Imagine you are finishing up a dinner with your new French friends and after lots of “vin rouge” (red wine) and excellent conversation you part ways and say…. “bonsoir”, “bonne soirée” or “bonne nuit”? What about when you’re meeting someone in the evening. Can you use the same words to say farewell to also greet people?
Saying “good evening” in French can be tricky because there are several expressions that, at first glance, seem to mean “good evening”. While they are all used at nighttime the context in which they can be used is quite different. In this post we’ll look at the expressions “bonsoir”, “bonne soirée” and “bonne nuit” and find out which is the best expression to say good evening in French.
Good Evening in French at a Glance with Audio
All the Ways to Say Good Evening in French
BonsoirBonsoir is the french word for “good evening”. It’s composed of the words “bon” (good) and the word “soir” (evening). We use it as a greeting when we enter a place, such as a restaurant or a friend’s house. It is always used at the beginning of a sentence. Let’s look at a few examples together:
Bonsoir, est-ce que vous avez réservé une table?
Good evening, have you reserved a table?
Bonsoir messieurs et dames!
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!
Bonne soiréeBonne soirée is more accurately translated with “have a good evening”. You will find that it’s quite similar to “bonsoir”. That is because “bonne” is the feminine form of “bon” (good) and “soiree” is the feminine form of “soir” (evening). Nevertheless, the meaning and context you use the two are quite different.
We use “bonne soiree” when we leave a place, and wish other people a nice (rest of the) evening like in these examples:
Bonne soirée, on se voit demain!
Have a good evening, I’ll see you tomorrow!
J’espère que tu passes une bonne soirée.
I hope you have a good evening.
When you say bonne nuit you wish someone to sleep well. The literal translation is “good night” but be careful, you only use it when your conversation partner or friend is headed straight to bed.
Bonne nuit, éteins la lumière.
Good night, turn off the light.
Je te souhaite une très bonne nuit.
I wish you a very good night.
Luckily, your options for saying “good evening’ in French are pretty limited, so you won’t spend hours memorizing new vocabulary. However, using the correct expression in each situation is crucial, you wouldn’t want to wish someone going out to party a “bonne nuit” or say “bonsoir” when you turn off the lights at a sleepover. As always, practice is crucial. Review our examples and practice your pronunciation.