For the most part, every language overlaps with its proprietary counterpart when it comes to basic greetings, but sometimes they can trip you up.
In French, there are few options to wish someone “goodnight”. Not all of them are versatile, some depend on specific scenarios.
We only say “goodnight” in English when we want to acknowledge they are off to bed.
With French, you have to think about how you want to use the term. How you say goodnight in French depends on how well you know them and how intimate things are.
Unlike English, French also employs the phrase as a standalone greeting.
So Ideally, you need to learn a range of different ways to say goodnight in French and how to use it in the right context.
Although the options aren’t super-numerous we have gathered a few great examples for different situations.
So whether you simply want to bid someone farewell or stay for the night, friend, family, colleague, or lover- we have all your bases covered.
Saying Goodnight in French – An Overview
|Literally “Good evening
|Fais de beaux rêves
|Sleep tight/pleasant dreams.
|Je vais me coucher
|I’m going to bed
|Va te reposer.
|Get some sleep/rest
How to Wish Someone Goodnight in French
This one is the standard way to say goodnight in French. It is a direct translation which makes it easy to learn as it is ‘word for word’.
You should reserve it for when someone is about to go to bed as a farewell.
It is a very common phrase, it can be used to say goodbye if you part ways late at night but most often it is before sleep.
You can use it slightly prematurely if someone is leaving a social area, like the living room to retire to their personal space and you know you won’t see them until morning. It isn’t really for office use when someone leaves.
The phrase “Bonne nuit les petits” or “Good night, little ones” is ingrained in the French. It was the title of a popular TV show broadcast throughout the 60 and 70s. Parents would watch it with their children before putting them to bed.
It earned itself a sort of cult status after broadcasting ceased and people use the phrase even with other adults, reminiscently.
If you are leaving a formal situation, where it might not be appropriate to say goodnight, implying you know the other is retiring to bed then you might want to use a salutation.
Bonsoir is a good choice of greeting for this scenario, it means “Good evening” but insinuates “Goodnight” if you say it late, or last thing before you depart.
It can be viewed as a little stuffy in some regions. Big cities will use bonne soirée (see below).
As we just hinted, this one is used in many of the bigger cities such as the capital Paris to casually say goodnight.
In reality, it can be compared with “Have a good rest of the evening” but if you know it is the last time that you’ll see someone that day then it means “goodnight”, in spirit.
Let’s say you have been out to dinner, it’s late your friend is leaving, but you wouldn’t want to assume they are about to go to bed at 9 pm so you wish them a “bonne soirée.” instead of a “bonne nuit”.
This next one is far more informal, the literal translation of “à demain” ” is “until tomorrow” and it is commonly used to say “see you tomorrow”.
But if you are saying goodnight to someone in the same building then you can use it with the same implied significance as “goodnight”.
Okay, admittedly some of the suggestions might not seem to distinctly say “goodnight” in the way you might like them to. But this one is perfect if you are with people you care about and know well. “Dors bien” means Sleep well.
It conveys a little more care behind it than your average “bonne nuit” and is comparable to the way we speak to one another in English.
A longer French expression which has more of a poetic edge to it is “dors avec les anges”
When literally translated it means “sleep with the angels”.
This might seem odd, as we tend to associate sleeping with angels with death in our culture, but romance languages often make reference to angels in a brighter light!
The Spanish also say something similar in some regions “que duermas con los angelitos”.
Fais de beaux rêves
Like “dors bien”, this next one also has a well-wishing feel that focuses on the sleep side of things.
“Fais de beaux rêves” translates to “Have beautiful dreams” and is the French equivalent of saying “sweet dreams”.
If you are all off to bed but occupying the same house it is an ideal choice. Great for use with partners or dorm buddies and roommates. It is also used with young children.
Je vais me coucher
We don’t only say “Goodnight” as a response to others heading to bed, sometimes we want to announce it ourselves, perhaps the movie is too long or you’ve had a hard day at work and you want to tell your family or roommate that you are tapping out.
“Je vais me coucher” is a great phrase that means “I’m going to bed”. It is pretty blunt and very informal. But then you wouldn’t announce you were off to bed in a formal setting anyway, would you?
Va te reposer
Perhaps someone has just used “Je vais me coucher” to you to let you know they have had enough and are headed upstairs.
You might want to show you care and say “va te reposer”. It means “get some rest”.
Okay, so it’s not exactly goodnight, but it shows good intentions and that you care about their wellbeing, of course, tone of voice is important.
If you know someone has had a long day, or is in need of some well-earned rest for whatever reason it is a great phrase to pull out!
Goodnight in French – Final Thoughts
Saying goodnight in French might be a little more complicated than you first thought and you may not have as many options as you might have liked.
Romantic, dreamy phrases like “fais de beaux rêves” elegantly roll off of the tongue but are a little wordy for a beginner to wrap themselves around.
But with a “bonne nuit”, a “bon soiree” and a “dors bien” you will manage to make ends meet when the day ends and you need to say “goodnight”.