17 French Phrases That Will Make You Sound Smarter


What is it about the French that makes them sound so elegant and sophisticated and well read? Perhaps it’s their smarty-pants phrases, 17 of which you can totally adopt into your lexicon in the hopes of sounding plus intelligent. 

8 Ways to Sound Smarter Than You Really Are

french phrases hero

Allons-y! (all-ons-ee)
What it means: Let’s go!
As in: Free iced coffee at Starbucks? Allons-y!

What it means: A drink before a meal
As in: Let’s grab an aperitif before our reservation.

Au contraire (oh con-trair)
What it means: On the contrary
As in: Au contraire, you can screenshot Snapchats.

Bon vivant (bohn vee-vant)
What it means: Someone who enjoys life
As in: Girlfriend seems like a real bon vivant.

friends walking by eiffel tower
filadendron/Getty Images

Bric-a-brac (brick-uh-brack)
What it means: Small ornamental objects
As in: My apartment is filled to the brim with bric-a-brac.

Carte blanche (cart blansh)
What it means: Unlimited authority
As in: My boss put me in charge of the meeting agenda carte blanche.

Comme ci, comme ça (com-see-com-sah)
What it means: So-so
As in: The drinks were great, but the dinner was comme ci, comme ça.

De rigueur (duh-ri-goor)
What it means: What is expected
As in: At this point delays on the subway are de rigueur.

Entre nous (on-tray new)
What it means: Between us
As in: Entre nous, I’m not a huge fan of her new haircut. 

french breakfast foods
Nikada/Getty Images

J’accuse (zha-cuse)
What it means: I accuse
As in: Well my perfectly good leftovers didn’t throw themselves out. J’accuse!

Je ne regrette rien (zhe nay regret-uh ree-en)
What it means: I regret nothing
As in: Yes, I ate the whole batch of cookies myself, but you know what? Je ne regrette rien.

N’est-ce pas (ness-pah)
What it means: Isn’t it true?
As in: You’ll be at happy hour, n’est-ce pas?

Pied-a-terre (pee-ed-uh-tair)
What it means: A place to stay
As in: What I wouldn’t do to get a peek at her pied-a-terre in Soho.

young woman enjoying the view from a parisian apartment
lechatnoir/Getty Images

Quelle horror (kel-orror)
What it means: How horrible!
As in: Ninety nine percent humidity? Quelle horror!

Tout de suite (toot-day-sweet)
What it means: Immediately
As in: It’s 5 p.m. on a Friday--I’m gonna need a glass of wine tout de suite.

Vis-à-vis (veez-uh-vee)
What it means: Face to face
As in: So much of my humor gets lost via text that I prefer to talk vis-à-vis.

Zut alors (zoot-uh-lore)
What it means: Darn it!
As in: Zut alors, I missed last night’s Veep!

Rachel Bowie Headshot

Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...