Hello in French

Valorie Delp
greeting

There are several ways to say hello in French. How you greet someone, will depend on:

  • Whether the situation is formal or informal.
  • Your relationship with the person.
  • How they greet you.

Not only are your words important in making a first impression, but it's also important to observe the social customs associated with greeting people in French.

Saying Hello in French

There are several words that you can use to greet someone in French.

Hello in French
French Pronunciation Usage
Bonjour! bohn zhoor Standard way to greet someone; literally means good day; typically used in the morning
Allô ah lo This is the word used to answer the telephone
ay Use this if you are trying to attract attention
Salut! sah loo Informal way to say hi to friends
Bon aprés midi buhn ah pray mee dee Use as a formal greeting in the afternoon; literally means good afternoon
Bon soir buhn swahr Use as a formal greeting in the evening; literally means good evening

Other Phrases For Greeting People

Undoubtedly, aside from simply saying hello in French, there are other phrases that are helpful to know when you are greeting someone. Whether you are meeting someone for the first time, or you are old friends, a conversation is awkward if you simply stop at 'hello'. Here are a few other useful phrases.

Useful Phrases for Greetings
French Pronunciation Usage and Meaning
Ça fait plaisir de te revoir. sah fay play seehr duh tuh reh vwahr Nice to see you again.
Enchante ohn chohn tay Nice to meet you.
Je voudrais présenter... zhuh voo dray pray sehn tay I'd like to introduce...
Comment allez vous? co mo tah lay voo How are you? (informal situation)
Comment vous allez vous? co mo voo zha lay voo How are you? (formal situation)
Ça va? sah vah How's it going? (informal situation with peers)
Quoi de neuf? kwah duh nuhf What's new?
Je m'appelle... zhuh mah pell My name is...

Customs when Greeting Someone in French

While you certainly want to use the right words for the right situation, it's also important to make sure that you observe or at the very least aren't surprised by greeting customs.

Kissing

In France, it is common that you will be greeted at the very least with a hand shake. However, in some parts of the country, particularly the south, you may find that exchanging a kiss on the cheek is common:

  • Men may greet women by a kiss on the hand.
  • Men will greet each other by shaking hands. Men who are close friends may hug.
  • Women will often greet each other with a handshake or by kissing once on each cheek.
  • Men who know the woman they are greeting, may exchange a kiss on each cheek.

In many other Francophone countries, greetings that include some form of kissing on the cheek, are very common regardless of how well you know the person. However, you should never initiate kissing someone on the cheek as the social rules vary. With that said, you shouldn't be surprised if someone you've only met once moves in to kiss you on the cheek and in fact if you don't reciprocate, you will find yourself with a very awkward moment.

Appellation

Always use someone's title when greeting them. If it's someone you don't know, then Madame, Monsieur, or Mademoiselle is appropriate. If it's someone whose name you know, then it's important to use it. For example, Bon jour Madame Chirac. Not using an appellation in formal situations would be considered fairly rude and uncouth.

In general, you should not use a first name until you are invited to do so and you should expect that others will refer to you by your last name unless you say otherwise. Be cautious about giving permission to use your first name, lest you be seen as ill mannered.

Shaking Hands

Generally speaking, the French will always shake hands upon meeting someone. This is especially true among business associates.

For Additional Practice. . .

For additional practice, make sure that you check out these other articles at LoveToKnow French:

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Hello in French