What did he just say?
That’s the question you will inevitably ask yourself when you hear French for the first time.
Hardly surprising considering written French and spoken French are so different one could consider them two different dialects.
The good news is that you will discover the main differences between written French and spoken French in this article. After reading it, you will know how to avoid sounding like a book when you speak French, and be prepared to better understand spoken French.
Here are the 5 essential differences between written French and spoken French you need to be aware of
Note: the following rules don’t apply to formal situations
#1 Drop the “ne”
To create a negative sentence in French, you normally add “ne” before the verb and “pas” after it. The “ne pas” duo is equivalent to “not” in English.
And since “ne” isn’t strictly necessary (you can see it’s a negative sentence, because it contains “pas”), French people skip it when they speak.
I don’t speak French very well
Sorry, I don’t understand, could you repeat please?
Note: in most cases, people will say “vous pouvez répéter s’il vous plait ?” instead of “pouvez-vous répéter s’il vous plait ?”. Putting the verb before the pronoun to ask a question is only done in formal situations.
I don’t want to go
One doesn’t do that/ it isn’t polite to do that
#2 Forget the “e”
The French like to communicate quickly, so they often drop the “e” in words when they speak.
I speak French well
You should go, it’s late
#3 Je + s becomes “ch”
No, you are not hearing it wrong, in spoken French, it’s common to say “ch” instead of “je + s”.
I am in front of the cafe
Do you know where the Mouffetard street is? No, I don’t know sorry
If you are looking for a nice restaurant in Paris, rue Mouffetard is a nice place to go by the way.
#4 Tu followed by a vowel becomes “t'”
Since spoken French is all about going faster, “tu’ becomes “t”” when followed by a vowel.
What did you do yesterday?
#5 Il y en a/ il y a
“Il y a” is super useful. It means “there is” or “there are”. Yes, that’s an example of French being simpler than English :).
There are lots of people in the street today
Naturally, this also applies to the negative version.
There is no room/ are not seats in this restaurant
As you saw with #1, the “n’y” (ne becomes “n'” before vowels) disappears.
Over to you
Do these differences prevent you from understanding spoken French? How did it go for you the first time you tried to go from written French to spoken French?
Tell us in the comment section below.