How to say good morning in French first appears straightforward. There's one way that's common and used by most everyone, from the youngest child to the oldest senior citizen. There are certain customs and traditions, however, that surround wishing people good morning that you may want to note. Like saying goodbye, there's more to it than just learning a simple word or phrase.
How to Say Good Morning in French
How to say good morning in French can be simple. The proper word is: bonjour. The word literally means "good day", with bon translated as good, and jour meaning day. This greeting is used from dawn until around 7 o'clock at night, when one says instead "bonsoir" or "good evening."
The proper pronunciation of bonjour often trips people up. "Bon" is pronounced quickly and sounds like "bon" except that the "on" sound has a nasal quality to it, and the rest of the word is sort of slurred onto it, with a soft "jhe" sound at the start of day. Try to sound it out like this: bonjhour.
Why Good Day and Not Good Morning
Students learning French are often puzzled about the use of bonjour. In English, we say literally "good morning", "good afternoon", or "good evening." The French, however, simply say "good day". Although "bon matin" or "bonne matinée" are literally translations of the words "good morning", they are never used in common, every day speech.
Use the Right Greeting
There are many ways to greet people in French. The proper greeting depends upon the situation and people you are greeting.
If it's morning, and you are greeting someone you do not know, use bonjour. It's appropriate in almost all situations. It's nicer to add a salutation too, such as "Bonjour, madame" or "Bonjour, monsieur."
Bon matin and bonne matinée, while technically correct translations of "good morning", are never heard on the streets of France or in French speaking communities. You may see these phrases in writing occasionally, but if you want to speak French like a native speaker, choose bonjour.
When greeting very close friends, an informal way to say hello is "Salut." This should be used throughout the day and only with people you know very well. It's improper to greet strangers with the word salut.
What about a simple and friendly, "Hello?" The French word, allo is only used to answer the telephone. Although it may seem odd to English speakers to make such a distinction, it is a very clear distinction in French. So if you answer the phone in a French speaking country, choose "Allo" instead of "Bonjour".
Greetings Change with the Time of Day
To help you use the correct greeting, the chart below details when you use each greeting. Adjust your greetings based on the time of day as well as the people you're greeting, and you'll feel confident and comfortable engaging in French conversations.
|People||Word to Use||When|
|Strangers or Formal Greeting||Bonjour||From dawn until seven o'clock at night. Use this when speaking to someone in person.|
|Strangers or Formal Greeting||Bonsoir||From 7 pm until bedtime.|
|Very close friends or family members||Salut||All day long until evening, when you may switch to using bonsoir.|
|Anyone||Allo||Means Hello, but used only on the telephone. In a business setting, many answer their phones oui, allo (yes, hello?)|