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Bonjour, mon ami francophone! (Hello, my francophone friend!) I’m glad to see you love the French language as much as I do! In some of the previous lessons, we’ve talked about French phrases, French movies and the best way to learn French, but for today’s lesson it’s time to go back to the basics and learn how to say “hello” in French. Of course, we all know and love the classic Bonjour! But what are other French greetings we could use to diversify our French conversations?
The most common way to say “hello” in French: Bonjour!
Literally meaning “good day”, Bonjour is the most commonly used French greeting. Whether you go to a restaurant, meet someone randomly on the street or enter a boulangerie (pastry shop), the French people you meet will probably greet you using Bonjour (if it’s not dark outside). If it’s getting dark, then you should consider switching to “good evening” in French: Bonsoir.
The most awesome thing about Bonjour is that it is a quite universal greeting. This means you can use it safely in all kinds of social contexts and interactions – regardless of the level of formality (or the lack of it).
But everyone wants to make a change from time to time. So let’s dive into 12 ways to say hello in French that are not Bonjour.
1. “Hi” in French – Salut!
Just as commonly used, but a bit more informal, Salut is what we could call Bonjour’s cool kid.
Meaning “hi”, “hello” or sometimes even “bye”, Salut is the informal French greeting you can use with family and friends but not with your boss or teacher.
2. “Good morning” in French – Bon matin!
European French doesn’t have an equivalent for “good morning”. So it’s good to know that while in France you shouldn’t use Bon matin. But if you happen to spend a charming morning in Paris, you can safely use – you guessed it – Bonjour!
However, if you are in Quebec, you are free to use Bon matin until 10 or 11 AM.
3. “Good afternoon” in French – Bon après-midi!
While it’s used less often than its brothers, Bon après-midi is a nice twist to Bonjour.
But take notice! French speakers generally use it when they are saying goodbye, so you should follow their lead and avoid using it at the beginning of a conversation.
4. “Good evening” in French – Bonsoir!
The same as the clasique Bonjour, Bonsoir is a universal greeting suitable for most social contexts. The only restriction is the moment of the day. So once the twilight settles in, it is safe to switch from Bonjour to Bonsoir!
5. “Good night” in French – Bonne nuit!
Literally meaning “good night”, Bonne nuit is used more as a “goodbye” than as a “hello”. So if you are spending time with your French friends, Bonne nuit is a great way to let them them know you are retiring.
6. Hello? – Allô?
Although it is not specific to face to face interactions, Allô is still considered a greeting.
Usually expressed with the raising tone of a question, Allô is what you could say over the phone to check whether the person you are talking to is still on the other end of the line or not: Allô?
7. Excuse me? – Excusez-moi?
Looking for a polite way to get someone’s attention in French? Maybe there’s someone blocking your way in the store or maybe you want to get noticed by the office clerk. In these situations, a classic greeting would be a bit redundant. So instead you could use this “question-like” Excusez-moi? that has a double meaning and works as both a greeting and a way to get someone’s attention.
8. “How are you” in French – Comment ça va?
Almost equally as notorious as Bonjour, Comment ça va? can be used the same way we use the English “how are you?”: directly on its own or together with another greeting. For example, you can simply say Comment ça va? (“How are you?) or Bonjour! Comment ça va? (”Hello! How are you?“).
If someone says Comment ça va? to you, you can respond with Ça va bien, merci! (“I’m good, thanks!”), Ça va bien. Et toi? (“I’m good. And you?”) or Pas mal (“Not bad”).
Or you can play it simple, follow the lead of the French speakers and answer directly with Et toi? (“And you?”) since the Ça va bien (“I’m good”) answer is usually implied.
9. What’s up? – Ça va?
The English translation of Ça va?, the little and cooler brother of Comment ça va?, is “how’s it going” or literally “does it go?” and it can be used exactly the same like in the previous examples.
The only slight difference is the level for formality associated of each phrase: Ça va? is obviously more suitable for informal interactions with friends and family.
10. What’s up? – Quoi de neuf?
Want to spice up and diversify your “ça-va”s? Go with the informal Quoi de neuf that translates to “what’s up?” or “what’s new?”.
11. The cute Bonjour: Coucou!
Coucou is definitely the cutest “hello” you’ll ever hear in French. It literally means “cuckoo” and it is used the same way we use “hey!” in English.
Although extremely cute, you shouln’t use Coucou in formal contexts. It would be a bit weird to greet your boss using Coucou, wouldn’t it?
12. How’s it going? – Ça roule?
A last native touch to our list of ways to say “hello” in French is Ça roule. Literally meaning “that rolls”, Ça roule is yet another way of asking someone “how’s it going?” or “how are things?”.
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