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Good Morning in French — Read This Before Saying “Bonjour”

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How to say “good morning” in French — plus, when else you can say it (it might surprise you).

Good morning in French is not only one of the most important greetings to know, it’s probably the most important French greeting — because it’s also the formal “hello”.

Yes, you use bonjour as “hello” in semi-formal to formal situations, as well as to say “good morning in any situation.

Below we’ll discuss how to properly pronounce bonjour, when you can say it (and to whom), plus describing the difference between bonjour and bonne journée.

Sunrise over wheat field for Good Morning in French post

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Good Morning in French — The Basics

The basics of how to say “Good Morning” in French is this: say “bonjour“.

Rules for pronunciation:

  • Pronounce it bon-ZHOUR.
  • The emphasis is on the second syllable.
  • The “ZH” sound is like a soft “J”. (Think the “g” in “rouge”).
How to pronounce “Good morning in French”

Probably the most important thing to know is that tone is everything.

You can say bonjour in any number of ways. You can say it

  • Perfunctorily — this is how you’d say it in an office environment, especially when greeting a number of people
  • Brightly and cheerily — how you’d greet an acquaintance, or a new customer, or someone as they’re waking up
  • With a sigh… it would carry just the same meaning as greeting someone with a sign in English!

When you can use “Bonjour”

You use bonjour to say “good morning” in French to:

  1. greet someone who’s just woken up,
  2. to greet someone in the morning, or
  3. to say “hello” generally throughout the day.

The interesting thing about bonjour is that it’s not just used in the morning for “good morning” in French. It’s also used all throughout the day, roughly until evening.

There’s no common way of saying “good afternoon” in French. You can say bon après-midi or bon aprèm (colloquially) if you want, but it’s unusual as a standalone phrase. When it is used, it’s a farewell (much like bonne nuit).

If you’re at a work or school environment, you only greet someone with bonjour once a day. The second and further times you see them, use another greeting.

As to to whom you can say bonjour:

  • You can use bonjour to say “good morning” in French to anyone — children, people younger than you, and people older than you
  • In semi-formal situations, bonjour is useful as “hello” — e.g. speaking to an elder, an unknown person (like a store attendant), or your boss or colleague (who isn’t already your good friend)

How Sound More Natural saying “Good Morning in French

The key to sounding natural in French is to imagine that you’re a French person.

Having trouble? Say it in an animated way. Bonjour!

Next step is to add some endings on to it.

  • Bonjour, monsieur! (“Good morning/hello, sir!”)
  • Bonjour, madame! (“Good morning/hello, ma’am!”)
  • Bonjour, comment ça va? (“Good morning/hello, how are you?”)

“Comment ça va?” is an excellent phrase to use with most people — it’s not too informal, nor too stuffy and formal.

You might also like our article on saying “how are you” in French.

Bonjour vs Bonne Journée

Translated literally, these two phrases mean the same thing: “Good day”.

But while a cheery “Bonjour!” is how you’d greet someone in French, “Bonne journée” is what you say to wish someone a good day as you’re saying goodbye.

It’s equivalent to “Have a nice day” in English. You also typically only say it in somewhat impersonal situations. For example, I’d rarely hear friends saying bonne journée to me, but I’d hear shopkeepers saying it to me regularly.

See our article on saying goodbye in french for more about that topic.

Equivalents of Bonjour in other languages

Finally, it’s interesting to note the equivalents of Bonjour in other languages.

Italians use buongiorno in much the same way — it means both “Good morning” as well as being useful during the day at the same times as bonjour. You might remember this from La Vita è Bella. Buongiorno, principessa!

Italian also has a similar distinction between buongiorno and buona giornata to the French distinction between bonjour and bonne journée. (Italian and French have a lot in common… see our article on similarities and differences.)

Scene from La Vita e Bella, "Buongiorno principessa", the Italian equivalent of Bonjour, good morning in French

Spanish has a similar sounding expression, buenos días, but it’s strictly used in the morning. In fact, I’ve seen people in several Spanish speaking countries greet me with “Buenos días! Uy perdon… Buenas tardes!“, correcting themselves after checking a watch.

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