Different ways to say hello in French 

Enchanté, allô, coucou – learn French terms for greeting people

Find out how to greet your friend when you happen upon them in the street
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Sometimes social interactions can feel codified in France, such as la bise when greeting someone. Especially as a newcomer, it might feel as if everyone is behaving according to a rulebook that you do not have access to. 

Below, we outline the main ways to say hello and the context in which to use them. With these greetings, you will be able to blend in in different situations – at least until the small talk starts.

Read more: Greeting kisses in France: 5 regional expressions


As you will know, this is the French equivalent of ‘hello’. It literally means ‘good day’ and can be used in any context whatsoever, unless, bonsoir (see below) is more appropriate.

It is important to remember that if you walk into a shop or boulangerie, it is expected that you will greet any workers with a Bonjour, although you do not need to take the conversation any further than that. 

Older people may appreciate the more formal Bonjour Monsieur/Madame, though it is not usually considered essential these days.

Newcomers to France should also beware that you should never accost someone in the street, or elsewhere, and ask a question without first saying ‘bonjour’. English-speakers often assume that a phrase such as Excusez-moi or pardon will suffice, but this can be taken as rude. 

If you bump into someone for the second time in the same day, people sometimes say ‘rebonjour’.


Bonsoir is the evening equivalent of bonjour. There is no hard and fast rule on when exactly bonjour becomes bonsoir but it is at some point in the later afternoon. If it gets dark, be sure to use bonsoir. 

However, do not worry if you get it wrong. It is almost a rite of passage to say bonjour to someone and receive a bonsoir in return.

Be careful: while you might hear bon après-midi, bonne journée or bonne soirée, these are only used for saying goodbye and and not for saying hello. They are equivalent to ‘have a good afternoon/day/evening’’. 


Coucou is an informal hello that has a warm, cute feel to it. There is no equivalent to it in English. 

It would mostly be used for people you are close to, such as friends and family. 


Another informal hello, this is probably the most common expression when greeting friends. 

It can also be used to say goodbye and should not be used in formal situations such as a job interview.

Read more: Seven useful informal French expressions you don’t learn at school

Ca va ?

This expression is the equivalent of ‘alright?’ in the British sense. It means ‘how are you’ and the usual response is ça va et toi ? (not bad and you?) or even just an et toi ?

It is not typically used as a greeting on its own but will commonly be combined with salut

A similar, very informal word, used by young people as a greeting, is wesh, which comes from an Arabic word meaning ‘how are you’.


Allô is a form of greeting that is exclusively used on the telephone. When picking up the phone, many people say Allô ? or Oui allô ? but it would not be used in person. 

The term arose from English ‘hello’, imported from the US along with the first phones. 

In fact, ‘hello’ was also popularised in English as a telephone greeting (though it existed earlier in similar forms, for example as a hunting cry) with people prior to that usually using expressions such as good morning or good day.


This word is sometimes used in English and it means ‘pleased to meet you’. Sometimes, you will hear Je suis enchanté de vous rencontrer (I am delighted to meet you) or Je suis enchanté de vous connaître (I am delighted to know you), but it is often shortened to just Enchanté/e, especially in more informal situations.

Read more: Seven tips to help you integrate in France 


Anglicisms are more and more common in France and hello is certainly one of them. 

It is used as a friendly greeting, especially by the younger generation although it is pronounced with a French accent and the ‘h’ sound is completely dropped.