Ways to Say “Happy Birthday” in French & Other Birthday Vocab

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Written By Jessica Knight

Founder of Linguatics. Passionate multilinguist.

Ways to Say “Happy Birthday” in French & Other Birthday Vocab

There are plenty of annual celebrations, but, one we all hold personally is our birthday. So when you are learning a new language, being able to discuss them is paramount. 

So today we’ll explore how to say “happy birthday” in French and give you some key phrases and vocabulary for asking about age.

As with English, there are a few ways to give your best wishes on someone’s special day. How to wish someone a happy birthday differs regionally as well, so we have gathered a good mix of expressions to ensure you’re ready to celebrate like a local.

Saying “Happy Birthday in French – An Overview

Joyeux anniversaireHappy Birthday
Bon anniversaireHappy Birthday
Bonne fêteHappy Birthday (French Canadian)
Passe(z) un bon anniversaireHave a good birthday!
Passe(z) une merveilleuse journéeHave a wonderful day!
Profite bien de ta journée Enjoy your day!
Joyeux Anniversaire en retardHappy belated birthday
Meilleurs vœux Best wishes
La santé, l’amour et le bonheur Health, love, and happiness

Ways to Say “Happy Birthday” in French

We will begin with the two most common way to say “happy Birthday” in European French.

You will notice that both phrases utilize the word “anniversaire” which technically means “anniversary”. 

However, while in English we have distinct words for “birthday” and “anniversary”- The French do not!

So how do you determine the type of anniversary?

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Well, generally speaking, if it’s just the word “anniversaire” it will be a birthday in question. 

Other anniversaries such as weddings are generally specified with a preposition and event by saying “anniversaire de mariage”.

Joyeux Anniversaire!

Happy Birthday!

The first way to say “Happy Birthday!” is “Joyeux Anniversaire!”. It is a common go-to.

Beginners might find the pronunciation a little tricky, remember that the “zz” sound at the end of the word “joyeux” runs into the vowel sound at the beginning of “anniversaire”

Altogether it is something like “zhwah-yeuh-zah-nee-veR-seR”. If you find it too tricky then the next phrase is probably better for you!

Bon Anniversaire!

“Joyeux anniversaire” is a more direct way to say “happy birthday”, but you can be more general with “bon anniversaire”. “Bon” is the word for “good” so you are sort of saying “have a good birthday”.

Again the two words run into each other  so the “bon” is more like “boh” and the anniversaire more like “nah-nee-ver-ser”.

Don’t forget you can add a term of endearment at the end like “bon anniversaire mon ami!” (“my friend”) or “bon anniversaire mon amour!” (“my love”).

French Canadians Differences

Bonne fête

The two expressions above are widely understood, but when it comes to French Canadians they have their own expression. They prefer to say bonne fête, the literal translation is “good party”, but they use it to say “happy birthday”.

While French Canadians will understand the European phrases we began our article with, using bonne fête in Europe would appear odd.

Other Ways to Say “Happy Birthday” in French

You might want to use other phrases to send your well-wishes on somebody’s birthday…

Passe(z) un bon anniversaire 

This one is a more word-for-word way to say “Have a good birthday”, like “bon anniversaire” but a little more formal especially if you use the “vous” form.

Passe(z) une merveilleuse journée 

If you want to say “Have a wonderful day”, to a colleague you could use the phrase “Passe(z) une merveilleuse journée”.

Profite bien de ta journée

 “Profite bien de ta journée” is probably a bit of a mouthful but it is a sentimental expression that means “Enjoy your day”.

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A nice, simple, easy-to-remember option could be to simply say “Félicitations” which means “Congratulations” in French.

Joyeux Anniversaire en retard!

Of course, for whatever reason, you may miss the big day!

If that’s the case you can add “en retard” which means “late” or in this case “belated to the phrase you already know for “Happy Birthday”.

Meilleurs vœux 

This next one is usually reserved for written well-wishes. But if you are writing out a birthday card, or leaving a message on social media then you might want the phrase for “Best wishes” which is “Meilleurs vœux”.

