How to ask someone to speak slowly in French

You just arrived in Paris, the weather is beautiful and you feel like going to the lovely Jardin des Tuileries (a garden near the famous Louvre museum). You decide to ask for directions.

A nice Parisian (yes, they exist) answers you, and proud, you pretend you understood everything he said.

There is one problem though, he spoke so fast you actually didn’t understand anything.  This won’t happen again, because today, you are going to learn how to ask someone to speak more slowly in French.

Je ne comprends pas, pouvez-vous parler plus lentement s’il vous plaît ? (formal)

 

Je ne comprends pas.

I don’t understand.

Pouvez-vous

Can you

Parler plus lentement s’il vous plaît

Speak more slowly please.

After hearing this, people will be happy to speak more slowly so you can understand. And remember, there is no shame in not understanding, because someone spoke too fast. At some point, you won’t need this sentence anymore.

Excusez-moi, pouvez-vous répéter plus lentement s’il vous plait ? (formal)

 

Excusez-moi

Excuse me

Pouvez-vous répéter plus lentement s’il vous plaît

This is almost the same sentence. Except that we use the verb “répéter” instead of “parler”.

Répéter = to repeat

Parler = to speak

How to say “please speak slowly” in an informal way?

The sentences above will sound strange if you use it to ask a friend or a relative to speak more slowly or to repeat something. But you can easily turn them into informal sentences.

You only need to change two elements :

  • Pouvez-vous
  • S’il vous plaît

Both sentences contain “vous”, the formal singular pronoun. This is how you know these sentences are formal. In informal sentences, you would rather see the informal pronoun “tu”.

To say “please speak slowly” or “can you please speak slowly” in an informal way, you can use :

  • Peux-tu
  • S’il te plaît

Je ne comprends pas, peux-tu parler plus lentement s’il te plaît.

I don’t understand, can you speak more slowly please.

If you want to sound even more informal (and more natural), drop the “ne” and say “je comprends pas”, or “j’comprends pas”.

“s’il te plaît” is the informal “please”.
You could also say “tu peux” instead of “peux-tu”. This isn’t grammatically correct, because normally in a question the verb comes before the pronoun. But French people tend to ignore the rule when they speak in an informal way.

So don’t be surprised if you see this form. Here is what it sounds like:

Excuse-moi, peux-tu répéter plus lentement s’il te plaît.

Excuse me, can you repeat more slowly please.

“Excuse moi” is the informal “excuse me”.

 Over to you

Feel free to create your own sentences using the vocabulary you learnt today and post them in the comments below. I will correct them if needed. Come on, don’t be shy :).

Benjamin Houy

Benjamin Houy is a native French speaker and tea drinker with a BA degree in Applied Foreign Languages and a passion for languages. After teaching French and English in South Korea for 7 months as part of a French government program, he created French Together™ to help English speakers learn the 20% of French that truly matters.

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  1. This was one of my standard phrases for my recent trip to France. I also used, when I was asked if I could understand French, “Oui, si tu parles lentement”

    I downloaded ‘Upgrade your French’ while I was there, and I am finding it very helpful, as of course I find all your information! Thank you.
    Was much much braver on this second trip!

    Reply

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