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Goodbye in French — Say Au Revoir to “Au Revoir”

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A few better ways of saying goodbye in French than just blurting out “au revoir”.

Basic greetings are some of the first things you learn in any language… well, apart from swear and slang words (of which French has a ton!)

And among the first things you’d learn when studying French — if you don’t already know them — are how to say “Hello” and “Goodbye” in French.

We’ve already covered how to say “Good Morning” in French. So I thought I’d throw in another article on all the variations on “Goodbye” in French. You can say so much more than Au revoir !

Goodbye in French — Say Au Revoir to "Au Revoir" 1

Goodbye in French — In Brief

If there was one way I hear people saying goodbye in French more often than any others, it wouldn’t be “Au revoir”. It would be “Bonne journée!

So that’s the first one I’d recommend you learn. You can see more about it in the section below in the section on “bonne anything

The reason you hear this version more than any other is because most of the time we’re speaking with people we have briefly met and who we are asking for help.

There’s no need for excessive formality. Just like how in English you wouldn’t say “Excuse me, where is the bathroom? Over there? Thank you and I wish you all the best in your future endeavours, my kind friend“, you wouldn’t expect someone to say “I bid you farewell!” in response.

Because au revoir, while a versatile term, can go from semi-formal all the way up to very formal. So much so that the only time I really hear it is when friends are seeing me off as I drive away or at an airport or something.

But of course, everything is relative. Relative to people, place, situation.

I’ll do my best to convey the nuance below of each of these ways of saying goodbye in French. But really, it’s up to you to listen, observe, and figure out what’s best for yourself.

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À plus/À plus tard/”A+”

This is number one on the list of ways of saying “goodbye” in French because it’s by far the most common.

Literally it means “until later”. It loosely is equivalent to “see you later”. The short version is just “à plus”, and is a bit like how in English people might casually abbreviate “see you later” to just “later”.

It’s colloquial, so say à plus to someone with whom you’re on a first-name basis. This could be a friend, colleague, or family member.

You wouldn’t say “à plus” to someone you’ve just met, like a shop attendant, police officer, or random on the street. It’d be strange.

If you’re texting a friend, it’s fine (and normal) to just write “A+”. The plus sign is for plus.

À la prochaine

This expression literally means “until next time”. If you’re wondering why it’s la, it’s because it’s short for à la prochaine fois.

It’s slightly more formal than “à plus” and also conveys slightly more strongly that you’ll see them again.

You can use the expression à la prochaine with anyone you might see again, though generally that would be someone with whom you’re acquainted.

À tout de suite

Literally, à tout de suite means “until right away”, and loosely translates to “see you in a second” or “see you in a bit” in English.

Side note — you might have heard the English expression “toot sweet”. For example “I’ll be over toot sweet”. It means “in a jiffy”. Did you know that it comes from the French expression tout de suite?

You use à tout de suite when speaking slightly formally, but when you know you’ll see someone in a second again.

For example, if you get into your Uber and then realise you left something upstairs, you can ask if you can go get it, then say “à tout de suite” to indicate you’ll be back in a jiffy.

À tout à l’heure/T’à l’heure!

This expression for “goodbye” in French really means “see you in a bit”.

Used alone, tout à l’heure means “in a short while” Like, to say “he’s coming soonish/in a short while” you can say Il vient tout à l’heure.

I use à tout à l’heure when I’m talking to friends and I know I’ll see them later. You can also use it for members of a household.

To get colloquial, you cut it down to just two syllables with T’à l’heure! This is very casual. It’s safe to say to children or people you know so casually you barely have to look at them to say “goodbye”.

Tchau

The word tchau is the French spelling of the Italian ciao.

Much like ciao, you use tchau for people you know. It’s literally “goodbye”, but more casual.

Unlike ciao, you can ONLY use tchau for goodbye; not hello. (But see below for when else you can use a hello expression as goodbye… if you’re not confused already.

Bon, J’y vais/je m’en vais

This expression is more like “OK, well, I’m off then.” It’s more a predecessor to “goodbye” in French, but it sets the scene well.

I often find it hard to learn these fillers before hearing them in context and thinking “ah, that’s how you say it!”, so here’s is a great one.

Je me casse/je me tire/je dois filer

These are more casual ways of saying “I’ve got to get going” in French.

