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Everything You Need To Know About How To Use “Ça va”

Proper way to use French greetings

Ça va, which is pronounced like “sah vah,” is a common phrase heard in day-to-day French speech. Ça va literally translates to “it goes,” but it is used in a variety of situations. The most common way you’ll hear ça va is when it is used to ask someone how they’re doing as a shortened version of comment ça va ? 

Some proper ways to respond to ça va? include, “Très bien, et vous ?” or in a more casual setting, “Ça va bien, et toi ?” But you can also respond with a simple “ça va,” which means you’re doing fine. 

If you’re looking to sound more like a local, or are just looking to improve your language skills, it’s important to understand ça va because it is used in a wide variety of situations including talking about well-being, problems in the present, problems that will, or might possibly occur in the future, and talking about feelings and opinions. 

While we encourage you to always try to use new vocabulary, just be mindful that ça va is definitely considered a casual greeting, and if you’re talking to someone you don’t know well it might be better to say, “comment allez-vous ?” instead. 

Also, while you’re reading through all of the different ways you can use ça va, you might notice some negative phrases that drop the “ne” from the “ne… pas” negation. This is because in informal and colloquial settings, the “ne” is commonly dropped. For example, if you’re writing an email to your boss you might write, “Je ne veux pas travailler les week-ends si possible,” or “I don’t want  to work weekends if possible..,” But if you’re talking to your friend in-person about how you don’t want to work weekends, you might say “Je veux pas travailler les week-ends,” without the “ne.”

Talking About Well-Being 

Ça va
How are you? / How are things?

Ça va
Are you okay? Is everything okay?

Comment ça va ? 
A more formal way to ask, “how are you?”

Ça va
I’m fine. / I’m good (This can be used in response to ça va ?) 

Ça va mal.
It’s going badly. (This can be used in response to ça va ? It can also be used in response to “Tu l’aime ?” or “Do you like it?”)

Ça va mal.
Things are bad. (This can be used on its own or as a response to ça va ?)

Ça va super.
I’m doing great. 

J’ai trop bu hier soir. Ça ne va pas.
I drank too much last night. I don’t feel well. (“Je ne me sens pas bien” is used more frequently in the place of ça ne va pas, but both ways make sense.)

Q: Est-ce que je peux t’aider ?
A: Non, merci. Ça va aller.

Q: Can I help you?
A: No, thanks. I got it. 

Examples of Talking About a Current or Future Problem

Tu as oublié ton passeport à la maison alors qu’on est déjà à l’aéroport. Ça ne va pas ! 
You forgot your passport at the house and we’re already at the airport. You must be joking!

Tu veux acheter une voiture à ca prix ? Ça ne va pas la tête ! 
You want to buy a car at that price? Are you out of your mind? 

On va partir d’ici dans 10 minutes. Ça te va ?
We’re going to leave here in 10 minutes. Does that work for you? 

Tu me conseilles comment gérer mes comptes ? Ça te va bien (de faire la morale) !
You’re giving me advice about how to manage my money? You’re a fine one to talk!

Tu as vendu la nouvelle voiture pour acheter des nouvelles chaussures ? Non mais ça va pas ou quoi ? 
You sold the new car to buy new shoes? Are you crazy? 

Tu obéis à ta mère ou ça va chauffer !
Listen to your mother or there will be hell to pay!

Benjamin va être viré cet après-midi. Ça va chier. (note: this phrase is considered vulgar.)
Benjamin is going to be fired this afternoon. The sh*t’s going to hit the fan. 

Si Benjamin se rend compte qu’il va être viré cet après-midi, ça va mal aller. (note: this is another way to say the previous phrase) 
If Benjamin realizes he’s getting fired this afternoon, it’s going to go badly. 

Mon frère a encore éraflé la voiture de mes parents. Ça va être sa fête. 
My brother scratched my parents’ car again. He’s going to get it. 

Si on laisse Alexandre aller au parc sans avoir fait sa sieste d’abord, ça va mal finir.  
If we let Alexander go to the park without having taken his nap yet, it’s going to end in tears. 

Talking About Feelings/Opinions

Ne pleure pas. Ça va aller.
Don’t cry. It’ll be okay. 

Il a encore loupé son examen, mais ça va lui passer. 
He failed his test again, but he’ll get over it. 

Quand tout le monde déménage après l’université, ça va me faire quelque chose. 
If everyone moves after college, things won’t be the same anymore. 

Tu construis toujours ta nouvelle cuisine ? Ça va comme tu veux ? 
Are you still building your new kitchen? Are things going the way you want? 

Je sais que tu veux pas parler de ta rupture, mais ça va mieux en le disant. 
I know you don’t want to talk about your break-up, but you’ll feel better if you get it off your chest.  

Je viens d’acheter un nouveau pull pour toi. Ça va te plaire !
I just bought you a new sweater. You’re going to love it!

J’adore ta nouvelle coupe de cheveux ! Ça te va bien !
I love your new haircut. It really suits you. 

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If you make mistakes when trying to employ all of these different uses, ça va aller, because every time you make a mistake you’re learning from it. 

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