10 Tips to Say I'm Confused in French 🤷‍♀️ (2023)

What should you say when you don’t understand / hear something in French – specific vocabulary about expressing confusion in French, examples and tips.

In a conversation, there are moments when you don’t quite understand or when you can’t hear what the other person says. Most students learn “Répétez s’il vous plaît”. But this is not the right sentence for each scenario.

Here are my ten tips on what a French student should say when you don’t understand or hear something in French, if you are confused, or if you need to get further information.

Table of Contents

1 – Don’t Say “Répétez s’il vous plaît”

2 – What to Say When Didn’t Hear The French Sentence Well

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3 – Don’t say “Je ne comprends pas”

4 – What to Say To Express Confusion in French

5 – Don’t say “je suis confus(e)”

6 – Asking “How do You Say X” in French ?

7 – Asking “What does X mean” in French ?

8 – How To Say “Please Speak Slower” in French ?

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9 – More French Sentences to Say You Didn’t Quite Understand/ You Are Confused

10 – French Sentences To check The Person is Understanding You

1 – Don’t Say “Répétez s’il vous plaît”

If you don’t understand something, don’t say “répétez s’il vous plaît”, because the person will repeat exactly what s/he just said:if you didn’t get it the first time, it’s unlikely you will the second.

“Répétez s’il vous plaît” is used only when you couldn’t hearthe first time.

Furthermore, it’s a bit too direct: it’s a order, using the Imperative mood. How many times have you actually said to someone in English “Repeat please”?

So what should you say?

2 – What to Say WhenDidn’t Hear The French Sentence Well

If the problem is not that you you are confused, but just that you couldn’t hear – because the person didn’t speak loud enough, or because there was too much ambient noise for example, here is what you should say:

  1. Comment ?
    This is the short version. In English, you’d say“Excuse me?”. In both languages, you’d put your hand by your ear, or turn your ear to the person as you are saying it, to reinforce the message that you couldn’t hear. You could also say “Pardon ?” (Sorry?).
    Some people say “quoi ?” – it’s very common but not very stylish. We teach our children to not say “quoi” and kids would actually answer mockingly to another kid saying it “quoi, quoi, je ne suis pas une oie” (quack, quack, I’m not a goose…). It is the exact same thing as with “what” and “don’t what me”…
  2. Je n’ai pas entendu : vous pouvez répéters’il vous plaît ?
    The next option will involve a bit more speaking from your part. First, you’ll state the problem “je n’ai pas bien entendu” – I didn’t hear well, and then you may ask for the person to repeat. I would not use an Imperative mood there as in “répétez” but smooth it a bit and say “pourriez-vous répéter s’il vous plaît” – “could you repeat please”. In more casual French, we’d say “vous pouvez répéter” or use “tu” and say: “tu peux répéter “. But I would never say “répète”, it’s just too direct! And I’ll always add “s’il te/vous plaît”.
  3. Je n’ai pas entendu : pourriez-vous parler plus forts’il vous plaît ?
    If your French interlocutor mutters, that’s what you need to say so they speak louder. In more casual French, you can say “pouvez-vous / peux-tu parler plus fort”, or even drop the inversion : “vous pouvez / tu peux parler plus fort” then add “s’il te/vous plaît”. Here again, stay away from the Imperative mood.

3 – Don’t say “Je ne comprends pas”

Here again, typical French methods will teach you “je ne comprends pas” – I don’t understand. But If you just say “Je ne comprends pas”, the French person will think you didn’t get anything at all, and is very likely to just switch to English, or give up on you.

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4 – What to SayTo Express Confusion in French

So, instead of “je ne comprends pas”, say, “Je ne comprends pas BIEN” (I don’t understand everything), causing your interlocutor to reformulate his sentence, using other words. You may also say : “je ne comprends pas tout” (I don’t understand it all), or “je pense que j’ai compris l’idée, mais pas tout les mots” (I think I got the idea, but not all the words).

5 – Don’t say “je suisconfus(e)”

“Je suis confus(e)” does exist in French, but it’s a very old-fashioned way of saying “I’m sorry” in French. So it’s a false friend, it looks like “I’m confused” but it doesn’t translate the same way in French!

6 – Asking “How do You Say X” in French ?

To say “how to you say X in French”, say : “comment dit-on X en français”. You may also say: “quel est le mot français pour X ?” (what is the French word for X?). In casual French, you could also say “c’est quoi X en français ?”.

7 – Asking “What does X mean” in French ?

To say “what does X mean”, say: “qu’est-ce que ça veut dire X ?“. In more casual French, we’d say “Ça veut dire quoi X ?”.

8 – How To Say “Please Speak Slower” in French ?

For students of French, the main problem is often the speed of speech. French people speak really fast among themselves, and if many understand they need to slow down to help a foreigner understand better, sometimes they don’t slow down enough.

So, in this case, it’s perfectly fine to say “pourriez-vous parler plus lentement” or “vous pouvez parler plus lentement” / “tu peux parler plus lentement” and then please.

9 – More French Sentences to Say You Didn’t Quite Understand/ You Are Confused

  1. Je suis désolé, j’apprends le français depuis un an : je peux parler un peu, mais c’est difficile de comprendre tout. Est-ce que vous pouvezparler plus simplement s’il vous plaît?
    I’m sorry, I’ve been learning French for a year: I can speak a little, but it’s difficult to understand everything. Could youspeak in a more simple way please?
  2. Je crois que j’ai compris, mais je ne suis pas tout à fait sûr !
    I think I got it, but I’m not quite sure!
  3. Excusez-moi, je ne suis pas sûr d’avoir compris : vous voulez dire que… ?
    Sorry, I’m not sure I got it: you mean that… (and then you rephrase)?

