How to Express Exclamations in French

French exclamations express a desire, order, or strong emotion

multiple exclamation marks
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Exclamations are words or phrases that express a desire, an order, or a strong emotion. There are various French grammatical structures that can be used as true exclamations.

All of them end in an exclamation point, and there is always a space between the last word and the exclamation mark, as there is for several other French punctuation marks.

The exclamation mark is a grammatical end mark that occurs often in French, whether the sentence or phrase is a true exclamation or not.

It is, thus, in many instances a softer mark than in English. Exclamation points are often added even if speakers are just a little agitated or are raising their voice even slightly; the mark doesn't have to mean that they are truly exclaiming or declaring something. 

By the way, Merriam-Webster defines an "exclamation" as:

  1. a sharp or sudden utterance 

  2. a vehement expression of protest or complaint

And Larousse defines the French equivalent verb s'exclamer, as "to cry out"; for example, s'exclamer sur la beauté de quelque chose ("to cry out in admiration over the beauty of something"). 

Here are some French grammatical structures that can be used to express exclamations where urgency or a heightened emotional state is implicit.

French Imperative

The imperative expresses an order, hope, or wish, as in:

  • Viens avec nous. > Come with us.

The imperative can also express urgency or an extreme emotional state, as in:

  • Aidez-moi ! > Help me!

Que + Subjunctive

Que followed by the subjunctive creates a third person command or wish:

  • Qu'elle finisse avant midi ! > I hope she's done by noon!
  • Qu'il me laisse tranquille ! > I wish he'd just leave me alone!

Exclamative Adjective

The exclamative adjective quel is used to emphasize nouns, as in:

  • Quelle bonne idée ! > What a good idea!
  • Quel désastre ! > What a disaster!
  • Quelle loyauté il a montrée ! > What loyalty he showed!

Exclamative Adverbs

Exclamative adverbs like que or comme add emphasis to statements, as in:

  • Que c'est délicieux ! > It's so delicious!
  • Comme il est beau ! > He is so handsome!
  • Qu'est-ce qu'elle est mignonne! > She sure is cute!

The Conjunction 'Mais'

The conjunction mais ('but') can be used to emphasize a word, phrase, or statement, like this:

  • Tu viens avec nous ? > Are you coming with us? 
    Mais oui ! > Why yes!
  • Il veut nous aider. > He wants to help us. 
    Mais bien sûr ! > But of course!
  • Mais je te jure que c'est vrai ! > But I swear it's true!


Just about any French word can be an exclamation if it stands alone as an interjection, such as :

  • Voleur ! > Thief!
  • Silence ! > Quiet!

Quoi and comment, when used as interjections, express shock and disbelief, as in:

  • Quoi ! Tu as laissé tomber cent euros ? > What! You dropped a hundred euros?
  • Comment ! Il a perdu son emploi ? > What! He lost his job?

Indirect Exclamations

All of the above are called direct exclamations because the speaker is exclaiming his or her feelings of shock, disbelief, or amazement. Indirect exclamations, in which the speaker is explaining rather than exclaiming, differ from direct exclamations in three ways: They occur in sub-clauses, do not have an exclamation point, and require the same grammatical changes as indirect speech:

  • Quelle loyauté il a montrée ! > Je sais quelle loyauté il a montrée.
    What loyalty he showed! > I know what loyalty he showed.
  • Comme c'est délicieux ! > J'ai dit comme c'était délicieux.
    It's delicious! > I said it was delicious.

In addition, the exclamative adverbs que, ce que, and qu'est-ce que in direct exclamations always change to comme or combien in indirect exclamations:

  • Qu'est-ce c'est joli ! > Il a dit comme c'était joli.
    It's so pretty! > He said how pretty it was.
  • Que d'argent tu as gaspillé ! > Je sais combien d'argent tu as gaspillé.
    You've wasted so much money! > I know how much money you've wasted.
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Lawless, Laura K. "How to Express Exclamations in French." ThoughtCo, Oct. 30, 2017, Lawless, Laura K. (2017, October 30). How to Express Exclamations in French. Retrieved from Lawless, Laura K. "How to Express Exclamations in French." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 22, 2018).