10 Expressions: The Odd Sounds French People make

10 Expressions: The Odd Sounds French People make

If you’ve lived in France for a while, you will notice that there are certain “words” your French teacher didn’t tell you about: all those funny odd sounds that French people make.

You won’t find them in any dictionary or grammar book, but no French education would be complete without a few shoulder shrugs, eye rolls, and exasperated sighs. (Bonus points if you are holding a baguette at the same time.) So loosen your jaw muscles, it’s time to learn a few odd french sounds, words and expressions!

Allez hop! – There you go!

So you’re serving up pancakes (or crêpes!) for everyone and you spatula over a crêpe into a friend’s plate. You can add a little “Allez hop!” as you go.

Ben, Oui! – Duh, yeah!

I don’t know why kids love this expression, both of mine adopted this around the age of two. Note: The N at the end is not pronounced, it is more like “Beh”, than “Ben”. Either way, I would recommend that you not say this to a person of authority, like your boss, or a customs TSA officer:

  • Me: “Do you want some milk?, Kid: Ben, Oui!”
  • Me: “Is the sky blue?”, Kid: Ben, Oui!”

Houp là! – Oops!

Almost slip on a lego car while carrying that big birthday cake with all the candles on? “Houp là!”

Ooh la la! – Oh dear!

“Ooh la la, is it really possible that French people say Ooh la la!?” In a word yes. It is not a stereotype, French people actually use Ooh la la in all sorts of situations to express:

  • surprise – Ooh la la, what have you done!?
  • wow – Ooh la la, that’s amazing!
  • negative reaction – Ooh la la, you’re starting to annoy me!

Pfff! – (sigh, with eyeroll)

“And then she came over to my place for a drink and didn’t even bring any macarons! Pffff!”

Oula! – Wow!

“Oula, isn’t that just the biggest engagement ring you’ve ever seen!”

Ouah – Yeah

Just like Yeah in English is slang for Yes, Ouah is slang for Oui.

  • Friend: “Wanna go for happy hour?”, Me: Ouah!”

Aïe, Aïe, Aïe – Yikes!

“Aïe, aïe, aïe, I just stepped in some dog pooh!”

Hein? – Huh?

Tourist in a restaurant: “Can I have some ketchup for my Confit au canard?, Waiter: Hein?”

Bof – (dislike)

Me: “How was the new gym?, French friend: “Bof, nothing to write home about!”

Once you find yourself throwing out “bofs” and “bens” all over the place, congratulations, you are well on your way to becoming French! If you need to practice head on over to our Free Printables section where you can download it in flashcard format. And let me know what other French sounds and mannerisms you would like to hear more about by commenting below.

A bientôt!


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