Of all the different vocabulary in a foreign language the word “hello” is probably the first thing you should learn. Although it may seem like something simple (and it is), there are actually tons of ways you can say “hello”, or otherwise greet someone, in French. From casual hellos you can use with friends to more formal greetings you use with strangers, let’s see how many of them we can go over in this article.
Using bonjour to say hello in French
Bonjour – Hello (good day)
This is the one that you probably have at least heard of before if you aren’t already fully familiar with it. It’s definitely the most known way of saying “hello” in French and probably the most used as well. If you translate bonjour literally we get “good day” (bon = good, jour = day) which may help make it a little easier for you to remember.
Although the term “good day” may sound somewhat formal in English this isn’t at all the case in French. You are free to use it as much as you want without fear of sounding too formal or fancy. Bonjour is sort of like the catch-all way of saying “hello” in French because you can really use it for anyone no matter the formality of the situation.
If you’re going to France (or another French-speaking country) and just need one way to say “hello” then bonjour is definitely what you should learn.
When you are simply saying “hello” to someone you can easily just use bonjour without any hassle. However if you are talking about “saying hello” to someone (as opposed to just doing it) then you would use dire bonjour which means “to say hello”. Unfortunately the verb bonjourer doesn’t exist.
Je dis bonjour à mes collègues tous les matins au bureau – I say hello to my coworkers in the office each morning
Chaque fois que je vois mon ami dans la rue, je lui dis bonjour – Each time I see my friend in the street, I say hello to him
Using rebonjour to say hello again in French
Rebonjour – Hello again (re-hello)
There isn’t much to be said about this one as it really just means “hello again” (literally re-hello). If you saw someone previously (perhaps earlier in the day) it only makes sense that you would acknowledge that you previously engaged with them. When this is the situation you can use rebonjour.
Sometimes in informal situations people will just say re as a sort of abbreviation for rebonjour. This is common among teenagers and young adults.
having someone tell someone else hello for you with dis-lui bonjour de ma part
Dis-lui bonjour de ma part – Say hello to him/her for me
Passe le bonjour pour moi – Say hello to him/her for me
In some instances you want to say “hello” to someone, but can’t because they aren’t there for you to do so. If you are speaking with someone who will be speaking to that person later you can say dis-lui bonjour de ma part which means “say hello to him/her for me”.
Another way of doing this is to say passe le bonjour pour moi which is sort of like saying “pass the hello for me”. Although this may sound a little strange in English, the overall meaning shouldn’t be too difficult to understand.
Using Salut to say hi in french
Salut – Hi
This one is probably just as common as bonjour, but seeing as it’s translated as “hi” it’s really only used in more informal situations. You wouldn’t want to use this with someone that you’re supposed to show respect such as your professor or boss.
If you find yourself in more informal situations than formal ones then you may actually end up using this one more than bonjour.
Unlike bonjour, there is actually a verb for salut which is saluer. Saluer can be used in any instance where you are acknowledging and greeting someone. This usually comes in the form of saying “hi” or even just waving to someone.
Saluer can also mean “to salute”, “to pay tribute to” or “to send your regards”.
Mon cousin me salue tous les soir – My cousin says hi to me each evening
Mon patron m’a salué de la main hier soir quand je l’ai vu au restaurant – My boss waved at me when I saw him yesterday evening at a restaurant
You can also say salut, toi as a sort of kid-friendly way of saying “hi”. This is very common among children, but some adults may use it if they’re just being silly.
Using bonsoir to say hello in french
Bonsoir – Hello (good evening)
Remember how bonjour, when translated literally, meant “good day?” Well bonsoir, when translated literally, means “good evening”. It’s used the exact same way as bonjour except only in the evening. It’s not at all uncommon for people to debate about when exactly it’s appropriate to switch from bonjour to bonsoir.
Some say it depends on the hour of the day whereas others rely on the sun to tell them when. At the end of the day (no pun intended) it’s probably best to just use common sense and get a feel for it. Nobody is going to attack you because you used bonjour at a time that they would have used bonsoir.
Using coucou to say hi in french
Coucou – Hi there, Hey there
Coucou is definitely the most light-hearted and informal way of greeting someone on this list. It’s even more informal than salut and is probably used the most among children. If you had to put an English translation on coucou it would probably be “hi there” or “hey there”.
Just like salut, toi however you will no doubt come across adults who use it as sort of silly or goofy way of saying “hi”. This is especially common in text messages, instant messages and emails.
Because coucou is so informal it’s really important to never use it with someone that you’re supposed to show respect.
Coucou can also be used to try and get someone’s attention, again it’s still very informal.