La santé, l’amour, et le bonheur 

One last phrase that is typically written or toasted with a drink on a birthday is “La santé, l’amour, et le bonheur” which loosely means something like “Health, love, and happiness”.

Bonus French Birthday Vocab

Along with knowing how to say “happy birthday” in French you might need some other vocab if you get an invitation to go and celebrate.

So, here’s a quick list of some common birthday related items that you will find at a birthday party:

  • “Une fête d’anniversaire” (“A birthday party”)
  • “Un cadeau d’anniversaire” (“A birthday gift”)
  • “Un gâteau d’anniversaire” (“A birthday cake”)
  • “Une carte d’anniversaire” (“A birthday card”)
  • “Des bougies” (“Candles”)

French Birthday Cake

The French still celebrate birthdays with a cake, although they are rather less elaborate than ours are. A french birthday cake or “le gâteau d’anniversaire” is often a minimalist gâteau or tart occasionally. They prefer subtle flavours, if you are picking out a birthday cake here are some great options;

  • Le gâteau au chocolat = chocolate cake
  • Le gâteau marbré = chocolate marble cake
  • Le gâteau au yaourt = yoghurt cake
  • La tarte aux fruits = fruit tart

Singing Happy Birthday in French

Along with a birthday cake comes the traditional singing.

In France they sing the “happy birthday” song with the phrase “joyeux anniversaire” on repeat like this;

“Joyeux anniversaire

Joyeux anniversaire

Joyeux anniversaire (name of the Birthday person)

Joyeux anniversaire”

In French-speaking Canada, it changes to “bonne fête à toi;

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“Bonne fête à toi

Bonne fête à toi

Bonne fête à (name of the birthday person)

Bonne fête à toi”

There is another French “happy birthday” song with a bit more to it than a simple “joyeux anniversaire”.

It will take a little more effort to learn but is more often sung and you will impress your French Speaking friends if you can get it down!

“Joyeux anniversaire

Heureux anniversaire

Tous nos vœux sont sincères

Pour ton anniversaire

Tes amis aujourd’hui

Se sont tous réunis

Ton bonheur on l’espère

Pour ton anniversaire”

Here is a rough English translation;

“Happy birthday

Happy birthday

All our most sincere wishes

For your birthday

Today, your friends

Have all come together

To wish you cheer

For your birthday”

Discussing Age and Birthdays in French

To discuss up-and-coming birthdays, you will likely need some age-related vocabulary. Crucial for getting to know the dates to make a mental note of ahead of time!

First up, use the following to find out when the important day is;

  • “Quand est ton anniversaire?” (“When is your birthday?”)

Here’s an example response but remember to learn your months and numbers well for this!

  • “Mon anniversaire est le 16 novembre” (“My birthday is November 16th”)

Perhaps you want to ask about how they are going to celebrate? For that you could ask the following;

  • “Qu’est-ce que tu fais pour ton anniversaire?” (“What are you doing for your birthday”)

Within some cultures, it is frowned upon to ask a person’s age but you don’t have to worry about that in French, they are pretty direct. You have two ways to do this formally or informally;

  • “Quel âge avez-vous?”/ “Quel âge as-tu?” (“How old are you now?” (formal/informal))

Remember in French they use the verb to have when they talk about their age instead of using “to be” like we do in English.

A response could be something like;

  • “J’ai 21 ans.” (“I’m 21.”)
  • “Ils ont 10 ans.” (“They are 10 years old.”)

Happy Birthday in French – Final Thoughts

Now you’re all clued up on how the French celebrate their birthdays, you have some key vocab and talk about birthdays and getting inevitably older!

Though the options aren’t astronomical, we hope you’ll have found today’s concise French Happy Birthday guide of use. 

With everything we have packed into the article, no matter how well you know your Francophile language partner, you should be prepared and ready to wish them a “bon anniversaire” when the time comes around.

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