Do You Know the Difference between 'Bienvenu' and 'Bienvenue?'

Learn How to Avoid This Common French Mistake

Bienvenue, Welcome, floral sign in Canada

 Barry Winiker/Getty Images

Mistakes will always be made in French, and now you can learn from them. When wanting to express "Welcome!" as a stand-alone phrase, beginners to French will often write Bienvenu! ​instead of the correct spelling of Bienvenue!

Explanation of Bienvenue vs. Bienvenu

Bienvenue used as a greeting is short for je vous souhaite la bienvenue, which literally means "I wish you welcome." When saying "Welcome!" with no verb, you always have to use the feminine: Bienvenue!

Bienvenu with no e is an adjective often used as a noun conforming to a subject. To use this spelling of Bienvenu, the employed sentence needs to have a subject. Because of this, only when using a complete sentence can you say either Soyez le bienvenu or Soyez la bienvenue, according to the gender of the person you are talking to. You can say Soyez les bienvenus if it's more than one person.

The distinction is confusing and often leads to mistakes. A famous example is that of a sign in Utah that reads: "Bienvenu internationale voyageur's."

This sentence is wrong on many levels. Because it possesses no subject, the correct spelling would be Bienvenue ending with an e. In this instance, it would also need to be followed by the preposition à. On a different but related note, the adjective international should be plural instead of feminine (to agree with voyageurs), and it should follow rather than precede the noun. The apostrophe has no business there either.

Better French Greetings for the sign would be:

  • Bienvenue aux voyageurs internationaux
  • Voyageurs internationaux : soyez les bienvenus