Today we are discussing how to say yes in french, which you may already be aware is “oui.
But, while some situations in life require an emphatic yes full of enthusiasm, other circumstances might call for a more casual yeah, or even a hesitant one!
There are countless ways to say “yes” in most languages.
“Yes” and “No” are two crucial words to learn in any language, think about how many times a day you say them in your native language!
Learning a simple “yes” and “no” in your target language will get you through the majority of questions that you are asked as a beginner.
We don’t just use an affirmation or negation to respond to questions, we also need them to give permission and set boundaries.
So let us take you through your options for saying yes in French and provide you with a wide variety for when you need to express yes with a little more depth.
Saying “Yes” in French – An Overview
|Mais oui||But sure|
|Bien Sûr||Of course|
|Pour Sûr||For sure|
|Tout à fait||Exactly!|
|Comptez sur moi||Count on m e|
|Si||Yes *responding to negative questions*|
How to Say “Yes” in French”
The straightforward way to say “yes” in French is of course, “oui”. We will take a little look at the words’ history later on.
To overemphasize how willing your “yes” is you might want to draw out the pronunciation into two syllables ou-ii, this shows a level of excitement!
Sometimes one “oiu” is simply not enough! Quite often the French will double up to show enthusiasm or agree with something. “Oui, oui” can be thought of as “Yes, I do!”
- “Oui, oui, j’aime ça!” (“Yes, I do like it!”)
The use of Mais oui is sometimes confused by English learners. When literally translated the phrase means “but yes”. It is taught in many schools as “yes” but in reality, it is more like an interjection used to agree with the conversation, like “yeah that’s right”.
Sometimes it strengthens the “oui”, it can also be used in the way we would say “but, of course” but typically not in a literal way! In modern times it can be used almost sarcastically.
If someone says something that is obviously correct you can say “Mais oui” in the context that we might say “well, yeah, duh!” Younger people may also use “ben oui” in this manner in its place.
So it is a phrase to watch out for, listen to it in use and learn how to use it well, the locals will be impressed!
Take a look at the following examples;
- Mais oui, c’est correct! – “Yes, that’s right!”
- Mais oui, j’arrive – “Yes, I’m coming.”
While it isn’t a formal and proper word, when among friends rather than strangers you are going to hear “ouais” a lot! Pronounced almost like the word “way” it is the French version of “yeah” or “yep”.
Perfect for when a casual, lazy “yes” is required. Some French people will slide into it from a “hmm/” or “erm” so it sounds more like Mouais if they aren’t super invested in giving you an answer or joining in the conversation.
If you look for the French translation of “okay” on the Internet, the answer you will get is d’accord.
When you look at the word D’accord you might recognize a cognate that fits in English accord from the word “accordance” taken more casually to mean “agreement”, the word means “it’s agreed” but is less formal than it sounds.
You should think of it as alright or okay! literally translates to “in agreement”, or more loosely to “alright” or “fine”. It belongs to the “proper” side of the French language.
Informally, you can simply use “okay” or “oké” as it is written in French, but if you want to say the same thing correctly in a more formal situation, you should use “D’accord” instead!
That said, people do shorten the proper phrase to d’acc, typically, within the younger demographic.
Let’s take a look at the two words that form this French expression. Bien is “good” or “well” and sûr is “sure”, so this one is “well sure” but the French use it as “of course”!
Similarly , you may hear “pour sûr” which is literally “for sure”, though it should be noted that “pour sûr” might be considered a little uptight. Not that it is a formal expression, just not frequently used. To be honest most people wouldn’t say “sure” to respond, but would probably reply using “ouais” or “oké”.
When you are in total agreement or more than happy to lend a hand you might be looking for a resounding “yes” . Absolument is the French way to say “absolutely”.
It is easy to remember because it is so similar to the English word.
