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How to say “Hi” & other common greetings in French

Whether you’re planning a trip to a French-speaking area or welcoming a French coworker to the team, mastering the art of the greeting goes a long way. There are many different ways to acknowledge someone and begin a conversation in French, but there are rules for when you should use them. Keep reading and learn how to greet people in French like a native francophone.

Why understanding a proper French greeting is important 

Being polite is always important, but when you’re experiencing a new culture for the first time, you may not know exactly what that entails. By learning how to greet people according to their language and customs, you can avoid faux pas — and with a little practice, you can interact with people comfortably and confidently.

Not all French speakers use the same dialect, and certain cultural norms vary from place to place. You might hear specific French phrases in Quebec that you wouldn’t hear in France, for example, and vice versa. On top of learning the language, there are cultural nuances to keep an eye out for.

Additionally, formality and social class are key parts of the French language, so it’s important to understand when to use formal words and when you can be more casual. Addressing a “superior” with an informal greeting may rub them the wrong way, which is something you want to try to avoid.

The rules of French are easy to catch onto once you’ve learned the ropes, and as long as you’re trying your best, people generally forgive a newbie mistake or two. However, it helps to learn about the French language and culture so you can understand different types of greetings before you put them to use in real life.

What are the most common ways to say hi in French?

Since French is a language that values politeness and formalities, it’s important to know the different ways to say “hello” and “hi” in French, depending on the context and the relationship between the speakers. From formal meetings with a boss or person of authority to casual slang between friends and family, there are many ways to start a conversation. Let’s start with the basics.

“Bonjour” and “bonsoir”

There are many ways to greet people in French, and the way you use them typically depends on whom you’re talking to and what time of day it is.

No matter who the recipient is, there are two greetings you can’t go wrong with:

Bonjour Good morning

Bonsoir Good evening

“Bonjour” is appropriate on any occasion during the morning, and “bonsoir” is its evening equivalent. These two are a safe bet in any situation as long as you use them at the appropriate time of day.

The literal French-to-English translation for “good morning” is “bon matin,” but people don’t usually say this in France. In Quebec, on the other hand, it is appropriate to say “bon matin” until 10 or 11 AM.

The literal translation for “good afternoon” is “bon après-midi,” but this is generally said when the person is parting and not at the beginning of a conversation.

As simple and versatile as “bonjour” and “bonsoir” may be, it’s polite to follow them with something extra, like a title:

Monsieur Mister

Madame Ma’am (or Mrs.)

Mademoiselle Miss

If you know the person’s last name, you can add that to the formula. So, when you’re introducing yourself to someone named Mr. Richard, for example, you can say:

Bonjour, Monsieur Richard.

Good morning, Mr. Richard.

If you don’t know the person’s name, you can add an additional greeting, like so:

Bonsoir, enchanté(e) de faire votre connaissance.

Good evening, it’s a pleasure to meet you.

While you don’t have to worry about formality with “bonjour” and “bonsoir,” it may be considered rude to say them without including a title (first name, last name, or “monsieur/madame”) or an additional greeting.

“Salut” and “coucou”

Similarly versatile but only for informal use, “salut” and “coucou” are common ways to say “hi” to your friends and family. It’s important to be careful with these, however, as saying something so informal to the wrong person might ruffle some feathers.

“Salut” can mean hello or goodbye, but it’s typically reserved for use between friends and family. Social class is an essential consideration in French discourse, and people of different social groups don’t generally greet each other this way. So, when in doubt, stick with “bonjour” or “bonsoir.”

“Coucou” is also an informal way to say a quick hello, especially when you pop in unexpectedly. Like “salut,” it’s a greeting best suited for close friends and family members.

How do French greetings differ depending on the situation?

It’s one thing to memorize the lines, but it’s another to use them appropriately. There are many greetings that English speakers use regardless of formality, time of day, or other context, but French people value these things.

If you want to make a good impression and avoid uncomfortable interactions, read ahead to learn how French greetings vary from situation to situation.


Whether you’re talking to your boss or meeting the President of France, it’s necessary to show the appropriate amount of respect to higher-ups by using the right kind of language. As we know, “bonjour” and “bonsoir” are appropriate for formal interactions — but be sure to include a title like “monsieur” or “madame.” You can also add greetings like:

Enchanté(e) de faire votre connaissance. Nice to meet you.

Enchanté(e). Delighted.

Ravi(e) de faire votre connaissance. Pleased to meet you.

Note that “enchanté(e)” alone is an acceptable abbreviation. This variation is still formal but slightly less so than saying the full expression.

Sometimes it can be tough to tell how formal you should be. If you don’t know the person you’re talking to (or if you simply aren’t sure what they’re comfortable with), play it safe and stick with the formal “vous” form for “you.”


When you’re hanging out with friends and family, on the other hand, you can use more casual language without fear of offending anyone. In this case, it’s appropriate to use the more informal tu for you.

In addition to “bonjour,” “bonsoir,” “salut,” and “coucou,” you can use these informal phrases when greeting your friends and loved ones:

Quoi de neuf? What’s up?

Ça roule? How’s it going?

Tu vas bien? Are you doing well?

Greeting a group

If you’re talking to one individual person, “vous” and “tu” mean “you” in the formal and informal sense, respectively. When addressing a group of people, on the other hand, you would use “vous” as “you” regardless of formality.

Although you would use “vous” to refer to multiple people, “tous” translates to “all.” Keep this in mind when using the following greetings:

Bonjour à tous! Hello everyone!

Bonjour à toutes et à tous! Hello everyone (of all genders)!

On the Phone

In French, there are specific phrases you would only say when talking on the phone:

Allô? Hello?

Oui, bonjour? Yes, good day?

“Allô” means “hello,” but it’s only used when answering the phone or ensuring the person on the other end is still listening. In Quebec, you might hear “oui bonjour” in the same circumstance.

La bise, handshake, or hug? 

At some point, you’ve probably seen people repeatedly kiss each other’s cheeks (or the air near their cheeks). This is called “la bise” and is a cultural staple in French-speaking areas.

Linguistically, you can refer to it as such:

Se faire la bise To give someone a kiss on the cheek

Bisous à la française French kisses (kisses on the cheek)

La bise is generally for casual or informal situations between friends and family, but it’s not uncommon to see close coworkers “se faire la bise” (give a kiss on the cheek).

Shaking hands is also common in business settings, especially between people in different positions or colleagues who don’t know each other very well. Outside of the workplace, a handshake is also a reliable go-to when meeting a new acquaintance.

In the United States, kisses and hugs go together like X’s and O’s. In France, however, hugs can be intrusive and unwanted. Even in Quebec, which is a part of the otherwise hug-friendly Canada, hugging someone may be considered inappropriate. In these places, it’s best to stick to la bise or a handshake and refrain from bear-like embraces.

Other popular French greetings

Of course, there are many other ways to greet people in French, so you can always keep adding new phrases to your lingual toolbox. Here are a few more French greetings you can try out:

Rebonjour Hello (if you run into someone twice)

Bienvenue Welcome

Salut mon grand/salut ma grande Hey, kiddo (for children)

Comment ça va? How are you?

Ça va? How are you? (in less formal situations)

Excusez-moi? Excuse me? (when trying to get someone’s attention)

Don’t forget to include “s’il vous plait” (please) and “merci(thank you) when appropriate.
Au revoir et bonne chance! Goodbye and good luck!

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