You walk to your friend, ask him comment allez-vous ? (how are you)and expect a passionate answer about whats hes been up to lately.
Instead, your friend simply answers good, and you?.
What did you do wrong?
In fact, the only mistake you made was to use the wrong how are you.
In French, there are at least 16ways to say how are you. Use the right how are youand French people will open up to you and gladly tell you about their day, thoughts and feelings. Use the wrong form and theyll tell you bien merci while youre left wondering what to say next.
Discover 16 ways to say how are you in French and other useful greetings!Table of ContentsComment allez-vous: The classical how are youComment vas-tu: The awkward how are youComment ça va: The friendly how are youÇa va: The short how are youSa va: The French slang how are youComment vous sentez-vous: The deep how are youThe concerned how are youThe casual how are youQuoi de beau: The positive how are youThe relaxed how are youHello how are you?How to answer how are you? in FrenchOver to you
Comment allez-vous: The classical how are you
Comment allez-vous is the most common how are you. You can safely use it with anyone in any situation.
I say safely, because you wont offend anyone by using it. However, its not the best how are you to use in informal situations.
It litterally means how go you. In French, we dont use the verb to be in how are you and alwayse use to go instead.
Thats similar to the way how is it going is constructed except that comment allez-vous is way more formal.
Comment vas-tu: The awkwardhow are you
Comment vas-tuis the informal version of comment allez-vous as indicated by the use of tu, the informal French you.
However, it also uses the inversion way of asking questions which is considered formal.
The end result is a how are you stuck between formal and informal French.
I personally never use it, because I prefer comment allez-vous in formal situations and ça va ? in informal situations, and feel that comment vas-tu doesnt belong anywhere and ends up being either too informal or too formal.
However, some people like to use it when they write to people they know well, but still want to sound serious. Comment vas-tu would fit nicely in a romantic letter for example.
Comment ça va: The friendly how are you
Comment ça va literally means how is it going or how it goes. You will frequently see it misspelled as como se va on the internet but this is incorrect and the only correct spelling is comment ça va.
You can use it with friends, family members and people you know well. Basically, with anyone youre on a tu basis with.
Ça va: The short how are you
French people love deleting words and letters when they speak.
You can use ça va ? the same way youd use comment ça va ?.
You just need to knowthat ça va is often considered less serious than comment ça va and other French how are you starting with comment, so people are less likely to give you a deep answer.
In fact, the most common answer to ça va ? isça va (literally: it goes), meaning everything is going well.
ça vais similar to the English how are you greeting. You use it more to say hello than ask a person how she is doing.
You can also start with ça va as a greeting and later ask comment tu vas ? to indicate that you now expect a more detailed answer. This is common if you meet someone in a public space or in a group and want to wait to be in a more intimate setting to talk.
If you like to be positive, you can also say ça va bien ? (is it going well?), but again, dont expect a deep answer.
Sa va: The French slang how are you
Sa vais the slang how are you. Its used the same way as ça va ? and the only difference is that its written wrong since sa normally means her and has nothing to do with ça (even though both are pronounce the same way).
Using it doesnt make much sense since its not even shorter than ça va, so I recommend you not to use it at all unless you want to annoy your French teacher.
Its important to know it exists though, because lots of young French people use it on Facebook.
The most typical answer is sa va.
Comment vous sentez-vous: The deep how are you
Comment vous sentez-vousliterally means how do you feel?.
You use it when you know someone was sick or had a problem and want to know if theyre now doing better.
A possible answer would be ça va mieux (Im feeling better) or pas terrible (not great).
The concernedhow are you
You can use comment tu te sens to aska friend who was feeling sick or maybe a little depressed if hes now feeling better.
This is simply the informal version of comment vous sentez-vous ?.
Like all other French how are you starting with comment, it usually requires a deep answer and not a simple ça va.
The casual how are you
Quoi de neuf is the French whats up and literally means whats new?.
You can use it with friends you havent talked to in a while or with anyone youre on a tu basis with.
When you ask quoi de neuf, expect a detailed answer of what the person has been up to lately.
Quoi de beau: The positive how are you
Quoi de beau literally means whats beautiful?. Its a positve and casualway of askinghow a person is doing.
Most people will answer by telling you about the nice things happening in their life, but you may also hear pas grand chose (not much) if the person feels that there is nothing nice happening in her life.
The relaxed how are you
Literally its rolling, ça roule is a colloquial way to ask if everything is going smoothly.
You can use the French expression comme sur des roulettes (literally: like on wheels) as a positive answer.
Hello how are you?
If you want to say hello how are you?, you can simply say Bonjour comment allez-vous ?
Do note that asking how are you after hello is way less common in French than in English so wont hear this often.
What you will hear a lot more is salut ça va (hi how are you.)
How to answer how are you? in French
French people generally expect an answer when they ask comment allez-vous ? or comment tu vas ?, but the answer doesnt have to be long.
In fact, its common to simply say ça va (its going well) whether you actually feel good or not.
Like in English, you usually keep more detailed answers for your friends and people you know well.
Here are a few formal answers:
- Très bien, merci (very good, thank you)
- Je vais bien, merci (I am doing well, thank you)
- ça pourrait aller mieux (it could be going better)
- ça pourrait être pire (it could be worse)
- Je nai pas à me plaindre (nothing to complain about)
The last threeanswers sound formal, but youre actually unlikely to use them in a formal context, because they sound negative and many people consider that your answer to how are you should always be positive in a formal context.
And a few informal answers:
- Ca va (its going well)
- Super (great)
- Bof (so so)
- Pas terrible (not great)
- Pas trop mal (not bad)
- Un peu fatigué(e) (a little tired)
- La routine (same as usual)
After answering how are you, its polite to ask the person how she is doing.
In this case, you can say:
- Et vous ? (formal and you?)
- Et toi ? (informal and you?)
Over to you
Have you ever asked how are you? in France? How did it go? Share your story in the comment section below!