Which French expressions are best known in other countries?

“C’est la vie”, “Comme ci, comme ça”, “Déjà-vu” – just a few of the typically French expressions well known throughout the world

Famous expressions

As you’ll be aware, French people use words which are derived from other languages (English, Italian, Arabic, German, etc.). But there are also typically French expressions that are well known in other countries throughout the world, and even used outside France. Here are a few of them...

Oh là là !

Everyone knows these three little words, used to express surprise or enthusiasm. This phrase can be used in lots of different situations, so I can’t really give you a more precise definition. You will also sometimes hear people say Ouh là là !

C’est la vie

French people use this phrase to describe something that cannot be changed and to express the fact that we must accept reality as we find it.

Comme ci, comme ça

This is a very practical response to the question “Ça va ?”, for example. If you’re not on top form, you simply reply: “Comme ci, comme ça”. You can also say “couci-couça” in this situation.

Au pair

An au pair is a young person who has decided to live with a family abroad for a certain length of time to learn more about the culture of that country. Usually, he or she looks after children and does some housework in exchange for food, board and a bit of pocket money.


You will often hear these two words in English songs or film dialogue. Déjà-vu is the sensation of having already (“déjà”) seen or experienced something.

Bon appétit

No explanation needed for this one! Lots of other words relating to food and drink (baguette, foie gras, champagne, crème brûlée, etc.) are also popular abroad. These are a few examples, but it’s far from an exhaustive list. Look out for other expressions, I’m sure that you know some more...

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