Qu'est-ce qu'on dit ? French slang

door Regina Coeli

In very few places in France do you actually hear the French of school books. The French ‘swallow’ letters, connect words to each other and pepper what they say with all sorts of sounds to reinforce their message. And as if that were not complicated enough, slang has also played a substantial role in the expansion of the language.

Slang evolves when groups of young people adopt words from each other’s cultures, which leads to a unique blend of languages. In the Netherlands, for example, slang is strongly influenced by Surinamese, English and the tongues of Morocco. In France, Arabic plays a major role in slang.

Now, if you go to France on business, you will probably not encounter a great deal of slang, but knowing a few popular terms may just come in handy.

Slang Standard French Meaning
un mec un homme, un individu a man
une nana une fille, une femme a girl/woman
un/une pote un ami, une amie a friend
un boulot un travail a job
bosser travailler to work
une plombe un long moment, une heure a while, an hour
du fric / de la tune de l’argent money
un flic / un poulet un policier a police officer
c’est (la) galère c’est difficile, c’est ennuyeux it is difficult/boring
être à la bourre être en retard to be late
être claqué être fatigué to be tired
J’ai pas un rond ! Je n'ai pas un centime. I don't have a penny!
Je mets les gaz. Je dois faire vite. I have to hurry up.
Je veux me faire un cinoche. Je veux regarder un film au cinéma I want to see a film.



Verlan is a uniquely French form of slang. The word comes from l’envers, meaning the inverse, or ‘back-to-front’. And that is exactly what happens to words in Verlan: syllables get reversed. The idea behind it is that young people could communicate with each other without their parents understanding...

Some examples of Verlan:

Verlan Standard French Meaning
genhar argent money
mifa famille relatives
céfran français French
rega gare station
zonmai maison house
géman manger food
cimer merci thank you
ouam moi I / me
trom’ metro subway / tube
port’nawak n’importe quoi it doesn't matter
turvoi voiture car


While it can be handy to know a bit of slang, we ourselves do not recommend using it. Why not? Firstly, because language continually develops and it is difficult to keep up with the changes when you are not part of the scene. Secondly—and more importantly—because it does not contribute to a polished, professional image.

Wilt u beter Frans leren?

Bij Regina Coeli leert u precies het Frans dat u nodig heeft. Want het maakt nogal een verschil of u gesprekken moet voeren met bekende Franse collega's over uw dagelijks werk of moet onderhandelen met een nieuwe Franse leverancier. Daarom volgt u een persoonlijk programma en krijgt u les van native speakers. 

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