Have you ever had a friend or family member achieve something which prompted you to congratulate them? Perhaps you yourself achieved something great and were congratulated by others for it.
In French there are quite a few ways to congratulate someone for something ranging from casual sayings you would use with friends, to more formal phrases you would only use in professional situations.
Let’s see how many of them we can go over in this article!
using félicitations to say congratulations in french
This is by far the most common way to say “congratulations” in French. If there is only one way that you’ve heard before it’s more than likely this one. Fortunately for us English speakers, it works pretty much the same way that “congratulations” does in that it can be used by itself or in a complete sentence.
If the context is clear then you’re fine to use félicitations on its own. If the context isn’t clear however, or you just want to provide more, then you can say félicitations pour…. and then whatever you would like to congratulate someone for.
Take a look at the examples below…
Félicitations pour ton nouvel emploi – Congratulations on your new job
Félicitations pour ton mariage – Congratulations on your marriage
Although it may not really seem like it, the word félicitations is indeed a noun which allows it to be modified by adjectives. If this doesn’t make sense, look at the examples below…
Toutes mes félicitations / Toutes nos félicitations – (My sincere) congratulations / (Our sincere) congratulations
Mes sincères félicitations / Nos sincères félicitations – My sincere congratulations / Our sincere congratulations
Mes vives félicitations / Nos vives félicitations – My enthusiastic congratulations / Our enthusiastic congratulations
using Féliciter to say to congratulate in French
Just like the English verb “to congratulate”, félicitations can be turned into a verb. This verb is féliciter. Of course using the verb féliciter is a little bit different than using just félicitations in the sense that you have to say why you are congratulating someone. It’s not optional or a matter of context.
Let’s take a look at some examples of the verb féliciter in action. You’ll very often see it in conjunction with the word pour.
Je te félicite pour ton nouveau livre – I congratulate you on your new book (congratulations on your new book)
Il a félicité son frère pour l’obtention de son nouvel emploi – He congratulated his brother for getting a new job
It’s also not uncommon to see the verb féliciter used with de instead of with pour.
Je te félicite de ton succès – I congratulate you on your success
If you are using the verb féliciter before another verb then you HAVE to use de. It isn’t a matter of preference in this situation.
Il me félicite d’avoir réussi mon examen – He congratulates me on passing my exam
Je te félicite d’avoir fait un aussi bon travail – I congratulate you doing such good work
There’s one other thing that should be brought up regarding the difference between pour and de here. Although when féliciter is followed by a verb (such as in the above examples) you are supposed to use de, it’s not completely unheard of to hear people use pour. So the two above examples become…
Il me félicite pour avoir réussi mon examen – He congratulates me on passing my exam
Je te félicite pour avoir fait un aussi bon travail – I congratulate you doing such good work
The above sentences are not technically correct, but you will hear people use them. Just keep this in mind and you’ll be alright.
Believe it or not, in French you can also congratulate yourself by saying Je me félicite… Look at the examples below…
Je me félicite d’avoir autant travaillé – I congratulate myself on working so much
Je me félicite d’avoir fait un si bon choix – I congratulate myself on making such a good choice
It may sound a little weird or arrogant to congratulate yourself on something, but trust me when I say that in French it’s not as bad as it sounds. Just think of it like you’re happy, pleased, or proud to have done something.
You probably won’t come across this one too much, but you can use félicitation (no “s”) as an adjective like in the following sentences…
Il lui a écrit une lettre de félicitation – He wrote him/her a congratulatory letter
Je lui ai envoyé un message de félicitation – I sent him a congratulatory message
Using Je tiens à vous féliciter pour... to congratulate someone in French
You’ll probably hear this one the most in professional situations (such as when you are working with a team on a project), and someone wants to congratulate you for accomplishing something. When translated into English we get “I must congratulate you on…” and then whatever you want to congratulate that person for.
Because this is something that you’ll hear in professional (or just more serious) situations it’s definitely more on the formal side of things. This isn’t something you would use with your friends as a simple “congrats”.
Don’t think that you HAVE to be working in a team with someone to hear or use this one, it really is just a rather formal phrase that is used in situations where the person being congratulated has accomplished something worthwhile. Working in a team is definitely a great use for it however.
Je tiens à vous féliciter pour tous vos efforts – I must congratulate you on all your efforts
Je tiens à vous féliciter pour votre travail – I congratulate you on your work
Different ways to express congratulations in French
Using félicitations is a perfect way to congratulate someone in French. However, what about all other ways to congratulate someone? Let’s take a look at some of them right here…
using bon travail to express congratulations in french
Hopefully everything we have gone over up to this point has been relatively easy. However, if it hasn’t, you’ll be happy to learn that this one is almost as simply as can be.
