How to Use the Typical French Expression 'Ah Bon'

'Ah bon,' meaning 'oh really,' is essentially a soft interjection

Ah bon ?
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The everyday French expression, Ah bon ?, pronounced  [a bo(n)], is used primarily as a soft interjection, even when it's a question, just as we say the equivalent in English, as in: "I'm going to the movies." "Oh, really?" The speaker is indicating interest and maybe a little surprise. It's the same in French.

An Interjection With Many Meanings

Ah bon, literally means "oh good," though it commonly translates into English as:

  • "Oh yes?"
  • "Really?"
  • "Is that so?"
  • "I see."

But there are a dozen more ways it could be correctly translated, too, depending on what you want to express.

The expression ah bon, among the most common in the French language, is, as we noted, really more of an interjection, and, in general, it's used to acknowledge what another person just said, to reinforce a sentiment, or to ask for confirmation.

Don't be fooled by the use of bon. It doesn't carry the meaning of "good" here, so ah bon can be used when talking about both good things and bad things.

Examples With 'ah bon, bon, ah, oh'

  •  J'ai vu un film intéressant hier. Ah bon ? > I saw an interesting movie yesterday. Oh, yes?
  •  Nous avons déménagé après le décès de mon père. Ah bon. > We moved after my father died. I see.
  • Je pars aux États-Unis la semaine prochaine.  Ah bon? > I'm going to the States next week. Really? 
  • J'aimerais vraiment que tu viennes!  Bon, d'accord. > I'd really like you to come! OK, I will.
  • Bon, je reste. > Right, I'll stay.
  • Il est venu. Ah bon !  > He came. Did he really ?
  • Ils n'en ont plus en magasin. Ah bon ! [with a ton of resignation] > They don't have any more in stock. Oh well !
  • Ah non alors !Certainly not !
  • Ah oui ?  > Really ? 
  • Pousser des oh et des ah > to ooh and ah

Additional Resources

Everyday French phrases
Most common French phrases