Knowing how to say bonjour, bonsoir and au revoir is enough for any situation where you would have to greet someone – or take your leave. It might be quite a challenge to say it right at first because of the nasal sounds (you can recognize them now that you studied how to read french, right ?), but once you get it, you are covered. But as your interest in learning and understanding French is growing, covered isn’t what you’ll settle for, right ? So let’s learn about the most used (and varied) ways to say hello in French – and goodbye, too.
Greeting : saying Hello in french
Bonsoir and Bonjour are the safest way to say hello in French. They are used for both formal and informal situation, so you’d say this to your boss as well as to your friend. Literally, you’re wishing a “good day” (bon jour) or a “good evening” (bon soir), so, as you can guess, you must to pay attention to the time of the day.
Say bonjour from early morning until sunset, and bonsoir when it’s already dark.
If you mistake one for the other, you might here your interlocutor correct you with a smile or even a laughter : Bonsoir, pas bonjour, il est déjà tard ! – there will be no offense meant, as it happens to everyone of us too by distraction, from time to time.
Salut, Hello (informal)
Salut is a very common informal alternative to say hello in French, and you’ll hear it a lot in all kind of situations, provided the atmosphere isn’t too formal : inside a family, between friends or colleagues, or even in certain circumstances with people you just met if the context allows it (like in a music festival for example). We might also use Hello as a perfect equivalent, although it’s less commonly used.
Coucou (very informal)
You might hear friends or family members say Coucou. This is a very affective way of greeting, it’s a word that we use for addressing to young children or babies ; in all cases it demonstrates some kind of affection.
Taking your leave : saying goodbye in french
Au revoir, Bonsoir
Au revoir is the safe play here, it can be told to anyone, at any time of the day. Litterally, you’re mentioning the next time you’ll meet, but you can actually use it if you don’t know whether you are ever going to meet again. It’s the perfect equivalent to “goodbye”. Bonsoir is a polite alternative when it’s already dark. Yes, it can be used for saying both hello and goodbye !
Say au revoir anytime, and bonsoir when it’s already dark.
Wishes for the day
You might hear people wish you a Bonne journée or a Bonne soirée. They’re literally wishing you a good day to come, or a good evening, so once again you must take into account the time of the day.
Actually, we often get more specific than that, and wish a Bonne matinée (a good morning), a Bonne après-midi (a good afternoon), or even a Bonne fin de matinée (a good end of the morning), a Bonne fin d’après-midi (a good end of afternoon) or a Bonne fin de soirée (a good end of evening).
We also use Bonne nuit, but it is generally a wish for a good night sleep and we use it only at the very end of the day.
All these might be understood more like actual wishes to enjoy the time to come, unlike “Au revoir” and “Bonsoir” that only demonstrate education, and it’s a good way to show you’re actually caring. You can also prefix them by Passez une… (lit. Spend a…). For example, “Passez une bonne soirée !”
Bye, Chao (informal)
Yes, we also use the English Bye and the Italian Chao. Of course, it’s very informal.
When taking your leave, you might want to refer to the next time you’ll meet with your interlocutor. It might be a polite way of expressing that you wish this to happen, or a kind reminder for some later date you agreed on to talk to each other.
The basic construction is À + (future date) (lit. To that date, but it means : see you on that date), which you can basically fill up with any date, but here are a few commonly used cases that you will hear a lot :
- À bientôt (see you soon)
- À demain (see you tomorrow)
- À plus tard (see you to later)
(or only À plus, in a very informal context)
- À toute à l’heure (see you later) – but you’re referring to later today
(or only À toute, in a very informal context)
- À la prochaine (see you next [time]) (quite informal)
Adieu is not a word that you’ll use or hear often hopefully, it means goodbye with the idea that you’ll never meet or be met again. It is literally a recommendation “to God”.
We also use it in a less dramatic way, bidding farewell to anything that’s ending and gone for good : a station, a love, a grief, holidays, a work, worries, anything :
- Adieu les soucis ! Goodbye worries !
- Adieu les vacances ! goodbye holidays!
- Adieu l’hivers, voici le printemps ! Farewell winter, here comes the spring!
Et voilà ! You learnt all the different ways that we say Hello in French, and also goodbye.
Au revoir, passez une bonne journée (ou une bonne soirée), et à bientôt sur language-easy.org !
Goodbye, have a good day (or evening), and see you soon on language-easy.org !