How much do you know about French greetings and salutations? Learn the do’s, don’ts, and phrases to know in this post by French tutor Jinky B...
Traveling to a foreign country can be quite exciting. For French learners, maybe you have your eye on Paris, Versailles, or Nice.
This is your opportunity to explore the culture and really use all the French that you’ve been learning and practicing!
But all the preparation may come to a startling halt if you’re not sure how to approach or greet someone in France. Here are a few tips to make the interaction less daunting and to make a great first impression.
French Greetings – The Do’s and Don’ts
The etiquette on greeting people in France depends on a few factors. While it’s expected and considered polite to greet everyone, whether it’s your colleague or a shopkeeper in the magasin (store), the way you greet each person depends on your relationship with them and the social setting.
- Les bises (the kisses) are a typical greeting when meeting friends in France.
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 business or formal settings.
When entering a meeting for work, it’s normal for colleagues to offer a firm handshake. 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.
A hug is seen as an invasion of privacy to the French and can make someone feel awkward or uncomfortable.
French Phrases to Know – Greetings & Salutations
As with proper French greeting etiquette, the correct “hello” depends on your relationship with the other person and the social context.
1. Bonjour – Good morning & hello
Use bonjour to say “good morning” or “hello” to someone for the first time seeing them in a day. If you encounter the same person again later in the day, it’s appropriate to use a less formal hello.
2. Enchanté(e) – Nice to meet you.
In a more formal setting, it’s polite to indicate that you are “delighted” to meet someone after they introduce themselves.
3. Bonsoir – Good evening & hello
This greeting is used in similar situations as bonjour, but reserved for the evening.
4. Salut – Hi
Considered to be a more casual greeting, using salut is appropriate when you see someone again later in the day.
5. Coucou – Hey
Close friends use this greeting often. You can skip the formal bonjour and use this, or even ciao, when seeing these close comrades.
6. Ça fait longtemps, dis donc! – Long time, no see!
An ideal greeting between good friends, young French people tend to use this phrase when meeting up.
7. Âllo – Hello
This greeting 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 is correct and can be used in formal or more casual settings.
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.
10. Quoi de neuf? – What’s up?
This is very casual, so I recommend using with close friends.
11. Au revoir! – Goodbye!
Rather formal, this is a safe way to say goodbye, no matter the social setting.
12. Salut! – Bye!
This is more casual than au revoir, but is very appropriate when leaving someone.
13. Ciao! – See ya!
This is Italian in origin, but is popular among the younger French population.
14. À plus! – Later!
This is an easy way to indicate you’ll see someone later, but at an unspecific time.
15. À demain! – See you tomorrow!
The demain can be replaced with any day of the week if you know that you will see the other person soon.
Learn More French Phrases
Once you’ve mastered these French greetings and salutations, you can fill in the middle with great conversation! Here are some additional guides to check out:
- 25 Conversational French Phrases Every Beginner Should Know [Audio]
- 22 MORE Useful French Phrases for Striking Up a Conversation
- Top 8 French Phrases You’ll Need to Know Before Traveling in France
- Bon Voyage: 5 Useful French Phrases for Travelers
Photo by Garry Knight