🇫🇷 Use and meaning of the word hello (bonjour) in French

Image illustration Elisabeth newsletter

🎁 30% discount on my courses

Subscribe to my newsletter and receive 30% discount on my courses. 

Leave your first name and email address below ⬇️

🇫🇷 Use and meaning of the word hello (bonjour) in French

"Bonjour" is a very common word in France. It is often used to greet someone and more generally to make conversation. But does this word have a deeper meaning? More importantly, how is it used in everyday life? Discover in this article the use and meaning of the word "bonjour" in France and how to say it correctly.

When to say hello in French?

In French, it is common to say "bonjour" to greet people at any time of the day, especially in the morning and afternoon. It is a polite and respectful way to start a conversation or to greet someone you meet. However, if you are chatting with friends and family, it is acceptable to use more informal expressions such as "hello" or "cuckoo".

🇫🇷 This course will unlock your oral comprehension of French

👉 Through dialogues, I'll teach you to understand the French, even when they talk fast.

🚀 50 everyday dialogues to boost your understanding of French

✅ Understand the French, even when they're talking fast.
✅ Talk with French speakers with confidence.
Improve your French for good with a method based on everyday dialogues.

Bonjour, salut or coucou and its equivalents in English.

"Bonjour" is a polite and formal greeting in French, and is the most common and respectful way to greet someone in French, whether they are friends, colleagues, or strangers you meet. If you are unsure of the context and don't know how to greet someone, "bonjour" is the least risky way that you can really use in any situation.

➡️ English equivalent of the French "bonjour" 🇺🇸 -> "Hello" or "Good morning

"Hi" is less formal and more colloquial than "hello" and is a more casual way to greet friends and family. It can also be used in a professional context, but only with colleagues you know well. You would never say "hi" in a traditional business, such as a bakery or clothing store. If you are a tourist coming to France on vacation, avoid saying "hi" to strangers.

➡️ English equivalent of the French "salut" 🇺🇸 -> "Hi" or "Hey"

"Cuckoo" is a very informal and more intimate way of greeting people, reserved for close friends or family. Cuckoo" should never be used with strangers, except in a very special context. For example, you can say "cuckoo" with strangers on a dating application like "Tinder" but never in real life. 

➡️ English equivalent of the French "coucou" 🇺🇸 -> "Hiya" or "Hey there

How to pronounce the word "hello" correctly?

To correctly pronounce the word "bonjour" in French, here are the steps to follow:

Start by saying GOOD: the mouth is open, the lips are rounded, the teeth are clenched. You pronounce the "o" sound as in the word "rose", and the "n" sound by putting the tongue against the roof of your mouth.
Then say the sound "JOU".

To do this, bring your lips together without closing them completely, as if you wanted to make a smile. Pronounce the sound "or" as in the word "always".

To pronounce "hello" correctly, you must therefore pronounce the "b" and the "n" firmly by separating "good" and "day" into two syllables, with a small space between them. 

How to say Hello according to the moment of the day ?

  • Good morning can be used at any time of the day, but is generally used in the morning and early afternoon.
  • Good afternoon: this expression is used to greet someone in the afternoon, usually between 12 and 6 pm. It is used more to say 'goodbye' than to greet someone you have just met.
  • Good evening can be used to greet someone in the evening, usually from 6 or 7 pm.
  • Good evening: as for "good afternoon", we use this expression to say goodbye and not to greet someone we have just met. We use this expression from 7 pm - 8 pm.

The case of "Bonjour, comment ça va?" in French. 

Often, the French add the term "ça va" or "comment ça va?" after bonjour or salut.

It is the English equivalent of "how are you" or "how's it going? These expressions are used to ask someone how he/she is or if he/she is doing well.

We often use "comment ça va" in French as a reflex. It's a question that doesn't really need an answer. Besides, the French will find it a bit strange if someone answers this "comment ça va" by saying something other than "oui" or "ça peut aller".

Translation of hello in different languages 

  • Hello in French :
    • English 🇺🇸 :  Hello, Good morning
    • Italian 🇮🇹 : Buongiorno
    • Spanish 🇪🇸 : Buenos días
    • German 🇩🇪 : Guten Tag
    • Portuguese 🇵🇹 : Bom dia
  • Greetings in French :
    • English 🇺🇸 :  Hi, Hey
    • Italian 🇮🇹 : Ciao, Salve
    • Spanish 🇪🇸 : Hola
    • German 🇩🇪 : Hallo, Grüß Gott (in Austria and in some parts of Germany)
    • Portuguese 🇵🇹 : Olá, Oi
  • Cuckoo in French :
    • English 🇺🇸 :  Hiya, Hey there
    • Italian 🇮🇹 : Ciao
    • Spanish 🇪🇸 : Hola
    • German 🇩🇪 : Hallo
    • Portuguese 🇵🇹 : Olá

Want to know more about the different ways of greeting in French?

Discover the video "4 ways to say hello in French

🇫🇷 This course will unlock your oral comprehension of French

👉 Through dialogues, I'll teach you to understand the French, even when they talk fast.

🚀 50 everyday dialogues to boost your understanding of French

✅ Understand the French, even when they're talking fast.
✅ Talk with French speakers with confidence.
Improve your French for good with a method based on everyday dialogues.

Share this post
Facebook
Twitter
WhatsApp
Email

Free resources that might interest you

Expressions
Elisabeth

LEARN FRENCH IN 2 MINUTES - French idiom: A hard blow

Transcript of the video Bonjour tout le monde, j'espère que vous allez bien, je vous retrouve pour une nouvelle vidéo dans le format une expression française en quelques minutes avant de commencer, pensez à activer les sous titres en français

black and gray digital device
Tips
Translation by Deepl

French e-mail greetings

Mastering French politeness is not an easy task. We are spoilt for choice, and some of the formulas can seem endless and difficult to understand for a non-French speaker. It is important not to confuse them, especially if you are

Videos that might interest you

Learn French
Videos

THE DIFFERENCE IN FRENCH BETWEEN BEAUF BŒUF AND BOF?

In this video, we are going to talk about the difference between 3 words that are very similar: bof, boeuf and beauf. These 3 words are very different in meaning and can be the source of many misunderstandings when you start to

Image illustration Elisabeth newsletter

🎁 30% discount on my courses

Subscribe to my newsletter and receive 30% discount on my courses. 

Leave your first name and email address below ⬇️

fr_FRFrançais
Scroll to Top