French Greeting Phrases

Instructor: Andrew Diamond

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.

Do you know how to say 'how are you' in French? Learn about several options in this article, plus how to ask how someone is doing and how to say goodbye, among other common phrases.

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.

Special Occasions

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.'

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