First impressions matter. Especially if you’re in France. Knowing how to say hello and goodbye in French is crucial to achieving fluency in the language. And while pronouncing “bonjour” right may seem like a small task, there are plenty more greetings in the French language. Discover all the greetings in French, and make your introductions memorable.
Cheek kissing called “la bise” is very common in France. Although it’s mostly reserved for women, men who are close friends can also do it. However, the cheek kissing rules vary depending on the country and the region that you are visiting. In Belgium, for example, you should greet everyone younger than you are or in the same generation with a single kiss. People older than you receive three kisses, starting with the right cheek. In France, the number of cheek kisses varies based on regions. This funny map will show you how many kisses are traditionally given. The usual is two, but some provinces give up to four.
This is quite confusing, especially if you are visiting these countries for the first time. The good news is that when you meet a French person for the first time, shaking hands is acceptable. Be keen and learn how other people are interacting, and you should be able to quickly determine the cheek kiss standard of the region you are staying in.
Below are French greetings that you’ll find useful if you want to say hello to anyone in France. Don’t worry about your accent or pronunciation. It’s more important that you try at first. Give these French hellos a go, and impress the locals quickly.
This is the easiest French greeting, and it works both in a formal and informal setting. If you’re learning French, it’s probably the first greeting you encounter. In the evening, replace bonjour with bonsoir (good evening). Depending on the time, bonjour or bonsoir is a perfect greeting for people you meet for the first time.
This French greeting is for the people you often see or know well. It is an informal greeting, and you should not use it in a formal setting.
This is a very informal greeting. You should only use it when addressing close friends and family. If you use it in formal settings, you may attract many stares, ending up embarrassed.
While this is an informal greeting, it’s more often used as a conversation starter in French.
This is only used over the phone to establish whether a person is on the line. You can also use it to get the attention of a person who has not heard you.
The following are customary goodbye French phrases.
This is a standard salutation and is acceptable in both formal and informal settings. Individuals in the French-speaking countries consider it rude if you leave a room or hang up the phone without using the phrase.
Confusing, right? This greeting can be used to say both bye and hi. It is also an informal way of saying bye, and you should not use it when in a formal setting.
Even though the phrase is Italian, it has gained popularity among young French speakers. It is mostly used in informal settings.
This phrase can be used in both an informal and formal setting. The main reason for using it is to emphasize on the urgency. The pronoun y should always come before aller if you have not mentioned the location you are going.
When the speaker is female, an extra “e” is added at the end. The pronunciation of the word does not change; however, it is a grammatical requirement of the language that is shown on paper.
“À plus tard” is standard is goodbye, and “À plus” the informal version. You can use it when you are sure that you will meet a person again, such as a friend or acquaintance, but you are not sure when that will be. If you use it in a formal setting, ensure that you know the person well enough, and you often meet them.
This is an expression to use when parting with friends, who you will meet again later in the day.
You can replace the word “demain” with any other day of the week if you are certain that you will meet the individual soon. If you are uncertain about the exact day of the meeting, do not use a day of the week.
Asking a person how they are doing is common in the US. You likely use this greeting when starting almost every conversation. French-speaking countries are also keen to use these pleasantries in their conversations. The following are the most common ways of asking how someone is doing:
There are many possible responses when someone asks how you are doing. The sample responses are as below.
Once you have responded that you are fine, it is expected that you will ask how the person greeting you is doing. If you are in an informal setting, you can ask, “Et toi?” or if you are in a formal setting, you can ask, “Et vous?” Both mean “and you?”
Other than good morning, good evening, or how are you doing? Other phrases are also quite useful. Some of them are:
In a formal setting, it is courteous to indicate that you are happy to meet an individual after introducing themselves. This is the perfect phrase for doing so.
This is a common greeting used by old friends.
Here are the most basic rules of greeting people in France you should know:
Learning these French greetings is the first step in learning French. It’s some of the most common forms of communication in a foreign language. And if you’d like to continue your journey with only the most useful French phrases, you need OptiLingo.
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