You could use a variety of synonyms in place that are also cognates, you simply take the English suffix “ly” / “dly” and make it “ment”. Here are a few examples of cognates that mean the same thing;
Tout à fait
Although the above list of cognates are all used, more often than not the French will say something like “yes exactly” or “precisely” by using the phrase tout à fait.
The literal translation is something like “everything to be done” but it is used for strong agreement.
The word “fait” which means do is used in a variety of ways in the French language, they say “en fait” to mean “in fact” or “actually” when they disagree!
This one is pretty formal, “en effet” is literally “in effect” but it better translates as “effectively” and is used in context as “yes indeed”.
You will probably only hear it in formal situations and among those who want to be viewed as intellectual.
“Ouis” as we discussed is a very relaxed way to say okay and closed response if you want to give a little more than a lazy okay you might want to use “c’est oké” or “c’est bon” which is “it’s good”.
Comptez sur moi
You might want a way to say “count on me” if plans are being made and you want to join in, or someone asks for help and you want to show you are dependable.
There are two ways to translate it one formal;
- Comptez sur moi
And one informal;
- Compte sur moi
This one might seem antiquated but is used for accepting invitations, especially if you RSVP in writing. “Volontiers” is the way to respond when you would be delighted. It means “gladly” or “willingly” or in this case “yes, gladly”.
You could also say “avec plaisir” which is literally “with pleasure” but make sure you know the person well.
What Does “Oui” Mean?
Now that we have explored several ways to say “yes” in French, you may still have a few questions.
French is a romance language or “romans language” as it descended from latin origins. You may be aware that many other latin based languages use the word “si” for yes. So what happened with French?
Why don’t the French use: “si” like other romance languages?
What does oui mean?
Well, they actually do, just in a totally different manner which we will go on to explain before we draw things to a close. But for those interested here is a brief, language history fact you might find interesting that explains why the French use “oui”.
Why do the French say “oui”?
Believe it or not there was no official Latin word for “yes” to agree or affirm people had to use one of several affirmative phrases. They might say est “it is” or “sic est” (“it is thus”), or “hoc illic” (“this is it”).
Eventually as languages developed over time and needed a “yes”, the Latin phrases were abbreviated and evolved, some languages borrowed from other languages than Latin.
Most romance languages adopted “sic est” which eventually became “si” in Italy and Spain and “sim” in Portugal.
The French went an alternate route adapting “hoc illic” it became “oc ill” then “oïl” and eventually “oui”.
But, the word “si” from the latin origin “sic est” wasn’t completely neglected…
How To Use “Si” in French
At times, the French use the word “si” to mean “yes”. This kind of “yes”only applies to specific situations.
“Si” is an affirmation when a question is presented in the negative!
Many questions are presented negatively in French, because of sentence structure and grammar rules.
For example “aren’t you tired?” is presented as “tu n’as pas fatigués? (“You’re not tired?”). If you are asked in this manner then you would respond “si”, meaning “yes”!
It can be tricky to get your head around, so here’s a couple more examples;
Ça ne va pas? (“Are you not okay?”) → Si, ça va. (“I’m fine.”)
Ne vient-il pas? (“Is he not coming?”) → Si, il est en route. (“Yes, he’s on his way.”)
Yes in French – Final Thoughts
So, now you have seen a bunch of affirmatives in action, don’t let the amount overwhelm you a simple “oui” will suffice for most interactions.
But, if you are looking to broaden your vocab and demonstrate a bit more when you chat we suggest starting with the cognates that are easy to remember, absolument, exactement, you could even say “affirmatif” if you are in good company.
Don’t forget you can always say “yes” in English or “acquiescer” with a nod of the head or give a thumbs up!
Curiously a “thumb-up” in French is called “un pouce leve” or “un pouce Anglais” (“English thumb”). The contrary being; “le pouce Allemand” (“German thumb”).
And with that fun fact, we bid you adieu, and hopefully leave you ready to go beyond a simple “oui” in French.