How to Say Hello in French (And Avoid Embarrassing Mistakes) (2023)

Ask just about anyone how to say “Hello” in French, and they’ll know. Bonjour is one of the most famous greetings in the world. Regardless of what language you watch it in, the untranslated word is even used to set the scene in the iconic opening song of Disney’s animated “Beauty and the Beast”!

But when it comes to saying hello in French, it doesn’t stop at bonjour. Let’s look at some of the other ways to greet someone in French.

Table of Contents

Bonjour – Hello in French

Bonsoir: Bonjour at night

Salut: Bonjour among friends (or hi in French)

(Video) DON'T SAY THAT in FRENCH / Embarrassing mistakes 😱#learnfrench

Coucou: The cute Bonjour

Bonjour without Bonjour: Other ways to greet people in French

Bonjour for specific occasions

Why is it important to know how to say hello in French?

Bonjour – Hello in French

Before moving on, let’s take a minute to talk about bonjour. You might have noticed that it’s made up of two words: bon and jour. It literally means “Good day.” Even though “bonjour” is made up of 2 words, it’s always written as one word so “bon jour” is incorrect.

Wishing someone “Good day” is somewhat formal for people in most of the English world, but in French, it’s just the standard – bonjour really is the equivalent of saying “hello” or “good morning”. You can use it with anyone, from a close friend or family member, to someone you’ve just met.

The word for “goodbye” in French is almost as famous. Even people who’ve never studied French have a good chance of knowing Au revoir. This is the standard French goodbye, but in formal contexts, you’ll often hear a cool parallel with bonjour. As you leave a shop or boulangerie, for example, instead of Au revoir, you’ll typically be told Bonne journée, which translates to “Goodbye and have a nice day!”

Bonsoir: Bonjour at night

Bonjour is the go-to greeting in French and means both “hello” and “good morning.” If it’s evening or nighttime, you can say Bonsoir (literally, “Good evening”). This works in formal or informal contexts, although generally if you’re meeting up with friends or family it’s fairly common to continue to use Bonjour.

As you might have guessed, while you can certainly say Au revoir in the evening or nighttime, you can also use a neatly matched send-off: Bonne soirée.

(Video) My most embarrassing French language mistakes

Salut: Bonjour among friends (or hi in French)

How to Say Hello in French (And Avoid Embarrassing Mistakes) (1)

So far, we’ve talked about some basic greetings in French that you can use just as easily in formal contexts as in informal ones. But what if you’re in a really relaxed, familiar ambiance and are tired of saying boring old bonjour all the time? When it comes to talking to friends, family, and anyone else you can be informal with, Salut (hi in French) is the greeting you’ll hear.

As with “cool” words, you’ll also hear this used by TV show hosts, YouTube stars, and the like, when they want to show that they’re informal, relaxed, and on the same level as their audience.

Salut can be used by anyone of any age, but remember that it’s informal. It’s the equivalent of “Hi” in English.

Like Ciao in Italian, Salut can also be used to say “Goodbye” (or, rather, think “Bye”, instead, since it remains informal in this context), although this is a bit less common.

You’ll sometimes hear or see the expression Salut, toi. This is a fond, cute phrase, the equivalent of “Hi there, you.” It’s often said to children, or in movies after two people who have slept together wake up – one of them will often greet the other this way (with varying results, depending on the film).

Coucou: The cute Bonjour

If you want to take things to an even more informal level, coucou is the answer. This is a cute-sounding way to say hello in French will grab people’s attention and is often used as an almost childlike way to say “hi”. Most of my French female friends use this greeting when they send me a text message or email. However, it’s not as common among males, unless they’re talking to children.

This said, coucou is a fun, cute greeting that should only be used with friends, family, and kids (although if you don’t like “cute”, you can always just say Salut or Bonjour to a kid, of course).

You can hear coucou used in a cute, attention-getting way in the popular French nursery rhyme “Mon petit lapin.”

As with salut, you can also add toi. Coucou, toi (Hi there, you!) would be something usually said to a kid, for example if you found them when you were playing hide-and-seek.

Bonjour without Bonjour: Other ways to greet people in French

How to Say Hello in French (And Avoid Embarrassing Mistakes) (2)

As in many other languages, in some cases, you don’t always have, or need, to say “hello” in French; it’s simply understood. Here are some common examples of this:

Ça va? and its many (sometimes funny) variations

As in English and many other languages, you might greet someone by asking how they’re doing, no “hello” necessary.

Two French friends who haven’t seen each other in a while might meet up and greet each other with ça va:

Ah, Marie, comment ça va? (Oh, Marie, how are you?)


Bien, Charles, et toi? Ça fait longtemps! (Good, Charles, and you? It’s been a while!)

Ça va is the most standard option when it comes to asking how someone is doing, but for something a touch more formal or if you simply feel that you naturally want to add a word, you could say Comment ça va ? instead. And if you want to be less formal, you can choose an expression like:

Quoi de neuf ? (What’s new?)

Ça roule ? (How’s it going?)

