Why is it important to know how to say hello in French?


Some will argue that things are changing, but la politesse is part of the French language and culture. Even if you don’t master la langue de Molière, a few words in French can go a long way. With that in mind, you might want to complement your greetings with some French slang, to strengthen your conversational skills. And actually, this rule applies to any language.

Next time you are abroad, try to greet the locals in their language and see what happens! Seeing a broad smile will also help you to overcome language anxiety.

But revenons-en à nos moutons (this expression means “Let’s get back to the point” in French). Politesse aside, learning to say hello in French is the base to initiate communication and maybe make some new friends.

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 beginners lessons for French. Here is a small recap with pronunciation:

French greeting English pronounciation Use
Bonjour /bɑn.ˈʒʊɹ/ Morning
Bonsoir /bõ.swaːʁ/ Evening
Salut /sɑˈlyː/ 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.

1. Formal greetings in French for a business setting

French English Pronounciation
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 (Ansprache in E-Mails oder Briefen) Sir/Madam meuh-sieur/ma-dam

2. Informal greeting in French for a casual setting

French English Pronounciation
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

3. Neutral

French English Pronounciation
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 bie-ehn veh-nü
Ça fait longtemps Long time no see sah-feh-lun-ton
Allô Hello (on the phone) ah-lo

4. Seasonal

French English Pronounciation
Joyeux Noël! Merry Christmas! schuah-jö-no-el
Bonne année! Happy New Year! bon-ahn-ne
Joyeuses fêtes! Season's Greetings! schuah-jös-fet
Joyeuses Pâques! Happy Easter! schuah-jös-pack
Joyeux anniversaire! Happy Birthday! schuah-jös-ani-vers-air

FAQs for French greetings

How do you use La Bise to greet someone?

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.

What are some French greeting faux-pas?

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?)

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 !

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