How to Speak Business French: Vocabulary for Speaking and Writing

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French for Business

As the world changes rapidly these days, so too does language. In order to communicate effectively, precise vocabulary is essential in order to convey clear messages, and to understand. This article aims at extending your knowledge of French with some terms associated with business, so you can communicate competently.

There are certain words related to business which crop up quite often in any language. Whether it is a business report on the airwaves, or an article online, in the newspaper or magazine, a newsletter, or in a telephone conversation. The word ‘company ‘or ‘firm’ for example, (la compagnie/l’entreprise); or the word ‘General Manager’ (le PDG/président-directeur-général) are almost unavoidable.

For easy reference the vocabulary in this article is divided under three different headings. Let’s start with some general expressions.

General Terms Found in Different Media

une entreprise/sociéte - company

une filiale - a subsidiary or branch

la gestion/direction - management

les honoraires - fees

la marque déposée - registered trademark

les matières premières - raw materials

sans but lucrative - not profit-making

le siège social - head office

The Telephone

Next, let’s look at words used in business conversations over the telephone:

Most often when you dial the number of a business, and the person at the other end announces the name of the company, if you know the extension of the person you would like to speak to, you may ask for it. The word for extension in French is le poste. You would probably say:

-Bonjour, je voudrais le poste 152, s’il vous plaît

Here are some expressions:

Ne quittez pas - Hold the line

Je vous le (la) passe - I’ll put you through to him (her)

C’est (la ligne est) occupe(é-) The line’s busy

Est-ce que vous voulez patienter - Would you mind holding a moment

ou rappeler plus tard? - or would you like to call back later?

Est-ce que je peux prendre (laisser) - Could I take (leave) a message ?

un message?

Business Correspondence

A Qui De Droit- To Whom it may Concern

une announce - an advertisement

un entretien - an interview

demande de renseignements - request for information

Divers- Other Information

Formation- Training

Lettre de Recommandation - Reference Letter

un poste - a post

candidature spontanée - unsolicited application

Additional information

Common Formulas for Beginning and Ending French Letters has a section on writing French business letters.