At the end of the day before you go to sleep it’s important you know how to wish someone good night. This can become especially important as you start to form relationships with people. Seeing as you probably already know how to say good morning or good day (bonjour) it only makes sense that you learn how to say good night. Let’s go over exactly how to say “good night” in French as well as some other vocabulary and expressions related to sleep.
Using Bonne Nuit to say good night in french
This is the most well-known and commonly used way to say “goodnight” in French. It also should be pretty easy to remember as it literally means good night. Contrary to bonne soirée (have a good evening) bonne nuit is only used when it’s assumed that people are going to sleep for the night.
This may go without saying, but you would really only want to use bonne nuit when you are around people that you know personally as it’s sort of a personal thing. If you are out somewhere such as at a restaurant or a store and are leaving for the night you would probably want to use bonne soirée even if you know that you are going to bed as soon as you get home.
If you are spending time with your family however (especially if you are in the same house) then you can use bonne nuit without too much of an issue.
If all of this seems too confusing don’t worry. Bonne nuit can be used just like “goodnight” is used in English so just use it in the same type of situations and you’ll be fine.
Wishing someone sweet dreams with fais de beaux rêves
Literally translated as “make beautiful dreams” it’s not hard to see how this one really means “sweet dreams”. Technically faites de beaux rêves is the formal and plural (used when speaking to more than one person) of fais de beaux rêves, but seeing as saying this sort of thing to someone is pretty personal you really aren’t ever going to use it in formal situations.
All of this is to say that if you use faites de beaux rêves it’s going to be because you’re speaking to multiple people and not because you’re in a formal situation with someone that you should be showing respect. This one is often used in combination with bonne nuit just like “goodnight” would be used together with “sweet dreams” in English.
Using Dors bien to tell someone to sleep well
Dors bien – Sleep well
Dormez bien – Sleep well (formal and plural)
This is another one that should be easy to remember as its literal translation and its actual translation mean the same thing (dors = sleep, bien = well). There isn’t much to say about this one as its meaning is pretty much how we would use it in English. Just like with bonne nuit and fais de beaux rêves, you would really only use this one if someone was directly headed to bed.
Dormez bien is technically the formal and plural version of dors bien, but just like the others that we’ve gone over this isn’t really something that you would say in a formal situation so if you you hear someone say dormez bien (or want to use it yourself) it’s more than likely used for multiple people.
Using Sommeil to Talk about sleep
The word sommeil is more used to talk about sleep in general rather to wish someone “goodnight”. The word sommeil literally means sleep and can be used in the following expressions.
J’ai sommeil – I’m sleepy (literally I have sleep)
If you have previous French experience you’ll be familiar with the phrase j’ai faim which means “I’m hungry” and I have hunger when literally translated. J’ai sommeil (and the following phrases) can be thought of in the same way.
Here are a few other phrases that you can use that involve the word sommeil.
- J’ai le sommeil lourd – I am a heavy sleeper (literally I have heavy sleep)
- J’ai le sommeil léger – I am a light sleeper (literally I have light sleep)
- J’ai le sommeil agité – I am a restless sleeper (literally I have restless sleep)
- J’ai le sommeil décalé – My sleep schedule is messed up (literally I have out of sync sleep)
Describing How You Sleep with Dormir
We’ve already gone over phrases that use dormir (to sleep) such as dors bien and dormez bien, but we haven’t gone over other ways you can use dormir. Similar to the previous section with sommeil there are a myriad of ways that you can use dormir to describe how you sleep. Take a look at the expressions below. Most of them, although a little funny, are easy enough to understand.
Je dors bien – I sleep well
Je dors mal – I sleep poorly
Je dors debout – I’m asleep on my feet (I’m half asleep)
Je dors à la belle étoile – I sleep under the stars
Je dors d’un sommeil de plomb – I sleep like a rock (plomb technically means lead, but the best translation for this one is I sleep like a rock)
Je dors comme un sabot – I sleep like a rock (sabot technically means clog but the best translation for this one is I sleep like a rock)
Je dors comme un bébé – I sleep like a baby
Je dors comme un loir – I sleep like a dormouse
Je dors comme une marmotte – I sleep like a groundhog
Je dors comme une souche – I sleep like a stump (this one can be thought of as I sleep like a log)
Je dors comme un ange – I sleep like an angel
Je dors/ronfle comme un sonneur – I sleep like a bell ringer
Other Ways to talk about sleep in French
Saying bonne nuit is only one way, albeit a very common way, to talk about sleep in French. However there are tons of other vocabulary that you can use to either talk about sleep, or just use around bedtime. Let’s take a look at them.
Faire la grasse matinée
Faire la grasse matinée – To sleep in / To have a lie in
Literally translated as “to make the fat morning” this one can just be thought of as “to sleep in” or “to have a lie” in depending on what your preference is.
Passer une nuit blanche
Passer une nuit blanche – To pull an all nighter
When you translate this one literally you get “to spend a white night” however its real translation is “to pull an all nighter” or “to stay up all night” if you’re unfamiliar with the expression.
Other ways of saying this include faire une nuit blanche and just faire nuit blanche
Ronfler – To Snore
Not a whole lot of explanation is needed with this one as we all know was snoring is. When it comes to sleep ronfler can be used the same way as to snore can be in English.
Piquer un somme
Piquer un somme – To take a nap
This one is no doubt on the informal side of things. It literally means to take a sleep which is essentially the same thing as to take a nap.
Another even more common way of saying to take a nap in French is faire la sieste.
Ne dormir que d'un œil
Ne dormir que d’un œil – To sleep with one eye open
Just like in English, when someone uses this they don’t literally mean that they sleep with one eye open. It really just means that they are aware of what is going on around them while they sleep. In many cases people use it in a sarcastic or joking manner.
Faire Dodo – To go to bed (used mostly by children and when speaking to children)
Faire dodo is a silly and childish way to say to go to bed or to go to sleep. It’s not commonly uncommon to hear teenagers or young adults use it when just being silly, but if this is the case the situation will likely be extremely informal.
Dormir sur place
Dormir sur place – To sleep on the spot / To sleep on site / To sleep there
This one takes a little bit of explaining, but overall it’s still pretty easy to understand. Basically, you use dormir sur place when you are planning to sleep somewhere (such as on a trip or just at someone else’s house) and plan on sleeping their. Here is an example to better explain this.
La tempête de neige nous a empêché de rentrer de la fête alors nous avons dormi sur place – The snowstorm prevented us from coming home from the party last night so we slept there.
Dormir sur ses deux oreilles
Dormir sur ses deux oreilles – To sleep easy, To sleep like a baby
This one presents sort of a strange image in our heads, however it’s still pretty easy to understand. Dormir sur ses deux oreilles literally means “to sleep on two ears” which when you think about it would be difficult to do. Nevertheless you can think of this one like you’re sleeping on both your ears and thus don’t need to “listen” out for anything. Of course you don’t actually have to be listening out for anything, it’s just a way to say that you can sleep easy without a worry.
Qui Dort Dine
Qui Dort Dine – Sleep and forget that you’re hungry
You probably won’t hear this one too often, but it’s still a good one to know. Qui dort dine literally means he who sleeps, eats. Its real translation however can be described as sleeping to forget that you’re hungry. It’s a little weird as an expression, but you should still at least know about it.
Because sleep is something that we all do it’s only natural that it will come up in conversation at some point. I hope that with this guide you’ll be ready to not only say “goodnight” in French, but also to just talk about sleep in general. Do you know of other ways to talk about sleep in French? Let me know!