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 🙂

Géraldine

Join the conversation!

  • Mes amies in France say mon ami or mon Cher ami quite often, oddly enough more to be polite to acquaintances than dear friends

  • In British English we are continually using terms of endearment with strangers – most commonly “mate” (also pal, love, pet, duck, hinny, fella, chum, mucker and many more, with some being gendered terms). Basically just for anyone whose name we don’t know.

    Is there a French equivalent?

    • Bonjour Bob,

      Oui, tout à fait ! We also have terms of endearment in French, I included a few of them at the end of this message.

      Bien à toi,

      Fabien
      Comme Une Française Team

      Mon amour: my love
      Mon chou: My cabbage, but chou can also be short for a French cream puff called chou chantilly or chou à la crème.
      Chouchou: Derived from chou
      Mon ange: My angel
      Mon bébé: My baby
      Doudou: What kids call their favorite toy or blankie
      Mon coeur: My heart
      Mon trésor: My treasure
      Ma chérie (F), mon chéri (M): My darling
      Ma puce: My flea

      • Thanks Fabien, but I was referring to terms you might use with a stranger or someone with whom you were not close.

        • Bonjour Bob,

          Typically, you will not use those terms of endearment with someone with whom you are not close. You may use the name or the title instead (Monsieur, Madame, etc.)

          Bien à toi,

          Fabien
          Comme Une Française Team

      • Flea..??????are you serious 😅😅😅😅 nobody likes fleas in England….sounds insulting. Might as well say my cockroach….lol

  • I have a dear friend who is fluent in French. She studied at Sorbonne in Paris. Speaking with her will help me learn faster. I love French and the country and people!
    Can I say to her Tres Chere Amie? Merci!

    • Bonjour,

      You can certainly use this expression with your friend, however particularly so in writing.

      Fabien
      Comme Une Française Team

  • What does Ma douce amie mean? is it romantic or sweet. a man said it to me after bouts of flirting and giving mixed signals.

    • Bonjour Rose,

      Indeed, even though “ma douce amie” means “my sweet/precious friend”, it can have a bit of a romantic connotation.

      Fabien
      Comme Une Française Team

  • That being said, this is very common in Cajun French culture and used very often. That also being said Cajun French is completely foreign to French spoken in France as it’s a broken dialect of Canadian French.

  • Really like your Website. I have met a frensh man that I really like so now I am trying to pick up some frensh words. Did I understood you right, that I can use “mon ami” if it is a close/special friend like the man I met ;-)? We are not at the point yet were I would call him “mon cheri” 🙂

  • This is literally the first and only page I’ve read from your lesson thus far. So when I engage in some more, it is then I will comment on something. Merci beaucoup

    • I do like this but am from Oklahoma and. Am afraid no one could understand my french. I ha e a very slow and southern drawl.some people in us can’t understand my english.

  • I’m trying to learn French and I came across this when trying to figure out what “ami” means and I love this website already!

    • Thanks Venus!

      Keep browsing around on the website, lessons and courses, and have a wonderful day 🙂

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • I think the use of “my friend” in English is also a bit odd. It’s can be used in introducing someone and not sound weird (“Hi, John, this is my friend, Sharon”) or it can sound strangely old-fashioned or even anachronistic (“Hello, my friend”). Most people don’t use “my friend” in a standard greeting. I had a professional acquaintance who said it often to me in phone conversations but I would never say it to an actual close friend. So I can see the subtleties in using “mon ami” in French.

    • Now that I think of it, I’ve heard it said by people, in English, but they are usually foreign and I’m wondering if it’s commonly used in Spanish. Mi amigo for example.

      • The usage of mi amigo – or similar – is common in Spanish, but the context is different. It is extremely regional what is used, for me (I speak Columbian Spanish) I would be comfortable talking with acquaintances with the opening ‘Bienvenidos, mi Amigo.’ but I would not say that to a stranger. If I was talking to a stranger, I would most likely use ‘Bienvenidos, señor.’ or ‘Bienvenidos, señora/señorita’ for their respective gender/age. Another option for saying this would be to just drop the honorific and use implied target with ‘Bienvenidos’. I hope this helps!

      • Hi Harise. Yes, it is used in some parts of México. The intention is to make anyone feel welcome. There are other words that can be used with the same purpose depending of the region the person is from: pariente (relative), primo (cousin), etc.

    • Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end, we’d sing and dance, forever and a day 🙂
      When I use “my friend” in English (because I’m English) in that context, it’s either in a jovial manner (and toward a genuine friend), or a very serious manner toward a friend. The only reason I found this article was because i just told a friend to “kip well mon ami” and then I wondered what the full French for “sleep well my friend” was (dors bien mon ami, apparently). I think in any situation I’d use “mon ami” in French, it would be exactly the same as I’d use “my friend” in English. So yeah, in films it’s overused as the sole bit of French a French character might use, and that certainly isn’t going to be common. But as a jokingly formal (to a close friend), or very serious matter, I suspect it’s exactly the same as in English.

