How to Greet someone in French Language

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Before you even initiate a conversation with someone you know or are meeting for the first time, the first step is to greet them. It is said that the first impression is the last impression, and it is extremely important to set the correct tone from the get-go.

Intro about French Greetings and Why learn French Greetings?

If you are a French traveller and want to talk freely with the local crowd or are communicating with a French client and want to impress them with the correct salutations, or if you are just a general multilingual who is looking to sharpen their skills, then this blog would help you take that first step in learning how to meet and greet someone in France?

Greeting someone properly would create a positive vibe at the onset of the conversation. It is considered a good and polite way to acknowledge another person in French culture. No matter how big or small the conversation, it always has a big impact on the French-speaking population. If you want to be a part of the local community or simply do as the French do when in France, then you are in the right place.

What are the most used French greetings? 

French just like most Europeans is a romantic and poetic language, there is no one size fits all approach in French language. The way you approach someone depends on your relationship with another person or how long you have known each other. You wouldn’t have the same approach when you meet your best friend, a random stranger on the road and your business client. Even though you would still start with a basic hello, it would still be different. 

 Even if you are not a French speaker, I am sure bonjour is not a new word for you. This is probably one of the most popular French greetings worldwide, followed by enchanté(e) (nice to meet you), bonsoir (good evening/hello), and quoi de neuf? (what’s up?), au revoir! (goodbye), salut (bye), salut (hi), coucou (hey), Ça fait longtemps, dis donc (long time no see), Âllo (hello). We will cover some popular French etiquette and some rules associated with them. 

What are the Formal and Informal ways of French greetings? 

Bonjour

Bonjour is like the English counterpart of “hello.” It is a universal greeting that can be used anywhere and with anyone and is a perfect icebreaker to initiate a conversation. Bonjour also means “good day” in French and is considered quite polite in the local culture. 

It can also be used to say good morning in the French national language; the word used for good afternoon in French also sounds the same, but after the sun sets you cannot use this word and are instead replaced by another one, which we will cover in the later part of this blog.

Bonsoir

Bonsoir is used to wish a Good Evening or Hello in French. It is used usually after sunset and can be used just like Bonjour in both formal and informal conversations. 

Enchanté(e)

Enchanté is used in a more formal environment where, just after saying “bonjour,” you want to tell someone that you are delighted to meet them or are happy to meet them. It is considered a professional way of acknowledging another person, which may lead to a beautiful business relationship. Enchanté is a way of saying “nice to meet you” in French.

Salut

Salut is considered a casual greeting in French and is commonly used when you meet your close friends and family. It is equivalent to saying “hi” in English. It is also used to greet someone who you are meeting more than once in the same day or meeting in a casual environment.

Coucou

The actual meaning of “coucou” is “cuckoo” in French, but this salutation can be used to either grab someone’s attention, just like “hey” in English, or be something that is used with extremely close friends and family. When meeting people who are close to you, bonjour can be replaced with coucou. 

It is more of a casual greeting and should be avoided in a formal environment. In the French language, the phrase “jouer à coucou” means “play peekaboo.” The greeting Coucou and the word in this phrase have a similar tone and pronunciation and would confuse even the native French speakers in a formal meeting.

Allô?

Allô is the English cognate of “hello,” which, as mentioned above, can also be greeted as “bonjour” in French. The only difference between Bonjour and Allô is that the first one is used when you meet someone in person, and Allô is not used in face-to-face conversations. It is instead used in telephonic conversations when you answer the phone to confirm if the other person is still on the line.

You would not use or hear this in any other form of greetings. 

Now that we have discussed different forms of greetings used in French to greet someone, let’s have a look at how you would take a leave from someone.

Au revoir 

The most common form of saying “goodbye” in French is Au revoir which can be used in both formal and informal conversations, no matter how close you are to someone or how little you know that person. The greeting means “until we meet again,” and if you know this is the final goodbye and the chances of meeting someone again are quite low, then you use “adieu,” which means “until God,” to give your last farewell. 

Salut!

No, we are not repeating greetings here; salut is also used for saying bye to someone in French. It is used in a much more casual way than Au Revoir and can be used with friends and family. It is often used for close ones, and in a way, it is used to tell someone that they are considered to be close.

Ciao!

For most of you, this word would ring a bell, as this is surely not the first time you are seeing this word. Even though the word originated in the Italian language, not only among French people but even worldwide, this word is often used to say “goodbye” to someone.

À plus tard / À toute à l’heure

The phrase is used to say “see you later” to someone in the French language and is used to express that you will see someone at a later, unspecified time. It is mostly used in an informal environment, and you might see people using its short form, “A plus,” in their conversations or simple A+ in informal emails. If you want to use the same phrase in a formal environment or when you know what time you are meeting someone next, you can simply say À toute à l’heure.

À bientôt

The French greeting for “see you soon” is À bientôt. It is used when you know you are going to meet someone in the near future. If you are scheduled to see someone in a matter of hours, then you can use “à très bientôt”. 

À demain! 

If you are going to meet someone probably tomorrow or on a fixed day of the week, then you can use À demain which in French greetings means See you later tomorrow!

Bonne nuit

The last salutation you would use for someone in a day is good night. It is when you are ready to call it a day and go to bed that you say “good night,” which in the French language is Bonne nuit.

Other Useful Phrases in French Greetings

Comment allez-vous? / Ça va?

There are several ways to say How are you in French culture but comment allez-yous is the most common way to say How is it going? 

Merci!

When it comes to basic manners, be it in French or any other language, the most common phrase is “Thank you!” The one expression you surely need to remember when talking to someone the most common French greeting is Merci which means Thank You!

Do’s and Don’ts of How to Greet Someone in French Language

Just like any other language in the world, French also has a list of dos and don’ts. This is something you should keep in mind to make sure you set a good example and do not offend anyone unintentionally. 

  • Les bises (kisses) are typically used when meeting close friends or family in France. You should avoid it in formal meetings. 
  • A handshake is usually reserved for formal meetings and should be used in professional environments. 
  • A hug, contrary to American and a lot of other ethnic cultures, should be avoided in France as it makes people uncomfortable and is considered encroaching in someone’s private space. 

FAQs

If someone says Thank you, then what is the best way to reply to them back? 

As a part of the French greetings, the reply to Merci is Bienvenue. 

Do people have different greetings in France when they move geographically?

Yes, people’s attitudes change when they are in rural areas compared to urban metropolises. In villages, when you see people, they expect you will come over and say bonjour. While you are in urban settlements, people are busy with their own lives and do not expect to be disturbed.

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