the following points in mind:
- In severe circumstances, and if in doubt, shout au secours!
- Use the phrase un coup de main for those situations where you’re helping a friend or family member
- You’ll hear est-ce que je peux vous aider? in some stores when you’re searching for an item and the store assistant wants to help you
- You can use est-ce que vous pourrez m’aider? if you want to ask a stranger for help
Whether you’re in a French course and don’t understand the meaning of a word, require assistance from your neighbour, or need help from a stranger in the street, use this vocabulary to help you ask for help in French.
Don’t forget to practice your speaking and listening skills to resolve complex scenarios where you need help from strangers.
What advice would you like to share for asking for help in French?
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