10 – French Sentences To check The Person is Understanding You

In French, we often illustrate our speech with a couple of sentences to check the other person understands, such as:

  1. Vous me suivez ?
    Lit. are you following me, meaning are you understanding me.
  2. Vous comprenez ?
    Do you understand ?
  3. Est-ce que c’est clair ?
    Is-it clear? (Am I making sense ?)
  4. Je n’ai pas l’impression d’être très clair.
    I don’t feel I am making sense.
  5. Je suisperdu.
    I’m lost – confused : watch out! “je suis confus” is a very old fashioned way to say “I am sorry” (je suis désolé).
  6. C’est à dire.
    “C’est à dire” is quite advanced French. It means “what do you mean ?” when used as a question, or “I mean” if you are volunteering the additional info.

Now, if you go to France to practice your French, choose your destination carefully : read my article onvacationing in France to practice your French. You’ll also face another challenge: how to make French people speak French to you!

Good luck with your French studies.

FAQs

How do you say I am confused? ›

synonyms for confused
  1. baffled.
  2. befuddled.
  3. bewildered.
  4. dazed.
  5. disorganized.
  6. distracted.
  7. muddled.
  8. perplexed.

How do you say I don't know what you're saying in French? ›

You don't know what you're saying. Tu ne sais pas ce que tu dis.

How do you respond to CA VA? ›

Some proper ways to respond to ça va? include, “Très bien, et vous ?” or in a more casual setting, “Ça va bien, et toi ?” But you can also respond with a simple “ça va,” which means you're doing fine.

How do you say I'm confused without saying it? ›

Step1: Phrases to say you didn't understand:
  1. I'm sorry. I don't understand. ...
  2. Sorry, I didn't catch that. ...
  3. I didn't get it. ...
  4. Sorry, I couldn't hear that. ...
  5. Over a phone call: ...
  6. Could you speak up please? ...
  7. Sorry, Could you speak more slowly, please. ...
  8. I don't know that word, could you please tell me what it means.

What are weird French words? ›

8 Funny French Words
  • 1) abracadabrantesque. Remember the word abracadabra? ...
  • 2) cerf-volant. This could be literally translated as “flying deer”, but is actually the translation for “kite”. ...
  • 3) pamplemousse. ...
  • 4) sardanapalesque. ...
  • 5) meugler. ...
  • 6) vachement. ...
  • 7) yaourter. ...
  • 8) machin.
Mar 1, 2019

What is a good sentence for confuse? ›

Example Sentences

The general was trying to confuse the enemy. The new evidence only confused matters further. You must be confusing me with someone else.

What are some confused words? ›

Commonly Confused Words
  • Affect vs. Effect. Affect is a verb meaning to influence. ...
  • Lie vs. Lay. Lie is a verb meaning to recline or rest on a surface. ...
  • Lose vs. Loose. Lose is a verb meaning to misplace. ...
  • Anyway vs. Any way. Anyway is an adverb meaning regardless. ...
  • Than vs. Then. ...
  • That vs. Which. ...
  • Their vs. There vs. ...
  • To vs. Too vs.

How do you say IDK in a fancy way? ›

25 Alternatives To 'I Don't Know' & 'I Can't'
  1. I need help with …
  2. Before I can respond, I need …
  3. I'm nervous about being wrong.
  4. I can't …, but I can …
  5. If I knew how to …, I could answer. (Or, 'If I could …, I could …)
  6. I don't know now, but I will soon because …
  7. After talking to …, I think …
  8. Let me find out.
Oct 9, 2017

How do you smartly say I dont know? ›

Try one of these instead:
  1. I'm not sure, but I'll find out and let you know.
  2. I'll find out.
  3. I'll look into it and get back to you with what I find.
  4. That's a good question and I want to get you the right information. Let me get back to you by end-of-day.
Sep 18, 2019

What is Je suis ne? ›

je suis né(e) : I was bornnaître, passé composé

What is slang in French for I don't know? ›

In French, the meaning of “Je ne sais pas” (pronounced juh nun say pah) is “I don't know”. Slang variations of “Je ne sais pas” include “Je sais pas”, J'sais pas” and “Chais pas”. This lesson covers several other informal and formal ways of saying I don't know in French.

What are some French exclamations? ›

Contents
  • Ah bon ? (Really?)
  • Aïe ! (Ouch!)
  • Ouf (Phew)
  • Miam miam (Yum yum)
  • La vache ! (Holy cow!)
  • Oups (Whoops / Oops)
  • Chut ! (Shh!)
  • Oh là là ! (Oh my!)
Jun 23, 2022

How do you express doubt in French? ›

“Je doute” implies you are super uncertain. Consequently, you will follow up with the subjunctive after. Je doute que + the subjunctive. Je doute qu'il pleuve demain >>> I doubt it will rain tomorrow.

What are some popular French sayings? ›

General French sayings
  • Battre le fer pendant qu'il est chaud. ...
  • Ce n'est pas la mer à boire. ...
  • La nuit porte conseil. ...
  • Comme on fait son lit, on se couche. ...
  • Vouloir, c'est pouvoir. ...
  • Impossible n'est pas français. ...
  • Il ne faut rien laisser au hasard. ...
  • L'habit ne fait pas le moine.
Jul 16, 2020

How do you express disbelief in French? ›

A direct way of expressing disbelief in French is by saying “je ne te crois pas !” (I don't believe you).

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