How to Use the French Expression Ça Va in Conversation

Laughing businessman in meeting with colleagues
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The expression ça va (pronounced "sah vah") is one of the most common phrases in French. Improve your skills by learning the correct way to use the phrase ça va in a sentence or dialogue.

Meaning of Ca Va

Literally translated, ça va means "it goes." Used in casual conversation, it can be both a question and a reply, but it's an informal expression. You probably wouldn't want to ask your boss or a stranger this question unless the setting was casual.

But if you're speaking with people whom you know, such as family and friends, ça va is perfectly acceptable.

Asking a Question

One of the most common uses of ça va is as a greeting or to ask how someone is doing. For example:

  • Salut, Guy, ça va? / Hi, Guy, how's it going?
  • Comment ça va? / How's it going?

The expression can also be used with a subject or object. Note that the phrase doesn't vary. No change is necessary for a plural subject:

  • Ça va les filles ? / How's it going, girls?
  • Ça va le nouvel ordi ? / How's the new computer working?

You can also use the phrase to ask whether something just discussed is acceptable:

  • On va partir vers midi, ça va ? / We'll leave around noon, is that OK? Does that work for you?

Using Ca Va in Conversation

You can answer any of the previous examples as well as any similar questions with ça va in conversations. The dialogue below provides an example of how to use the phrase when talking informally with a friend or acquaintance.

The sentences are listed in French on the left followed by the English translation.

  • Ça va, Marc ? / How's it going, Marc?
  • Oui, ça va. / Fine.
  • Tu vas bien, André ? / Are you OK, André?
  • Ça va. / Yes, I'm OK.
  • Il faut être prêt dans une heure, ça va ? / You have to be ready in an hour, OK?
  • Ça va. / OK.

The expression ça va can also be an exclamation:

  • Oh! Ça va! / Hey, that's enough!

Other Uses

Ça va plus an infinitive can mean simply "it will." This construction can be useful when you're speaking about something that will occur, but you don't know precisely when. For instance:

  • Ça va venir / It'll happen, it will come.

Ça va plus an indirect object pronoun means, "That looks good on ___," or "It suits ___." For instance, a pair of friends shopping for clothes might have this exchange:

  • Ça te va (bien) / That suits you.
  • Ça lui va bien / That looks good on him/her.

Variations of Ca Va

The table below provides a few other ways to use ça va. The first column gives the sentence with ça va in French, while the second column provides the English translation.

FrenchEnglish Translation
Ça va aller ? Will it be OK? Will that work?
Ça va aller It will be OK.
Ca va bien ? Is it going well? Are you doing well?
Ça va bienIt's going well. I'm doing well.
Ça va mal It's going badly. I'm not doing so well.
Ça (ne) va pasIt's not going well. It's not OK.

Practice using ça va with another student working to learn the language and you'll soon be using this important French phrase like a native speaker.