You shouldn’t have any difficulty remembering how to use bon travail as it’s for the most part an exact translation of the expression “good work” in English. You can also think of it as “nice work” if you’d like.
Using bravo to express congratulations in french
Bravo is another rather casual way of expressing “congratulations” in French and is pretty much used exactly how you would expect it to be. Because bravo is on the informal side of things you can think of it like “congrats” rather than “congratulations”.
Just like with félicitations you can use bravo by itself if the context is clear or in a more complete sentence like below…
Bravo à mon frère pour son permis de conduire – Congrats to my brother for (getting) his driver’s license
using chapeau ! / chapeau bas ! to express congratulations in french
If you’ve never heard this one before then it may seem a little silly at first glance. If you aren’t already aware, the word chapeau is the French word for “hat” so by congratulating someone using this way you are literally just saying “hat”.
The origin of this comes from way back when in times where men wore hats and removed them to salute you for having accomplished something.
In fact the original expression was Je vous lève le chapeau (I lift my hat off to you) which was likely just shortened to chapeau !
Chapeau bas ! (literally hat down) has the same meaning and can be thought of as someone removing their hat in a sort of sweeping motion while bowing.
Using tous mes compliments / Tous nos compliments to express congratulations in French
Literally translated as “all my congratulations” or “all our congratulations” this one is a rather formal way to express congratulations to someone. You probably aren’t going to use this one with your friends or family, but you will definitely read or hear it in other situations with people you aren’t as familiar with.
Just like with many of the other examples on this list you can use it with pour and de to explain what you are congratulating someone for.
Tous mes compliments pour votre idée géniale – Congratulations on your brilliant idea (All my congratulations for…)
Tous nos compliments d’avoir obtenu votre diplôme – Congratulations on getting your diploma/degree (All our congratulations on…)
Using bonne réussite to wish someone well
Sometimes you want to be able to wish someone well BEFORE they accomplish whatever they are going to do. Sort of like a pre-congratulations. When this is the case you can use bonne réussite which is translated literally as “good success”. Just think of this one as a way to say “good luck”.
Using tous mes voeux / tous nos voeux to express congratulations in french
When translated literally tous mes vœux means “all my wishes”. You’ll see this used very often when congratulating someone on their marriage. Usually when you give someone your wishes you are wishing them well for whatever the future may bring them.
When you use it for someone who just got married however you are wishing them the best on their future together. All of this is to say that tous mes vœux is a perfect way to congratulate two people who just got married.
Here are some related examples you can use…
Tous mes vœux de bonheur – All my best wishes / Best wishes for your future happiness
Tous nos meilleurs vœux de santé et de bonheur – All our best wishes for your health and happiness
We talked about how tous mes/nos vœux is used to congratulate two people on their marriage, however it doesn’t HAVE to be used for just this situation. You can use it in other instances, but it typically won’t mean “congratulations”, but rather to just wish them the best.
Tous mes vœux pour votre père – All my wishes for your father (I hope your father is well)
Tous mes vœux pour votre entreprise – All my wishes for your business (I wish your business well)
Using bien joué to express congratulations in French
This is another pretty informal way to express “congratulations” to someone. Don’t think of this one as a full-on congratulations, but rather more of a “nicely done” or “well played” as it’s literally translated.
It’s often used when someone makes a smart move or does something that you consider clever. This doesn’t always have to be the case however. It can be used by itself, or in a complete sentence.
Tu as fait exprès d’aller aux toilettes pour pouvoir partir en pleine réunion ? Bien joué ! – You pretended to go to the restroom to be able to leave in the middle of the meeting? Well played!
Bien joué pour ton examen oral ! – Well done passing your oral exam
It can also be used after a sports match to mean “good game”.
Bien joué, l’équipe ! – Good game, team!
Other sentences using félicitations
Before we wrap things up, let’s just look at some other phrases in French that you can use to congratulate someone. There are no doubt other ways to say congratulations, but here are just some other ones you may come across from time to time.
Je t’adresse mes félicitations – I extend my congratulations to you / I congratulate you (I address to you my congratulations)
Je lui fais mes félicitations – I extend my congratulations to you / I congratulate you (I do/make you my congratulations)
Transmets mes félicitations à ta sœur – Pass my congratulations to your sister
Elle a reçu les félicitations de son cousin pour la naissance de son fils – She was congratulated by her cousin for the birth of her son (She received the congratulations of her cousin for the birth of her son)
Congratulating someone for an accomplishment is a great way to show someone you care for them. As you learn more and more French and start to form relationships with people, you are definitely going to express this emotion.
Hopefully with this guide you are a little more confident in knowing how to congratulate someone in French. If you are now able to get out there and start using it with others then félicitations to you!