Ça farte? (a silly slang expression, similar to “What’s happening?” in English. Because of its association with French comedic character Brice de Nice, it will almost always make French people smile and laugh…so don’t use it if you want to be taken seriously).

If you want more ideas, especially for slang terms, type “Façons de dire ça va” in your search engine and enjoy the interesting results.

Be warned: Like a few of those listed here, many of these will be very informal, even vulgar. So be sure only to use them with people you know well, who are your age or younger and would understand that you’re not trying to offend them. When in a formal or professional situation, or when simply in doubt what tone to take, Comment ça va? is always the best option.


Enchanté(e)is another word you might be familiar with even if you haven’t studied French before. It’s one of those nifty words that sums up what in other languages might take several words to say. It’s also, to me, such a flattering expression (even though its original meaning is now mostly worn away from overuse) that I can’t help but marvel at it a little.

Essentially, Enchanté means “Pleased to meet you.” Except, as you may have noticed, it’s not about being pleased; it’s even better – literally translated, it means “I’m enchanted to meet you,” as if you’re some sort of delightful, magical person. That’s a really nice way to think of someone when you meet them…even though you may often find out that it’s not true.

Of course, because it’s so common, that meaning and enthusiasm has faded, and it’s the equivalent of “Pleased to meet you.” Enchanté is very common, especially among young adults and adults of all generations. Whenever I meet someone at a gathering or party, we usually exchange la bise (cheek kisses) and say Enchanté.

Or, if they’re a woman, like me, that would be Enchantée with an extra “e”, since it’s an adjective and has to agree with the subject. Luckily, if you forget this rule, no worries; the pronunciation is the same.

There are other ways to express “Pleased to meet you” in French, including Ravi(e) de faire votre connaissance. (Thrilled to meet you.), which is also pretty nice. But Enchanté(e) is a great go-to for most situations.


Here’s another one you may know from previous French lessons or traveling to French-speaking places: Bienvenue, which means “Welcome”.


There are some pedantic grammar issues with this word, since some people may think they have to agree it with the gender or number of people being welcomed. But as this article nicely sums up, the form with the “e”, for once, is the one to use to welcome any number of people, of any gender.

Bonjour for specific occasions

How to Say Hello in French (And Avoid Embarrassing Mistakes) (3)

If you’re at a loss for how to greet someone, bonjour works…most of the time. But there are some situations where you need or want to be more specific. Like:

Allô. This is the typical way people answer the phone in French, although that’s not always the case. You may also hear Oui, bonjour, especially if the person answering is in a hurry, distracted, or surprised, or even just Oui ?, if the person knows who’s calling.

As Benjamin pointed out in a previous article, Allô has also become popular as a way to say “hello” in French in the sense of “Hello, what is going on here?”, thanks to French reality TV star Nabilla, who notoriously used it to express her disbelief that a fellow star didn’t have any shampoo. If someone says, Non, mais allô, quoi ! to you, they’re not greeting you on the phone; they’re expressing disgusted disbelief about something (in a mocking, pop-culture-savvy way). Bonus points if, like Nabilla, they make a little phone with their fingers.

Rebonjour. Sometimes it happens; you just spoke to someone and then you see them again or have to get back in touch with them because you have a question or update. It seems weird not to acknowledge that you just talked. So in this case, rebonjour (literally Re-hello) is what you’d use.

Passe/Passez le bonjour de ma part. This is how you ask someone, “Say hello for me” in French. Example: Tu vas voir Sophie demain? Passe le bonjour de ma part. (You’re going to see Sophie tomorrow? Say hello for me.)

Dis/Dites-lui/leur bonjour de ma part – A slight variation of the above, this is how you say “Tell him/her/them I said hello.” Vous allez voir Sophie demain? Dites-lui bonjour de ma part. (You’re going to see Sophie tomorrow? Tell her I said hello.”)

Why is it important to know how to say hello in French?

There are two main reasons why it’s important to know how to greet people in French.

#1 French people are generally more formal when it comes to greetings

Whether you enter a shop or restaurant, or are getting to know future friends or coworkers, some kind of greeting will be involved. Even if you go into a shop just to browse, and aren’t looking for help from the salesperson, you’re expected to say Bonjour, and they will normally do the same. When you leave, you usually say Bonne journée, as well, even if you haven’t bought anything.

This brings up the idea of culture. There are a few customs and expectations tied to greetings in French – for example, la bise (cheek kiss). You can read about some of the most common French greetings customs, as well as some of the most common faux pas foreigners make, here.

#2 Cultural practices can vary, but just about anywhere you go, the idea of greeting someone is pretty universal

When my English-speaking friends or family come to Paris, they often tell me they’re nervous because they don’t speak French. I tell them that if they simply say Bonjour, they’ll show respect for the French speaker(s) in front of them, and respect for their culture. They’ll show that, despite the language barrier, they acknowledge the other person and want to connect.

This is so, so much better than what I often see here, especially from fellow English-speakers: People simply starting a conversation with a French waiter or shopkeeper by saying “Hi,” or even “Yeah”, in no way acknowledging that English is not the official language and the person they’re talking to may not even understand it.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably someone who’s curious and passionate about the French language, and motivated to learn it. But if you’ve stumbled upon this article for some other reason, I hope you’ll remember to at least say Bonjour if you ever have to speak to someone in a French-speaking country. That one word can say so much.

