1 Say hello: ‘Bonjour!’
It’s so important to make a good first impression, so to start with you’ll learn how to greet people in French.
Listen to these different greetings and see if you can spot them in the box below. Don’t be satisfied with just one listening; listen to them again until they become more familiar, and why not try and copy what you hear too?
Expressions used for greetings
To greet somebody, you say:
Bonjour ! Hello!/Good morning!/Good afternoon!
Bonsoir ! Good evening!
Salut ! Hi!
Salut ! is informal and can be used to mean both ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ (according to context). It is normally used between people who know each other well or between young people.
These expressions are often followed by:
Ça va ? (informal) How are you?
Vous allez bien ? (formal) How are you?
In formal situations, monsieur, madame or mademoiselle always accompanies bonjour and au revoir. They are much more frequently used in French than their English equivalents (‘sir’ and ‘madam’). For example, you might say Bonjour madame to a female receptionist in a hotel, or Bonjour monsieur to a male post office employee. Mademoiselle (‘miss’) is less frequently used nowadays, especially with women over the age of twenty-five.
You can respond:
Ça va (bien), merci. Et toi ? (informal) Fine/very well, thanks. And you?
Ça va (bien), merci. Et vous ? (formal) Fine/very well, thank you. And you?