An Introduction to French Register

The Six Registers of the French Language

Low Angle View Of French Flag

Simon Jakubowski/EyeEm/Getty Images 

Register refers to the level of formality of a given word, expression, grammatical structure, gesture, or means of pronunciation. In French, there are six registers, listed here from most to least formal.

1. Literary/Refined - Littéraire/Soutenu

Literary French is an extremely formal and elegant language which is nearly always written. When spoken, it tends to be for effect and sounds snobbish or old-fashioned. Poetic French is a subcategory.

2. Formal - Formel

Formal French is polite language, both written and spoken. It is used when the speaker doesn't know, wishes to show respect for, or wants to demonstrate distance/coldness toward another person.

3. Normal - Normal

The normal register is the largest and most common category of language, what you might call everyday language. Normal French has no particular distinction (neither formal nor informal) and is the language used by and between just about everyone. It includes various subcategories of specialized and technical language, such as administrative, judicial, and scientific jargons.

4. Informal - Familier

Informal French expresses closeness and is typically used between friends and family. Baby talk and most apocopes are informal. Although informal French is grammatically correct, it is at the bottom end of what the French call bon usage (correct usage).

5. Familiar - Populaire

Familiar French is used between friends and expresses closeness verging on disrespect. Verlan and largonji are subcategories, though their individual words can range from a normal register to slang.

6. Slang (Vulgar) - Argot (Vulgaire)

Slang is vulgar, offensive, and usually insulting language, often related to sex, drugs, or violence. It may be used between friends or enemies. The familiar and vulgar registers are considered non-standard French.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Team, ThoughtCo. "An Introduction to French Register." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). An Introduction to French Register. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "An Introduction to French Register." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).