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Essential French Vocabulary: Greetings, Introductions, and More Social Phrases

February 13, 2023

Essential French Vocabulary: Greetings, Introductions, and More Social Phrases

Congratulations! You’ve landed in a French-speaking country, and you’re ready to converse with the locals. However, you quickly realize that despite your years of studying French, you don’t know the first thing about how to say hello, introduce yourself, or ask for directions. Don’t worry – we’ll get you up to speed in no time. 

Ready to say hello to the French-speaking world? Heading to a French-speaking country soon? Chances are you’d love to get a head start on some useful French greetings and phrases.

In this article, we’ll cover the most important French phrases you’ll need for greetings, farewells, and introductions, in addition to a few others just for fun. But first – check out this quick video tutorial for some helpful pronunciation tips!

This post will teach you some essential French social phrases so that you can feel more confident when interacting with native speakers. Let’s get started!

What Are Some French Vocabulary Words?

Do you want to learn some French vocabulary words? Some of the most commonly used French words in introductory greetings are:

  • Bonjour
  • Bonsoir
  • Comment-allez vous?
  • Je ne vais pas bien
  • Et vous?
  • Comment vous appelez-vous?
  • Je m’appelle
  • Au revoir!

Not sure how to get started with mastering these simple greetings and phrases? Sign up for French lessons! You’ll learn everything you need to know, like what you see in the video below: 

Advanced French Vocabulary List for Greetings, Introductions, and More

In order to help you greet other people in French and introduce yourself, here is a list of useful vocabulary words. This will give you the basics to get started speaking French with confidence.

1) Bonjour!

This is probably the most universally recognized French greeting. It literally means “Good day!” It can be used in the morning or during the day. If it’s still the morning and you are tempted to say “good morning,” though, be careful. The literal translation of the English greeting is “bon matin,” but this phrase doesn’t actually exist in French. Just say “bonjour.”

2) Bonsoir!
Good evening!

Bon” means good and “soir” means evening. Pretty logical. Unlike anglicized attempts at good morning, this one works. Use it appropriately :).

3) Comment-allez vous?
How are you?

Allez technically is a form of the verb aller (to go), but doesn’t translate that way in this situation. French has two levels of formality when speaking to one person. This is the more respectful version. (Note the use of vous” instead of “tu.”) If you are speaking with a friend, you can also say, “Comment vas-tu?”

4) Je vais tres bien, merci.
I’m doing very well, thank you.

It can be shortened to Tres bien, merci (Very well, thank you).

5) Je ne vais pas bien. / Je vais mal. / Comme ci comme ça.
I am not doing well. / I am doing badly. / (I’m doing) so-so.

Probably you won’t say this to a stranger or to a superior or colleague if you’re trying to be polite. Around family members, friends, or the doctor, however, it may be in your interest and theirs to give an honest response.

6) Et vous?
And you? How about you?

You can use this after someone has asked you a question, you’ve (most likely) responded, and you want to ask them the same question. As in #3, this is the formal form. The informal version is, “Et tu?”

7) Comment vous appelez-vous?
What’s your name?

Appeler is a French verb meaning “to call,” so you are literally asking what they call themselves. Again, this is the more formal form. To speak to a peer, say, “comment t’appelles-tu?”

8) Je m’appelle _____________.
My name is _____________.

Use this to respond to #7, inserting your name in the space.

9) Au revoir!
Until (we) see (each other) again! See you later!

Au means “to the,” and in this context, until. Revoir means to see again.

10) A tout a l’heure!
See you (very) soon!

Usually this is used when two peers, friends, or colleagues must part temporarily, but will see each other later the same day.

11) A demain!
See you tomorrow! More literally: Until tomorrow!

12) A plus tard!
See you later! More literally: Until later!

This can be used if you will see the person again the same day, or also if you will see them again soon, but you aren’t sure exactly when. For instance, in may be that you see them once or several times a week, and so for the two of you, if you see them in a few days, it’s still considered to be relatively soon.

13) Adieu!
Good-bye (forever)!

Hopefully you will not have say this one too often. Sometimes it is used dramatically in movies or plays when someone is on their deathbed.

14) J’aime la France!
I like / love France!

Technically, adorer is a stronger “like” verb than aimer, which is safely translated to “like,” and sometimes translated to “love.” If you want to state more strongly how much you like France, say, “J’adore la France!

15) C’est toute la faute du gouvernment!
It’s all the fault of the government!

When I was in second year French, another French speaker who had studied abroad in France told me that French people tend to blame the government for many things that go wrong. (This sometimes has a ring of truth to it.) She went on to tell me that whenever I didn’t know the answer, I could always use this phrase. So now I pass it on to you. If you’re not sure, just blame it on the government!

Making Introductions: French Family Vocabulary

It’s always a little nerve-wracking meeting someone new, especially if you’re not sure how to say “hello” in their language. 

Luckily, learning some key French family vocabulary can help to make introductions a bit easier. 

For example, the word for “mother” is “mère,” while the word for “father” is “père.” To say “brother,” you would say “frère,” and to say “sister,” you would say “soeur.” 

As you can see, many of these words are similar to their English counterparts, making them relatively easy to remember. 

With a few key French family words in your toolkit, you’ll be ready to introduce yourself to anyone. Bonne chance!

How Can I Memorize French Vocabulary?

There are a number of different techniques that can be used to memorize French vocabulary. 

One effective method is to create a system of flashcards. On one side of the card, write the French word, and on the other side, write the English translation. Then, test yourself by flipping over the cards and trying to recall the meaning of the French word.

 If you need extra help, you can also include a brief definition or example sentence. 

Another helpful strategy is to keep a French-English dictionary close at hand and frequently look up new words. As you encounter new vocabulary in French in your reading and conversation, take note of the words and make sure to look them up later. 

By regularly expanding your French vocabulary, you will be better able to hold conversations and understand written texts.

Basic French Vocabulary List: Start Practicing Today

Greetings are one of the first things you learn when beginning to study a new language. When you meet someone new, the first thing you usually say is “hello” or “goodbye”. Even if you don’t know much else, these simple phrases can help you start a conversation. 

If you’re learning French, you may be surprised to learn that many of the words used in greetings are similar to English. In fact, English and French share a lot of vocabulary, thanks to their shared history. 

With this essential French vocabulary list, you’ll be able to introduce yourself and others with ease. Plus, we’ve included tips on how to use each word in a sentence so you can start speaking French today!

Sharpen your French conversation skills by studying with a private tutor. French tutors are available to work with you online via Skype or in-person depending on your location and availability. Search for your French tutor today!

Carol Beth

Carol Beth L. teaches French in San Francisco, CA. She has a Masters in French language education from the Sorbonne University in Paris and has been teaching since 2009. Learn more about Carol Beth here!



Photo by Barry Pousman


Suzy S.