Goodbye in French - Au revoir, Salut, Bonne Soirée, Not Adieu

How Do You Say Goodbye In French?
 ZenShui/Eric Audras / Getty Images

Now that you know all there is to know about saying "bonjour", let's talk about saying goodbye in French. Here again, you have some options.

Au Revoir - the Standard French Way of Saying Goodbye

"Au revoir" is pronounced "or voar" in modern French. It's not a mistake per se to pronounce the "e", but most people would glide over it nowadays. "Au revoir" always works, no matter what the situation is, so if there is one word to remember, it's this one. When you can, add "monsieur, madame or mademoiselle" or the person's name if you know it after "au revoir", it's much more polite to do so in French.

Be Careful With Salut

"Salut" is a very informal French greeting. It can be used when you arrive, kind of like "hey" in English. And it can also be used as you leave, with friends, in a very relaxed setting or if you are younger.

Bonne Soirée ≠ Bonne Nuit - an Embarrassing Mistake

Now, when you leave, you may also say: "have a good....".

  • Bonne journée: have a good day.
  • Bon(ne) après-midi: have a good afternoon (un/une après-midi is both masculine and feminine... It's weird, I know. In any case, no matter the spelling of "bon/bonne" here, the pronunciation will be the same because of the liaison.)

Now, when it comes to saying "have a good night", as in a good night out, with your friends, you need to say: "bonne soirée". It's a mistake I hear a lot; students of French do a literal translation and say: "bonne nuit". But a French person would only use "bonne nuit" before someone goes to bed, as in "have a good night sleep". So you need to be particularly careful about that.

Bonsoir = Hello in the Evening and Goodbye

"Bonsoir" is mostly used to say "hello" when you arrive somewhere in the evening, we use it from time to time to say "goodbye". In that case, it means the same as "bonne soirée" = have a good evening.

Saying Bye, Tchao, Adios in French

Why am I using other idioms here? Well, it's very trendy among French people to use other languages to say goodbye. Actually "bye", or "bye-bye" is extremely common! We will pronounce it the English way (well, as much as our French accent permits it...)

Adieu, Faire Ses Adieux: Very Formal and Outdated

"Adieu" literally means "to God". It used to be the way we said "goodbye, farewell" in French, so you'll find it in literature etc... But it has changed, and today, it's really outdated, and carries the notion of "forever goodbye". I have never used it in my life, nor do I plan to since it's unlikely I'll be in a situation where I could use it... 

Gestures Associated With "Au revoir".

Just as with "bonjour", the French will shake hands, wave, or kiss goodbye. We don't bow. And there is no true French equivalent to an American hug.

We encourage you to practice your French greetings and kissing vocabulary and you may also want to learn how to say "see you soon" in French.