16 Expressions To Help You Talk Like A Parisian

Photo of Alice White Walker
9 February 2017

Sometimes, what you learned in high school French just doesn’t cut it – there are some expressions that only the locals are privy to. Add any one of these awesome 16 words and phrases into your lingo, and you’ll win over those Parisians left, right and center…

Paris | © Christian Bortes/Flickr

Sans déconner / sans déc

How might a gossip queen respond to a fresh morsel of juicy news? If you’re wondering what the French for seriously is, this is it. Seriously.

Used to display surprise, astonishment or incredulousness, sans déconner can mean anything from ‘You’re kidding?!’ to ‘Really?’ or ‘Seriously?’ and ‘No way!’.

Sans déconner (sans dec), c’est vrai?
No kidding, is that true?

A vital phrase for the under 30s.

‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch [Public domain] | © Wikimedia Commons

Ça roule (ma poule)

Literally meaning ‘that goes’, ça roule is the ideal laid-back response to confirming a plan.

On se voit à 19h au cinéma?
Let’s meet at 7pm at the cinema?

Ça roule ma poule.
That works.

Poule meaning ‘chick’ adds extra emphasis and rhyme to the phrase. You can also use it as a question too. Ça roule, ma poule? Is that good for you, love?

Chick on sand | © Markus Koljonen (Dilaudid)/Wikimedia Commons

T’es large

If someone drops this into conversation, don’t worry, they don’t mean you should lay off the crêpes… In a figurative sense, t’es large means that you’ve got plenty of time in which to do something.

Je devrais partir vers 17h pour le concert à 19h.
I have to leave at 5pm to make the concert for 7pm.

Deux heures ? T’es large…
Two hours? You’re fine…

Parisian | ©Kristijonas Dirse/WikiCommons

Manger comme un cochon / porc

As with the English ‘eat like a pig’, manger comme un cochon means you’ve eaten a boatload and barely paused for breath. Dining like the hog, big and rather unrefined.

C’était bien ton diner hier soir?
How was your dinner last night?

Trop sympa, j’ai mangé comme un cochon.
It was great, I ate like a pig.

Farmtastic!! | © Sander van der Wel/Wikimedia Commons

La vache

An explosive way to show your astonishment, meaning ‘the cow!’ this is mostly used in a negative context. A parallel phrase might be ‘Holy cow!’.

La vache! La voiture a été complètement détruite…
Holy cow! The car has been completely wrecked…

Japanese car accident | © Shuets Udono/Wikimedia Commons

Un temps de chien

On the lips of many a Parisian during the colder months, un temps de chien means ‘dog weather’ — conjuring the description of a grey, wet, rather smelly beast. Any Englishman is sure to understand the sentiment here.

Quel temps de chien! On devrait annuler notre pique nique ce midi.
What awful weather! We’re going to have to cancel our picnic at lunch.

Paris Street; Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte [Public domain] | © Wikimedia Commons

La douloureuse

As anyone who has eaten in a fancy restaurant — in Paris or elsewhere — can vouch, waiting for the bill is an arduous anticipation. Understanding this type of angst, the French use la douloureuse (pain / sorrow) for an emotional spin on l’addition.

As-tu demandé la douloureuse?
Have you asked for the bill?

Oui, on l’attend.
Yes, we’re waiting for it.

You’ll impress countless Frenchies come dinnertime with this word.

Pay the bill | © Benreis/Wikimedia Commons

Tu t’en sors?

If you’re asked Tu t’en sors? someone wants to know how are you getting on or managing a predicament.

Salut, tu t’en sors avec le français?
Hi, how are you getting on with French?

Oui ça va, mais j’ai toujours beaucoup de problèmes avec les conjugaisons.
Yes, it’s ok, but I’m still having lots of problems with my conjugations.

Imagine yourself being lifted out of a sticky situation. Think ‘soar’ and you’ll never forget it.

College Math Papers | © JohnnyMrNinja/Wikimedia Commons

Je suis crevé / J’ai la flemme

How many times a week do you say ‘I’m tired!’ or, ‘I can’t be bothered’? We all need a go-to grumble phrase, and here are two of France’s finest.

Tu viens chez Lucie ce soir?
Are you coming to Lucy’s this evening?

Non, je pense pas. J’ai un peu la flemme, j’ai eu une journée de merde aujourd’hui.
No, I don’t think so. I don’t feel great, today was just awful.

Cat | © Pixabay

Fais gaffe

A more informal version of fais attention (literally, ‘make caution’), the pronoun gaffe means a ‘blunder’ or ‘faux-pas’.

Fais gaffe, ne descends pas trop vite chérie!
Don’t go down too quickly, darling, be careful!

Fais Gaffe | © Pixabay

La bouffe

Given how passionate the French are about their cuisine, it’s no great shock that they have multiple words for food. Derived from the verb bouffer (to eat), you’ll hear la bouffe regularly in causal circles.

Essentially meaning ‘grub’, it can also be used in different ways including:

C’est l’heure de la bouffe!
It’s time to eat!

On va bouffer?
Let’s eat?

Burger | © cyclonebill/Wikimedia Commons

C’est naze / c’est nul

One step up from adolescent favorite, bof (‘whatever’), c’est naze / c’est nul indicates your distaste at something.

Tu ne peux pas aller à l’aéroport avec ton abonnement.
You can’t go to the airport with your pass.

Ah bon? C’est naze.
Ah really? That sucks.

Giraffe frown | © Bernard DUPONT/Wikimedia Commons

(C’est) n’importe quoi

Ridiculous is used more often that not amongst English speakers to indicate a flabbergasting situation. You’re sure to hear n’importe quoi several times a day in the streets of Paris.

Mais tu m’as dit qu’on irait à Disney!
But, you told me we were going to Disney!

N’importe quoi, j’ai jamais dit ça.
Ridiculous, I never said that.

Add an open-palm, downwards motion with your hands, and you’re good to go.

C’est n’importe quoi | © Alice White Walker


The French version of hipster, this word is short for bourgeois bohemian. Think cultivated beard, wayfarer sunglasses, and artisanal beer.

Il habite où?
Where does he live?

À Bastille.
In Bastille.

Ah je vois… C’est très bobo là bas.
Ah I see, rather hipster around there.

Je suis Bobo | © Luca Rossato/WikiCommons

On se casse

From the verb casser (to break), on se casse is a dramatic way to say ‘let’s break ourselves out of here!’

Tu as renversé sa bouteille de whisky vieille de 21 ans?
You spilt his 21 year-old bottle of whisky?

Oui, et sur le tapis en plus. On se casse!
Yes, and on the rug as well. Let’s get out of here!

Spilled Wine – On se casse | © Louis du Mont/WikiCommons

(Mais) quel bordel

In French, the word bordel means brothel — however, today’s meaning is slightly toned-down. It’s mostly used to declare chaos, a huge mess or something that is generally unpleasant.

Imagine the salacious goings-on of a brothel and you’re not far from its essence.

Je me suis réveillé à 3h du matin et il avait une inondation dans mon appart!
I woke up at 3am and my apartment was flooded with water!

Mais quel bordel!
God, what a mess/nightmare/disaster!

Best said loudly, with a mouth open in horror and optional forehead slap.

Naughty Dogs | © Megan Ann/WikiCommons

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