French Phrases for Travel

Instructor: Lucy Barnhouse
This lesson provides a quick overview of some useful vocabulary to help you get around in Francophone countries. Modes of transportation and lodging will all be discussed.

Introduction: Getting Around

Even if you don't speak much French, some of the best basic vocabulary you can have is related to transit. This lesson should help you to get around, and to have a good time when you get where you're going. Before getting into specific vocabulary, however, here are some basic questions that you might find handy:

  • À quelle heure part...? (ah kell ör par) / At what time does ... leave?
  • C'est par où ... ? (say par oo) / Which way is ...?
  • On cherchait ... (ohn shehr-shay) / How do I get to ...?

Literally, 'On cherchait' means 'One was looking for'; this impersonal construction is the most polite way to ask for directions.

En Route

Planes

You probably won't be spending much time in airports, but just in case:

  • L'avion (lah-vee-ohn) / airplane
  • L'aéroport (ly-roh-por) / airport
  • La carte d'embarquement (lah kart dehn-bar-kö-mehn) / boarding pass
  • La livraison de bagages (lah lee-vray-zohn dö bah-gahzh) / baggage claim
  • La douane (lah doo-ah-nn) / customs
  • Le vol (lö vol) / flight
  • La compagnie aérienne (lah cohn-pah-nyee ah-ay-ree-en) / airline

One of the massive airports of Paris
cdg

In the unlikely event that you're in an airport without monolingual signs, you shouldn't have any trouble identifying les arrivées (layz-ah-ree-vay) as 'arrivals' and 'les départs' (lay day-par) as 'departures.' Carry-on luggage is a bit less intuitive, though: French just says 'les bagages à main.'

Trains

If you're visiting France, trains are a great way to get around between cities, even if you're not taking one of the famous high-speed trains, popularly known by their moniker, TGV (tay zhay vay). Arrivals and departures are, of course, the same for trains as for airplanes. Here's some other useful vocabulary:

  • La gare (lah gar) / train station
  • Le quai (lö kay) / platform
  • Le train (lö trahn) / train
  • Le guichet (lö ghee-shay) / ticket counter
  • En retard (awn rö-tar) / late

If you're waiting for a train at the station, you might ask if a train is delayed: 'Est-ce que le train pour Rouen est en retard?' If listening for an announcement (either in the station or on a train) you might hear a different construction: 'Le train arrivera avec dix minutes de retard,' the train will arrive ten minutes late.

Automobiles

If you're going to small towns (or just don't want to be tied to train schedules), you'll want an automobile. Here's some vocabulary you'll want 'sur la route' (sür lah root), on the road.

  • La voiture (lah vwahtür) / car
  • Le volant (lö vohlawn) / steering wheel
  • Le clignotant (lö klee-nyoh-tawn) / turn signal, or indicator
  • Le capot (lö kah-poh) / hood
  • Le frein (lö frahn) / brakes
  • Le pneu (lö p-nö) / tire
  • Le péage (lö pay-ahzh) / toll plaza

If you stop at a gas station and want your tank filled, you would ask for 'le plein' (lö plahn). If you see a sign for an 'autoroute payante,' (o-toh-root pay-yawnt), that means it's a toll road. Hopefully you'll never have to say 'J'ai une panne' (zhay ün pah-nn), 'I've (had) a breakdown.'

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