How to Compliment Someone (in French)

Bonjour !

Complimenting someone properly is a simple way to brighten someone’s day, and it can mean a lot to them – and to you.

It’s also an artform: you need pointers and practice to do it in another language!

In today’s episode, we’ll see all about being nice to somebody else, in French!

Watch: Appreciate Food like a French Native

Et toi ?

Did you know these compliments before?

What is your favorite compliment that you have ever received?

Who was the last person you complimented in French?

Bonne journée,

Géraldine

Join the conversation!

  • After spending several nights in a chambre d’hôte, I gave the lady of the house a little gift, and she said “Je suis gâtée ” which she said meant “I am pampered”

  • Is something missing at around 4:03? You don’t actually mention the word “attentioné” …
    Also, I was told that “aimable” is more polite, more “elevated” if you like, than “gentil(le)”, the latter being rather like the bland English word “nice”. Is that right?
    Another one I like is “mignon(ne)” (sweet), as in “Elle est drôlement mignonne, Géraldine !”

    • ahah, maybe an editing glitch. 🙂

      aimable is more polite indeed but wouldn’t work with friends. Say “adorable” ou “très gentil” instead.
      Gentil can be condescending on its own, indeed.

      Thanks! Mignon(ne) for adults refer to physical traits only, though. For children, it’s ‘cute”, for grown-ups it’s “handsome/beautiful” with a “cute” side too. But the underlying meaning is clear : “attractive”.

  • Géraldine, tu es trop intelligente et gentille! Ton conseil dans cette leçon est géniale dans toutes langues.

  • Bonjour Géraldine … tu est géniale! Bravo! ???? Encore un episode excellent, très utile et instructif! ????????

    I recently received this compliment from a friend in Bayonne: «Je vous reconnais bien là : animée jour après jour pour croquer la vie et tous les bons moments» … at least, I took it as a compliment ????

    I have also handed-out quite a few of my own recently, most of them in French, thanking people for their kindness in helping me to organise/finalise travel plans … and also on their websites. Here are a couple of them:
    1. «Et les plus chaleureuses félicitations à [vous et] votre fils. Il y a beaucoup de sites attrayants / jolis … mais le vôtre est distinctif … il se distingue dans la foule … il a un certain «je ne sais quoi» ????
    2. «Les chambres ont l’air charmantes et accueillantes … et très confortables! Quelle belle et soigneuse rénovation de bon goût!»
    3. «Bien sûr, cela nous convient très bien [très commode] … mieux que parfait … et j’apprécie beaucoup tout ce que vous avez déjà fait pour nous. Je crains que mon français ne soit pas assez bon pour exprimer ma sincère gratitude … mais, je fais de mon mieux [avec mon français d’un niveau pas très haute] … »
    à bientôt, a la prochaine, etcetera

  • I was always taught that when someone compliments you, you should say
    “Tu trouves?” In that way you are not boastful and you are in a sense complimenting them on their taste/opinion. Is that no longer done in France?

    • Bonjour Jacqueline,

      I understand the “i’m not boasting” side of the idea but I’d rather acknowledge the compliment with a nice “merci”. 🙂

  • Bonjour, Géraldine,

    I was very interested to hear this lesson. When I took French years ago, how to respond to a compliment was specifically mentioned in our textbook. We were instructed not to say “Merci,” because it means you don’t believe what the person is saying! Also, we were told to “humble” ourselves when replying, for example–and I remember this one–“Ta maison est très belle.” –“C’est une vieille ruine.” Have customs changed in France? If so, it may be similar to what’s changed here. I remember, growing up, we were taught to be modest about our accomplishments, but as an adult, I am often admonished for not accepting compliments gracefully, that I should just say, “thank you.” Old habits die hard!

    • Bonjour Brenda,

      I understand your point and many people would agree. I used to do that but I changed my mind.

      Now, when people offer a compliment, I accept it with pride. 🙂 No more “oh I don’t deserve it” and of course never “I’m so awesome, you can’t even imagine” either.
      I accept it with a “Merci” + a kind word for the person. 🙂

      In the case of the house you’re mentioning, you can answer “Merci, j’aime beaucoup cette vieille ruine.” so you’re humble and fun if you wish!

      • Bonjour Maree,

        Careful, “Bien fait” means “something bad happened to you and you deserved it!”.
        And “Bon effort” doesn’t exist. 🙂

        I’d recommend a simple “Bravo” or “Félicitations”.

        • Salut Geraldine,
          Mes professeurs de français ont toujours écrit “bien fait” ou “bon effort” sur mes devoirs. Je suis surpris d’apprendre “bien fait” dit aussi quelquechose negative.
          Merci

          Maree

          • Bonjour Maree,

            Mince…
            “bien fait” tout seul ne veut jamais dire quelque chose de positif. C’est une erreur très fréquente chez les profs de francais étrangers.
            “Bon effort” utilisé de cette façon n’existe pas en français.

            Désolée de te l’apprendre… 🙁

          • Merci Geraldine!
            Maintenant je sais que vous comprennez les difficulties pour
            les étrangeres de parler comme une française.
            Maree

    • Bonjour Merle,

      Le plus simple c’est “bravo”.
      Si tu veux aller plus loin, tu peux utiliser “bon/excellent travail” (good work) ou “bien joué” (if it was a clever thing to do, rather than hard work itself).
      Attention : ne JAMAIS dire “bien fait” pour “well done” (it means “something bad happened to you and you deserved it)

  • Merci Géraldine pour tout ce que tu donnes à la communauté. Au-delà d’offrir un enseignement de la langue française, tu as le don de transmettre les usages du savoir vivre modernes et subtiles. Je suis impressionnée, ,je dirais même plus je suis époustouflée 🙂

  • I have known some of these before while watching cartoons such as Simon, Les Chronokids, etc.
    My favorite compliment would be “C’est géniale!” or “Bravo!”

    I haven’t said any of these personally because I am the only one in my neighborhood who learns French. But in HiNative app, I always say très bien for people who (I think) pronounces French phrases really well.

    By the way, I liked it and I’ve learned much! Merci Géraldine!

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