Using allô to say hello in french
Allô? – Hello? (when answering the phone)
This next one shouldn’t be difficult to remember because it both looks and sounds like a Frenchified version of the word “hello”. The biggest difference with allô however is that it is only used when answering the phone. This is not at all unlike how we say “hello?” when answering the phone in English. You would also use allô when you’re on the phone and you think that the line may have been disconnected, or that the person may have hung up on you.
The last way of using allô is when you’re annoyed and almost can’t believe what someone else has said. Here’s an example of it in action so you can better understand it.
Non mais allo ? Tu me prends pour un con ou quoi ? – Hello? Do you think I’m an idiot or what?
using quoi de neuf to say what's in French
Quoi de neuf? – What’s up?, What’s new?
This isn’t so much a way to say “hello” or “hi” as it is a way to say “what’s up?” or “what’s new?” (its literal translation is “what’s new?”, but “what’s up?” is a fine translation as well).
You’ll see it very often used in combination with salut or another one on this list such as in the sentence…
Salut Pierre, quoi de neuf ? – Hi Pierre, what’s up?
This may be obvious, but because quoi de neuf? is the French equivalent of “what’s up?” or “what’s new?” it’s naturally going to be more informal, so only use it in situations where you can use that kind of language.
Using quoi de beau to say what's up in French
Quoi de beau ? – What’s up?, What’s new? (what’s beautiful?)
Quoi de beau? should be an easy one to learn because it’s really just a variation of quoi de neuf? (what’s up?, what’s new?).
The only real difference between quoi de beau? and quoi de neuf? is that when literally translated quoi de beau? gives us “what’s beautiful?” instead of “what’s new?” The meaning doesn’t change however.
using ça va to say how are you in french
Ça va? – How’s it going?, How are you doing? (it goes?)
Just like both quoi de neuf? and quoi de beau?, ça va? is not so much a way to say “hello” or “hi” as it is to say “how are you?” and greet someone. It’s still on the informal side of things, but not as much as either quoi de neuf? or quoi de beau?
Its literal translation is “it goes?” so you can think of this one as “how’s it going?” or “how are you doing?” You will most often see ça va? in combination with one of the other words on this list such as salut or bonjour (salut, ça va?).
You will also see and hear people say comment ça va? (literally how it goes?) which essentially is the exact same thing.
Greeting one another with faire la bise
Faire la bise – To greet someone by kissing them on either cheek (doing the bise)
Even if you have never heard of la bise you’ve more than likely seen it done before whether it be in films or elsewhere. La bise isn’t a vocal way of saying “hi”, but rather a physical one (not unlike shaking hands) La bise involves kissing someone on either check a certain number of times when you meet with them.
This is very common between two women as well as between a man and a woman. You’ll see it to a lesser extent between two men as they are more often likely to shake hands. It’s not by any means unheard of however and there are plenty of men who faire la bise (literally do the bise) and come from regions where it’s common to do so.
The number of kisses that someone does depends primarily on where in France they are from. The number typically ranges from as little as one to as many as four. If you are unsure of how to faire la bise or how many times to do it, the best advice is to just leave it to the other person and try your best to follow along.
If you ever spend a significant amount of time in France you’ll even see two French people run into issues where one wants to faire la bise more times than the other.
Seeing as you aren’t from France and likely have no preference (or at least no way that you grew up with and are accustomed to) just leave it to the other person and you’ll be fine.
Greeting someone with bienvenue
Bienvenue – Welcome
This is a really simple one. The word bienvenue is the French word for welcome as in the sentence…
Welcome to Paris – Bienvenue à Paris
If you’re familiar with the English word “welcome” (which you likely are if you are reading this) then you should know exactly how to use bienvenue.
Bienvenue can be used to welcome someone anywhere in the French-speaking world, but it can ALSO mean “you’re welcome” in Canada. This is the only place where this rule applies. Check out the article on how to say you’re welcome in French for a more complete guide on this.
Bienvenue chez moi – Welcome to my house
Bienvenue en France – Welcome to France
using enchanté when you meet someone
Enchanté – Nice to meet you
Unlike all of the other ways in this list enchanté is only used when meeting someone for the first time. It’s basically a one-word expression to say “nice to meet you”. You may have noticed that the word enchanté looks a lot like the English word “enchanted”. If it helps, think of enchanté like “enchanted to meet you”. The only thing to keep in mind is that although “enchanted to meet you” sounds very fancy (and a little silly) in English enchanté in French is not at all fancy and completely normal. Nobody is going to make fun of you for using it.
Learning how to say “hello” or otherwise greet people is definitely one of the most basic and fundamental parts of learning French. I hope that with this guide you’ll be ready to use anything that was mentioned in real life the next time you come in contact with a French speaker.
If you feel you’re ready to move on take a look at some of the other articles we have. I hope you find what you need to continue your French journey.