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Tips and Notes > "Very" French  
10 "very" French Words found in FRENCH FOR CRUISERS

"Very" French words

Some words like Ça va and Voilà will quickly become part of your vocabulary.

Other words like La plaisance and Le mouillage pertain to boating and will answer some of your questions about the signs you see in harbor.

Scroll down or click on any word below ...

Ça va   Le mouillage
Voilà   La plaisance
Sympa !   Naviguer
L'apéritif   La panne
La baguette   Le bricolage

"Plaisance" (pleasure boating)The examples below are organized in three columns, showing the English, French and pronunciation for each word or phrase.

Notice that certain letters are printed in gray in the French column. These letters are silent in that French word. So don't pronounce the gray letters.


English ... French ... Pronunciation ...
How are you? Ça va ? Sah vah ?
Fine -- and you? Ça va -- et vous? Sah vah -- eh voo?



Ça va Pronunciation: Sah vah

Ça va literally means "It's going" or "How is it going?". However, it's used more often than you would expect. It's used as a greeting much as we'd say "How are you doing?". And it's also used to reply - "Fine, OK".

Here are some examples showing some of its many uses - alone and as part of a longer phrase:

How are you? Ça va ? Sah vah ?
(reply) Fine -- and you? Ça va -- et vous? Sah vah -- eh voo?
(reply) Better Ça va mieux. Sah vah m'yûh.
(reply) Bad Ça va mal. Sah vah mahl.
That's enough. Ça va. Sah vah.
That's enough for today. Ça va pour aujourd’hui . Sah vah poor oh-zhoor-dwee.
Is it alright like that? Ça va comme ça ? Sah vah kumm sah?
(reply) It's OK, fine. Ça va. Sah vah.
Another glass of wine?
-- No thank you, I am fine.
Encore un verre de vin?
-- Non merci, ça va.
Ahn -kohr uhn vehr dûh vehn ?
Nohn mehr-see, sah vah.



VoilàPronunciation: Vwah-lah

Voilà! You hear it all the time. A word of many uses, it roughly translates as "Here is... ", "Here are ...", "This is ...", "These are ..." You use voilà when you hand your boat papers to the customs official or you introduce your wife or husband to someone.

But French people also use voilà to confirm and emphasize as the last examples show.

Voici is a synonym.

Here you are. Here it is. Voilà. Vwah-lah.
Here is your receipt. Voilà votre reçu. Vwah-lah voh-truh rûh-sêw.
Here are the boat papers. Voilà les papiers du bateau. Vwah-lah leh pahp-yeh dêw
This is my wife. Voilà ma femme. Vwah-lah mah femm.
That's right! That's it! Voilà ! Vwah-lah !
There you have it! Just as I said! Voilà ! Vwah-lah !
Coming! Voilà ! J'arrive . Vwah-lah. Jah-reev.



Sympa ! Pronunciation: Sehn -pah

"Sympa" (nice)Sympa is short for sympatique and means nice, likeable, pleasant.

Sympa can be used to refer to a person, a party, even a price that you like.

The French value a “sympa” attitude. Suddenly doors may open and the impossible may become possible if you are seen as sympa rather than as rude and abrupt.

a nice guy un type sympa uhn teep sehn -pah
That's very nice of you. C'est très sympa de votre part. Seh treh sehn -pah dûh voh-truh pahr.
The skipper seems nice. Le skipper a l'air sympa. Lûh skee-puhr ah lehr sehn -pah.
She gave me a good price. Elle m'a fait un prix sympa. Ehl mah feh uhn pree sehn -pah.



L'apéritifPronunciation: Lah-peh-ree-teef

L’apéritif is the glass of alcoholic drink over which one relaxes in the company of family members, friends, colleagues or people one has just met, before a meal.

Typically you might get together for l'apéritif before lunch (around 12:00) or dinner (around 19:00). You might spend anywhere from a half hour to 3 hours.

L'apéro is slang for l'apéritif.

Come have a drink this evening. Venez prendre l'apéritif ce soir. Vûh-neh prahn -druh lah-peh-ree-teef sûh swahr.


La baguettePronunciation: Lah bah-ghet

La baguetteLa baguette is the most popular bread in France.

It is eaten at breakfast as tartine beurrée (butter bread) or à la confiture (with jam). It must be on the table at lunch and dinner. It is loved for sandwiches: un jambon-beurre is a ham sandwich made with a baguette.

