Robert writes informative tutorials on how to speak French and French culture.
French Words and Expressions for Goodbye
If you are traveling to France or any of the many French speaking countries around the world, it is important to know at least some basic expressions in order to get the most out of your trip.
Knowing how to exchange hellos and goodbyes is important to break the ice with the locals. Even if you don't know how to speak French fluently, these basic polite expressions will go a long way to building rapport and get to know the people.
Just like English, French has different ways of saying "goodbye". These expressions vary by region and situation. Knowing when to use a certain word or expression is just as important to having the right vocabulary, and will help you avoid making a fool of yourself.
This is a brief tutorial that explains how to say goodbye in French.
Did you know that there are dozens of ways to say goodbye in French?
Here are some useful words and phrases to say goodbye in French:
- Au Revoir - Goodbye
- Bonne journée / Bonne soirée - Have a good day / Good evening / Good night
- Adieu - Goodbye (for a long time or forever) / farewell
- Bonjour - Goodbye (depending on context and regional dialect)
- À Bientôt - See you soon.
- À demain - See you tomorrow
- Salut - Bye (Informal)
- Bye - Same as in English
- À La Revoyure - Until our next meeting
- À la prochaine - See you next time.
- Bonne Nuit - Good night (when someone is going to bed)
- À Tout À L’heure. - See you soon.
- Tourlou - Toodle-oo / Bye
- À Plus Tard - See you later
- À plus - See you later (very informal)
- Bon voyage - Safe travels / Have a good trip
- Ciao - Bye
- Ciao Bye - Bye bye
- Bon Vent - Safe journey / Good luck / Goodbye
- Au Plaisir - Come again anytime
- Aux Fines Herbes - Goodbye (humorous)
Bonne journée / Bonne soirée
Bonne journée is equivalent to saying "have a good day." In the evening you would say Bonne soirée, which means "good evening."
Au Revoir is one of those French words that most English-speakers are familar with. It means literally "until we meet again" and is used in the same way and with the same meaning as "goodbye."
When using French expressions like this, it is interesting but not that important to know the literal meaning. After all, these are formulaic, polite expressions. Don't focus too much on the fact that the expression literally means "until we meet again." In English, an expression like that would sound very formal and stiff; but in French this is the standard way of saying goodbye.
Au revoir can be used in virtually any situation, whether in a formal conversation or informally among friends. This is the expression you are most likely to hear from shop clerks or restaurant owners as you leave their establishment.
The correct way of spelling "au revoir" is with two words, but occasionally you may see it spelled "aurevoir," as a single word.
Adieu is a polite expression of farewell. It literally means "to God," and like "au revoir" it is used to mean "goodbye," but in a different sense.
Whereas "au revoir" suggests that you will or at least hope to see the other person soon, "adieu" is reserved for situations were you will either never see the other person again, or at least will not meet again for a long time. For example, it is appropriate to say "adieu" when someone is going away on a long journey, or when your ex-girlfriend packs up her stuff and leaves you. You would not normally say adieu when leaving a store.
However, as with many French words, there are differences in usage based on dialect and region. For example, in the parts of southern France as well as regions of Switzerland, "adieu" is often used to say goodbye in a friendly, informal way, even when you expect to see each other soon.
Bonjour usually means "hello", but in some areas and depending on the context it can also be used to say goodbye. The meaning would be clear from the context. For example, if you say "bonjour" upon first meeting someone, you mean hello; but if you say the same word when they are leaving, you mean "goodbye."
The use of bonjour to mean goodbye is very rare in France itself, but is common in the French-speaking province of Quebec, as well as parts of Belgium.
Instead of "bonjour" most people in France would say "bonne journée" (have a good day) or "bonne soirée" (good evening").
À bientôt means "see you soon" and is used to say goodbye when you expect to see the other person soon. For example, if you are running an errand and will be back in in an hour, you can say "À bientôt." If you are going to see each other again very soon, you can say "À très bientôt" which means "See you very soon."
