How to Say Goodbye in French

Au revoir, Salut, Bonne Soirée, Not Adieu

woman and child leaning out of car windows waving

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Once you know all there is to know about saying "bonjour", you can work on saying goodbye in French. Here again, you have some options.

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 Is Different From Bonne Nuit

Now, when you leave, you may also say something beginning with "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 Is 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 are other idioms appropriate here? Well, it's very trendy among French people to use other languages to say goodbye. Actually "bye", or "bye-bye" is extremely common! French speakers will pronounce it the English way (well, as much as the French accent permits it...)

Formal and Outdated Farewells

"Adieu" literally means "to God". It used to be the way we said "goodbye, farewell" in French, so you'll find it in literature and other classic mediums. But it has changed, and today, it's really outdated, and carries the notion of "forever goodbye". 

Gestures Associated With "Au revoir"

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

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