47 Greetings and Salutations in French

If you want to be polite in a French-speaking country, memorize these common French words and phrases and use them liberally in your routine interactions. 

Formal vs. Informal Use

Some greetings in the French language can be used formally, while others are informal. Knowing which to use and when to use them is respectful and helps you avoid miscommunication in French. Consider the following context to help you choose which greeting is best when the occasion arises. 

FormalityOccasion
FormalFormal greetings are specific to first-time introductions, introducing yourself to strangers, or a way to demonstrate respect in a formal setting. 
Semi-FormalEven in a casual atmosphere, you want to use a formal or semi-formal greeting towards those you do not know personally or are being introduced to for the first time. 
NeutralIs Generally acceptable in all situations. Use if you are unsure. 
InformalUse in a relaxed or casual atmosphere when meeting new colleagues and peers, when introduced to close friend’s acquaintances, or in greeting people you know but are not close to. 
CasualUse with those you are familiar with in social situations. 

French Greetings, Replies, and Salutations

These greetings, introductions, replies, and departing French expressions are all used in various situations and can help you begin initial communication in French. Look at when they are appropriate to use and how they should be used. 

Don’t fret too much about pronunciation, French uses accent marks, and native speakers will be happy to help you get those right. You can also take advantage of online pronunciation sites to help you.

Greetings

Use these greetings when first being introduced to somebody or upon meeting somebody for the first time that day. Various levels of formality should be used in addressing those you do not know and those you are already acquainted with. Also, consider the event or atmosphere you are within. 

French EnglishWhen to UseFormality
ÂlloHelloExclusive for telephone conversations.Neutral
Bon apres-midiGood afternoonIn QuebecNeutral
Bon MatinGood morningIn QuebecNeutral
bonjourHello, Good dayUntil 12pmNeutral
bonsoirgood eveningEvening onlySemi-formal
Ça fait longtemps, dis doncLong time, no seeGreeting to a friend or close acquaintance. Casual
CoucouHeyCasual greeting to a close friendsCasual
RebonjourHello againWhen you see a person again in the same day.Neutral
saluthello or goodbyeInformal greeting or a  quick way to say goodbye. Informal

Departures

Use these terms when taking your leave of present company. These are generally neutral in use, and you can pick and choose which is most appropriate for the occasion. 

French EnglishWhen to UseFormality
à  bientôtsee you soonIn reply to someone taking their leave, or instead of goodbye. Neutral
à  demainsee you tomorrowIn reply to someone taking their leave, or instead of goodbye. Neutral
à  toute à  l’heuresee you laterIn response to someone taking their leave, or instead of goodbye. Neutral
À plus! Later!To say goodbye to close friends and family.Casual
adieugoodbyeUse upon departure.Neutral
au revoirgoodbyeCustomary when leaving a store, shop, etcNeutral
Bonne journeeHave a nice dayA polite follow up to an initial greeting or upon departure. Neutral
bonne nuitgoodnightTo signal a leaving for the night or going to bedNeutral
Ciao!See ya!Although an Italian origin, it is popular with a young crowd and widely recognized.Casual
saluthello or goodbyeInformal initial greeting or a  quick way to say goodbye. Informal

Replies

These standard replies follow initial greetings or are in response to general salutations that follow the arrival or departure of someone. Be sure to check the formality of these, as some are considered more polite than others depending on the company you are in or the event you are at. If unsure, choose a more neutral approach. 

French EnglishWhen to UseFormality
à  vos souhaitsbless you (after a sneeze)After someone sneezes.Neutral
bienvenuewelcomeIn response to being told thank you. Neutral
Ça vaI’m goodUse in reply to being asked how you are. Neutral
Ça va?How are you?Follow up to an initial greeting, a little more informal in use. Neutral
Comment allez-vous ?How are you?After an initial greeting, a slightly more formal way of asking how a person is. Neutral
Comment tu t’appelles ?What’s your name?Informal situationsInformal
Comment vous appelez-vous ?What’s your name?Formal situations and introductions.Formal
de rienyou’re welcomeUse in reply to being told thank you. Neutral
Enchanté(e)pleased to meet you Use with people you have just been introduced to or in a more formal setting. Semi-formal
Je suis très heureux(/euse) de faire votre connaissancePleased to meet youUse with people you have just been introduced to or in a less formal setting. Neutral
mercithank youfor letting others know your gratitude, such as when they open a door or pass you an item. Neutral
merci beaucoupthank you very muchTo letting others know your appreciation in a more formal setting, such as when they open a door or pass you an item. It can also be used to thank somebody for their actions. Semi-formal
Pas malNot badUse in reply to being asked how you are. Neutral
Quoi de neuf?What’s up?Use with close friends or acquaintances as an initial greeting. Casual
tant pisnever mindTo negate what may have been already asked.Neutral
Tu vas bien? How are you?A polite follow-up to an initial greeting.Neutral

Salutations

These salutations follow along with initial greetings and are more specific to various circumstances, such as holidays. 

FrenchEnglishWhen to UseFormality
Bon joyeux anniversaireHappy BirthdayTo wish someone Happy Birthday.Neutral
Bonne année!Happy New YearTo wish someone a Happy New Year.Neutral
bonne chancegood luckUse with close friends or family. Informal
Joyeuses fêtesHappy Holidays!General Winter holiday greeting.Neutral
Joyeux noël!Merry Christmas!To wish others a Merry ChristmasNeutral
santécheersTo toast an event.Informal

In Letter Writing/Speaking Events

You may want to address the audience more precisely in writing or speaking events. These are usually formal or semiformal and provide sophistication to your greetings and departures. 

FrenchEnglishWhen to UseFormality
AmitiesBestWhen signing off to those you know in a more formal settingSemi-formal
ChaleureusementWarmlyWhen signing off to those you know in a more formal settingSemi-formal
Cher Monsieur/Chère MadameDear Sir/MadamAddressing friends and acquaintances in a relaxed atmosphereInformal
Chers amisDear FriendsWhen addressing those you know in a more formal settingSemi-formal
CordialementSincerelyWhen signing off to professionals and those you do not knowFormal
Monsieur/MadameDear Sir/MadamWhen addressing professionals and those you do not knowFormal

Non-Verbal Greeting Dos and Don’ts

Non-verbal greetings are common in France, but there are dos and don’ts to pay attention to. You are expected to greet those you meet, from friends to store workers, but formality counts. For example, you would verbally greet a store worker, but you might give a small kiss (or three) on the cheeks of a close friend or family when greeting them.

Handshakes are for formal settings or business settings. Offering a handshake before a meeting sends a message that you have their attention. It is also common for men to greet each other with a handshake. 

Hugs are for close family members and significant others only. Placing your arm around another, not in this category is disrespectful and considered an invasion of privacy. Often hugs are reserved only for family gatherings, such as during the holiday season.

Let’s Review

If you are traveling through a French-speaking country, knowing some basic greetings and phrases can help you communicate your respect for their country. These greetings and salutations provide a simple way to enter into conversation and show your interest in the person you are speaking to. Most are very neutral in their use, but be aware of more casual and informal words to avoid disrespect.