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

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This is 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.

Starting your french language learning journey? Don’t miss our free list of 300 must-know French Words for Beginners.

Sunrise over wheat field for Good Morning in French post

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” — Bonjour

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 sigh in English!

Note — If you struggle to pronounce the French “r”, the safer bet is not to pronounce it and let it “wash away”, like bonjouh, rather than over-emphasising an “r” sound.

Check out this video to perfect your “bonjour”.

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)

Read next: 3 Most Common Ways to Say Good Evening in French

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.

Alternative Ways of Say Good Morning in French

If you’re looking to change up your morning greetings and want to sound more casual, you can say salut . It simply means “hello”, but given its informal use, its English equivalent is more similar to “hey”.

The word salut can be used at any time of day and is used in informal settings, with people you are very familiar with, such as your friends or family. Salut can be used to say both hello and goodbye.

How NOT to Say Good Morning in French

The literal translation of good morning in French is bon matin. It is common for new learners of French to directly translate good morning and use bon matin. However this is not something you’d hear in France.

The only place bon matin is used for “good morning” in French is in Canada. So if you’re learning Canadian French or traveling around the Quebec area, it may be a phrase that will be useful to you.

The two main acceptable ways of greetings in the morning in France are bonjour and salut. Even hi and hello can be heard from time to time.

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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