One of the first things you should know when learning any language is how to greet people. French people place a great importance on being polite, after all!
Click on the image below to make it bigger.
The French language has two kinds of greetings:
1) Formal greetings – greeting words that you use with people you don’t already know, such as strangers and people you have just met. These greetings are on the left side of the above chart.
2) Informal greetings – greeting words that you use with people you know well, such as friends and family. These greetings are on the right side of the above chart.
It is important to remember when to use the formal and informal expressions. Otherwise you might insult someone by being too friendly too quickly! In general, until you get to know someone well, stick with the formal expressions. It’s better to be too formal than to not be formal enough and accidentally insult someone.
Not only will knowing French greetings help you with making friends, but also it will come in handy when you are out shopping. When going into French shops, as a formality, customers always greet the shopkeeper with a simple “hello” and always make sure to say “goodbye” when leaving.
- You might notice that Je m’appelle (My name is) appears twice on this chart. This expression can be used in both formal and informal situations.
- When answering “how are you,” use comme ci comme ça when you’re feeling okay, not great but not horrible either. It’s a nice middle ground! Bien is the French word for “well,” so if you’re well, you can just respond with a simple bien. Je vais mal means literally “I’m going (I’m doing) badly” (mal is the word for “bad” in French) and is used when things are not going very well at all!
- You might also notice that ça va appears as both a question and a statement in informal situations. If you want to make it a question, make your voice go up at the end. If you’re answering with ça va, make your voice go down at the end instead, much like we do when speaking English: we make our voice intonation go down at the end when making a statement, but when asking a question, we make our voice go up at the end instead. Click below for examples:
1. ça va as a question
2. ça va as a statement
Click on each of the expressions below to hear them spoken in French:
Click here to take a quiz on these greeting words. For typing French accents, you can use this website, where you can type French accents without a French keyboard and then copy and paste (CTRL + C for Copy, CTRL + V for paste) your text into your homework in another browser tab.