Greeting people and bidding them farewell are basic speech acts that we use every day. Indeed, “hello” and “goodbye” are among the first things that beginners learn in a foreign language.
As time goes on, we then learn different ways of expressing ourselves depending on the situation, the context and the person we are speaking to. But
how do you say “goodbye” in French?
Given that the right pronunciation is important, how can you avoid making mistakes and ensure you sound like a real French person when saying “au revoir”? What cultural niceties and nuances of meaning do you need to be aware of when taking French classes in France, and saying goodbye to someone you hope to see again?
1) “Au revoir” (“goodbye” – literally, “until we see each other again”) is the most common way of expressing that you hope to see someone again soon. If you’re looking for a little variety, you can also use the equivalent expression “on se revoit bientôt” (“see you soon”). Those who take an interest in the use of foreign words in French will be aware that French people sometimes use the word “ciao” (which can also be spelled “tchao”) in place of “au revoir”.
2)”Bonne journée !” (“have a good day”), “bon après-midi !” (“have a good afternoon”) or “bonne soirée !” (“have a good evening”) are alternative ways of saying goodbye in French, most often used when an activity is planned. For example, I’d say “bonne soirée” to a friend if I knew he was just heading off to the cinema. While “bonne après-midi” is acceptable, use of the feminine “bonne” here is not recommended by the Académie Française – the primary French authority on the French language – as the word “midi” is masculine.
3) Of the ways to say goodbye in French , “adieu” (which derives from “à Dieu” – “to God”) is somewhat unique as it presumes a permanent or very long-term separation. It’s as if the two people involved are arranging to meet up in the afterlife!
4) “Salut” (“bye”), another way of saying goodbye in French is used to greet people (the equivalent of “hi”) but is sometimes also used when taking your leave. It is an informal expression. Those who are wondering how to say goodbye in French will soon notice that the language of Molière offers a whole range of options!
5) “À plus” (“see you later”) is an expression used between friends and colleagues. Watch out for some common errors to avoid while learning French: “à plus” is pronounced [a plys] and is written “A+” in text messages. It’s not enough to know the meaning of “au revoir” in French, you also need to know the right pronunciation!
6) “À tout de suite” (“see you in a bit”) is an expression used when you’re going to see each other in a few minutes, after a short errand or task. “À tout à l’heure”, which is pronounced [A tut‿a lœʁ], assumes a longer break, but no more than a few hours.
If you decide to study French over the summer in Antibes, don’t be surprised if you hear locals saying “à toute !”, an expression that is commonly used in speech. “À la prochaine”, “à un de ces jours” or more familiarly “à un de ces quat’’” all belong to the same category. Although they are all somewhat vague, meaning “see you around”, these expressions relate to short periods of time between seeing someone.
7) “À demain” (“see you tomorrow”), “on se voit samedi” (“see you on Saturday”), “à la semaine prochaine” (“see you next week”) and “à l’année prochaine” (“see you next year”) all confirm a future meeting. Saying goodbye until the next time therefore gives more clarity. As for “à plus tard” [a ply taʁ], this does not specify when you’ll meet again!
8) In some very specific cases, “au plaisir !” (a contraction of “au plaisir de vous revoir” – “looking forward to seeing you again”) can be used to say goodbye in French . When you come to study French in France, take advantage of the opportunity to visit the traditional shops and markets in Antibes. After you’ve paid for your purchases, you’ll hear some traders use this expression to demonstrate that they’d love to see you return. In current usage, etiquette considers the contraction “au plaisir” to be somewhat “unrefined” and “common”. Experts in the French language advise using the full expression instead.
9) “Bon vent !” (literally “fair wind”) is less frequently used these days and is another way of saying “bonne chance !” (“good luck”). In some instances, it can be used disparagingly to express relief following the departure of someone that you don’t want to see any more.
saying goodbye in French
, don’t forget that body language matters, especially if you want to express yourself like a real French person! So “bises” (“kisses”) is used among friends and accompanied by miming blowing a kiss with your hand. Similarly, “on s’appelle” (“I’ll call you”), indicating that you’ll stay in touch, will be set off perfectly if you put an imaginary phone to your ear before leaving.