cheers in French

Cheers in French: 10 Different Ways to Make a Toast

Some time ago, I found myself sitting in the kitchen with my French friend Julie, begging for her help after being invited to make a toast at my friend’s wedding in French.

Julie happily told me all about French toasting culture, from a little history to warning me about a couple of potential faux pas to avoid.

Today I’m going to share what she told me!


How to Say Cheers in Different Situations

1. Portons un toast (Let’s make a toast)

If you’re at a formal occasion, such as a wedding or a dinner party, you might want to drink a toast to your hosts or to the guests of honor.

The proper French term for making a toast (albeit with a loan from English) is porter un toast. If you’d like your fellow guests to drink with you, you can say, “Portons un toast.” (Let’s make a toast.)

2. Levons nos verres à… (Let’s raise our glass to…)

An alternative to porter un toast is lever nos verres (to raise our glasses).

You might lift your wine glass and suggest, “Levons nos verres aux mariés.” (Let’s raise our glasses to the newlyweds.)

3. Je lève mon verre à… (I raise my glass to…)

Maybe you want to be a little less demanding in your suggestion for a toast, so you choose to start the trend with your own example.

If you’re at a formal gathering for le Quatorze juillet (July 14th, or Bastille Day), you might say, “Je lève mon verre à la liberté.” (I raise my glass to freedom.)

4. À ta/votre santé (To your health)

Of course, not all toasts are made for special occasions. À votre santé (To your health, plural/formal) is used commonly as a generic toast.

If you’re only drinking with one other person and it’s someone you know well, you’d probably use the singular informal version, À ta santé.

5. Santé (Health)

Don’t fret too much over whether to use à votre santé or à ta santé.

It’s very common to just use santé (health) all by itself as a toast. It’s a safe option for both formal and informal contexts.

6. À la nôtre/vôtre/tienne (To yours)

There’s another twist to the popular à votre santé toasting formula: informal French toasts often drop the word santé (health) and just use à la nôtre (to ours) or à la vôtre (to yours). In this context, the word health is just assumed.

If you’re toasting a good friend one-on-one, you’d say, À la tienne (to your [health], singular informal).

7. On trinque? (Shall we toast?)

If you’re feeling festive while at a bar with your buddies, you can say, On trinque? (Shall we toast?)

Trinquer also means to make the glasses clink together.

8. Trinquer à… (To drink to…)

If you want to propose an informal toast, you can use the formulation (to drink to/toast someone or something).

For example, Je trinque à ma sœur et mon beau-frère (I drink to my sister and my brother-in-law) or Trinquons à votre nouvelle maison (Let’s drink to your new house).

Someone who enjoys toasting and drinking in the company of others can be called un trinqueur (masculine) or une trinqueuse (feminine).

9. Tchin-tchin

Another popular toast used among friends is tchin-tchin. It’s pronounced like “Chin-Chin” would be in English.

Brought back from the Second Opium War by returning French soldiers, tchin-tchin comes from the Chinese phrase qǐng qǐng, which is the word “please” said twice in a row.

In this context, it’s used to encourage someone to have a drink.

10. Cul sec (Bottoms up)

If you’re toasting with hard liquor, you may hear the expression cul sec (dry bottom).

Used like “Bottoms up,” cul sec exhorts you to drink ‘til the glass is empty—in a single shot, if possible.

French Toasting Traditions and Superstitions

You might know some different ways to say “cheers” now, but it’s not just about the words you say.

Here are some other French courtesies and habits that you should know to make sure you’re raising your glass properly.

Look Before You Sip

Once someone has called for a toast, there are rules to be observed.

Take a look around and make sure everyone’s glass is full before you lift yours for the toast. Then, raise your glass a few inches in front of your face and wait patiently for the spoken part of the toast to be completed.

Once the spoken part of the toast has been made, there’s still another propriety to be observed: make sure you clink glasses and exchange words with everyone in the group.

Finally, take a sip before setting your glass down. 

How the French Fill (and Empty) the Glass

The contents of the toasting glasses are nearly as important as the toasting words and rituals.

The first rule is to not toast with water, juice or anything else non-alcoholic. The glass should also only be filled about half-way.

Lastly, don’t hesitate to drink the bottom dry. 

Toasting Taboos

When delivering a toast, make sure you acknowledge or include the whole group so nobody’s left out.

If you’re hosting, adding ice cubes to the wine in toasting glasses won’t win you any friends

Bad luck will supposedly follow if you don’t make eye contact while clinking glasses. You also don’t want to cross arms while you’re reaching to clink glasses. (This is probably to avoid jostling glasses and spilling wine!)

You may have heard some films and TV programs from outside of France show French people saying Salut when they toast—which is incorrect. Salut means Hello, not Health

It’s possible that the confusion comes from the common use of Salud (Health) as a toast in Spanish-speaking countries, and Salute (Health) as a toast in Italy.

Stick to Santé, and you’ll maintain the healthy respect of your amis français (French friends).

The best way to pick up on these cultural norms is to immerse yourself. Even if you can’t make it to a night out in France, you can still experience some French culture with FluentU.

FluentU provides you with a video library full of authentic, native clips from movies, TV shows and more, some of which will feature social situations with plenty of cheers.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Click here to check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

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Each video comes with interactive captions, flashcards and exercises—you’ll actively build your skills while absorbing the language and cultural norms by watching native speakers. 


Life is full of good times and special occasions. Enjoy raising your glass and toasting to them à la manière française (in the French way).

À votre bonne santé, cher lecteur! (To your good health, dear reader!)

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