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10 Ways to Say Hello in French

by Catherine Reynolds
Smiling couple standing next to an ornate railing near the Eiffel Tower

Before you can say “how are you” or “thank you” in French, you need to learn how to greet people!

In the French language, manners and courtesy are vitally important. In fact, the word etiquette comes from French. So a great first impression is key! But never fear, we’re here to help with tips on ten different ways to say “hello” in French. Soon, you’ll be able to say hello in any setting, from a business meeting to a hangout with friends.

How to say “hello” in French

With these greetings, you’ll be prepared for almost any situation. It’s important to keep in mind that the time of day and the relationship you have with the person you’re addressing will impact the greeting you choose. Even answering the phone has its own unique greeting!

1. Bonjour

Bonjour is as close as you’ll get to a universal French greeting. It’s appropriate to say in any setting when you’re trying to say hello. However, bonjour translates directly to “good day” so it’s customary to use bonjour in the morning or afternoon.

In the evening, bonsoir or “good evening” is a more appropriate greeting.

  • Bonjour = Good day
  • Bonsoir = Good evening

Want to practice your pronunciation? Check out this video on saying “hello” in French:

2. Rebonjour

Rebonjour is hello on repeat! When you greet someone after recently seeing them, you can use the phrase rebonjour, or “hello again.” It can be considered rude to say bonjour if you’ve already seen someone once that day! So, rebonjour is perfect for those moments when you bump into someone you weren’t expecting to see so soon.

Watch the video below for more detail on using rebonjour in conversation: 

3. Salut

Looking for a more casual greeting? Salut is your go-to for saying “hello” to friends or casual acquaintances. Remember that salut is only used in informal settings. Even though it’s spelled similarly to the English word “salute,” be sure to leave off the “t” sound at the end to sound like a local!

4. Ça va

The French phrase ça va is a very casual way to say “how are you.” While not technically a way to say “hello,” ça va is a common greeting for close friends and family members. Remember to use this phrase only in informal settings. Greeting someone you just met with ça va would be like skipping over saying “hello” altogether!

Here’s how you can use ça va in conversation:

5. Allô

When answering the phone, remember to greet the caller with allô! Pronounced similarly to “hello” in English, allô is a version of “hi”, but specifically for answering the phone. So don’t be surprised on the streets of France when you hear someone answer their phone with what sounds like “hello!”

6. Bienvenue

Your French teacher or a shopkeeper might greet you with bienvenue when you walk in. It’s a formal way to welcome someone. When greeted with bienvenue it’s customary to respond in the same way. It directly translates to “welcome” so be sure to use it appropriately.

7. Coucou

This French greeting mimics the sound of a cuckoo bird. It’s a sweet greeting that parents will say to their children or that close friends might use affectionately. Keep in mind, coucou is an extremely informal greeting. It’s not something you can say while chatting with your boss, or greeting a stranger.

8. Enchanté

When you want to say “nice to meet you,” enchanté is the right greeting for you. This greeting is perfect for meeting someone for the first time in both casual and formal settings. Enchanté can be said alone, or as the phrase enchanté de faire votre connaissance, which also means “nice to meet you.”

9. Tiens

When you are surprised to see someone you can say “hello” with tiens. The word is a form of the verb tenir, which means “to hold.” In casual conversations, however, it can be used as the equivalent of “there you are!” So when you’re pleasantly surprised to see a friend sitting across the café or you’re welcoming someone into a room, make sure to say tiens!

10. La bise

Perhaps the most famous French greeting is la bise or “kisses.” La bise is the French custom of saying hello without saying a word, otherwise known as the French air kiss. For this greeting you approach someone close enough to brush cheeks. French has plenty of informal body language communication, but be sure not to use it in the wrong scenario.

Depending on where you are in France, and your relationship to the person you’re greeting, la bise could range from one kiss to three! But, beware of coupling it with a hug. The French are much more likely to extend a firm handshake or la bise than reach for an embrace.

Say bonjour to learning French

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