8 ways to use “bien sûr” like a local

Bien sûr means “of course” or “naturally” in French. It’s a very common expression that you’ll encounter in many different situations.

Do you want to speak French like a native speaker? Bien sûr ! That’s why it’s important to know how to use bien sûr.

Here are the eight most common ways bien sûr is used in French.

A delicious-looking raspberry and pistachio cake.
Je peux avoir un autre part de gâteau ? (Can I have another piece of cake?)
-Bien sûr. (Of course.)

The stand-alone bien sûr

The most common way you’ll see bien sûr used is probably as a standalone statement. This is the same way phrases like “Of course”, “Certainly”, and “Okay” can be used on their own in English.

For example:

Tu aimes mon cadeau ? (Do you like my present?)

-Bien sûr. (Of course.)

~

Je peux avoir une autre part de gâteau ? (Can I have another piece of cake?)

Bien sûr. (Of course.)

Using bien sûr on its own is fine in most informal and neutral occasions. But if you want to be especially polite or a little more formal, you should probably add a word or phrase to it.

For instance:

Je peux avoir une autre part de gâteau, s’il vous plait ? (Can I have another piece of cake, please?)

-Bien sûr, servez-vous. (Of course. Help yourself.)

Bien sûr may sometimes be preceded by oui or another small word that shows agreement. For example:

Tu as bien fermé la porte avant de partir ? (You’re sure you shut the door before we left?)

Oui, bien sûr. (Yes, of course (I did).)

The mid-sentence bien sûr

In addition to being a perfectly functional standalone statement, bien sûr can also be used in the middle of a sentence, the same way words like “okay”, “certainly”, and “naturally” can in English.

For example:

La plupart des gens pensent bien sûr à la Tour Eiffel quand ils entendent <<Paris>>. (Most people think, of course, of the Eiffel Tower when they hear “Paris”.)

Elle aura envie, bien sûr, d’être assise à côté de sa sœur. (She will, of course, want to be seated next to her sister.)

Although there may be some exceptions, note that as a general rule, when bien sûr is in the middle of a sentence, it’s placed after the verb.

The sentence beginner bien sûr

Bien sûr can also come at the start of a sentence. In this case, it must be followed by the word que.

While que can sometimes signal the need to use the subjunctive tense, with bien sûr, this isn’t the case. The tense depends on the context of the sentence.

Here are some examples:

Bien sûr qu’il a apprécié ta soupe. (Of course he liked your soup.)

Bien sûr que tu seras invité. (Of course you’ll be invited.)

Bien sûr que j’aime les chats, c’est juste que j’y suis allergique. (Of course I like cats, it’s just that I’m allergic to them.)

The “Yes of course” bien sûr

Sometimes, bien sûr can be used for emphasis. Bien sûr que oui is a common way to say “Yes, of course!” or “Yes, of course he/she/it does/is!”

Here are some examples:

Tu veux jouer à Fortnite ce soir ? (Do you want to play Fortnite tonight?)

Bien sûr que oui ! (Yes, of course (I do)!)

~

-Quoi ? Il m’aime ? (What? He loves me?)

Bien sûr que oui! (Yes, of course (he does)!)

The enthusiastic “Yes of course” bien sûr

The previous bien sûr phrase on our list, Bien sûr que oui, is an emphatic way to say “Yes”. But if you want to go from emphatic to enthusiastic, you can use Mais oui, bien sûr ! ((But) Yes, of course!)

For example:

Il viendra ce soir ? (He’s coming tonight?)

Mais oui, bien sûr ! (Yes, of course (he is)!)

~

Alors, elle a envie de nous accompagner à Nice ? (So, she wants to come to Nice with us?)

Mais oui, bien sûr ! (Yes, of course (she does)!)

The “On the contrary” bien sûr

In French, you use the word si to reply “yes” to a negative statement or question. And so, Bien sûr que si is the perfect way to emphatically contradict a negative statement or question.

For example:

Il ne va tout de même pas s’habiller comme ça pour rencontrer le president ? (Surely he isn’t going to dress like that to meet the President?)

Bien sûr que si ! (Oh yes he is!)

~

-Elle n’a pas osé les inviter ? (She didn’t dare to invite them?)

Bien sûr que si! (Oh yes she did!)

The “No of course not” bien sûr

Of course, you may want to show emphasis or enthusiasm in a negative way. In this case, you’d use the phrase Bien sûr que non – the equivalent of “Of course not” in English.

Here are some examples:

Elle a détesté ma chanson. (She hated my song.)

-Bien sûr que non ! (Of course not/Of course she didn’t!)

~

Est-ce que je voudrais passer une nuit sans sommeil dans une grotte pleine d’araignées? Bien sûr que non ! (Do I want to spend a sleepless night in a cave full of spiders? Of course not!)

~

-Il n’est pas encore prêt ? (He’s not ready yet?)

Bien sûr que non. Tu sais qu’il est toujours lent le matin. (Of course not. You  know he’s always slow in the mornings.)

The sarcastic bien sûr

As is the case with “of course” or “naturally” in English, at times bien sûr can be used ironically or sarcastically.

For instance:

Bien sûr que ma voiture ne démarrait pas au moment où j’en avais besoin. (Of course my car wouldn’t start right when I needed it.)

Even a simple, standalone bien sûr could be used ironically or sarcastically. For instance, in this example that we used earlier, bien sûr might be said in a sarcastic tone or as someone secretly rolls their eyes:

Je peux avoir une autre part de gâteau ? (Can I have another piece of cake?) 

Bien sûr. (Of course.)

As in English, the only way to know if bien sûr is being used ironcally or sarcastically is by paying attention to tone and context. And in many cases, a native French speaker might not even insist much on a sarcastic tone, so you’d rely on context alone.

Luckily, this use of bien sûr is something English-speakers and speakers of many other languages are already used to, so it usually won’t be too difficult to discern the neutral from the sarcastic.

Don’t forget the accent!

Closeup of a man's hand holding a small gilded triangle between his forefinger and thumb, against a background of out-of-focus lights.

As you’ve probably noticed, bien sûr is written with a circumflex accent on the “u” in sûr. One of the  reasons for this is to differentiate sûr (sure, certain) from sur (on).

Bien sûr is such a common phrase that most people would probably not be confused if you forgot the accent, but you never know. So keep in mind that the correct way to write bien sûr is two words, with an accent on the “u”.


Do you use bien sûr when you speak French? Feel free to share in the comments!

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Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg is an American writer, worrier, teacher, and cookie enthusiast who has lived in Paris, France, for more than a decade. She has taught English and French for more than ten years, most notably as an assistante de langue vivante for L'Education Nationale. She recently published her first novel, Hearts at Dawn, a "Beauty and the Beast" retelling that takes place during the 1870 Siege of Paris. You can read about her adventures here, or feel free to stop by her website.