Hello In French: 20 Most Common Words & Expressions

How do you say hello in French?

The three most common ways to say hello in French are “Bonjour!” (Hello, pronounced bɔ̃ʒuʀ), “Salut!” (Hi, pronounced saly) and “Bonsoir!” (Good evening, pronounced bɔ̃swaʀ). There are also lots of slang greetings such as “Coucou!” (Hi!) and “Quoi de neuf?” (What’s new?). Keep reading to discover the many fun ways to say hello in French.

5 Most common ways to say hello in French

  1. Bonjour (hello, good morning)
  2. Salut! (Hi!)
  3. Bonsoir (Good evening)
  4. Coucou! (Hi! informal)
  5. Allô (Hello, used on the phone)

Hello in French: Top-20 words and expressions

1 – Bonjour !

If you go to France, the single most common word for hello is “Bonjour“. “Bonjour” means both good morning and hello. It can be used throughout the day.

This page covers the pronunciation and usage of bonjour in detail.

2 – Salut !

The second most common way of saying hi is “Salut !”. The word “Salut” translates to “Hi!” is seen as informal and is most commonly used between peers. This page covers the pronunciation and usage of salut in detail. In addition to “hi”, salut is also an informal way of saying goodbye in French.

3 – Bonsoir !

Bonsoir !” (pronounced boh-swar) is a formal way of saying hello during the evening hours. Generally, “bonsoir !” is used after around six o’clock p.m.

The greeting, “bonsoir !” can also be used as a way of saying, “Have a good evening”. In this sense, in addition to meaning, “good evening!”, bonsoir also translates to “good night!”.

This page explores different way to say good night in French.

4 – Coucou !

Coucou !” (pronounced coo-coo) is by far the most common informal way of saying hi in French and translates to both “Hey there!” and “Hi There!

A French translation of coucou is “Me voilà !”, which means “Hear I am!”, as if you were using the expression to surprise somebody with your presence. The French often use coucou to start informal letters and text messages.

Interestingly, the greeting “Coucou !” is realted to the a bird with the same name, “un coucou“, which means cuckoo bird!

5 – Bien le bonjour!

The expression “Bien le bonjour !” is literally means to “Well the hello!”. This is a very way of saying hello and translates to “Well hello!” in English.

6 – Bienvenue !

Bienvenue !” is a way of saying hello but really means “Welcome!”. You can also say, “Vous êtes le bienvenue!“. This would translate to “You are the welcomed person.”

7 – Ça gaze ?

Ça gaze ?” is a slightly dated informal greeting which means to “How’s it going?” or even “What’s up?”. The direct translation of “Ça gaze ?” is “It gases?” The verb “gazer” means to gas somebody, as in to poison them with gas!

8 – Quoi de neuf ?

Quoi de neuf ?” is a commonly used informal way of saying hi. The literal translation of “Quoi de neuf ?” is “What of new?”. English meanings of this greeting include “What’s new?”, “Any news?” and “What have you been up to?”

Salut mon ami! Quoi de neuf ?” translates to “Hello my friend! What’s new?”.

9 – Allô !

At first glance, it looks like “Allô !” is what you would use to say hi to somebody. However, “Allô !” is what you used to say, “Hello” when you pick up the phone.

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10 – Enchanté(e) ! / Ravi(e) !

Both “Enchanté(e) de faire votre connaissance !” and “Ravi(e) de faire votre connaissance” mean “Nice to meet you!”. The (e) would be added to each of these sentences in to indicated the feminine form.

While “Enchanté(e) !” means “Nice to meet you!“, it is included in this list because it also translates to “Hello!” for when meeting somebody for the first time.

11 – Ça roule?

Ça roule ?” is an extremely informal way of saying hi, and translates directly to “It rolls” or “It drives”. English equivalents are “How’s it going?” and “How are things?”.

The question, “Ça roule?” can be answered with “Ça roule !”, which means “It’s going good!”.

12 – Ça fait longtemps !

Ça fait longtemps !” translates to “It’s been a long time”. You would use “Ça fait longtemps !” when you haven’t seen somebody for a long time. An English translation is “Long time no see!”.

13 – Ça baigne ?

Ça baigne ?” is another slang way of you could ask somebody, “How’s it going?”. The expression literally means, “It bathes?” or “It swims?”.

However, in the context of this greeting, the verb “baigner” translates to “to go well” or “to go swimmingly?”.

14 – Quoi de beau ?

The expression “Quoi de beau ?” translates literally to “What of beautiful?”. The full French expression is: “Tu fais quoi de beau?”, which translates to “What have you been up to lately?” or “What are you up to?”.

15 – Salut toi !

Salut toi !” is a highly infomral way of saying hi, typically to a peer or younger person. The direct meaning is “Hi you!”. The English transaltion is “Hey you!”.

16 – Salut mon grand ! Salut ma grande !

In French, “mon grand” and “ma grande” are both terms of endearment for an older peer. Hence, “Salut mon grand !” or “Salut ma grande !” could loosly translate to “Hello, my older friend!”.

17 – Salut ma belle !

In French “ma belle” translates to “my beautiful woman or girl”. Thus, “Salut ma belle !” is a highly informal way of saying hello to a close female companion. A loose English translation could be, “Hello my dear”.

18 – Tiens, un revenant!

The expression, “Tiens, un revenant!” translates to “hello, stranger!”. “Tiens!” means “hey!” or “say!”. The word “revenant” translates to “spirit”, “ghost” or “stranger”.

19 – Salut ma puce !

In French, “ma puce” is a term of endearment which men often use for their girlfriends and wives. Hence, “Salut ma puce !” could translate to “Hello honey!”.

20 – Bon matin !

Bon matin !” translates to “Good morning!”. This expression is used in the place of “bonjour” but is strictly used in French speaking Canada (Quebec and other provinces ) and not in French-speaking Europe.

Cultural nuances of saying hello in France

Before or and during a trip, it is important to be aware of the cultural nuances of greeting people in France. While it is often perfectly acceptable to simply wave and say “hello” or “hi” in North America, there are many cultural norms associated with making greetings in Europe.

Faire la bise

Faire la bise” translates literally to “to make the kiss”. “Une bise” is short of “un bisou“, which means kiss.

The French custom for saying hello is to give one to four quick kisses or “pecks” on the cheek of the person you’re greeting. At fist, this custom can be very shocking to an unfamiliar American.

Serrer la main

Serrer la main à quelqu’un” means to shake somebody’s hand. The French a very big hand shakers, especially between men and much more than in North America.

Both doing “la bise” and handshaking are very important in France. A good idea is to simply follow the “When in Rome” policy and do what the French do.

Before the Covid 19 pandemic, refusing to do “la bise” or shake hands would have been seen as very rude. Times have now changed and it might be okay to just say “Bonjour !”, “Salut !” or even “Coucou !”.

Hello in French – Summary Table

FrenchEnglishNotes & Usage
BonjourHello, good morningUsed in both formal and informal situations but mostly formal. Can be used throughout the day until the evening.
SalutHi!Informal way of saying hello. Do not use in formal situations. Also means bye in French.
BonsoirGood eveningUse after around 6.00pm. Can also be used to say good night in French.
Coucou!Hi! Hi There!Strictly informal. Never use with strangers or if you're unsure.
AllôHelloHello used when answering the telephone.

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About David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site, FrenchLearner.com, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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