You might know how to say bye in French but… How do you say hello in French??
It’s “Bonjour.” So, if there’s only one French word you’ll remember from this, let it be “bonjour.”
But, you’re a smart person. You want to learn and speak the lingo, right? So, in this guide, you’re going to learn 11 ways to say hi or hello in French. This will only take you 2-3 minutes. Also, be sure to listen to the audio for pronunciation.
By the way, you’ll want to hear REAL French pronunciation.
So, you got it.
Here are a few free French audio lessons.
Press play and listen. You’ll hear how to say hello in French and learn other words. These lessons are from FrenchPod101, a popular French learning website.
- 3-Minute French Lesson – Greetings
- Absolute Beginner #1 – Easy Self-Introductions in French
1. Bonjour! Hello!
This is, by far, the most popular way to say hello in French. When you enter a store or when you greet a person for the first time, you will use bonjour. The literal translation of bonjour is good day.
- Bon means good; jour means day.
To be polite, you should always follow your bonjour with a title such as madame for an older and/or married woman, mademoiselle for a younger and/or unmarried woman, and monsieur for a man.
Because you are literally wishing someone a good day, this word actually expires as the evening falls. This brings us to bonsoir.
2. Bonsoir! Good evening!
There is a certain time of day when bonjour becomes bonsoir.
When? No-one knows. This is a cruel secret that the French refuse to share with us. But, it appears to fall somewhere between 4PM and 6PM.
People stop using bonjour and move on to evening mode with bonsoir. The literal translation is good evening.
- Bon means good; soir means evening.
Again it is polite to also use a title with this greeting such as Bonsoir, madame.
3. Salut! Hi!
As you get to know people, you can start using the less formal expression salut to greet people.
- Salut means hi.
You can use it with people you know well. You do not need to follow salut with a title because this expression would be used with people you already know fairly well. In English we have the outdated greeting, “Salutations.” Salut is a shortened form of this similar expression.
- Hot language tip! Salut works double duty as both hi and bye as well.
You can greet your friends with salut at the start of your visit, and you can leave your friends with salut at the end of your visit.
4. Tiens! Hey!
Another less formal expression is tiens.
- Tiens means hey.
This is an expression to get the attention of someone you know well. With a peer, this word is acceptable. With someone you don’t know or someone who is older than you, avoid this term. It’s not mean-spirited. It’s just very familiar. Just as in English, it would probably be impolite to address an older person with “Hey!”
5. Coucou! Hey!
Coucou is an informal hello to people with whom you are very close and personal.
Parents use this with their children.
Close siblings might use this with each other. It conveys a more loving tone and is reserved for the special people in your life.
5. Allô! = Hello!
How do you say hello in French in the phone?
Allô is strictly for use on the telephone.
When someone answers the phone, it is correct to say allô. This is the most common greeting for a phone conversation. Also, it is common to use allô, and then follow it with bonjour as a phone greeting as in “Allô. Bonjour, Monsieur.” People want to say hello but also want wish someone a good day.
6. Comment allez-vous? How are you?
Even people who have never learned any French will often be familiar with the expression comment allez-vous.
- It is a question that literally asks how are you going.
English speakers would more closely translate this to “how are you” or “how are things going.” This is a formal expression because it uses the formal you (vous.) This expression would be used for people who are older or for people you do not know very well. A common response would be Je vais bien which means I am doing well.
7. Comment vas-tu? How are you?
This is just a bit less formal than comment allez-vous.
- The literal translation is the same: how are you going.
However, this expression uses the less formal you (tu.) Use this expression only with people you already know and people whom you would consider your peers.
8. Comment ça va? How is it going?
This is an informal way of checking in with people who are your friends or close acquaintances. This expression literally means how does it go. A common informal response would be ça va bien which means it is going well.
9. Ça va? How is it going?
This is another informal way of asking your friends and close acquaintances how they are doing.
- Ça va literally translates to it goes.
If things in your life are just average, you can answer the question with the same exact phrase, ça va, which tells your friend it’s going. If it’s going well, you can say ça va bien. It is possible to have an entire mini-French conversation using only this expression: — Ça va? — Ça va. Ça va? — Ça va.
10. Quoi de neuf? What’s new?
Although quoi de neuf literally means what is new, it can also be interpreted as what’s happening or what’s up.
This is a friendly expression that can be used to catch up with people you haven’t seen in awhile. It can also just be used to check in with friends.
11. Bienvenue! Welcome!
When greeting someone who is arriving in your home or to a new place, bienvenue is the most common expression to use.
- Bienvenue breaks down into two words.
- Bien which means well and venue which means come.
They combine to mean welcome. This is also the phrase that you will see on signs at the airport to greet you as you arrive in France.
Now you know a whole bunch of ways to say hello in French.
If you want to review and remember these phrases forever, print this page out.
What’s next? Check out my next lesson.
– The Main Junkie