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.
|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 tard – See you later; à demain – See you tomorrow; à la prochaine – See you next time
- Bonne journée – Have a nice day; Bon après-midi – Have a nice afternoon; Bonne soirée – Have a nice evening; Bonne nuit – Goodnight
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|
|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|