"Happy Birthday" is one of the most useful French phrases you can learn if you have contact with native speakers of French. Whether you are living abroad or you have an exchange student at your school, wishing French speakers a "Happy Birthday" in their native language is a fun way for you to connect. You can write these phrases in a card or email, or wish the birthday boy or girl a "Happy Birthday" in person.
Birthday Wishes in French
A few common ways to say "Happy Birthday" in French are:
Pronounced bohn ahn ee vehr sare, this is the most general French version of saying "Happy Birthday". You will see many greeting cards with these two words splashed across them, and among younger people this birthday phrase is most common. While this phrase is perfect for acquaintances, good friends can also use it with a warm tone of voice, making it just as friendly as the more formal version: joyeux anniversaire.
Slightly more traditional, this phrase (pronounced jwhy euhz ahn ee vehr sare) is a bit warmer than bon anniversaire, and can be used among close friends and family. While joyeux anniversaire and bon anniversaire are virtually interchangeable in France, this expression evokes a friendlier atmosphere than bon anniversaire.
In Québec, and other parts of French-speaking Canada, it is more common to say bonne fête (pronounced buhn fet) than to use the first two expressions. Of course, you will be well understood in Québec if you wish someone a joyeux anniversaire; however, you're more likely to hear the locals wishing each other a bonne fête.
Celebrating Birthdays in France
Whether you stick with simply wishing someone a joyeux or a bon anniversaire, or you go ahead and bring him flowers, wine, or chocolate, don't forget to raise your glass to the guest of honor and wish him Santé! (To your health!) Also, be forewarned that a French birthday cake seldom resembles an American one. You're more likely to encounter traditional, delicious, French desserts when invited to a French birthday dinner.