Simple French greetings will serve you well on your trip to Paris. And don't forget, politeness counts! Polite Parisians always end their greetings with either Madame, Monsieur or Mademoiselle. Therefore, "hello" is always "bonjour, madame" or "bonjour, monsieur".
Bonjour is the catch-all French greeting meaning"good morning, good afternoon, and good day. At about 7 pm, you'll notice Parisians switch to bonsoir — good evening. Bonne nuit (good night), is only used when you're actually on your way to bed. Confused? Don't be. We'll take you through some basic greetings. There are also easy French language resources online that can help you maneuver through French and tackle more complex questions and answers. Meanwhile, let's get started —
Whenever you enter a restaurant, store or café, always say bonjour when you enter. It's really an important ritual in French life.
You'll often hear Parisians say something like Bonjour, monsieur-dame, to cover all possibilities of whether there's a man or women working in the store. Say au revoir when you leave. Toujours — always!
The French language has two distinct ways of addressing people. That is, two ways of saying "you". Tu is reserved for family and friends and children, while vous is used for unfamiliar people and those who are older.
Vous — is used when addressing anyone who is not a friend, a child or a family member. Use the vous form with your boss and with professionals, like your doctor or lawyer. Vous is also the plural form of tu. (Got it!?)
Now, let's put it all together it a short conversation using common French greetings. Laurent and David, who work together, have bumped into each other at the airport.
Laurent: Salut, David! Comment vas-tu?
– Hi David, how are you?
David: Laurent! Je vais bien, et toi?
– Laurent! I am well. And you?
Laurent: Tres bien. Tu es ici en vacances?
– Very well. Are you here on vacation?
David: Oui. Je te presente ma famille. Ma femme Brigitte, ma fille Juliette, et mon fils Jean-Paul.
– Yes, let me introduce my family. My wife Brigitte, my daughter Juliette and my son Jean-Paul.
Laurent: Enchante !
– Enchanted! (Pleased to meet you.)
French For Travelers
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