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Before I say au revoir, here’s a little song about greetings that’s a hit with my toddler son (and, since it’s an earworm, now my entire family). It can help you learn some useful phrases, but above all, I think it really shows the joy of connecting with people.


How to Say Hello in French (And Avoid Embarrassing Mistakes)? ›

The most important French greetings include bonjour (hello), enchanté(e) (nice to meet you), bonsoir (good evening/hello), salut (hi), coucou (hey), Ça fait longtemps, dis donc (long time no see), Âllo (hello), Ça va? (how are you?), tu vas bien? (have you been well?), quoi de neuf? (what's up?), au revoir!

How do you say hello in French non formal? ›

1. “Hi” in French – Salut! Just as commonly used, but a bit more informal, Salut is what we could call Bonjour's cool kid. Meaning “hi”, “hello” or sometimes even “bye”, Salut is the informal French greeting you can use with family and friends but not with your boss or teacher.

How do strangers greet each other in French? ›

Adults say "tu" to children and kiss them on the cheek, even if they have just met for the first time. To greet people, you say "Bonjour". Among young people and students, "Salut" is used more frequently.

How do you say hello in French not bonjour? ›

Hello in French
  1. The slangy one: Coucou! Meaning: “Hi!” About: Coucou is a sweet, sincere way of saying hi, normally reserved for close friends and family. ...
  2. The casual one: Salut! Meaning: “Hey!” ...
  3. The formal one: Bonjour! Meaning: This failsafe greeting literally means “Good day”.

What are the six expressions of greetings in French? ›

Les Salutations: Greetings in French
bonjourgood day (greeting)
bonsoirgood evening/night (greeting)
bonne journéegood day (farewell)
bonne soiréegood evening/night (farewell)
34 more rows
Dec 2, 2022

How do I respond to bonjour? ›

What is the proper response to bonjour? It's more than sufficient to simply say bonjour back in response to those who greet you, but if you want to go a step beyond, you can respond with comment allez-vous, which is the French equivalent of asking how it's going.

How do you greet someone you don't know in French? ›

If you only know one word in French, it's probably going to be 'bonjour'. While it's the closest equivalent to 'hello' in English — insofar as it's the most common way to greet people — it is a somewhat polite word which literally translates as 'good day'.

What does Allez-vous mean? ›

Translation of "allez-vous ?" in English. are you? are you going? are you doing?

What is considered disrespectful in French culture? ›

It is rude to sit with one's legs spread apart unless in a relaxed context. Rather, sit straight with your legs crossed at the knee or knees together. Feet should not be placed on tables or chairs. If someone is invited to a restaurant or a business function, it is acceptable to arrive at the specific time.

Is it rude to say Bonjour twice? ›

But in France, saying bonjour several times is super rude. Maybe you didn't know and you're thinking « Oh no! What should I do? »…

Is it rude to not say bonjour? ›

You'll come across as impolite if you don't say bonjour and that's not the first impression you'll want to make. It's even seen as insulting to not say bonjour in French and then French get the reputation for being rude or snobby… but that's a conversation for another day.

Do you say bonjour back? ›

You can either reply saying "Bonjour" back or you could say "salut" which also means hello but in an informal way. This is especially important in French because French-speakers tend to be much more formal about greetings.

Can you say bonjour as goodbye? ›

One major difference is that Bonsoir can be used to say goodbye, whereas bonjour never is.

How do you respond to bonjour CA VA? ›

So to say “hello, how are you?” in French, simply say bonjour, ça va? or salut, ça va? If someone says this to you, you can respond with ça va bien (“it's going well”) or tout va bien (“everything's going well”). In Quebec, you'll often hear “not bad” as the response: pas pire, which literally means “no worse”.

How do you greet someone professionally in French? ›

Formal Greetings

In French, emails always start with Bonjour (Hello) or Bonsoir (Good evening), unlike letters, which usually start with Cher / Chère (Dear...). If you're not acquainted with the recipient, use Bonjour monsieur / madame,, meaning 'Hello Sir / Ma'am'.

How do you address someone with respect in French? ›

If addressing a stranger, you should always greet them formally before asking anything; whenever meeting someone new, address them with either Monsieur, Madame or Mademoiselle; typically use the latter for under 18s, and address most adult women as Madame, except in some situations, such as restaurants.

How do you address someone politely in French? ›

The two main forms of address you will need to use are “Monsieur” (Dear Sir) and “Madame” (Dear Madame), used when addressing men and women, respectively. If you know the name of the person, you should use it afterwards (e.g. Monsieur John Doe, Madame Jane Doe, and so forth.)

What is the professional salutation in French? ›

The formule d'appel (roughly, “formal greeting”)

You start your email with a formule d'appel (formal salutation). This can be as simple as “Madame,” or “Monsieur,” if the recipient doesn't know you, or “Cher Monsieur,/Chère Madame,” (“Dear Sir,/Dear Madam,”) if the recipient knows you.


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