How Do You Say "How Are You" in French?

How To Answer "How are you" in French
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Now that you've studied your basic French greetings and learned how to say hello in French, how to say goodbye in French, and how to say see you soon in French, let's study the next step: how we say "how are you" in French.

I have to warn you that it is a bit complicated compared to English because there are many options to say "how are you" in French. My advice: pick one, and use that one when you speak.

You need however to understand them all.

How Are You in French = Use Aller, not Être

First of all, before you read what follows, all the constructions to say "how are you"in French use the irregular French verb aller (to go), not the irregular French verb être (to be). You cannot translate word by word, you need to associate the expression with its usage, and stay away from a literal translation.

Comment Allez-vous = the Formal Way to Say How Are You in French

This is probably the one you've learned in school. It's the most formal way of asking "how are you", it uses a formal verb inversion construction and the vous form. It's not necessarily the vous which makes its formal, but more the inversion. The "vous" can be a single formal you (like when you are talking to a person much older than you are) or it can be a plural, formal (2 or more people you'd address individually as "vous") or informal (2 or more people you'd address individually as "tu").

Note the strong liaison : coman(nasal) Tallé voo.

A typical answer for "comment allez-vous" could be:

  • je vais bien (if the vous stood for yourself) - I'm fine (watch out, again, in French we use "aller", not "être" - we don't say "je suis bien" in this context.
  • nous allons bien (if the vous stood for several people)

    Comment Vas-tu = Still Formal, Even Though it Uses tu.

    As I just said, it's the construction, the inversion that makes this question formal. So, even though you're using "tu" here, you are still using a formal construction. Maybe you'd use this at work, with a colleague you say "tu" to but still, who is not a close friend.

    A typical answer for "comment vas-tu" could be:

    • je vais bien.

    So now, let's see the expressions the French actually use every day : "how are you" in informal French: ça va -- there is more than meets the eyes.

    Then, we will study your options to answer "how are you" in French.

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