À demain literally means "until tomorrow" and is used in the sense of "see you tomorrow." You can use this phrase, obviously, when you expect to see the other person the next day.
Salut is a very informal, familiar way of saying goodbye. It is equivalent to saying "bye." You should only use this expression when you are speaking with someone with whom you are already on friendly terms or with family members. You would not say "salut" to say goodbye to a stranger you have just met.
Much to the disappointment and consternation of French language purists, many English words have found their way into mainstream French. It is now fairly common for people, especially in Quebec, to say "bye" with the same meaning and almost the same pronunciation as in English.
Bye is a very informal way of saying goodbye.
À La Revoyure
À la revoyure is not a common expression. It literally means "until our next meeting" and can be translated as "see you soon" or simply "goodbye."
À La Prochaine
À la prochaine means “until next time” or “see you next time.” It is used when you expect to see the other person again. This is more of a formal or semi-formal expression. You could use this to say goodbye to the owner of a restaurant or other establishment, to convey that you will shop or eat there again.
Bonne nuit means "goodnight" but it has a more restricted meaning than in English; you would only use this expression when you expect that the other person will be turning in for the night and going straight to bed. It is common to say this at home to a family member.
If you are just parting from someone after an evening out, you would say "bonne soiree".
Tourlou is derived from the British expression "toodle-oo!" and is used primarily to say goodbye in a cutesy, funny way. It is an informal expression, and not that common outside of Quebec.
À Plus Tard
À plus tard. This phrase means “see you later” and has the same meaning as "À tout à l’heure." However "À plus tard" is only used to say goodbye in more informal circumstances.
À plus is a shortened version of the expression "à plus tard"; it is used in very informal conversations.
Bon voyage means "good journey" and is equivalent to wishing someone a safe journey or a good trip. It is equivalent to the English expression "safe travels." It is used to say goodbye to someone who is leaving on a trip or journey.
You would not say this to someone who is just going to the corner store, except perhaps in a joking way.
Just as in English, the Italian word "ciao" has been adopted by the French and is used as an informal way of saying goodbye.
Sometimes the French will use both the Italian word "ciao" and the English "bye" in a single expression. You may hear people say "ciao bye." This is an informal expression, and is used among friends. It is somewhat uncommon to hear older people use this phrase to say goodbye.
Bon vent literally means "(may you have a) favorable wind" or "good wind" and is an expression dating back to the days of sailing ships, when a favorable wind was something very desirable.
Over time, the expression has come to assume a figurative meaning; when used to say "goodbye" you are wishing the other person smooth sailing. In other words, you are hoping that their travels will be free of trouble or worries. By extension you are wishing them good luck.
Au plaisir literally means "at (your) pleasure." It is used in the sense of "come again."
In other words, you are not only saying goodbye but saying that they are welcome to come back any time, at their pleasure or convenience. You may hear a shop keeper or restaurant owner say this to you as you leave their establishment. You would not say this to them as a patron because that would not make any sense.
Aux Fines Herbes
Aux fines herbes is an odd expression. It literally means, "to the fine herbs." However it has nothing to do with cooking or French cuisine. It is in fact a nonsensical phrase resulting from a humorous corruption of the way the German expression auf Wiedersehen, which means goodbye.
Aux fines herbes is sometimes used to say goodbye in a humorous way. Avoid using this if you are having a serious or formal conversation.
Universal. Can be used in all situations
Bonne journée / Bonne soirée
Have a good day / Good Evening
When someone is leaving for a long time or forever
See you soon.
When you expect or hope to see the other person again soon.
À Plus Tard
See you later.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Robert P
Margaret Minnicks from Richmond, VA on April 08, 2019:
Robert P, I had no idea there were so many different ways to say "good-bye" in French. I knew only one: "Au Revoir" until I read your article. Now I know a few more but not all the ones you listed. Good job!
Shawindi Silva from Sri lanka on March 14, 2019:
Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on March 13, 2019:
Hi, Robert, I have note certain items here. Thanks for sharing.