Salut! Meeting and greeting in French

Conversational French

Creating a good first impression is important, so you’ll want to say hello to people properly. It’s not just about what you say, though, it’s making sure you know the correct etiquette when meeting people.

French people are quite formal when initially introduced, shaking hands upon meeting and parting. Friends and relatives will often greet each other with a kiss on the cheek: usually two, but sometimes three, or even four, depending on which region you’re in.

Just as in English, there are several ways to say hello in French. You can simply use the informal salut (hi) on its own. You can also use bonjour (good morning or good afternoon) or bonsoir (good evening). You would only use bonne nuit (good night) at bedtime.

Any of these greetings can be followed by monsieur/madame/mademoiselle if you want to sound polite. Madame and mademoiselle can be translated as Mrs/Ms and Miss respectively. As in English, mademoiselle (Miss) is less frequently used nowadays and tends to be used for young girls rather than adults; madame can refer to a married or an unmarried woman. It’s polite to use someone’s title when addressing them or trying to get their attention.

When leaving, the general form is au revoir (goodbye), although salut can be used to mean bye and bonsoir can be used to wish someone good night as you leave. Informally, of course, you will probably want to say something like À plus tard! See you later!, À demain! See you tomorrow! or À lundi! See you on Monday!

Of course, when you’re introduced to someone, you need to know how to reply. Very often people just say bonjour.

Bonjour, madame.Bonjour, monsieur.
How do you do?How do you do?

Enchanté or ravi de faire votre connaissance are used mostly in formal or business situations these days:
Enchanté. – Enchanté.
Pleased to meet you.Pleased to meet you too.

Ravi de faire votre connaissance.Moi de même.
Pleased to meet you.Pleased to meet you too.

You may well want to be a bit more effusive with friends, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve seen them.

Ça fait plaisir de te revoir! How lovely to see you again!

Ça fait une éternité que je ne t’ai pas vu! I haven’t seen you for ages!

Now you’ve overcome the first hurdle, come back for the next blog post to help you continue with the conversation!

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