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121 French Words & Phrases to Talk About Your Job


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When you talk to someone for the first time, one of the questions you’ll most likely get asked is, “so tell me, what do you do for a living?”

Or in French, “Dis-moi, qu'est ce que tu fais dans la vie?”

I work in the music industry, and I find myself running into French speakers surprisingly often. Many of the saxophone manufacturers, reed makers, and even audio companies are based in other countries – one of which is France. And guess what? I almost always get asked how I’m involved in music (or about what I do).

In short, I’ve learned to master talking about what I do in French, and now, I look forward to helping you do the same.

The Many Ways to “Work” It in French

In French, as in many languages, there are tons of different words you can use to say “work”, “job” or “career”. Here are just a few of the most common you might refer to your career in French:

  • Le métier (occupation)
  • Le boulot (work – casual)
  • Le travail (work)
  • L’emploi (employment)
  • Le poste (post, position)
  • La carrière (career)
  • La vocation (vocation)
  • L’opportunité d'emploi (job opportunity)
  • Le stage en enterprise (internship)
  • Le taf (work – slang)

If you want to talk about working as an action, on the other hand, French offers up a nice selection:

  • Bosser (to work – casual)
  • Travailler (to work)
  • Gérer (to manage)
  • Bosser comme un âne (to work like a dog – don’t say this one to your boss!)
  • Travailler dur (to work hard)
  • Bien travailler (to work well)

French Work Questions: Asking What Someone Else Does

One of the best ways to keep the conversation going – in French – is to turn things around and ask your conversation partner questions about themselves. Here are a few different ways you can ask someone else what they do for a living:

  • Qu’est-ce que tu fais dans la vie ? – “What do you do for a living?”
  • Dans quel domaine travailles-tu ? – “What field do you work in?”
  • Quelle est ta profession ? – “What is your profession?”
  • Quel est ton métier ? – “What is your job?”
  • Que fais-tu comme travail ? – “What do you do for work?”
  • Tu bosses dans quoi ? – “What do you work in?”
  • C’est quoi ton boulot ? – “What’s your work?”
  • Vous travaillez comme … depuis longtemps? – “How long have you worked as a …?”

If they’ve already asked you what you do, after replying, you can simply follow up with, “Et toi ?

Vocabulary for Different Jobs in French

Job positions in the French language often have two forms – feminine and masculine. There is some debate (by the French) over whether two forms should exist, or if the masculine form alone should be used, so you’ll likely encounter French people who sit on both sides of the fence. In Quebec, however, it’s almost universally accepted that both masculine and feminine forms should exist for all job titles.

I’ve included both the feminine and masculine forms for each of the jobs below (when available), and will leave it to you to decide which you feel is best.

Creative Fields

  • acteur/actrice (actor, usually in film/television)
  • comédien/comédienne (actor, usually on stage)
  • humoriste or comique (comedian)
  • artiste (artist)
  • blogueur/blogueuse (blogger)
  • chanteur/chanteuse (singer)
  • charpentier/charpentière (carpenter)
  • coiffeur/coiffeuse (hairdresser)
  • couturier/couturière (dressmaker)
  • dessinateur/dessinatrice (designer)
  • écrivain/écrivaine (writer)
  • musicien/musicienne (musician)
  • peintre (painter)
  • producteur/productrice (producer)
  • réalisateur/réalisatrice (filmmaker or film director)

Medical & Health

  • dentiste (dentist)
  • docteur/docteure (doctor)
  • infirmier/infirmière (nurse)
  • médecin (doctor)
  • psychologue (psychologist)

Education

  • enseignant/enseignante (teacher)
  • instituteur/institutrice (teacher)
  • professeur/professeure (professor)
  • tuteur/tutrice (tutor)
  • vacataire (part-time lecturer)

