What does “ça va” mean?
The French greeting “ça va” (pronounced sah-vah) in English literally means “it goes” or “that goes”. Ça va is used commonly in everyday informal French greetings. The translation of “Comment ça va?” is “How’s it going?”. This will cover the various meanings of ça va in English.
How to to use ça va as a greeting
1. How’s it going?
When used as a greeting, “Ça va?” translates to “How’s it going?”. The question is eliciting a yes-no answer.
To ask how somebody is doing you ask, “Salut, ça va?”.
Salut, ça va?
Hi! How’s it going?
There are two possible yes-no answers to this question. If you’re doing you well, you cans say, “Oui, ça va, merci.”. This translates to “Fine, thank you”. A loose translation is “It’s going, thank you”.
Oui, ça va merci!
Fine, thank you!
You could also answer the question in the negation with “Non, ça ne vas pas”. This translates literally to “No, it’s not going”. A loose translation is “I’m not doing well”.
Non, ça ne va pas.
I’m not going well.
In the situation where you are really not doing well you can say: “Non, ca ne va pas du tout”. This translates literally to “No, it’s not going at all” and means “I’m really not doing well”.
2. How are you?
In a second situation, you can ask “Comment ça va?”. Here, rather than just asking “is it going” you’re really asking “How’s it going?” or more specifically “How are you doing?”
Comment ça va?
How are you? How’s it going?
To answer the question “Comment ça va?”, simply say “ça va” plus how you are doing. To do this, simply add the appropriate adverb (a word that modifies a verb, such as “well”) that describes how you are doing.
Here are some possible answers to “Comment ça va?”
Ça va bien, merci.
I’m doing well, thanks.
Ça va très bien, merci.
It’s going very well, thanks.
Ça va mal.
I’m not doing well.
Ça va comme ci, comme ça.
French expressions with ça va
In addition to the common greetings explained above, “ça va” can be found in a wide variety of French expressions.
1. Ça va pas, non?
“Ça va pas, non?” translates to “That’s not okay!”. You can see that the “ne” in “ça ne va pas” has been omitted. In informal French, the “ne” in ne…pas negations is commonly omitted.
2. Bon, ben, ça va.
“Bon, ben, ça va” translates to “Well, okay”. The word “ben” is a shortened oral form of the word “bien” which means “well”.
3. Ça ne va pas!
“Ça ne va pas!” literally means “It does not go”. However, the real translation of this expression is “No way!”, “You must be kidding!” or “That’s not okay!”. The French use ça va in this manner to express frustration.
4. Ça ne va pas la tête!
“Ça ne va pas la tête!” is a French expression that translates literally to “It doesn’t go the head”. Real translations for this expression are “Are you out of your mind”? and “Are you nuts?”
5. Ça te/vous va bien
“Ça te/vous va bien” is a totally different usage of ça va. This expression is used in the context of clothing and items that one wears. The meaning of “Ça te/vous va bien” is “It looks good on you”. You would use “te” with people you already know and “vous” with strangers or adults.
6. Ça va aller
“Ça va aller” translates literally to “it’s going to go”. The real translation for this expression is “Everything will be fine” or “It’ll be alright”.
7. Ça te/vous va?
“Ça te/vous va?” translates literally to “it goes to you”. The meaning of this expression is “Is that okay with you?”. Again, use the “te” with people you know and “vous” with strangers.
8. Ça ne va plus du tout
“Ça ne va plus du tout” translates literally to “It’s not going well anymore at all”. The real meaning of this expression is “Everything all messed up” or Everything’s going wrong”.
- Guide to French greetings
- Ways to say hello in French
- Ways to say goodbye in French
- French For Beginners
- Au Revoir
- De Rien