Tired of saying “bonjour”?
Want to take your boring “bonjour” and turn it into something more memorable?
You’ve come to the right place.
Whether you’re a French learner looking to speak more naturally with your French friends, or a business person looking to connect with your business associates, we’ve got you covered.
Here are 10 useful French greetings, phrases, and expressions that you can say instead of just boring old “bonjour.”
5 Useful French Greetings to Say Hello
1. Bonjour! – Hello! (Also, Good Morning!)
This is your run of the mill, basic French greeting, and it works in any setting, formal and informal alike. It’s probably the first word that most French language beginners learn, and for good reason! It’s only common courtesy to utter a little bonjour to the baker as you walk into the corner boulangerie or to the waiter before you order a coffee on the terrasse of a Parisian café. Not using this greeting is deemed utterly impolite by many and may merit a disdainful glance. Once the sun sets, you’ll want to replace this little pleasantry with bonsoir! (Good evening!) All in all, using either bonjour or bonsoir is your best bet for first greeting someone in either a formal or informal setting.
2. Salut! – Hi!
This is a great greeting to use with anyone you see rather often or someone you know rather well, i.e. a colleague with similar standing as you or a good friend. It is an informal greeting, and should be used as such, since it is not exactly an expression you’ll want to whip out at to begin a business meeting. Note that the ‘t’ on the end of the word is silent, thus following the general rule in French that if a final consonant is not followed by an ‘e’ or other vowel, it is not pronounced.
3. Coucou! – Hey there!
This is an extremely informal way of greeting someone, so reserve this one for close friends and family, otherwise you might get a few quizzical stares. As an added tidbit, the verb phrase faire coucou (à quelqu’un) means to wave at or say hey (to someone), and is also a form of informal language. Adding on to that, the verb phrase jouer à coucou means to play peekaboo, like a mother does with her baby. Thus, you can see the rather playful and familiar tone behind this word.
4. Quoi de neuf? – What’s up ?
While remaining informal, this is a slightly more involved greeting, in that you’re likely to glean more from the person you are speaking with than you would with the traditional bonjour. This literally means ‘what’s new?’ and is an excellent greeting to use with a friend you haven’t spoken with in a while, with the intent of starting a conversation.
5. Allô? – Hello?
While a cognate of English, this is not used in the same capacity as bonjour, in that you cannot use it to greet people on the street. This greeting is used solely on the phone to determine whether or not someone is on the line. It can also be used ironically to get the attention of someone that hasn’t heard you, the point being that it’s as though the person wasn’t there. You probably won’t hear it used in any other situations.
5 Useful French Phrases to Say Goodbye
1. Au revoir! – Goodbye!
This expression, like bonjour, is another go-to standard salutation, usable in virtually any situation: as you leave the hair salon, as you leave the bus, as you take leave from an acquaintance, etc. Like bonjour or bonsoir, it is considered rude to not use this particular expression in public, as well as over the phone, just before hanging up. Yet a lot of French people tend to slur these two words together, so it can sometimes just sound like ‘ohrvwar.’
2. Salut! – Bye-bye!
That’s right, double whammy! Salut can be used to say both hi and bye. As is the case with greeting someone, bidding someone farewell with this expression is also quite informal. Overall, a very useful little word to know.
3. Je suis désolé(e), mais je dois y aller – I’m sorry, but I have to go
This phrase doesn’t have a particular spot on either end of the formal/informal scale. The main idea with this expression is its sense of urgency, and it is the je dois y aller which relays this message. The pronoun y must be used before the verb aller if no particular location is mentioned. If you want to be more explicit and state exactly where you are going, for example I have to go to school, then the sentence would look like this: Je dois aller à l’école. Another example would be I have to go to the museum: Je dois aller au musée. The Je suis désolé(e) simply shows that you are sorry for leaving, literally meaning I am sorry. Note that when the speaker is feminine, an extra ‘e’ is needed at the end. This doesn’t change the pronunciation of the word, it is merely a grammatical aspect of the language which is only evident on paper.
4. À plus tard! (À plus!) – (See you) later!
This is a useful expression for when you know you will see someone again, such as a friend or classmate, but you’re not quite sure when that will be. It is not particularly formal or informal, granted you will really only use this expression when you know someone well enough to see them on at least a semi-regular basis. Note that pronunciation differs depending on which expression you decide to go with. If you go with the shorter version, the ‘s’ on the end of plus is indeed pronounced. Yep, it’s an exception to the general rule of pronunciation!
5. À tout à l’heure ! – See you soon, See you in a while!
This is the perfect expression to use for if you are parting with friends that you are certain to see again later in the day.
Take it up a notch: Désolé(e), mais je dois filer !- Sorry, but I gotta run !
This is a little phrase you can use in informal settings, for example when you have to leave a group of friends rather abruptly. The désolé(e) (sorry) renders this phrase polite so that you don’t have to worry about offending anyone. The verb filer is a slang word in this context, therefore you’ll sound like a true local if you let this little salutation roll of your tongue after taking a hasty last sip of espresso.
Other Useful Resources for Learning About French Greetings
1. JeFrench French Greetings: Very helpful slideshow video on French greetings for beginners.
2. French Greeting Dialogues at French Learner.com: Some quick dialogues with accompanying Youtube videos.
And One More Thing…
So now that you’ve got the basics down, what’s next?
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