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The vital French vocab for renting property

When it comes to finding somewhere to rent in France, the process is easier if you have a basic grasp of some of the vocabulary you might come across at an estate agency. Here is our list of key terms.

Finding somewhere to rent in France can be a challenge if you don't speak the language.
Finding somewhere to rent in France can be a challenge if you don't speak the language. Here are the words you need to know. (Photo by FRED TANNEAU / AFP)

Around 60 percent of households in France are owned by the people living in them. For the rest of us, that means renting. 

As a foreigner in France the process of finding somewhere to rent can be bewildering – particularly if you don’t speak the language.

READ ALSO A beginner’s guide to renting property in France

We have put together a list of some of the key words you need to know to be able to find somewhere to live: 

L’agent immobilier 

Finding somewhere to rent often involves going through an agent immobilier – or real estate agent. He or she will help facilitate visites (viewings) of various biens immobiliers (properties). 

The name for real estate agency is agence immobilier

READ MORE The vital French terms you need to know when buying a house in France

Le bail 

The French term for rental contract is le bail, sometimes referred to as a contrat de location

Un bail nu is a rental contract for an unfurnished property, while un bail meublé is a rental contract for a furnished property. 

Le bailleur is the owner of the property, who has signed a contract to rent it to someone else. 

Le bien

When talking about real estate, the word bien is simply used to refer to the property itself, whether this is a maison (house), appartement (flat) or immeuble (building). 

READ MORE Why are Paris landlords so difficult and what can you do about it?

La caution

This is the name given to a guarantor – the person or organisation who commits to pay in the place of the renter, if the renter defaults their payments. Another term for la caution is le garant

La colocation 

When it comes to renting, la colocation is a term used to describe a situation in which you split the rent with another resident of the property. If you live en colocation with someone, it means you live in a property with other people. A colocataire is a housemate, frequently shortened to coloc

Les charges

Les charges are added costs charged on top of the property rental price itself.

In France, these often include monthly maintenance costs, rental taxes, cold water and sometimes even heating and wifi. When a rental price is advertised, it will either be listed as hors charges (HC – without charges) or avec charges comprises (CC or TCC – with charges included). You should check with the estate agent what charges you will be obliged to pay to the owner. 

Quelles charges sont inclues? – What charges are included? 

Le délai des préavis

This is the timeframe within which you must inform the property owner before leaving the property and ending their contract. Le délai des préavis is defined in the rental contract that you sign. Generally you must inform the property owner with a tracked and signed-for postal letter. 

READ MORE Renting furnished accommodation in France: What should your landlord provide?

Le dépôt de garantie

Often once you have signed a rental contract, you will be required to hand over a dépôt de garantie – a deposit often worth a couple of months of rent, which will be paid back to you at the end of your contract (unless you have damaged the property). Many landlords won’t accept to rent a property to someone who cannot provide a dépôt de garantie

Le dossier de location

If you like the look of a rental property, you will often have to prepare a dossier de location – which is a collection of documents that the landlord will inspect before offering you the chance to sign a rental contract. 

You will typically need to provide une photocopie de votre carte d’identité (a photocopy of your ID card); vos trois derniers bulletins de salaire (your last three payslips); un justificatif de domicile (proof of your current address); votre dernier avis d’imposition (your last tax return); un garant (a guarantor); votre carte de séjour (your French residence card – if needed); votre RIB (your French bank account details); and les quittances de loyer de votre dernière location (receipts of payment from the last rental property you stayed in). 

L’état des lieux 

This term refers to the inventory or inspection of a property that you will carry out with the owner or estate agent before moving in. You will also do faire un état des lieux when your rental contract comes to an end. Providing nothing is damaged, you will be able to recover your dépôt de garantie

L’investissement locatif

When you buy a property with the goal of renting it out (buy-to-let), this is known as an investissement locatif

La location

This is a term used to describe a rental property or the act of renting itself. 

READ MORE How France is making renting property (a bit) easier

Le loyer 

The amount of month you pay to rent a property is called le loyer.

Les mètres carrés 
When you browse through property ads, you’ll notice that surface areas in France are measured in mètres carrés (square metres). You may also see properties described as being T1, T2, T3 or more. The number roughly refers to the amount of rooms the property has, including bedrooms and sitting-rooms, but excluding the kitchen and bathrooms.
Une Pièce
This refers to a room, if you see a property advertised with 1 pièce it means it has one room, not one bedroom – ie it’s a studio.

La paperasse

This simply means paperwork. During the period in which you monter un dossier, there will be a lot of paperasse to go through. 

Le revenu foncier

The income you earn from rental properties is known as le revenu foncier

La sous-location 

The term for subletting is sous-location – this is legal in France depending on the kind of property you are renting. Often you will need to inform the property owner in advance. You can check what the rules are depending on your situation here

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Franglais: Why do French adverts love to use English words?

More and more French adverts use English words or phrases in a blending of languages that might strike an English-speaker as strange or odd. In reality, this is part of a wider - sometimes polarising - phenomenon that has been going on for decades.

Franglais: Why do French adverts love to use English words?

While wandering around France, you might pass by a bus stop featuring an advertisement not unlike the yogurt advertisement below.

An advertisement by a French bus stop

After examining the poster for a few seconds you might find yourself scratching your head at the seemingly random addition of these non-French words to an advertisement that is intended for French-speaking people. Or – maybe you just chuckle at the play on words with ‘milk’ (lait) and the French word for English, Anglais

And this kind of thing is far from uncommon in France, seemingly random English words are often chucked into French adverts, such as the below Ricard advert with its ‘born à Marseille’ strapline.

