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Greetings and salutations in French

By Jean
Reading Time: 3 minutes
French salutations

Whether you’re planning a trip to France or simply indulging in the romanticism of the French language, learning the basics of French salutations is a must. These customary greetings not only open doors to conversations but also reflect the warmth and culture of the French people. Let’s dive into the world of French salutations and unravel their beauty.

Starting with “Bonjour”: The Quintessential French Salutations

Whenever you think of French salutations, “Bonjour” is likely the first that comes to mind. Translating to “good day,” this greeting is versatile, used universally across the French-speaking world from morning to late afternoon. It’s the perfect way to greet someone, whether you’re entering a store, meeting a friend, or starting a conversation with a stranger.

Beyond Bonjour: Other French Salutations to Know

Though “Bonjour” is undeniably popular, the French language boasts a plethora of other greetings, each holding its unique charm:

  • Bonsoir: As the sun dips and evening approaches, you’ll switch from “Bonjour” to “Bonsoir,” which translates to “good evening.”
  • Salut: This informal greeting means “hi.” It’s best used among friends or people of the same age group.
  • Coucou: A playful and informal hello, typically among close friends or to young children.

Mastering the Art of Goodbyes in French

French salutations are not limited to hellos; the language offers a variety of ways to bid adieu:

  • Au revoir: The standard goodbye. It translates to “until we see each other again.”
  • Salut: Yes, the same word for “hi” can be used to say goodbye informally.
  • À bientôt: Meaning “see you soon,” this phrase is a warm way to express hope for another meeting in the near future.
  • À demain: For those you’re sure to see the next day, this phrase translates to “see you tomorrow.”
French salutations

Special French Salutations for Specific Occasions

Certain situations in French culture call for specific greetings:

  • Bonne nuit: This means “good night” and is used when you’re bidding someone a restful sleep.
  • Bonne journée: As you part ways in the morning or afternoon, wish someone a “good day” with this phrase.
  • Bonne soirée: Similarly, when evening approaches, you can wish someone a “good evening” with this greeting.

Exploring French Slang: Greetings in “Argot”

When diving deep into the French language’s colloquial pool, “argot” (slang) provides a rich array of casual greetings. The modern French street lingo, influenced by youth culture, pop culture, and even other languages, offers salutations that can be likened to the casual “yo” in English. Let’s acquaint ourselves with some of these trendier greetings:

  • “Yo!”: Yes, you read that right! The French, especially the younger generation, have adopted “yo” as a casual greeting, similar to its usage in English.
  • “Hé!”: Pronounced like “hey,” this is a light and breezy way to catch someone’s attention or greet a friend.
  • “Salut mec!”: Translating to “Hi dude!” or “Hey man!”, this greeting is informal and mostly used among male friends, though it can sometimes be unisex. “Mec” is the slang term for “guy” or “dude.”
  • “Wesh”: Borrowed from Arabic and brought into French urban slang, “wesh” is a very informal way to say “hi” or “what’s up?”. It’s particularly popular in the suburbs of big cities and among the younger crowd.

The Formal Touch with “Monsieur” and “Madame”

One cannot discuss French salutations without mentioning the importance of addressing someone formally with “Monsieur” (sir/Mr.) or “Madame” (madam/Mrs.). Especially in formal settings or when speaking to strangers, adding these titles before someone’s surname or even by themselves (e.g., “Bonjour, Monsieur”) conveys respect.

Understanding Body Gestures in French Salutations

The French aren’t just vocal with their greetings; they complement them with distinct body gestures that add depth and emotion to the interaction.

  • La Bise: Perhaps the most emblematic of French greetings, “la bise” involves lightly kissing both cheeks. The number of kisses and the starting cheek can vary based on the region or personal relationships.
  • Handshake: A firm handshake is common in professional settings or formal introductions.
  • Hug: Less common than in some other cultures, hugs are typically reserved for close friends and family.

Ready to Dive Deeper?

French salutations are more than just words; they embody the spirit of French culture, offering warmth, respect, and cordiality. Whether you’re a language enthusiast, a traveler, or someone enamored by the French way of life, mastering these greetings will undoubtedly enrich your linguistic journey. So, the next time you find yourself amidst French speakers, remember these salutations and greet them the French way!

If you’re eager to learn more or need personalized assistance in mastering the French language and its nuances, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re here to help guide your linguistic voyage!

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