You probably already know bonjour et au revoir and you might also have already heard and used salut. So today I want to go a little deeper in the greetings so you become aware of the mistakes that most students make even when they have a fairly good level.
1- Bonjour vs bonne journée
You might think they mean the same but they don’t.
Bon means good and so does bonne only bon is masculine and bonne is feminine.
Jour means day and so does journée only jour is masculine and journée is feminine.
Here’s how it differs when used as a greeting.
Bonjour is what you say when you enter the conversation while bonne journée is what you say when you leave the conversation. Imagine you are on vacation in France and you decide to buy une baguette. What do you say when you enter the boulangerie? Bonjour Madame! What do you say when you leave the boulangerie? Of course you could say au revoir, which means good bye, but you can also say bonne journée, which does not mean hello like bonjour but have a good day!
You can leave your conversation any time of the day and say bonne journée, have a good day. If it’s the afternoon you could also use bonne après-midi have a good afternoon but bonne journée would still be fine. The afternoon is still the day.
2- Bon matin
Now here is something we do not say and that I hear a lot: bon matin!
Non non non, forget that one. We just don’t say bon matin. I know you’re trying to say good morning, just say bonjour, not bon matin, does not exist.
3- Bonsoir vs bonne soirée
I’d say from about 6pm you say bonsoir or bonne soirée as a greeting. These follow the exact same logic we just saw. You say bonsoir good evening when you enter a conversation you’re getting your friends at a bar. You say bonne soirée have a good evening when you leave the conversation, you’re saying good bye to your friends at that same bar.
4- Bonne nuit
Bonne nuit is also often used wrongly. It means good night as in we’re going to bed good night. Not as in we’re going out good night. Remember bonne nuit = sleeeeeeeep.
5- Never say bonjour twice
Back to bonjour for a moment. Another mistake people make a lot. They say bonjour twice or more to the same person during the same day. Don’t do that. Only say bonjour to someone the first time you see her or him on that particular day. Then don’t say it again for the rest of that particular. The next day you can say bonjour again, but only once. Think that’s strange? When you say bonjour to someone in French you are essentially acknowledging that you are seeing them for the first time! So if someone says bonjour to me twice or even worse three times I am left to believe he does not even remember he has already seen me! How rude! How could he have forgotten he has already said hello to me only a moment ago!? If you do say bonjour twice because you forgot this video you might hear the person say back at you rebonjour hello again in a reproachful manner, yes we’ve already seen each other today.
And then of course there are all the more casual greetings such as salut and coucou. Definitely casual. You will say:
Salut, ça va? = Hi, how are you?
Coucou mon chéri! = Hi my darling!
Note that salut also means bye. It’s the equivalent of the Italian ciao, hi & bye, all in one word!