Navigating French conversation can be difficult, no matter how long it’s been since you first started learning French. Perhaps you even hold yourself back from using your French, because there are SO many “unwritten” rules, and you’re constantly worried that you’re going to make a mistake.
First of all, deep breath. Remember that French people don’t expect you to be perfect, and even we make mistakes from time to time.
But today, I want to quickly cover a very common — but very awkward — mistake. There’s an extremely common word that you might be using wrong in your everyday French conversations, and if you use it more than once… well, you risk coming across as a bit silly. Can you guess what it is?
C’est parti !
1) Never say “Bonjour” twice
The unspoken rule about Bonjour (= hello!) is:
- never say it twice
- to the same person
- in the same day.
It’s simple comme bonjour (= as simple as saying hello)
“Bonjour” is like saying “Hey! It’s the first time we’re meeting today, I hope the rest of your day will go great.”
So if you say it twice in a day to a friend, it’s (a bit) like you don’t remember having met them earlier. And that’s (a bit) impolite!
Instead, you can:
- Simply nod and wave
- Say Rebonjour ! (= Hello again)
- Say Re ! (= short for “rebonjour”)
- Say Coucou ! (= informal “hi” for friends and family)
Re- is a common prefix that we put before words, to mean “again” or “back.” Like:
- Je reprends des cours de français. = I’m taking French lessons again.
- Je reviens dans une minute. = I’m coming back in a minute.
The rule of “bonjour” twice doesn’t really apply to people you don’t know. Or people who are not supposed to remember you. Like at la boulangerie (bakery), or in any small shop.
In that case, you can use Bonjour again. Or if you know they remember you (because you only left for a minute, for instance), you can use:
- Encore bonjour (= Hello again)
- Bonjour c’est encore moi (= Hi it’s me again)
“Coucou”, “re”, “hey”, or nodding, would be too informal.
2) Other Rules about Bonjour and Goodbyes
In the daytime, we use: Bonjour
In the evening or at night, we use: Bonsoir (= good evening, to say both “hello” and “goodbye.”)
Any time, you can use the informal Coucou , or especially Salut (= informal Hi!)
You can say goodbye to anyone in French with:
- Au revoir ! (neutral)
- Bonne journée ! (“have a good day,” a bit more formal)
- Bonne soirée ! (“have a good evening / night”, same thing)
- Bonsoir !
Bonne nuit ! (= “Good night”) is more like “sleep well,” so we only use it shortly before going to sleep. Adieu is way more dramatic, it’s for the last goodbye. We never use it – in France at least.
You can say goodbye to friends in informal French with:
- Salut ! (= informal “Bye!” as well as “Hi”!”)
- Bisous ! (= Kisses!), for close friends.
- Or À [+ temps] (= See you [sometime])
There are various ways to say “see you soon” in French:
- À bientôt ! = See you soon! / Talk to you soon. (It’s a vague promise!)
- À demain. = See you tomorrow.
- À ce soir. = See you tonight.
- À la semaine prochaine, à l’année prochaine… = See you next week / year…
- À la prochaine ! = “See you next time” (short for “la prochaine fois”)
- À tout à l’heure. = See you later in the same day.
- À toute ! = colloquial shorthand for “à tout à l’heure”
- À plus tard. = Like “à tout à l’heure”
- À plus ! (“s” sound) = colloquial shorthand for “à plus tard”
- À tout de suite ! = See you right now, in a minute.
Allez, salut, à plus. Bisous à tous ! = OK, bye, see ya! Kisses to you all.
3) Greetings in written French and emails
In written French, like in an email, we don’t really use “Salut” to say goodbye. But you shouldn’t mix different levels of familiarity either. I like to simply use “Bonjour” as a greetings, and for goodbye in a written French email:
- For a formal email: Cordialement or Bien cordialement = “In a cordial manner” / “Sincerely”
- For an everyday email: Bonne journée
- For an informal email with close friends or family: Bisous / Bises
There’s a ton of formal greetings, including stuff like “Mes salutations distinguées” (a very formal way to say “My Kind regards”) but they’re not used outside of specific occasions, like really polite corporate correspondence. Don’t use formal “goodbyes” with informal “hellos” !
Keep exploring the rules and vocabulary of modern everyday French:
Click here to get your next lesson:
- Fake French Words
- Mastering the Basics: French Greetings + How to Practice Your French
- 10 Popular French Slang Words for Everyday Life
- French Slang For All Ages
À tout de suite.
I’ll see you in the next video!
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