Firstly, how do you actually say “hello” in French?

The most common greeting in French is the very useful “bonjour”, and “bonsoir”. The first can be used throughout the day, and the second in the evening. “Salut” is also widely used in a more informal setting. These are the most basic greetings that will commonly be learned in lessons for French for kids.

Here is a small recap with pronunciation:

French greeting English translation IPA pronunciation Pronunciation for English speakers Use
Bonjour Good morning /bɑn.ˈʒʊɹ/ bohn-jhoor Morning
Bonsoir Good evening /bõ.swaːʁ/ bohn-swahr Evening
Salut Hi/Hey/Hello /sɑˈlyː/ sah-loo Informal setting

23 other ways to say hi in French

If you’re having a hard time proncuniating French words as a local - or almost - the International Phonetic Alphabet can help. It’s easy to learn and will help you with any language you study in the future.

Everytime you look for a word in a language book, dictionary, translator or online ressource, you will notice the IPA pronunciation next to it, like in the table above. In no time, your French will sound parfait!

But for now, let’s have a look at other ways to say “hello”, or “hello how are you” in French, with their respective pronunciations for English speakers.

I. Formal greetings in French for a business setting

French: English Pronunciation
Enchanté(e) (de faire votre connaissance) Nice/pleasure to meet you ahn-shant-ay (duh-fair-vo-truh-co-nay-sanse)
Ravi(e) de faire votre connaissance Nice/pleasure to meet you ravee-duh-fair-vo-truh-co-nay-sanse
Monsieur/Madame (for an email or letter) Sir/Madam meuh-sieur/ma-dam

II. Informal greeting in French for a casual setting

French: English: Pronunciation:
Coucou Hey there coo-coo
Quoi de neuf ? What’s up? quah-du-nuff
Ça roule ? How is it going? sa-rule
Comment vas-tu ? How are you? como-vah-tu
Tu vas bien ? Are you doing well? tu-va-be-unh
Quoi de beau ? What’s new? quah-du-bo
Ça baigne ? How is it going? sah-banyuh
Salut toi Hey you sah-lu-twah
Salut ma belle Hey beautiful (feminine) sah-lu-mah-bell
Salut mon grand/salut ma grande Hi kiddo (usually for a child) sah-lu-mon-gran/sah-lu-mah-grand
Salut ma puce Hi sweetie (usually for a child) sah-lu-mah-puce

III. Neutral

French: English Pronunciation
Ça va? How are you? sah-vah
Comment allez-vous ? How are you? como-allay-voo
Comment ça va ? How are you? como-sa-vah
Vous allez bien ? Are you doing well? voo-za-le-be-unh
Bienvenue Welcome ee-ehn veh-noo
Ça fait longtemps Long time no see sah-feh-lun-ton
Allô (on the phone) Hello ah-low

IV. Seasonal

French: English: Pronunciation:
Joyeux Noël ! Merry Christmas! juah-yew-no-el
Bonne année ! Happy New Year! bon-ahn-ne
Joyeuses fêtes !: Season’s Greetings! juah-yews-fet
Joyeuses Pâques ! Happy Easter! juah-yews-pack
Joyeux anniversaire ! Happy birthday! juah-yews-ani-vers-air

FAQs for French greetings

The famous “bise” is unavoidable in France - COVID aside. While it can be unsettling for travelers, you can’t say you've been to France until you kiss - or air kiss - someone on both cheeks. And it’s not just for casual greetings. While shaking hands is common in the French business world, it’s not unusual to see coworkers, male or female, se faire la bise.

Did you know? 

The amount of kisses and the direction varies according to the region. When in doubt, wait for the other person to start and you will avoid an uncomfortable situation. If it happens, don’t worry! It happens to French people too.

Faux-pas are part of any real cultural and language immersion. But some can be avoided.

Faux-pas nº1: Being too enthusiastic

Yes, this goes for you, happy reader! In France, people will be polite, but they might give you a weird look if you are too cheery. Things are quite different in Québec, where locals tend to be more welcoming.

Faux-pas nº2: Getting confused between “tu” and “vous”

While this problem does not exist in English, it’s important to learn how to use the right level of politeness in France. “Vous” is more formal, and generally used between people who don’t know each other. In doubt, always use “vous” and ask the person : “Puis-je vous tutoyer ?” (Can I use “tu” with you?)

Faux-pas nº3: Hugging instead of la bise

La bise can be unsettling for many visitors. Well, for French people, a hug can be perceived as an invasion of their personal space and is only used with family, partners or very close friends.

And speaking of faux-pas, these cultural don’ts to attend a dinner party in France might help you to avoid“mettre les pieds dans le plat” (to put one's foot in one's mouth).

We hope this article not only taught you to say hello in French, but also the basics of French culture. Equipped with these greeting tools, there is no doubt you will create a great first impression the next time you meet a French speaker.

The only thing left to say is : Au revoir et à bientôt !