Ways to Say Goodbye in French: Mastering the Art of Goodbye


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The art of saying goodbye holds a special place in France. It’s more than just a parting phrase; it’s a reflection of respect, context, and, sometimes, the depth of the relationship. For foreigners in France, mastering the various ways to bid adieu is not just about language proficiency – it’s about embracing a vital aspect of daily social interactions.

As you learn the various ways to say goodbye in French, remember that each phrase carries its own nuance and appropriateness. From the universally recognized “Au revoir” to the more informal “Salut,” and the polite “Bonne journée,” your choice of words can open doors to deeper cultural understanding and appreciation. Let’s explore these expressions and the contexts in which they are used, enriching your experience in this beautiful country.


  • “Au revoir” is a universally appropriate and formal way to say goodbye.
  • “Salut” is used for casual goodbyes among friends.
  • “Adieu” implies a final or long-term farewell, used sparingly.
  • “Bonne journée / Bonne soirée” are polite ways to wish someone a good day or evening.
  • Regional phrases and slang reflect France’s cultural diversity.
  • Professional and social settings have unique farewell expressions.
  • Non-verbal cues like handshakes and cheek kisses are integral to farewells.
  • Regular practice in real-life situations enhances farewell proficiency.

Common Farewell Phrases

The nuances of French farewells can be both fascinating and essential for anyone living in or visiting France. Let’s delve into some of the most commonly used phrases, exploring their meanings and contexts.

“Au revoir” – The Classic Goodbye

“Au revoir,” perhaps the most well-known French farewell, is your go-to phrase for most situations. Literally translating to “until we see each other again,” it carries a tone of politeness and formality without being overly formal.

Usage and Context: You can use “Au revoir” in a variety of settings, from leaving a shop to saying goodbye to acquaintances. It’s universally appropriate and understood.

Pronunciation Tips: Pronounced as [oh ruh-vwahr], it’s important to get the nasal sound in “voir” right. Practicing with native speakers can help perfect your pronunciation.

“Salut” – Casual Farewell

“Salut” is the laid-back cousin of “Au revoir.” It’s a versatile phrase, used both for greeting and saying goodbye, and resonates with a casual, friendly vibe.

When it’s Appropriate to Use: Ideal among friends or in informal settings, “Salut” embodies a relaxed and congenial atmosphere. It’s less suitable for formal or professional environments.

Contrast with its use as a Greeting: As a farewell, “Salut” is often accompanied by a warm tone and sometimes a casual wave or nod. The context and tone can subtly change its meaning from a hello to a goodbye.

These common phrases are the backbone of everyday farewells in France. They are simple yet powerful tools in making your interactions smoother and more culturally attuned.

Formal and Polite Goodbyes

ways to say goodbye in french

In the realm of French farewells, there are phrases that carry a sense of formality and politeness, reserved for specific situations or to convey a certain level of respect. Understanding these can be crucial in professional settings or when interacting in more formal social circles.

“Adieu” – A Formal and Final Farewell

“Adieu” is a powerful and somewhat solemn farewell, steeped in a sense of finality. Its literal meaning is akin to “to God,” suggesting a goodbye for an extended period or even forever.

Historical Context and Modern Usage: Traditionally used to imply a permanent farewell, “Adieu” is now less commonly used in daily conversation. It might be more frequently encountered in literature or in a dramatic or very formal context.

Sensitivity in Usage: Given its weighty connotation, it’s important to use “Adieu” judiciously. It’s more appropriate for situations where you are unlikely to see the person again.

“Bonne journée / Bonne soirée” – Wishing a Good Day or Evening

These phrases are a delightful way to wish someone a pleasant day or evening while parting. They are polite, positive, and carry a friendly undertone.

Appropriate Settings for Each Phrase: “Bonne journée” is used during the daytime, typically before the late afternoon, while “Bonne soirée” is suitable for evenings. You might use these phrases with someone you’ve just met, in a service encounter, or even in a professional meeting as you part ways.

The Importance of Tone and Body Language: The warmth in your voice and a friendly smile can greatly enhance the sincerity of these phrases. They are not just formalities but genuine wishes for someone’s well-being.

Ways to Say Goodbye in French: Regional Variations and Slang

France’s rich diversity is reflected in its language, with regional dialects and youth slang adding color to the standard farewells. Understanding these variations can provide a deeper insight into the French way of life, especially in different parts of the country.

Region/ContextFarewell PhraseMeaning/Usage
South of France (Occitan)“Adieu-siatz”Traditional, regional goodbye
Alsace (German-influenced)“Tschüss”Casual, influenced by German culture
Youth Slang“Ciao”Informal, friendly, borrowed from Italian
Youth Slang“À plus / À plus tard”Informal, means “See you later”
Youth Slang“À la prochaine”Casual, means “Until next time”

Exploring Regional Differences in Saying Goodbye

Each region in France has its own linguistic quirks and phrases for farewells. For instance:

In the South of France, you might hear “Adieu-siatz” in Occitan-speaking areas, a traditional way of saying goodbye.

