Useful Vocabulary for the Paris Metro: A Handy Primer

Key Words and Phrases You'll Need to Get Around

Learning a few basic expressions can help you navigate the Paris metro more smoothly.
Learning a few basic expressions can help you navigate the Paris metro more smoothly. Jason Loucas/Photodisc/Getty Images

The Paris metro isn't especially difficult to use once you get the hang of it. But especially for visitors who don't know much French, it can feel a little daunting to navigate the public transportation system in the French capital.

From signs that aren't translated into English (admittedly rare these days), to information booth staff whose English isn't always up-to-scratch (more common), confusion and misunderstandings sometimes occur. This, of course, can be a cause of mild stress or annoyance. Sometimes it can even prevent you from getting to your destination on time.

The good news? Learning just a few basic words and expressions that you'll see everywhere in the metro can go a long way in helping you to get around, stress-free. Empower yourself by learning them now, and you'll find that you may feel much more confident using the system. 

Signs and Words to Watch for in the Paris Metro:

  • Sortie: Exit
  • Correspondance/s: connection (as in connecting line, transfer line)
  • Passage Interdit: Forbidden passageway/Do not enter (usually at the head of a tunnel not reserved for metro passengers)
  • Tickets: Tickets
  • Un carnet: Pack of ten metro tickets
  • Plan du Quartier: Neighborhood map (most stations have these near the exits, allowing you to get a sense of where you need to go even if you don't have a Paris map with you and your phone's out of data.)
  • Attention Danger de Mort: Caution: danger of death (usually seen near the head of the platform, around high-voltage electrical equipment beyond the usual boundary of the platform
  • En Travaux: Under construction/repair
  • La correspondance n'est pas assurée: Line transfer not available due to refurbishment or temporary shutdown (e.g. in emergencies)
  • "En cas d'affluence, ne pas utiliser les strapontins!": In case of crowded conditions, please do not use the fold-down seats (inside metro cars). Be careful to observe this rule: locals are known to get cranky and even make a point of reproaching you if you fail to stand up when the cars get cramped and full. 
  • Places prioritaires: Reserved seats (designated for the elderly, pregnant women, passengers with young children or disabled passengers. This sign is most often seen in buses, but is increasingly common on most metro, RER, and tramway lines as well.)
  • Contrôle des tickets: Ticket verification (by Metro officials). Make sure to always have your most recently used metro ticket in your pocket, so you're not caught out and charged a fine!

Buying Paris Metro Tickets and Asking For Advice

Most metro/RER personnel speak adequate English to sell tickets and answer your questions. But just in case, here are some helpful phrases and common questions to learn before your trip:

One ticket, please: Un ticket, s'il vous plaît. (Uhn tee-kay, seel voo pleh)
A pack of metro tickets, please: Un carnet, s'il vous plaît. (Uhn kar-nay, seel voo pleh)
How do I get to X station?: Comment aller à la station X, s'il vous plaît? (Koh-mahn ah-llay ah lah stah-sih-ohn X, seel voo pleh?)
Where's the exit, please?: Où est la sortie, s'il vous plaît? (Oo ey la sohr-tee, seel voo pleh?)
Is this the right direction to go to X...? Est-ce le bon sens pour aller à X? (Ess leh bohn sahns pourh ah-llay ah...?)

More Language Tips to Help With Your Trip

Ahead of your trip, it's always a good idea to learn some basic travel French. Explore our other resources for all the basics you'll need:

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