The use of English in French advertising is by no means a new trend. It is part of the wider – occasionally controversial – phenomenon of anglicismes – the borrowing of English terms into French that goes back centuries.

But linguist Julie Neveux says that the advertisements we see today are more likely part of a newer current – one that has taken hold in the past two to three decades: les californismes.

“It is true that English has become the language of marketing,” said linguist Neveux, a professor at Sorbonne University who has written a book on the subject: Je parle comme je suis

“The use of English has been ‘cool’ since World War II. I don’t think that has changed in the last 50 years, but in the last ten to 15 we are seeing more californismes than anglicismes.”

The term ‘californisme‘ was coined by French linguist, dictionary editor, and radio personality Alain Rey. He noted that the English words appearing in the French language in recent years are more emblematic of Silicon Valley than of the English language overall.

Neveux explains that while certain terms stem from English-language internet and tech related terms – think: cliquer, scroller, and mail – in France, californismes have become “more visible in every day life and conversation” in large part due to the election of President Emmanuel Macron. 

When campaigning in 2017, Macron lauded his desire for the country to become a ‘start-up nation.’

Macron has in many ways achieved this goal – in 2021, start-ups in France earned over €11.6 billion, an increase of 115 percent in comparison to 2020 where they earned just €5.4 billion. There are currently 27,000 start-ups, compared to the 9,400 there were in 2016, prior to Macron’s election.

These companies have gone on to create a total of nearly one million jobs, and will create 250,000 more by 2025, according to forecasts. 

So what does this have to do with franglais adverts? Well linguists say that the Silicone Valley culture – and English phrases – have influenced both the French workplace and popular culture.

Though a start-upper’s request for ‘un feedback’ might seem removed from the random English words interjected in advertisements, but the two are interconnected because they involve the same population.

“Advertisements speak to a particular audience,” explained Micha Cziffra who works as a professional translator, helping his clients find the right words in several fields, including marketing and communications.

He said that French people see English as “modern” and culturally relevant. It also comes down to audience, if the target is a young, cosmopolitan person, advertisers might use English to tap into that identity.

“It gives a cool, trendy impact,” said Cziffra.

He added that using English “still depends on the client, some do not want any words in English, and others – those who accept the ‘dominance of usage’ of English – will want it for putting a post on Facebook or Twitter.”

It is worth noting that are some limitations to using the English language marketing in France – it must always be accompanied by a translation in French, as per the Loi Toubon.

READ MORE: ‘Right to French’ : When is it illegal to use English in France?

More modern, more tech

While it is widely known that the Académie Française, the principle council for all matters related to the French language, have their qualms with the use of English words in French, some communications and marketing workers also have concerns about the impacts of these ‘in-groups’ on the rest of society.

Frédéric Fougerat is the Director of Communications for Emeria, a real estate firm. He is an outspoken critic of ‘Franglais,’ having written and spoken widely on the subject.

“In the workspace, it is often managers who impose English to make themselves appear more serious and business-oriented,” said Fougerat.

“It can become a handicap for others who do not speak or understand English as well. It can exclude them.”

He adds that the use of English is often intended to “impose hierarchy” as well as to signal one’s cosmopolitanism – pointing to international degrees and experience.

“The language of Molière is marvellous. The language of Shakespeare is marvellous. They are less marvellous when we mix them.”

A long history of mixing 

Yet, according to Julie Neveux, who refers to English and French as ‘cousin languages,’ the two have been mixed for centuries. 

Franglais is a menace that is not real. We must distinguish between language and the symbol of economic dominance of English,” said Neveux.

To her, the outcry over anglicismes is more reflective of fears of American dominance in commerce, technology, and the general global economy.

“In the 17th century, there was a panic about Italianismes – a fear that the Italian language would invade and take over from French, because Italy was an economic power at the time.” 

Neveux agrees that concern around exclusion is legitimate – older generations in France are less likely to have a strong command of the English language, and socioeconomic status can also exclude working class populations from gaining English-speaking experience abroad.

But in advertising, exclusion is the name of the game. There is, according to Neveux “an economic interest in not talking to part of the population” for selling certain products.

Even governmental announcements have audiences in mind.

Neveux looks over public announcement from Paris’ 10th arrondisement above, written in a playful mix of English and French. At first she giggles, and then she explains that there is clearly an audience in mind.

“For the Mairie du 10ème, it is clearly focused on youth. It has a humorous tone, and it’s intended to appeal to a younger generation who like to play with codes.” 

The final group concerned by English words in French advertisements is of course native English speakers themselves, as these adverts appear very different for Francophones versus Anglophones. Julie Neveux explained that this is due to the fact that once an English word is appropriated into French, it often takes on a French pronunciation and a revised meaning in the French context. This makes the English word essentially French in practice. 

“Think of the word ‘week-end‘ in French. It comes from the English term ‘weekend.’ It has a different meaning from ‘fin de la semaine’ in French because it accentuates the English idea that the working week is over,” said the linguist.

Neveux explained that in French, people say ‘je vais partir en week-end’ which translates exactly to “I am going on weekend.” The syntax of the sentence is different in French than in English, as over the last century the French word ‘week-end’ has evolved to carry its own sense.

This is why if you see an advertisement like the one below, while scratching your head trying to make out the meaning, the French person beside you may be laughing, loving the joke.