All of these are pretty slangy (see our guide to French slang that has stood the test of time). But none of them are rude. If after a pause at a party you say “Bon, je me casse… je dois filer, j’ai des trucs à faire”, nobody will give you side-eye for your language.

À bientôt

The classic “À bientôt” is best translated as “See you soon” rather than “Goodbye” in French.

It has a very similar feeling to the above greetings where you imply you’ll definitely see the other person again.

The expression à bientôt is suitable at all formality levels. It’d be a bit weird to say to a child — I’d prefer à plus for children.

À demain/À lundi/À (some other time)

Expressions starting with À and then followed by a time indicate “I’ll see you…”.

Some of the above you already saw are à bientôt and à tout à l’heure.

But you can specify any time and make an expression. Some examples are:

  • À demain — “See you tomorrow”
  • À lundi — “See you on Monday”
  • À la semaine prochaine — “See you next week”

French, like other Europeans, can get very specific about the next time you’re going to see them.

So if you say “À demain!” and you’re not going to see them tomorrow, but rather another day, you can almost expect the other person to correct you. Happens to me all the time.

Bonne Journée … or Bonne Anything

There are so many cool French phrases that start with “Bon” or “Bonne” that are ways of politely wishing someone well without saying goodbye.

The most common one you’ll hear will be bonne journée. This is literally wishing someone “have a good day”. But it’s used in lieu of “goodbye”, and is extremely common. You’re likely to hear it within an hour of arriving in any French-speaking territory.

Basically, all the below are ways of saying “Have a nice…” referring to whatever it is they’re about to do:

  • Bonne continuation — “Have a nice rest of your trip” — use this when someone is doing something, like if they’re on a journey, and you know they’ll continue with their journey
  • Bon séjour — “Have a nice stay” — use this when someone just arrived and is staying somewhere, and you want to wish them a nice stay.
  • Bonne promenade — “Have a nice walk” — use this when someone’s going out on a walk.
  • Bonne soirée — “Have a nice evening” — use this when wishing someone a good evening (but NOT when saying hello. That’s “Bonsoir”!

There are others, but the above are the most common. I find “Bonne continuation” the most interesting because it’s common around Europe (in a few other languages, too), but not in English.

Note: Whether you say bon or bonne depends on the grammatical gender of the word that follows, masculine or feminine respectively.

Salut

A slightly archaic, but still often used expression for goodbye is the same as hello.

It’s a little confusing (unless you’re Italian and used to saying ciao all the time), but salut can be used as a goodbye greeting as well, in French.

It’s kind of “formal casual”. I’d use something like “salut” to friends with whom I’m on a first-name basis, much like people to whom I’d say salut as “hello”. But it’s not casual slangy. With my friends, I’d be more likely to use “à plus” or even “tchau”.

Adieu

The most archaic version of goodbye in French is Adieu!

It sounds almost as anachronistic as saying “And so I bid thee adieu” in English.

Spanish-speakers might be tempted to think that adieu is used as often as adios is in Spanish. But they’d be wrong. It’s not! In fact, I don’t think I heard adieu once in spoken French; just in the occasional film.

So if you hear it, know that it’s formal. You may as well bow in response!

Au revoir! — A FEW BRIEF WORDS

Finally, a few words on au revoir.

Literally, au revoir means “until we see each other again”. Au is a conraction of à and le, and revoir is a verb that’s to voir something again, like to “re-see”.

The phrase au revoir is very standard French and can be used in everyday conversation. It’s never “wrong”. It’s quite versatile and can be used between people who are very intimate and who definitely want to see each other again, all the way through to people who are just bidding each other farewell.

So why not recommend it? Because when your French level is very basic — which is what I assume if you’re reading this guide — saying “au revoir” sounds a little textbook.

A more fluent French speaker (which you may also be) would have said a number of things before au revoir, or might append things to it.

For example:

  • Je vous dis au revoir, alors.
  • Je n’ai même pas eu la chance de dire au revoir!
  • Bon, mes amis, au revoir, et je vous remercie encore une fois pour tout que vous avez fait.

If you say a phrase like that, it’s going to imply that you speak French well. But if you say “au revoir” on its own, then it just sounds like it’s one of five words you know.

That’s why I suggest one of the more colloquial phrases above.

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