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

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🇫🇷 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".

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

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