French lesson: Increase Your Vocabulary

SALUTATIONS – GREETINGS

“Ça va?” [sa va]

“How’s it going?”

Ça va is easily the most commonly uttered phrase in the French language; and just what is its secret appeal? Why, it’s both a question and its reciprocal answer.

If you want to know how someone’s doing: Ça va?

If you want to tell them right back that you’re fine, too: Ça va.

There are many ways of saying, “Hello, how are you?” in French (just think of all the ways we say it in English), but this is by far the simplest.

Ça va is a phrase you’ll soon learn to pick out of conversations all around you, but it’s important to know how to greet a French person in all kinds of settings.

Owners of small shops, tellers at checkouts, bus drivers—nearly any professional you run into throughout your stay—will say “Hello” when you arrive and “Good bye” when you leave.

Rather than appearing a mute, familiarize yourself with these phrases,and be the first to say, “Good morning.”

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Salutations

Greetings

Bonjour

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Hello/Good morning

Bonsoir

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Good afternoon/evening*

Bonne nuit

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Good night

Salut

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Hi/Bye

Au revoir

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Good-bye

Bonne journée

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Have a good day.

Bonne soirée

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Have a good evening.
*Bonsoir is used anytime after 4pm, but some people begin saying it at noon. Just follow the lead of the native speaker.

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Questions

Questions
(Comment) ça  va?

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How’s it going?
Comment allez-vous?

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How are you? (formal)
Comment vas-tu?(Comment tu vas?)

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How are you? (informal)
Et vous?

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And you? (formal)
Et toi?

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And you? (informal)

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Réponses à ‘Ça va?’

Responses to ‘How’s it going?’

(Oui) ça va.

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Fine.

(Ça va) bien.

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Well.

(Ça va) très bien.

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Very well.

Ça va un peu.

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Okay.

Pas mal.

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Not bad.

(Non) ça ne va pas.

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Not well.

Pas du tout.

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Not well at all.

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Réponses à
‘Comment allez-vous/vas-tu?’

Responses to
‘How are you?’*

(Je vais) bien, merci.

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(I’m) well/fine, thank you.

(Je vais) très bien, merci.

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(I’m) very well, thank you.

(Je suis) un peu fatigué(e).

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(I’m) a little tired.

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*Comment allez-vous is generally used in a more formal context, such as when meeting someone for the very first time, or in a business exchange, so you wouldn’t want to go on and on about how unhappy you are. Save that for your friends, and for your responses to Ça va?

“Comment allez-vous?” is a phrase heard less and less outside of very formal situations. In the business world, it may be spoken between two people who have never met, but it is the most formal of formal questions.

If ça va is too casual for a given situation, “Comment vas-tu?,” is always another friendly possibility.

As usual, follow the lead of the native speaker.

Now, go forth, and be verbal!

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