Unsure about your French table manners? Click Here to download > > How to avoid these 10 food etiquette mistakes !
This is such an important word! And getting it wrong − along with the phrases that go with it − can start your entire day on the wrong foot.
This post will teach you how to say it right, and how to order your breakfast so that what you think you ordered will actually appear on your plate. Knowing these words (or at least understanding them) can help reduce any awkward moments around what should be a wonderful French breakfast experience.
Not only will I show you how to pronounce breakfast in French, but I'll teach you a number of other phrases to help you order the perfect breakfast in France!
A French breakfast may not be the most important meal of the day but for many visitors, it is a crucial one.
It can also be a confusing meal, because it may not be what we expect. The vision of a French breakfast often involves unlimited croissants and pains au chocolat, but a typical French breakfast is nothing like that. (Here's what a French breakfast is really like.)
A French breakfast can be varied, so you'll need the words to get your order across. Otherwise, who knows what might appear when you order!
Petit déjeuner is the French translation of breakfast. It directly translates into little (petit) déjeuner (lunch).
Sometimes, people leave off the word "petit" in petit déjeuner, but please, do NOT!
A déjeuner without the petit actually means lunch, not breakfast.
It is the formal, official name for this meal. There is a less formal way but we'll get to that in a minute.
Also, you may see it spelled in various ways. While the most common is "petit déjeuner", you might also see it with a hyphen, as in petit-déjeuner. Both are correct.
This is the alternative word for breakfast, but I don't recommend you use this unless you're fluent in French and talking to close friends or family. Otherwise, I'm afraid it'll sound pretentious rather than fluent.
Petit déjeuner is the word you want to use.
You wouldn't just enter a café or restaurant, snap your fingers and yell BREAKFAST! Would you? Of course not.
We know snapping your fingers at a waiter is downright rude, as is yelling, but you DO want to know how to ask for breakfast in a variety of circumstances. More importantly, using the correct vocabulary may actually get you what you want.
Here are a few phrases that might come in handy when you're ready for your morning meal.
This absolutely does exist in France. You can have your eggs over easy, bacon slices, toast... you just can't have it everywhere. You'll find this type of breakfast in large city hotels with a large US clientele, or in cafés close to tourist attractions.
Of course you would first ascertain they serve American breakfasts but if they do, you're all set. You might then get asked how you want your eggs, so here's a quick lexicon (you'll find the audio for the pronunciation of these words right after the list).
Of course there are plenty of additional phrases, so I recommend a good phrasebook or French language app for a more complete list. But this will get you started!
Like the American breakfast, an English breakfast isn't impossible to find, but you won't find it on every corner. Still, from Britain's years as part of the European Union, English meals are easily available in France, especially in Paris.
However, if you're keen on the full English breakfast – eggs and bacon, tomatoes, friend mushrooms – your easiest bet will be to head for the breakfast buffet menu in a large hotel.
The wording works much the same way as the American breakfast:
Do you need to meet someone for breakfast? Then use this phrase.
This works in most general contexts, whether for work or pleasure. It can work for a date, or to meet a friend or a family member, in formal situations and informal ones.
In other words, any time you want to meet someone for breakfast, this phrase is perfect.
This is the phrase you should use when you're talking about a business or working breakfast, but only when you refer to it in passing, for example when you're talking to someone about it.
It's a bit tricky because you would never say "Let's have a working breakfast" − you would just say "Let's have breakfast", as in #3 above.
But if someone asks you what kind of breakfast, then you can specify, a working breakfast.
I know it's not clear, but that happens often in French.
Much like the continental breakfast we know, the French continental breakfast is a simple meal, usually consisting of bread and pastries.
A continental breakfast is usually what you get in a hotel, with juice, breads, pastries and a hot drink.
If you have it in a café, the continental breakfast usually includes a fruit juice, a hot drink, and a couple of croissants with jam and butter. But the croissants aren't made on site − either they're delivered from a nearby bakery, or a waiter will run around the corner to a neighborhood patisserie (the French word for bakery) and return with a fat bag of croissants. However they get there, they will certainly be fresh!
This phrase is a little more complicated than it looks.
Before we get into details, know that if you say "room service" to a French person, you'll probably be understood.
"Chambre" means room. So if you want the proper translation for room service, it would be either "service de chambre" (quite literally, room service), or service d'étage (service on/to your floor).
However, if you're trying to say breakfast in your room, you would use this phrase:
Some establishments will serve a varied breakfast that isn't necessarily a buffet. In this case, you would ask for the breakfast menu.
This can vary widely, from a few pastries to full breakfasts with eggs, pancakes or bacon – and such delicacies as smoked salmon in more sophisticated venues.
If you don't have time for a sit-down breakfast and just want to grab a coffee and a croissant, you'll be eating breakfast on the run.
It's easy to have a quick breakfast in France. Even the smallest villages have a bakery, where you'll at least be able to get a croissant or a pain au chocolat. Many now also sell coffee to go.
You can also go salty for your breakfast: in the morning, you'll probably find some kind of quiche in the bakery, and sandwiches you can grab and eat on the run. The days of the French never eating on the go are slowly disappearing, at least in business settings.
This is a phrase you'll often see on advertisements and lists. For example, your hotel listing may include it, meaning you don't have to pay extra for breakfast.
This is more of a written than a spoken phrase, so I'm including it here in case you see it written somewhere. If you wanted to ask whether breakfast was included, this is how it would go:
I think this one is relatively self-explanatory... it can be used in both formal and informal settings, whether you're talking to a loved one about preparing breakfast in bed, or in slightly less familiar situations, among friends for example, to explain that you didn't get up early and had breakfast in bed instead.
However, you probably wouldn't mention this in a formal or business situation, where what you do in bed is your business and no one else's.
You won't always be eating in a breakfast buffet. If you walk into a café or restaurant for breakfast, you may need to ask for a table, as in...
All it takes is a few well-placed words to get by in French at breakfast and in other common settings.
A growing number of French people speak English, but we do feel a little thrill when someone makes even the tiniest effort to speak French.
Now, at least, you'll be able to order breakfast!