Food

  • boulanger/boulangère (baker)
  • brasseur/brasseuse (brewer)
  • boucher/bouchère (butcher)
  • charcutier/charcutière (pork butcher)
  • pâtissier/pâtissière (pastry chef)
  • serveur/serveuse (waiter/waitress)

Business & Other Fields

  • agent/agente de change (stockbroker)
  • agent/agente immobilier (real estate agent)
  • architecte (architect)
  • avocat/avocate (lawyer)
  • caissier/caissière (cashier)
  • diplomate (diplomat)
  • directeur/directrice (company director)
  • entrepreneur/entrepreneure/entrepreneuse (entrepreneur – both feminine forms are acceptable in French)
  • expert-comptable/experte-comptable (CPA)
  • fonctionnaire (civil servant)
  • gérant/gérante (manager)
  • homme d’affaires/femme d’affaires (businessman/businesswoman)
  • ingénieur/ingénieure (engineer)
  • mécanicien/mécanicienne (mechanic)
  • ouvrier/ouvrière (laborer)
  • plombier/plombière (plumber)
  • politicien/politicienne (politician)
  • pompier/pompière (firefighter)
  • physicien/physicienne (physicist)
  • travailleur/travailleuse (worker)

How to Make a Good Impression on Your French Boss

Do you work (or want to work) for a French company? Here are a few useful expressions for making a good impression with your French boss:

  • Oui, je vais le faire tout de suite. Yes, I’ll do it right away.
  • Je l'ai déjà fait. I did it already.
  • J’ai terminé mon travail. I’ve finished my work.
  • Je pense que c’est une idée incroyable ! I think it’s an incredible idea!
  • Vous l'aurez sur votre bureau avant vendredi. You’ll have it on your desk before Friday.
  • Voici le résumé du rapport. Here’s the report brief.
  • J'ai pris la liberté de préparer cela pour vous. I took the liberty of preparing this for you.
  • Je serais heureux/heureuse de venir samedi. I’d be happy to come in on Saturday.
  • Cela ne me dérange pas de rester plus tard ce soir. It doesn’t bother me to stay late this evening.
  • Je vais prendre un déjeuner de travail. I’ll take a working lunch.

More Work-Related Terms in French

Beyond the above, there are a few other work-related terms in French that you may find useful. Here are just a few:

The People You Work With

  • l’acheteur (buyer)
  • l’associé (partner/associate)
  • le chef/le patron (boss)
  • le client (client)
  • le collègue (colleague)
  • le concurrent (competitor)
  • la société (company)
  • le vendeur (seller)

Watercooler Talk

  • une pause café (a coffee break)
  • une rumeur (a rumor)

Workplaces

  • la boîte (workplace)
  • le bureau (office)

“Good Job” in French

  • bon travail (good job)
  • bravo ! (well done!)

You Work Hard for the Money

  • une augmentation de salaire (a raise)
  • un bosseur (a hard worker)
  • un congé (leave/day off from work)
  • une formation (training)
  • un salaire (salary)
  • gagner de l'argent (to earn money)

You’ve Got Your Work Cut Out for You

  • un contrat (contract)
  • un dossier (file)
  • mettre à jour (to update)
  • une réunion (meeting)
  • une tâche (a task)
  • un voyage d’affaires (business trip)

Moving On

  • démissionner (to quit/resign)
  • embaucher (to hire)
  • l’entretien (interview)
  • le chômage (unemployment)
  • vous êtes viré (you’re fired)
  • licencier (to dismiss from work)
  • lourder (to fire – slang)

Over to You

Whether you work in France or want to discuss your work with French speakers, there’s a lot of ground to cover, but this list can serve as a launching point before getting into more industry-specific vocabulary.

author headshot

Shannon Kennedy

Language Encourager, Fluent in Months

Shannon is Head Coach for the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge. She is currently based in Southern California where she performs as a professional musician. Her passions are cooking, reading, traveling and sharing her adventures in language learning.

Speaks: English, French, Mandarin, Russian, Croatian, Japanese

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