Whether it be for a graduation, wedding, Christmas, or just the beginning of summer there’s often a reason to celebrate.
Wine, beer, and other alcohol usually accompany a good celebration, and with those come toasting.
In France, toasting is an especially important ritual. There are a few things to know about saying cheers in French.
We’ll teach you when to toast and different rules so you know exactly how to give a toast or say cheers in French.
Cultural note: In France, as in much of Europe, it’s important to meet people’s gaze (look them in the eye) as you toast them. To not do so is considered rude and also unlucky, if you’re superstitious. It’s not a serious offence (they usually like to remind foreigners of this rule, in my experience), but it’s also an easy one to follow.
All the Ways to Say Cheers in French
First, here’s a summary table of all the ways to say “Cheers” in French.
There’ll be more explanation on each phrase below.
|À votre santé||To your health!|
|à la vôtre||To yours!|
À votre santé
À votre santé , means “to your health”, and it is one of the most common ways of saying cheers in French. À votre santé can be addressed to a particular person, or to a whole group of people. Votre is the way of saying “your” in a formal setting.
In French, there are formal and informal ways of saying “you”. Votre is used when speaking to people you don’t know well or with whom you have a formal relationship. Sante simply means “health”.
For friends and family, use à ta santé, which means the same thing, but instead of the formal pronoun votre you use ta.
À la vôtre
A shorter version of à votre santé is à la vôtre which simply means “to yours” — health is implied. It is less formal than the previous expression and is one you’ll hear more often in casual settings. You can use it at a family gathering or a celebration with friends.
Even more casual is à la tienne, “to yours” in the form of tu (informal you). It’s good to use with your friends and peers.
For a quick toast that doesn’t require a lengthy speech or even a particular occasion, try santé . It’s the other way of shortening À votre santé.
Similar to how cheers is used in English, santé, as well as the options we’ve mentioned, can be used anytime. There doesn’t necessarily need to be a special occasion. Simply having a drink and spending time with friends is a reason to cheers.
“Tchin Tchin”Tchin Tchin as a way of saying cheers in France had first been made popular by soldiers who brought the expression back from war in China.
It is similar to saying “please please” in Chinese, as a way of inviting others to have a drink. Tchin Tchin is here to stay and a fun way of mixing up your toast in French. It’s used in a casual setting and can be used with anyone with whom you have an informal relationship.
This expression is also used in other parts of Europe, including Italy, and via France and Italy it has migrated to England. So you might have heard people say “chin chin” before.
Onomatopoeically, tchin tchin / chin chin sounds like the clinking of wine glasses or champagne flutes together, which is what some associate it with.
For those interested in the Chinese origins, it’s from the character 請/请, in Mandarin pronounced qǐng, though the expression tchin tchin is adapted from the Cantonese pronunciation.
In modern Chinese, people are likely to use other expressions for “cheers”, mainly 干杯 (gānbēi) which means “dry cup”.
International Ways of Saying Cheers in French
The French are a well-traveled bunch, especially regionally in Europe, who love to throw foreign words into their vocabulary. In regions close to the German border you will often hear prost, German for “cheers”.
In the South of France, which is close to Spain, you might hear salud, which means “cheers” in Spanish.
When you visit France from another country, don’t hesitate to teach them how to say “cheers” in your native language.
All About Trinquer (to cheers)
Here are a few notes on using the verb trinquer, which means “to raise one’s glass” (or “to cheers”) in French.
Trinquer is a verb that represents “cheers-ing”, essentially describing the act of clinking your glasses together.
Here are a few examples that could help you understand how to use trinquer:
- On trinque?
- Je trinque à ton mariage!
- Shall we toast?
- Let’s toast!
- I toast to your marriage!
Other Cheers-related words
There are a few other words and phrases related to saying cheers in French.
Porter un toast
Porter un toast can be loosely translated to “raising a toast” or “raising a glass”. It also works well when you are toasting for a specific occasion that you want to share with the group.
Let’s look at a few examples:
- Portons un toast.
- Portons un toast à notre voyage ensemble!
- Let’s make a toast.
- Let’s toast to our holiday together!
Lever son verre
Lever son verre means “to raise one’s glass”, and is similar to porter un toast.
The verb lever is conjugated to the “we/us” form.
- Levons nos verres!
- Levons nos verres à ton obtention de diplôme!
- Let’s raise our glasses!
- Let’s raise our glass to your graduation!
Do’s and Don’ts of toasting — Toasting Etiquette
Here are some general notes for what to do and not do when saying cheers in French.
- Make sure everyone has a drink: It is considered impolite to give a toast when some people at the table aren’t participating.
- Look into the eyes of the person you toast with: It is considered polite to look into the eyes of a person you toast with. When your glass is very full or you’re a few glasses into the evening this might become quite a challenge!
- Make sure you have toasted with everyone before drinking: To drink when you haven’t toasted with every person is considered impolite as well. If the group is too big, for example, if you’re in a large table everybody raises their glass to the middle of the table.
- Don’t put ice in your wine: It’s a big no-no for the French to water their wine down with ice cubes.
- Toast with non-alcoholic beverages (especially water) if you can avoid it: When possible, it’s tradition to toast to non-alcoholic beverages. However, it is becoming more and more accepted to toast with non-alcoholic beverages. Minors, pregnant women, or those who drive at the end of the night usually opt for non-alcoholic beverages and are still allowed to toast with the group. Some people have superstitions about toasting with water, too.
Editor’s note: I don’t drink alcohol, and I’ve toasted many times with non-alcoholic beverages in many places. I usually apologise briefly, but people know me as a non-drinker, and the moment passes quickly.
- Put your glass down without taking a sip: It is considered a no-no to put your glass back down without taking a sip. If you don’t want any alcohol, ask for a non-alcoholic beverage and if you are simply not thirsty, just pretend to take a sip for good measure.
- Cross your glass with anyone: This rule becomes increasingly difficult to follow the larger your table is, but you’re not supposed to cross your glass with anyone. Start by toasting with the people closest to you and then make sure to toast with everyone — but without crossing your glasses!