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French Course with Mathilde, lesson 1 – Greetings

In this lesson, I will teach you how to greet someone in french and how to say good bye. You will learn the formal and informal way to speak to a french person.

In French the distinction between formal and informal language is essential. It means that, in this particular case, you can use some of the following expressions only with your relatives and peers (informal register), while the other ones are reserved when you are addressing a stranger, an older person, an authority (formal register).

Let’s see each form in detail:

  • Salut is the commonest informal greeting and it corresponds to English Hi, Hello.
  • Obviously, you could also say Bonjour (Good morning) or Bonsoir (Good evening). Bonjour, which is said until about 6 pm, and Bonsoir, which is said from 6 pm on, are used in both formal and informal contexts, while Salut is solely informal. You use these three expressions when you meet someone.
  • On the contrary, when leaving you say Au revoir (Goodbye), Tchao or again Salut (Bye). Au revoir is both formal and informal; Tchao, which is pronounced as Italian Ciao, is informal.

Recap

Informal language More formal language
Hello / Hi Salut Bonjour or Bonsoir
Goodbye Salut or Tchao Au revoir

 

  •  Other useful expressions are à bientôt and à tout à l’heure, which correspond to See you soon. The difference is that if you say à bientôt you expect to see your interlocutor again, but you don’t know exactly when; whereas you say A tout à l’heure if you will see your interlocutor at a given moment.
  • à plus or à plus tardSee you later; à demainSee you tomorrow; à la prochaineSee you next time
  • Bonne journéeHave a nice day; Bon après-midiHave a nice afternoon; Bonne soiréeHave a nice evening; Bonne nuitGoodnight

In French we use different expressions in formal and informal language to ask someone how he / she is. So, in informal language you will ask:

 

INFORMAL LANGUAGE FORMAL LANGUAGE
French English French English
Comment vas-tu?or(Comment) ça va? How are you? Comment allez-vous? How are you?
Ça va I’m OK Je vais bien, merci I’m fine, thank you
Ça va bien / Je vais bien I’m fine Bien, merci, et vous? Fine, thanks, and you
Pas mal Not bad
Bien, et toi? Fine, and you?
Ça va mal I’m not very well
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