In Alsace and other German-influenced regions, “Tschüss,” a Germanic goodbye, is commonly used, reflecting the cultural blend in these areas.

These regional variations are not just linguistic anomalies but a window into the diverse cultural fabric of France.

Slang and Informal Goodbyes Among the Youth

French youth often have their own jargon, which includes informal and trendy ways of saying goodbye.

Examples and Contexts:

  • “Ciao” is borrowed from Italian but widely used among young people in France, indicating a casual and friendly goodbye.
  • “À plus” (shortened from “À plus tard”) and “À la prochaine” are breezy ways of saying “See you later” or “Until next time.” These are common among friends and in informal settings.

Using these phrases can be a fun way to connect with younger French speakers and show your familiarity with contemporary colloquial French. However, it’s important to understand the setting and the company you’re in, as these informal expressions are best reserved for casual and friendly environments.

Related: Best Apps for Learning French: Mastering French Easily

Special Farewells for Special Occasions

French, with its nuances and rich expressions, offers a variety of farewells suitable for special occasions. Whether you’re in a professional setting or at a social gathering, using the appropriate goodbye can enhance your interactions and show your cultural awareness.

Farewells in Professional Settings

In a professional context, farewells often carry a tone of respect and formality. Phrases like “Je vous souhaite une bonne continuation” (I wish you a good continuation) are perfect when concluding a business meeting or leaving a job. They convey good wishes for future endeavors in a respectful and formal manner.

Contextual Use: Such farewells are best used when you’re unlikely to see the person in the immediate future but wish to leave a positive impression.

Goodbyes in Social Gatherings and Parties

Social occasions in France, be it a casual get-together or a formal party, have their own set of parting phrases that reflect the convivial spirit of the event.

  • “À la prochaine” (Until the next time): This phrase implies that you expect to see each other again, and it’s perfect for regular social gatherings.
  • “On se voit bientôt” (We’ll see each other soon): This is a warm, friendly way to say goodbye, suggesting an eagerness to meet again.

These phrases are not just words but a reflection of the French value placed on relationships and social interactions. They carry with them an air of warmth and the anticipation of future meetings.

Seasonal and Holiday-Specific Farewells

During festive seasons or holidays, farewells can also take on a special flavor. For example, saying “Joyeuses fêtes” (Happy holidays) during Christmas or “Bonne année” (Happy New Year) around New Year’s Day brings a seasonal touch to your goodbyes.

The Role of Non-Verbal Communication in Goodbyes

In France, as in many cultures, what you don’t say is often as important as what you do. Non-verbal cues play a crucial role in farewells, adding depth and sincerity to your parting words. Understanding these subtleties can greatly enhance the effectiveness of your goodbyes.

Discussing Gestures Like Handshakes, Cheek Kisses, and Waves

The physical aspect of saying goodbye in France varies greatly depending on the relationship and setting:

Handshakes: In a formal or professional context, a firm handshake is a common way to accompany a goodbye. It conveys respect and a certain formality.

Cheek Kisses (La bise): More common in social or casual settings, ‘la bise’ involves lightly kissing the other person’s cheeks. The number of kisses and which cheek to start with can vary regionally.

Waves and Nods: For more distant or casual acquaintances, a simple wave or a nod can suffice. It’s a non-intrusive way to acknowledge the other person while parting.

How Non-Verbal Cues Complement Spoken Goodbyes

Your body language and facial expressions can significantly impact how your farewell is received. A warm smile or eye contact can make even a simple “Au revoir” feel more genuine and heartfelt. Conversely, a lack of eye contact or a distracted demeanor can make the same words seem distant or insincere.

Practice Makes Perfect

The journey to mastering the art of saying goodbye in French is not just about memorizing phrases; it’s about immersing yourself in the language and culture. Practice is key to gaining confidence and fluency in using these expressions naturally in everyday life.

Encouraging Readers to Practice These Phrases in Real-Life Situations

To truly grasp the essence of French farewells, it’s important to put them into practice. Engage in conversations with locals, be it at a café, in a market, or with neighbors. Each interaction is an opportunity to test out different phrases and observe the responses you receive.

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes; they are part of the learning process. Many French people appreciate the effort to speak their language and are often willing to help you improve.

Tips for Learning and Remembering These Farewells

  • Listen Actively: Pay attention to how native speakers say goodbye in different contexts – whether in person, on TV shows, or in films.
  • Repetition: Regularly practicing these phrases, either alone or with a language partner, can help solidify your understanding.
  • Contextual Learning: Associate each phrase with a specific situation or setting. This association makes it easier to recall the appropriate farewell when needed.
  • Cultural Immersion: Engage with French media, music, and literature. This exposure not only helps with language learning but also gives you insights into the cultural nuances behind the phrases.

ABOUT Amelie

Amélie, our devoted Relocation Expert at SimpleFrance.com. Born and raised in Lyon, Amélie possesses a profound grasp of French culture, traditions, and way of life, which she leverages to offer you unparalleled relocation guidance

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