Never Say “Mon Ami” in French (And What to Say Instead)

Today, I want to talk to you about one of the most common clichés in French — “mon ami” — and why you should never use it in French conversations.

People in France never use “mon ami” the way you might use “my friend” in English. It’s another common mistake that I hear all the time, like using “bien fait” or saying bonjour twice.

“But Géraldine,” you might say, “I do hear it a lot in movies! Even with Lumière in Beauty and the Beast! Are you saying Disney lied to me?”

Yes, I am! If you use “mon ami” (on its own) in France, you’ll sound like a tourist who only knows French clichés. Let’s fix that.

Today, we’ll look into why you shouldn’t say “mon ami” so much, and what to say instead.

Bonjour I’m Géraldine, your French teacher. Welcome to Comme une Française.
Today, like every Tuesday, I’ll help you get better at speaking and understanding everyday French.

C’est parti !

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1) “Mon ami” is just a cliché

Mon ami (or mon amie in the feminine) means “my friend.”

If there’s a French character in an American movie, they basically have to say it at some point. Like in this scene of Beauty and the Beast.

It’s kind of like saying Bonjour with a really heavy accent. Sure, it shows that the character is French, but it’s not something you’d actually hear in France.

Using Mon ami alone as “Hello my friend” will make you sound like you only know French clichés – and you deserve better!

It’s basically the oral version of Marcel Gotlib’s SuperDupont: a funny stereotypical representation that doesn’t exist.

By the way, in the French (dubbed) version, Lumière is… Italian! At least that’s what his accent implies, with his rolled R’s – for example in “Y’a l’pour et y’a l’contre” (= “There are pros and cons,” casual spoken French) Can you hear it?

Other works used the same “trick” of turning a French character (in the original version) into an Italian one (in the French dubbed version), like Pepe le Pew / Pépé le Putois.

2) “Mon ami” in French: what it really means

Mon ami(e) is used for very close friends.

You can use it in a sentence. To introduce your friend, for example:
Je te présente mon amie Marie.
= “I introduce you to my friend Marie” / “Here’s my friend Marie.”

But using it on its own, such as Bonjour, mon ami, comment ça va ? to mean “Hello my friend”, is a cliché.

When I was working in Leeds, England on July 14th, kind people would wish me a “Happy Bastille day” in French. That’s very nice! But “Le jour de la Bastille” does NOT exist in French – it’s just Le 14 Juillet. Another misconception!

You can find more in my lesson: Le 14 Juillet

3) “Mon ami” : What you can say instead

Instead of “mon ami”, you can simply use your friend’s name. For instance:
Je suis là, mon ami ! → Je suis là, Marc !
= I’m here, my very close friend! → I’m here, Marc!

Or you can also just say… nothing!

Bonjour, mon ami. → Bonjour.
= Hello, my friend. → Hello.

The scary thing is, this is a common mistake you might be making without even realizing it. And it’s not the only one!

You’ll find more examples of common French mistakes in this short playlist, like using “Bien fait” for “well done” (when it actually means “Serves you right”), or saying “bonjour” twice in the same day to the same person!

À tout de suite.
I’ll see you in the next video!

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Allez, salut 🙂


Join the conversation!

    • Hi Penny!
      Hercule Poirot is speaking old-fashioned French, with a bit of extra cliché to make him “sound French.”
      That works well for his settings! That’s not something we’d recommend doing for speaking in France, or something that French people do in everyday life 🙂

      Have a great day,
      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • But, was it that way or just today’s French? Like, Disney’s Lumiere was around 1480s. Maybe that era’s “mon ami” differs than today’s? Of course it was made recently and for today’s audience lol, but I’m curious that perhaps in historical perspective what sounds wrong today might sounded okay back then. Maybe not in your expertise, I mean, history, but aren’t you curious about this? 😉 Thanks.

  • Bonjour tous ! I hope I can say that. Great practical lesson – i never knew not to use that.
    Could anyone help…. regarding Bonjour… if we bump into the same person/shop assistant/work colleague etc again…. then what are we meant to say…?

  • The English speaking world is awash with expressions
    believed to be used by the French ~ mon brave, mon vieux,
    mon ami, mon cher, mes amis and goodness knows what
    else ..
    But the movie Frenchman ~ Englishman Claude Rains does
    it brilliantly as Captain Louis Renault in that timeless classic
    Casablanca, and all in an impeccable English accent …
    “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on
    in here.”
    “Your winnings sir.”
    “Oh, thank you very much.”
    Just fabulous 😀
    A great lesson Géraldine, and I love the old cartoons.

  • Salut Geraldine
    You say never use “Mon ami” ?
    What about if you qualify it? “Merci, ma chère amie” It is OK?
    My friend in Burgundy uses “mon ami” a lot in messages like “Merci mon ami pour ta magnifique carte” or ” Belle journée mon cher ami ” I am not sure I have understood when you should not use it….
    Bisous Brian

    • Hi Lee!

      Short answer: no.

      Long answer: Not on its own. You can say “C’est un travail bien fait.” (= It’s well done work), but the expression “Bien fait !” on its own wouldn’t mean that. (French people would probably understand your mistake and your intention, though, and not be offended for it.)

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