“Hello” in French & Other Useful French Greetings

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Written By Jessica Knight

Founder of Linguatics. Passionate multilinguist.

“Hello” in French & Other useful French Greetings

France has important cultural etiquette. So being able to say “hello” in French without making any faux pas is crucial. 

Greetings are the best place to kickstart any language learning journey and are often much more than a simple “hello”.

Saying “hello” in French is the first step in striking up a conversation but for some situations, you will need a little bit more than a basic “bonjour”.

In this article, we will give you 12 ways to greet people, in a variety of circumstances, and take you through the steps to “Faire la bise” like a Frenchman. 

How to Say “Hello” in French – An Overview

BonjourGood day
BonsoirGood Evening
Salut!Hi
Enchanté(e) Pleased to meet you
CoucouHey
AllôHello
Ça va?How’s it going?
Quoi de Neuf? What’s new?
Ça dit quoi?Wassup?
Ça fait longtempsLong time no see
Excusez-moiExcuse me
BienvenueWelcome

French Greetings

Bonjour 

There is no direct word for “hello” in French. The books will tell you to use “good day” which is “bonjour” the most commonly used French greeting.

“Bonjour” is the best word to learn because it suits all levels of formality. Wishing someone a good day is considered good manners and so you will be perceived as polite.

It is versatile, but restricted by the time of day…

Bonsoir

So what if it is later in the evening when “good day” would seem inappropriate?

Well, then you need “Bonsoir” to say “good evening” instead.

It is another safe and polite French greeting that is essential to know.

Read  Ways To Say Please In French

Salut!

If you want something a little more laid-back for informal situations then look no further than “salut”. 

We share the cognate in the English word “salutation”. If bonjour is to be treated as “hello” then “salut” could be considered “hi”. 

It is once again extremely common. You will hear it hundreds of times a day if you visit France, especially as they use the greeting when they leave to say “bye” as well!

A great way to say hello to your friends and family.

Enchanté(e)

We all like to make a good first impression, when you meet someone new you might want to use the word enchanté if you’re male or enchantée if you’re female.

Again you might recognize the English word “enchant” in there, and indeed the literal translation is “enchanted” or “delighted”. You can think of it as the antiquated way one might say “charmed” when they meet someone for the first time. The modern equivalent is “pleased to meet you”.

Coucou

Sometimes we simply need to get somebody’s attention. In this sort of situation we probably wouldn’t say “hello” but rather “hey”!

There are a few ways to say “hey” in French but the sweetest which is used as a substitute for “hello” with children and among children is “coucou”. 

It is just what it sounds like; the french word for “cuckoo”.  It is very informal, and considered a bit strange for adults to use between themselves.

Allô?

Okay, so we said there was no direct “hello” translation in French and yes, we know this looks an awful lot like we lied. 

But there is a good reason!

Allô is the French spelling for the English word “hello”. While they will probably understand it as English is widely spoken the world over, it is important to know that the French use it very differently and specifically.

You will only ever hear it on the telephone, and even then not as an opening greeting! They use it instead like we would say “are you still there” or “can you hear me?”.

Read  Ways To Say Water In French

The word is said with a rising intonation.

To use it like the locals; use “allô?” not to say “hi”, but if you think you’ve lost a call connection with somebody.

Ça Va?

This one is an abbreviation of the phrase “comment ça va?” the way to casually say “how are you”. “Ça va?” means something like “does it go?” and is used like “how’s it going?” or “how are you doing?” It is a great informal greeting. You can also say, which doesn’t really change the meaning.

The way to respond is “ça va bien” which means “it’s going well”. You could say “tout va bien” (“everything’s going well”). 

Sometimes you’ll hear the response “comme-ci, comme-ça”. This is the way the French say “so-so”, it translates to “like this, like that” and is comparable to “not bad, not good”.

In place of “Ça va” you might hear “Ça roule?”. The word “roule” means rolled, and it is like saying “how’s it rolling?” it means “how is life?”.

Quoi De Neuf?

Another super-casual way to ask how someone is as a greeting is to say “quoi de neuf?” The literal translation is “what’s new?”. It is a way to say “what’s up?”, in fact; Bugs Bunny says “quoi de neuf, docteur” in the French version of Looney Tunes.

Another way to ask the same things just as casually is “quoi de beau?”. It means “what’s beautiful?” and is a positive way to ask about someone’s day or week if they are close to you.

Ça Dit Quoi?

If you want to say “what’s up?” and come across as even more hip you might ask “Ça dit quoi?”.

The literal translation doesn’t make much sense, it means something akin to “What does it say?”. 

Read  Ways To Say Congratulations In French

Ça Fait Longtemps

If you haven’t seen a friend for a while then “long time no see” or “Ça fait longtemps” could be a great choice.

You may even hear people say this one with the exclamation “dis donc” at the start or end, which means “hey” as an interjection. But in this circumstance, they use it like “no way” if they don’t believe what they are seeing or hearing.

Excusez-moi? 

When you need assistance and have to get someone’s attention as we said earlier in the article “hey” is sometimes a more natural go-to than “hello”. The problem being most ways to say “hey” in french are informal and would be considered impolite.

In that case, you will need a formal “Excuse me” and “excusez-moi”. The word suffix employs the “Vous” form of the verb, making it super-polite.

Another option would be to say “please” (“s’il vous-plait”) to get someone’s attention politely.

Bienvenue

If you are greeting guests, you’re going to want the French word for “welcome” which is Bienvenue, it is totally okay to use formally and informally, so whether you are welcoming friends, customers, clients, or colleagues you are good to go!

Greeting People in French; Faire la bise

One final word while we are discussing common greetings in France.

We can’t finish the article without talking about how to “faire la bise. 

“Bise” if you don’t know, is the French word for “kiss”, and a kiss on the cheek is one of the most common greetings in France as it is throughout other parts of Europe.

Different regions of France have their customs when it comes to “fair la bise”.

Some only share the kisses between their gender, and in some places, you kiss one cheek, some both, and even go back in for a third! 

Hello in French – Final Thoughts

Greetings are an essential starting point for beginning to learn French.

With all that we have presented, you ought to have a good few ways now to greet people up your sleeves.

You’ve got the 411 on how to “faire la bise” and now know how to say“hello” in French.

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