  • Good evening Geraldine
    I just had to comment.
    You look like a young Judy Garland.
    So sweet! Hope to visit France soon once this health crisis is over and we can fly in comfort with good food and French wine!
    Regards
    Tommy

  • Thank you for your lessons Geraldine. In the meantime, I am wandering, when I have to use in French “au revoir” and when “a la prochaine” or “a bientot” (sorry, I can’t use the french characters easily on my computer)? What is the difference between these words?

    • From my point of view, “au revoir” is always used whenever you are not so close to the person or that you don’t know when you might meet him again. Like for a doctor, a medical person or the owner of a shop you’re going often. For this last example you can also used “à la prochaine” or “à bientôt” as you like to see him again soon or regularly (but not for a doctor), like a friend or a good Office colleague we also say “A plus”, A pronounced “Ah” like in M”a”m”a” and written A+ in messages.
      Hope it’s more clear for you this way.

    • Hi Mike,
      ‘Au revoir’ and ‘À la prochaine’ are interchangeable. However, I would NOT use ‘À bientôt’ if I’m not expecting to see or talk (even on the phone) with that person again within a week, since “soon” cannot be weeks or months! ;=)

    • On most computers, you can use the Windows symbol and the space bar to toggle between languages.

      I usually type in English and then toggle to French for just some of the letters I need to appear as French characters. For example, I type

      ca va, Mike

      then press Windows and space bar together which brings up French characters, hover over the c of ca va, and press the cedilla key; which is the number 9 on the keyboard. Then I toggle back to English characters.

      So, I get ça va

      Remember to toggle back to English or you will get this.
      çq vq: ?ike

      Hope this helps

  • Terrible article. So I shouldn’t use Mon Ami to refer to my friend, I should just use their name or nothing at all? than what do I say when I want to point that they are my friend who is not my best friend? 2/10, have had better French lessons on Google translate

    • You just say “Mon pote”. French here, this article is very true. You can refer to a friend as Mon Ami(e) but I would never use these words in a direct conversation with said friend. There might be some cultural aspects here which means that the scope of what friend means in France’s French is different to what it means in English (or even in French speaking places outside of France). No need to be insulting, just accept that there are some untold meanings behind words and that not all words have the exact same meaning in all languages.
      Cheers

      • PTDR I’m French and no this article isn’t true. Nothing EVER prevents you from saying “mon ami”. You might just sound a bit old timey but not everyone is familiar enough to say Mon pote or Poto

  • But what if I was introducing a friend? Like ¨This is my friend!¨ would I use something different or just like ¨this is (friendsname)¨?

    • Hi Emma!

      Good question 🙂

      1 – You CAN use “Je te présente Claude, c’est mon ami / amie.” (= Here’s Claude, he/she is my friend.) You would be understood – but a French person would assume there are cultural differences between you. A French person wouldn’t really say that – it would be really intimate, and/or it could even be a euphemism for “lover.”

      2 – As a French person, if I were to introduce a friend, I’d say something like “C’est Martin, on se connaît de la chorale.” (= Here’s Martin, we know each other from the choir club.) or “C’est Martin, un pote de lycée.” (= Here’s Martin, a friend from high school.)
      –> “Pote” is a more informal, less intimate, synonym for “friend.” It can apply to women too, but we would rather use “une copine.”

      The extra mile for advanced learners: The show Bref (= “In short,” 2-min episodes) did a beautiful story on the subject. How “un pote” can become “un ami.”
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbGrzgcO68A

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

  • I am French Canadian. When I reply “mon ami” in an email , it simply means “my friend” (usually someone you consider as a friend be it personal or at work)
    Merci mon ami! … Thank you my friend! (Feminine: Mon amie!)

  • 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.

  • So Fabo! With the cartoons included in the lesson. Tellement excellent avec les bd ajouté dans le leçon

  • 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 Brian W.,
      As long as it’s part of a ‘long context’ and qualify it, you can use ‘Mon ami(e)’ like in English with ‘my dear friend’, etc. But not in expression(s) with only ‘hello,’ or ‘bye, bye’. Then it might sound sarcastic or pedantic, even.
      Just, as suggested, use their name, ‘Mark’, or Marie’ etc. if you really want to add something to that concise (but totally appropriate and sufficient) ‘hello’ (= ‘bonjour’) or ‘see you’ (= ‘au revoir’). Hope this helps.

    • 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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