If you’re going to chat like a native speaker, you’ll need to know various forms of greeting. For example, at the beginning of the day, everyone knows that it is customary to say “bonjour” (“hello”) to people that we meet.
But are there other ways of greeting people? Which
French translation of “hello”
is the most appropriate in a given situation?
Knowing the right greeting to use depending on the circumstances and the person or people you are speaking to is undoubtedly an advantage if you want to communicate with others. So much so, that it’s just as useful as reading about our ten tips for learning French quickly!
1) When you say “bonjour”, you are literally wishing someone a “good day”. In a formal situation, it’s important to use the title of the person you are speaking to, so: “Bonjour madame” (“Good day, madam”) or “Bonjour monsieur” (“Good day, sir”). “Bonjour” can be used as you enter a waiting room, lift or shop... With friends or loved ones, some people still kiss each other on the cheeks.
If you come to learn French in summer, you’ll notice that on the French Riviera, locals give two kisses and they generally offer the left cheek!
2) Until what time can you use “bonjour”? Learning French in France, you’ll see that even French people can’t give an exact answer to this question! Generally speaking, it’s when the day is reaching an end that the term “bonsoir” (“good evening”) really finds its meaning.
3) “Coucou” (/kuku) is a greeting that is reserved for those close to you, and it’s a good way of
saying “hi” in French
. When “coucou” is used as a common noun, it means a quick hello designed to show that we’re here. “Je passerai te faire un petit coucou” is a way of saying “I’ll pop by soon”.
4) The word “salut” in French (/saly) is used both to greet people and to take your leave. It’s used with people that you’re on familiar terms with – whom you would generally address using the informal “tu”. “Salut, tu/vas/bien” (“Hi, you okay?) is a famous line from the comedy sketch Auteuil, Neuilly, Passy by Les Inconnus, which parodies Parisian “bobos” (wealthy urbanites with a social conscience).
5) Various informal expressions can also be used to say hi in French . “Ça roule ?”, “Ça baigne ?” and “Ça gaze ?” are all familiar ways of asking how a friend is or whether a situation is going okay. “Ça roule” can also be used to express agreement. “Tu veux venir voir un film ce soir ?” “Ok ça roule !” (“Do you want to go and see a movie this evening?” “Sure!”) On the other hand, if someone asks you: “Ça baigne avec tes nouveaux collègues ?”, then they’re asking how things are going with your new colleagues.
6) “Enchanté !” is the natural way to express pleasure at making someone’s acquaintance. The word, which conveys being delighted and satisfied, cannot be translated simply as “pleased to meet you”. Since the full version would be “je suis enchanté de faire votre connaissance” (“I am delighted to make your acquaintance), cutting this down to simply “enchanté” suggests that you are not inclined to devote time to the person you are speaking to. This is why those with a penchant for etiquette advise against using it.
7) How do you say hello in French when you’re on the telephone? This raises the question of whether the word “Allô”, a word which appeared in France in the late nineteenth century, should be included in this list. It is what grammar experts would call an “interjection”: “Allô, qui est à l’appareil ?” (“Hello, who’s calling?”) When speaking French, there are some common errors to avoid that you should be aware of. In France, “allô” is used to start a conversation on the telephone. Don’t confuse it with the English greeting “hello” or the “allo” used in Quebec as a general opener.
8) How would you say
“Hello, how are you?” to friends in French?
“Ça va bien ?” (“How are you?”) is a very commonly heard question. You can reply “ça va, merci” (“Fine thanks”), “tout va bien” (I’m well”) or “ça roule” (“Okay”). If you’re not in great shape or you’re feeling a bit low, it would be more appropriate to say “comme ci, comme ça” (“So-so”) or “comme un lundi” (literally “like a Monday”, not great).
9) What is a more polite way of saying “hello, how are you?” in French? “Comment allez-vous ?” (“How are you?”) is a more formal expression that you can use to inquire after the health of a neighbour, a superior at work or someone you don’t know.
10) Saying hello in French also requires knowing some expressions which are slightly less frequently used today. “Quoi de neuf ?” (“What’s new?” – “neuf” is a synonym for “nouveau” here) is one of the expressions that can be used to seek some updated information.