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15 French Greetings: A Guide to How Say Hello in French

May 13, 2022

15 French Greetings: A Guide to How Say Hello in French

Greetings in French Language

How much do you know about French greetings and salutations? Learning how to say “good morning” in French, along with other basic French phrases, is usually the first task that aspiring French speakers take on. From there, the possibilities are endless. Just look at these three different options for how to say hello and have a goo day in French:

Bonjour Hello (Good Morning)
Salut Hi
Coucou Hey
Âllo Hello
Bonsoir Hello (Good Evening)

Properly greeting someone can open up new connections as well as deepen existing ones. Pronouncing “Hello” and “how are you?” in French correctly may seem like a small feat, but it can have a big impact on your conversations with French speakers throughout the world.

While bonjour is a great option and will get you by in any passing conversation, there are so many other friendly French salutations at your disposal. You’ll find ones for greeting an old friend and others for telling that same friend you’ll catch up with them again in the future. You’ll even come across phrases to use with strangers. All of these phrases will improve your knowledge of the French language and impress your bilingual friends. 

Let’s take a look at some common phrases you can use to say hello, and make an excellent first impression!

What Are the 15 Most Important French Greetings?

The most important French greetings include bonjour (hello), enchanté(e) (nice to meet you), bonsoir (good evening/hello), salut (hi), coucou (hey), Ça fait longtemps, dis donc (long time no see), Âllo (hello), Ça va? (how are you?), tu vas bien? (have you been well?), quoi de neuf? (what’s up?), au revoir! (goodbye), salut (bye), ciao (see ya!), À plus! (later), À demain! (see you tomorrow).

Just like with other Romantic languages, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to greeting others in French. The words or phrases you use depends on your relationship with the other person, the time of day, and the social setting. Properly greeting people is polite, so knowing when to use each option is as critical as knowing the greeting itself. Remember that a good first impression, especially with a romantic interest, coworker, or potential friend, can last a lifetime.

After we cover the fundamental phrases you need to know—and should know—we’ll also look at some basics of French etiquette, including the dos and don’ts of saying hello to casual acquaintances and close friends with the language. 

To get a jump start on pronouncing some of these common greetings, check out this short video! Then, we’ll dive into greater detail of how to properly greet and open a conversation below.

Informal and Formal French Salutations

1. Bonjour – Good morning / hello

Wondering how to say “good morning” in French? You can use bonjour to say either “good morning” or “hello” to someone when you’re seeing them for the first time of the day—similar to “aloha” in Hawaiian. If you are wondering what is “good afternoon” in French it’s appropriate to use a less formal version of “hello.”

2. Enchanté(e) – Nice to meet you

In a more formal setting, it’s polite to indicate that you’re delighted to meet someone after they introduce themselves, and this phrase is the perfect way to do so. It shows that you are actually pleased to meet someone new. Who knows? It could lead to a beautiful friendship in the future.

3. Bonsoir – Good evening / hello

This phrase for “good evening” in French is used in similar situations as bonjour but is reserved for the evening. 

4. Salut – Hi

Considered one of the more casual greetings in French, salut is appropriate when you see someone again later in the day.

5. Coucou – Hey

Close friends, like the ones you’re sure to make because of this new language skill, use this casual French salutation often. You can skip the formal bonjour and use this word, or even ciao, when seeing close comrades.

SEE ALSO: 50 Inspiring French Quotes

6. Ça fait longtemps, dis donc – Long time, no see

A typical greeting between old friends, young French people tend to use this phrase often.

7. Âllo – Hello

This French salutation is used exclusively for conversations on the telephone.

8. Ça va? – How are you?

A very simple way to ask someone how they are doing is to say Ça va? It’s a condensed version of the question Comment ça va? – How are you doing? Either version is correct and can be used in formal and casual settings with just about anyone.

9. Tu vas bien? – How are you doing?

Literally translated to “are you doing well?” This is a polite way to ask someone how they are when you’re expecting a positive reply. Hopefully, when you ask this question, you’ve assumed correctly.

10. Quoi de neuf? – What’s up?

This is a very casual option for how to say hello in French, so we recommend using it only with close friends. Strangers or even friends of friends may feel a little put off by an informal question like this from someone they don’t know.

RELATED: 50 Beautiful French Words

French Phrases to Use When Parting

Now that you know common ways to welcome friends when you see them, you need to learn how to properly part ways, such as “see you later” in French.  Just like with greetings, these parting phrases can differ based on the context and the familiarity with the person.

11. Au revoir! – Goodbye!

Rather formal, this is a safe way to say goodbye in French no matter the social setting or whether you know the person well or not.

12. Salut! – Bye!

This French word for “goodbye” is much more casual than au revoir. In proper French etiquette, you would normally use this with very close friends and family members at the end of a regular get-together. 

13. Ciao! – See ya!

This phrase is Italian in origin, but is popular among the younger French population and international speakers around the world.

14. À plus! – Later!

This is one of those easy, casual, and friendly greetings in French and a simple way to indicate that you’ll see them at a later, unspecified time.

15. À demain! – See you tomorrow!

The word demain can be replaced with any day of the week if you know that you will see the other person soon.

Dos and Don’ts for How to Say Hello in French

Each language has a laundry list of do’s and don’ts, and French is no different. If you’d like to make a positive impression and avoid offending anyone, follow along for our tips on etiquette for how to say hello in French.

The proper etiquette for greeting people in France relies on a few factors. While it’s expected and considered polite to greet everyone, from colleagues to shopkeepers, the way you greet each person depends on your relationship and the setting. Friends and strangers require different greeting and parting phrases. For example:

  • Les bises (kisses) are a typical greeting when meeting friends in France. You wouldn’t do this in a formal or business setting.

Depending on the region of France, la bise can include one, two, or even three little kisses on the cheek. If in doubt, let the other person initiate and move to one side of your face or the other. The kisses generally begin on the right side of the face.

  • A handshake is a greeting that is reserved for formal or business settings.

When entering a meeting for work, it’s normal for colleagues to offer a firm handshake because it means that you mean business. It’s also common for men to greet with a handshake rather than with une bise.

  • A hug, contrary to American greetings, is reserved for close family members or significant others only. Wondering how to say “family” in French? It’s une famille.

A hug is seen as an invasion of privacy to the French, and can make someone feel uncomfortable if you don’t know them well enough. Save your hugs for your close friends and family members at get-togethers and holiday gatherings.

Learn More Greetings in French

These greetings in French are just the beginning of a beautiful conversation in the language. These helpful guides can provide you with the phrases you need to carry your conversations further:

Want to learn even more French? Your options are endless with TakeLessons! To start, try working one-on-one with a French tutor near you. If you want even greater levels of flexibility, online French classes make it possible to work with a French teacher anywhere in the world or from the comfort of your own home.

No matter what your goals are when it comes to learning French greetings, we wish you the best on your linguistic journey. Au revoir!

Post Author: Jinky B.
Jinky B. teaches French and ESL. She has her Bachelors in French, French Literature, and Psychology from Florida State University and has been teaching since 2008. Learn more about Jinky B. here!

Suzy S.