In this article, you will:

  • Understand the differences between written and spoken French

  • Discover the situations where spoken French is used

  • Learn specific vocabulary of spoken French, including slang (l'argot) and shortened words

  • Master the grammatical and pronunciation peculiarities of spoken French

  • Get tips for improving your understanding and expression in spoken French

This article will help you answer the following questions:

  • What are the main differences between written and spoken French?

  • In which situations is it appropriate to use spoken French?

  • How are words and phrases modified in spoken French?

  • What are speech tics and how do they influence conversation?

  • How does pronunciation change in spoken French and why is it important for understanding?


Written French VS Spoken French

Written French is what we learn in school (elementary and traditional language schools). Written French is used in emails and professional or administrative correspondence. It is found in official documents and in the press.

Spoken French is what we use in everyday life, in everyday conversations. We use it with our friends, our family, sometimes with our colleagues, and even sometimes with strangers. Spoken French can also be used in writing: in text messages, on social networks, and in informal emails.

Written and spoken French are not two different languages!

They follow the same grammatical rules. They also do not represent a social class. It is possible to use both in everyday life, and the situation will dictate whether it is more appropriate to use written or spoken French.


Why is spoken French so important to know?

To better understand the French:

The French use shortcuts, some words are cut or even removed. This gives the impression of speed. If you understand spoken French well, you will better understand what the French are saying to you.

To improve your fluency:

The closer your spoken French is to that of the natives, the better they will understand you, and the more natural your conversations with them will be.

To better understand French series:

Spoken French is important if you want to understand French series like Dix pour cent or Plan Cœur, as well as French films.


In which situations to use spoken French?

As you might guess, spoken French is most often used when speaking. But there are some nuances.

There are various degrees of spoken French that depend on the situation you are in AND the level of formality of that situation. Depending on this, you will use a particular language register and spoken French... or not! Language registers are linguistic codes we use depending on where we are and with whom we are.

If the language register is formal, I will not use much spoken French.

If the language register is common, I will use spoken French in a moderate way.

If the language register is familiar, I will use a lot of spoken French.

For example:

Situation No. 1 - With a friend:

  • T'as fait quoi c'weekend ?
  • J'étais au parc avec Léa, mais Paul est pas v'nu. Et toi ?
  • Ch'ui allé au ciné.

Situation No. 2 - At the bakery:

  • Bonjour, j'vais prendre deux baguettes pas trop cuites, s'il vous plait ?

Situation No. 6 - By SMS:

  • Salut, ça va ? T'fais quoi ?
  • J'me repose un peu, ch'ui malade.


Vocabulary of spoken French

L’argot :

Orally, we will use a lot of familiar vocabulary and slang (l'argot). Familiar vocabulary is used most often with family, friends, and people close to us. Slang is vocabulary used by a particular social group that distinguishes it from others. Slang can be used by a professional category that has its own vocabulary or way of speaking, or by people from the same region or by people who share the same interests.


Shortened words:

Orally, the French tend to shorten some words.

Un(e) ado = a teenager (un(e) adolescent(e))
Bio = organic (biologique)
Le ciné = the cinema (le cinéma)
Un(e) coloc = a roommate (un(e) colocataire)
Un frigo = a fridge (un frigidaire)
Un ordi = a computer (un ordinateur)



Speech tics:

A speech tic is a language habit often unconsciously used mainly orally. They serve to emphasize an idea, engage the interlocutor in the conversation, fill a silence, hide nervousness, and sometimes... they serve no purpose. They are sometimes considered "bad" and we are encouraged to eliminate them because speech tics are not considered "beautiful." However, they are widely used and fully part of spoken French. It's not something you necessarily have to learn, but it's good to know them. Moreover, as you listen to spoken French, you will naturally start to use speech tics.


Grammar of spoken French:


Orally, we use "we" very little. It is more natural and common to use "on" (equivalent to 'we' in English). It is possible to use "on" in almost all situations orally: with your friends, at the supermarket, with your teachers, in administrative procedures, etc. Using "on" orally is not considered impolite or informal. It's true that if you find yourself in an ultra-formal situation, I then advise you to use "we". Otherwise, in other situations, you can freely use "on" orally.

Example No. 1 - At the restaurant:

On va prendre le menu du jour, s'il vous plait.

Example No. 2 - With friends

Tu viens ? On va au ciné.


The "ne" of negation:

Orally, it is common to omit the "ne" of negation. When the French speak, they like to be efficient, to be quick. That's why we omit the "ne" of negation and tend to shorten words.

For example:

"Je n'aime pas les tomates". → "J'aime pas les tomates"

"Je ne sais pas si je la connais" → "Je sais pas si je la connais"

"Tu ne viens jamais avec nous." → "Tu viens jamais avec nous."

The omission of "ne" in speech is not systematic. There is no specific rule on how often it is used or not used. Sometimes, "ne" is used to reinforce the negation, to emphasize it. For example: "Je NE veux pas venir avec toi à ce rendez-vous."

Some expressions in the imperative also lose "pas": "Ne t'inquiète pas" becomes "T'inquiète".


Pronunciation in Spoken French:

Omitting the "e":

In the same way that we omit the "ne" of negation, we also tend to omit certain "e"s in words. I will present to you the main words from which we omit an "e":

je → j' : "Je prends la route" → "J'prends la route". Sometimes "j'" is pronounced "ch" → "ch'ai pas"

me → m' : "Je me lève" → "Je m'lève"

"Est-ce que" → "Est-c'que' : "Est-ce que ça va ?" → "Est-c'que ça va ?"

te → t' : "Tu te trompes" → "Tu t'trompes"

se → s' : "Il se casse" → "Il s'casse"

le → l' : "Tu me le passes ?" → "Tu me l'passes ?"

Heureusement → Heureus'ment : "Heureusement, il est là" → "Heureus'ment, il est là."

que → qu' : "c’est vrai que ça fait du bien" → "C’est vrai qu'ça fait du bien."


Other Letters Omitted:

Sometimes other letters are also omitted:

tu → t' : "Tu fais quoi ?" → "T'fais quoi ?"

qui → qu' : "C'est lui qui a fait ça ?" → "C'est lui qu'a fait ça ?"

Il y a → Y a : "Il y a du monde" → "Y a du monde"

Il → I : "Il fait quoi ?" → "I fait quoi ?"

Celui → Çui : "Je veux celui-là" → "Je veux çui-là"