En soirée: A complete survival guide when in a French bar

There are 67 million people living in France, and for many of them, the thirst is real.

If you’re new to a French city, say Mulhouse, and feel the need to get out of your comfort zone, we have the key to a successful night out. While the French dining experience can be complicated and elitist, drinking and partying in France is a more democratic experience… if you can avoid any linguistic faux-pas, that is.

To sate your thirst and bully your liver, here are 10 basic, authentic phrases and expressions to flaunt during an apéro, at the bistrot, at the discothèque or even in a bar à vin. 

Tu fais quoi ce soir ? Ca te dit de prendre un verre ?

Meaning: What are you up to tonight? Fancy a drink? / Up for a drink?

Ultimately, the start of a successful weekend should begin with the practical question tu fais quoi ce soir ? (“What are you doing tonight?”) or tu as prévu quoi ce soir ? (“What have you got planned for the evening?”). How can you plan ahead if you don’t know where the party will be? This simple and easy-to-remember question will ensure you don’t miss out on a drink with actual other people. 

The question is often followed up by ça te dit de prendre un verre ? or a less formal version on va boire un coup ? Although sometimes used as a (cheesy) pickup line, it’s just as common to ask friends and colleagues if they fancy un coup or un verre.

Note: the French slang term coup does not refer to a “punch” but rather a “drink”.

Je peux t’offrir un verre ?

Meaning: Can I buy you a drink?

A traditional pick-up line you’re bound to hear at the comptoir (“the counter”) or piste de danse (“dance floor”) in Metz or Biarritz (and other cities that don’t end in “z”). Use it as much as you want, keeping in mind that you have signed a verbal contract to purchase booze for each utterance. 

Un verre de rouge / blanc / rosé s’il vous plait

Meaning: A glass of red / white / rosé wine, please.

The French tend to start off their night out with a glass of wine or five to unwind. While rosé and white wine are enjoyed cold and are go-to drinks during the summer months, bold and full-bodied vin rouge is often sipped when the weather turns cold. All three varieties of wine are often paired with amuse-bouches (“nibbles” or “appetizers”), the most common ones being peanuts (cacahuètes), crisps (chips) or olives.

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Je paye ma tournée

Meaning: This one’s on me, this round’s on me

Feeling generous? Amidst the clinking of glasses and drunken conversation, you’ll be tempted to use the typical French phrase je paye ma tournée or c’est ma tournée (“this one’s on me”) to win the hearts and minds of your colleagues and even friends if applicable. 

If you’re in luck (and perhaps a regular), you might hear the reassuring but rare sentence c’est la maison qui offre (“it’s on the house”) which will save you from waking up and seeing your bank account has been wiped clean.

A la tienne !

Meaning: Cheers! To your health! Here’s to you!

An essential French phrase for parties, toasts, weddings and werewolf bar mitzvahs, this will ingratiate you to any crowd, provided you maintain eye contact throughout.

Other toast-worthy phrases: tchin tchin ! and santé (“health”).

Je sors fumer une clope

Meaning: I’m going out for a smoke (US) / for a fag (UK)

French people will repeatedly go out to the terrasse (an outside seating area) to smoke away, gossip and forget their troubles. Warning: if you happen to lend your briquet (“lighter”) to a complete stranger, chances are you’ll never see it again.

Pro tip: In French, une clope is a slang word for cigarettes. Another pro tip: smoking is bad for you. 

Ça finit quand l’happy hour?

Meaning: When does happy hour end?

Before your soirée, you’ll want to optimize happy hours, a period during which beverages are sold at a reduced price. In France, the happy hour time frame tends to be a bit longer than overseas, spanning three to six hours. Depending on the spot, a free, salty snack will often be brought your way with every round of drinks. The early bird catches the worm, as they say.

Happy Hour can easily be extended. Allez, reprends un verre.

Je suis complètement bourré.e

Meaning: I’m completely drunk. 

We know for a fact that the French can outdrink just about anyone under the table, so it’s no wonder the French language showcases many colorful terms to refer to over-consumption.

While you might be pompette (“tipsy”) a few minutes into a party, you’re likely to end up straight-up plastered, or bourré.e (rébou in verlan) come midnight. 

Other commonly heard phrases include je suis défoncé.e or je suis déchiré.e (“I’m totally wasted / hammered / sloshed”).

Note: for maximum cool points, you can also use the phrase je suis beurré.e comme un petit LU which means “I’m as drunk as anything”. Fluency is a mere drink away.

Je fais la fermeture

Meaning: I’m staying until closing time.

This is usually a bad omen. Say a prayer for the person who utters it. 

Ça se passe où l’after ?

Meaning: Where is the after party?

The night is young and you’re still buzzing? Lucky for you, you get to enjoy an after (or “after party”) at an acquaintance’s flat or studio.

On prend un tacos ?

Meaning: Shall we get a taxi?

When that last metro passes right under your nose and you’re not one for noctiliens (Parisian night buses), you’ll be inclined to take a taxi (or its slang equivalent un tacos (which has nothing to do with the Mexican delicacy).

A common phrase heard just before parting ways is rentre bien, bonne soirée ! (“get home safe, have a good night!”).

J’ai la gueule de bois

Meaning: I’ve got a hangover.

This last phrase literally translates as “I have the wooden face”, a feeling you’re likely to experience when confronted with the after-effects of alcohol. Common remedies include drinking plenty of fluids, staying put and staying away from alcohol. Possibly forever.

Please drink responsibly! Oh, and don’t forget to try our online French course Frantastique for free for 7 days. You’ll have fun and you’ll learn all about French language and culture.

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