The baguette does not keep. It becomes hard (dure) after a few hours. The baker (le boulanger) makes several batches (fournées) of baguettes a day.

a well-baked baguette une baguette bien cuite êwn bah-ghet b'yehn kweet
a not too well-baked baguette une baguette pas trop cuite êwn bah-ghet pah troh kweet
half a baguette une demi-baguette êwn dûh-mee bah-ghet
a baguette cut in 2 halves
to fit in your shopping bag
une baguette coupée êwn bah-ghet koo-peh



Le mouillagePronunciation: Lûh moo-yahzh

"Le mouillage" (anchorage) Le mouillage means the anchorage. You will often find a restaurant named Le Mouillage (The Anchorage) right on the waterfront. It also means the act of anchoring or your anchoring gear (chain, rode, etc.).

It is used for the depth of the water in inland waters

The verb mouiller means to anchor or to get something wet. Ancrer also means to anchor but is used a little less than mouiller.

My boat is in the anchorage. Mon bateau est au mouillage. Mohn bat-toh eht oh moo-yahzh.
I have 30 meters of anchor rode. J'ai trente mètres de
Zheh trahn t meh-truh dûh
Can I anchor here? Je peux mouiller ici ? Zhûh pûh moo-yeh ee-see ?


La plaisancePronunciation: Lah-pleh-zahn ss

"Port de plaisance" (pleasure boat harbor)La plaisance is pleasure or recreational boating.

You may dock your boat at a port de plaisance (pleasure boat harbor or marina). Your boat may be referred to as a bateau de plaisance (pleasure boat) to distinguish it from commercial or fishing vessels.

Un plaisancier is a pleasure boater. It refers to both weekend sailors and cruisers or yachtsmen. So we cruisers are plaisanciers, although this word is more formal sounding than "yachtie" and not so widely used among cruisers to refer to themselves.

pleasure or recreational boating la plaisance pleh-zahn ss
marina, pleasure boat harbor le port de plaisance pohr dûh pleh-zahn ss
pleasure boat le bateau de plaisance bat-toh dûh pleh-zahn ss
pleasure boater, cruiser, yachtie le plaisancier pleh-zahn ss-yeh



NaviguerPronunciation: Nav-vee-gheh

"Naviguer" (to sail)The verb naviguer means to navigate but also to sail or drive a boat. If you want to make it clear that you are sailing (sails up! engines off!), you can say naviguer à la voile (to navigate by sail). To motor is to naviguer à moteur.

Navigateur means navigator but it also means sailor. The French equivalent of the Urgent Notices to Mariners is called AVURNAV (AVis URgents aux NAVigateurs). Navigateur also means ... internet browser.

I have been sailing for three years. Je navigue depuis trois ans. Zhûh nav-veeg dûh-pwee trwahz ahn .
We are sailing around the world. Nous navigons autour du monde. Noo nav-vee-gohn oh-toor dêw mohn d.
single-handed sailor le navigateur solitaire nav-vee-gah-tuhr soh-lee-tehr
famous sailor le grand navigateur grahn nav-vee-gah-tuhr


La pannePronunciation: Lah pann

The word panne in French means breakdown or failure but it is used more broadly in French for a a variety of breakdowns.

When your engine is not working, it is en panne. When you're out of diesel, you are en panne de gas-oil. The verb to break down is tomber en panne. By the way, the radio call PAN-PAN (breakdown! breakdown!) comes from the French word panne.

"Dépannage" (repair service)A repairman may be called a dépanneur and repair service is called le dépannage.

not working en panne ahn pann
The motor is not working. Le moteur est en panne. Lûh moh-tuhr eht ahn pann.
I am out of diesel. Je suis en panne de gas-oil. Zhûh sweez ahn pann dûh
to break down tomber en panne tohn-beh ahn pann
repairman le dépanneur deh-pah-nuhr
repair service le dépannage deh-pah-nahzh





Le bricolagePronunciation: Lûh bree-koh-lazhz

When you need a general-purpose hardware store, look for the bricolage sign. Bricolage means do-it-yourself repairs and is often used to refer to hardware stores.

"Magasin de bricolage" (hardware store)A magasin de bricolage is a hardware store and a rayon de bricolage is the hardware department in a store. A quincaillerie is also a hardware store. Marine hardware stores on the other hand are usually called shipchandlers (obviously borrowing the word from the English).

Un bricoleur is a person who is capable of doing his own repairs. Thus a cruiser who is good at fixing things is un bon bricoleur. The verb bricoler means to fix something yourself or to do your own repairs.

hardware store le magasin de bricolage mah-gah-zehn dûh bree-koh-lahzh
hardware department le rayon de bricolage reh-yohn dûh bree-koh-lahzh
do-it-yourselfer le bricoleur bree-koh-luhr
to fix things yourself bricoler bree-koh-leh

More French Words and Phrases online:

Locks, Lockkeepers and "Locking through" ...

Canals Bulletin Boards and Signs ...

Tips and Notes > "Very" French