As you learn French and begin using longer sentences to express your ideas, you need to know the connectors in French that allow everything to flow together.
Connectors will turn disjointed phrases into joined up sentences, making your French sound more smooth, natural and fluent.
Let’s have a look at an example in English first:
Yesterday, I went for a walk in the park. I arrived at the park. It started raining. I didn’t have an umbrella. I was starting to feel hungry. I decided to take the bus home. I had wasted my day off. It’s always a bad idea to go out without an umbrella in spring. It serves me right.
Compare that with:
Yesterday, I went for a walk in the park. However, when I arrived at the park, it started raining, and unfortunately, I didn’t have an umbrella. Furthermore, I was starting to feel hungry, so I decided to take the bus home instead – but I had wasted my day off. In fact, it’s always a bad idea to go out in spring without an umbrella, so I guess it serves me right.
Which one sounds more natural? Of course it’s the second one. Why? Thanks to the connectors!
So, to help you out and save you a bit of time, here’s my list of the most important French conversational connectors to get you started.
By the way, if sounding more fluent in French fast is one of your goals and you want to get started on your learning journey, I recommend French Uncovered, my story-based beginner course.
These are some of the very first words you will learn in French and are essential when forming even the simplest joined-up sentences.
Most of these words work just like their English counterparts.
This word in French has several meanings, including “like” (as in “similar”) and “as” (“he’s dressed as a monk”). But here, as a connector, it means “as” or “since”, a meaning that is close to “because”.
This is a useful word and is very common – it’s slightly more formal than alors, which we’ll come to in a moment.
It's also used in the following expression:
Here are a couple of words that are super-common in French and that have lots of meanings.
Learning how to use them correctly can help make your French sound much more natural. And because they have so many uses, they’re extremely useful words to know.
In fact, I could probably write a whole post just about number 7. But I'll just give you an overview for now!
This is a word that can seemingly be made to mean almost anything.
But its primary sense is “so” or “therefore”. It’s often used instead of donc and sounds less formal – the difference between the two is similar to the difference between “so” and “therefore” in English.
Note that when it isn’t being used to connect two parts of a sentence, alors can be placed at the beginning or end of what you say.
In English, we use “so” at the start of the sentence or replace it with “then” – which can go at the start or at the end. See the third example below to see how this works.
Alors can also be used when in English you might say “so” or “well”. And just like in English, it has the full range of nuances, depending on how and when you say it.
Here are just a couple of examples:
I remember hearing this expression a lot when I was first learning French. Then – and when I finally worked out how to use it myself, I felt that my French had suddenly made a big jump forward.
It’s such a typically French expression that’s more than just another vocabulary item. And sometimes its meaning defies translation.
The basic sense is something like “all the same”. But you'll hear it used in all kinds of situations with varying nuances. Check out these examples:
Quand même can also be used alone as a kind of exclamation to express the idea that something is impressive or considerable.
Most of these words are similar to the English equivalents.
Similar to “yet” or “still” in English.
Also, see actuellement in the “False Friends” section at the end.
#16 Au Contraire – On The Contrary
This expression is always followed by a subjunctive verb in French.
These are words and phrases for when you need to express your opinion.
To finish, here are a couple of connecting words that many English speakers get wrong – as do many French speakers when they use the English versions.
#31 and #32 are slightly different from English and are easy to confuse. The last is one of the most notorious false friends in the French language.
This doesn’t quite mean ‘in effect’. It’s closer to ‘indeed’ or ‘actually’.
Be careful here – finalement doesn’t mean “finally” as in “he’s finally arrived”. The true meaning is “in the end” and is used, for example, when the final outcome is not what you expected.
If you want to say “finally”, the correct word is enfin – it expresses the idea that something you have been waiting for has finally happened.
It also has another meaning that is similar to “at least” in English.
Actuellement DOES NOT mean “actually”! If you want to express “actually”, the closest French expression is en fait (in fact).
Actuellement means “currently” or “at the moment”, and this is why sometimes French people will say things like “I’m busy actually” – they really mean “I’m busy right now”.
Many of these words are invaluable since they can help you express yourself much more clearly and accurately.
Plus, there are no complicated grammar rules to learn. You can sound more natural and fluent with minimal effort.
En plus, by incorporating them into your active French vocabulary, you can make yourself sound much more like a native speaker.
Et finalement, that’s the goal that everyone is hoping to achieve!
This list is a great start point. But now it's over to you. As you read French and listen to French, notice these connectors. Observe how native people use them in their conversations. How do they pronounce them? Where and when do they use them.
This is great preparation for using them in your conversations with French speakers.
Did you learn some new words and expressions from this post? Are you going to start using connectors in French more in your speech? Let me know in a comment below.