Andrew has worked as an instructional designer and adjunct instructor. He has a doctorate in higher education and a master's degree in educational psychology.
Welcome to France!
There are more than two dozen countries in the world that use French as an official language. Before, or maybe after, you pack your suitcase to visit any of these Francophone countries, you might also want to learn some basic greetings in French. Let's explore some common French phrases to help you get by.
Let's say that you are walking down the streets of Paris and stop by a café. When you greet the café staff, you might say 'hello' in different ways, depending on the time of day.
Bonjour (pronounced: bohn-joor, with a soft 'j' in the middle and a soft 'r' at the end) would be appropriate in the morning and into the afternoon, since it means 'good morning' or 'good day.' Literally translated, 'bonjour' can be broken down to 'good' (bon) and 'day' (jour).
If it's past the afternoon or if it's nighttime, you would say bonsoir (pronounced: bohn-swar, also with a soft 'r' at the end). Literally translated 'bonsoir' means 'good evening,' with the same breakdown above, 'good' (bon) and 'evening' (soir).
How Are You?
After you sit down at a table, the wait staff might ask you how you are or how your day is going. In French 'How are you?' is Comment allez-vous? (pronounced: ko-mohn-tallay-voo)
If you're talking to people you know well, you can say, ça va? instead. Ça va? (pronounced: sa-va) is an informal way of asking someone how they are, sort of like the English equivalent of 'What's up?'
If things are going well and you're feeling good, you can say bien (pronounced: bee-ahn, which a soft 'n' at the end).
If you're feeling just okay or just so-so, you can say comme ci comme ça (pronounced: kum-see-kum-sah).
If you're not feeling stupendous but you're not in the pits, you can say pas mal (pronounced: pah-mahl), which means 'not bad.'
And if you're feeling crummy and don't mind sharing, you can say pas bien (pronounced: pah-bee-ahn, with a soft 'n' sound at the end), which means 'not well.'
And, don't forget your manners and say 'thank you,' or merci (pronounced: mare-see), and ask et vous? (pronounced: ay-voo), or 'and you?' in return.
Sometimes a more specific greeting is in order. Around Christmas, you could say, Joyeux Noël (pronounced: jwa-yeuh no-ell, which a soft 'j' at the beginning) for 'Merry Christmas' or joyeuses fêtes (pronounced: jwa-yeuz fett) for 'Season's Greetings.' If it's someone's birthday, a bon anniversaire (pronounced: bohn-annie-vair-sehr) or 'happy birthday' might be in order.
Alas, you've had your café au lait and now it's time to part ways. After you've said 'merci' for the drink, you can say au revoir (pronounced: oh-reuh-vwar, with a soft 'r' sound at the end) or 'goodbye.' If you're going to see the other person again soon, you could say à bientôt (pronounced: ah-bee-ahn-toh), which means 'see you later' or 'see you soon.'
If you'd like to wish the friendly wait staff 'good night' or 'good evening,' you can say bonne soirée (pronounced: buhn-swah-ray). If it's the daytime, and you'd like to wish them a good rest of the day, you can say, bonne journée (pronounced: buhn-joor-nay), which means 'good day.' And if you find yourself in a casino on the French Riviera, you might say, bonne chance (pronounced: buhn-shahnss), or 'good luck.'
When you meet someone in France or any other place that speaks French, it's polite to say bonjour during the day or bonsoir at night. When asking 'how are you', you can say comment allez-vous? in a more formal setting, and ça va? if you both know each other very well.
If someone has asked you how you're doing, you could respond bien if you're doing well, comme ci comme ça if you're feeling so-so, or pas mal, which means 'not bad.' When someone has asked you how you're doing, you can ask et vous? in return.
Around the holidays, joyeux Noël and joyeuses fêtes might be appropriate. When departing, you might say au revoir or à bientôt if you think you'll meet again soon. You could also say wish people a good rest of their day with bonne journée in the day or bonne soirée in the evening.
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