Even if you’re only at the beginning of your French learning journey, you’ve probably come across the phrase ça va…or you soon will.
Ça va (literally “it goes”) is one of the most common French phrases and is most commonly used as the shortened form of comment ça va (how are you.) Some of its other meanings include “are you alright?” and “is that okay?”
Let’s take a look at ça va, one of the most common – and useful – phrases in the French language!
Et si ça te va (And if it’s all right with you), let’s find out what phrases like Ça va bien mean, too.
How to use ça va
Here are the most common uses of ça va:
1. to inquire or describe how someone or something is doing
Ça va is an informal way to ask someone how they’re doing, as well as a way to answer.
Salut Thierry, ça va ? (Hi Thierry, how’s it going?)
Salut Claude. Ça va bien, et toi ? (Hi Claude. I’m doing well, and you?)
If you want to make things just a bit more formal – say, for instance, you’re talking to an older relative or a friendly acquaintance – you can add Comment (How) before ça va.
For example, here’s a dialogue you might hear between neighbors:
Bonjour Cécile et Laure, comment ça va ? (Hello, Cécile and Laure, how are you?)
Ça va bien, Monsieur Dupont, et vous ? (We’re doing well, Monsieur Dupont, and you?)
Je vais bien, merci. (I’m doing well, thank you.)
Note that you usually put proper names before ça va or Comment ça va in this context. If you want to ask how someone is because you’re concerned about them, on the other hand, you would tend to put their name after ça va: Ça va, Odile ? (Are you alright, Odile?).
But when asking about the general state of someone/something, other nouns usually precede ça va. For instance: Ça va, mon pote ? (How’s it going, mate?), Ça va, les gars ? (How’s it going, guys?), Comment ça va, les filles ? (How’s it going, girls/ladies?)
You can also use this form of “checking in” ça va to see how a situation or object is working out.
Ça va ton nouveau boulot ? (How’s your new job?)
Ça va ton ordinateur ? J’ai entendu qu’il était en panne. (How’s your computer? I heard it broke down.)
2. to seek or show approval
In this case, ça va could be translated as “Is it all right if….” or “Is it okay if…” or “Is this all right?” or “Is this okay?”
Ça va si je me sers à boire ? (Is it okay if I serve myself a drink?)
You can also use this form with a pronoun to show who something is okay with.
Ça te va si on va chez Robin ce soir ? (Is it okay with you if we go to Robin’s house tonight?
Oui, ça me va. (Yeah, that’s okay with me.)
3. to make plans
This definition is closely tied to the previous one: seeking or showing approval. If you want to ask someone in a general or informal context if a plan works for them, you can use ça va, like so:
Ça va si je décale notre appel Zoom pour demain après-midi ? (Is it okay if I reschedule our Zoom call for tomorrow afternoon ?)
(Note that using Ça te va… would be a more polite or formal way to say this, since it’s implying that you know it may inconvenience the other person.)
Here’s another example:
Une soirée en ville, ça te va ? (An evening in the city, what do you say?)
Note that if you want to ask if something works for someone in a more formal or professional way, you could use the verb convenir instead.
4. to talk about how things will turn out
In this usage of ça va, we have a structure that involves the futur proche; that is, the future tense that’s created by conjugating aller in the present tense and then following it with a verb in the infinitive.
There are some very typical ça va phrases that people use to talk about the future. These include:
Ça va aller. (It’s going to be okay./It’s going to be alright.)
Ça va mal finir./Ça va mal se terminer. (It’s going to end badly/This is going to end badly.)
5. to match, to go with
For example :
Ça va avec ça. (This goes with that.)
Ça va bien avec tes chaussures. (That goes well with your shoes.)
By extension, you can also say Ça te va bien (That looks good on you – literally, that goes with you well).
6. to say “Okay” or “It’s okay”
When someone asks you, Ça va ? You can answer with exactly the same phrase.
It’s the same as in English with the word “okay”:
Ça va ? (Okay?)
Ça va. (Okay.)
This can be used in just about any context – whether it’s someone asking how you’re feeling, if something is okay with you, if plans work for you, etc.
What verb tense do you use with ça va?
Ça va is such an iconic duo that it’s sometimes easy to forget that the va is actually the third-person present tense of the verb aller.
Most of the time, this phrase will be used with that conjugation of aller, but you can use other tenses, as well, depending on the context.
Just be sure that the verb is always in its third-person singular form, since that’s the form the subject, ça, takes.
Here are a few examples:
Ça allait bien entre eux. (Things were going well between them.)
Ça t’irait si on se promenait au parc ? (Would you like it if we took a walk in the park?/Would you be okay with taking a walk in the park?)
Oui, ça m’irait bien. (Yes, I’d like that very much.)
Two possible meanings of Ça ira
Another well-known pairing of ça and a conjugation of aller is Ça ira (“It will be fine”).
This phrase can be used in many contexts (for instance, in this catchy song by Joyce Jonathan), but you may come across someone referencing <<Ça ira>> or le <<Ça ira>> (the “Ça ira” [song]) in French popular culture, politics, news stories, history, and more.
In this case, they’re talking about a famous song from the French Revolution and its bloody aftermath. Lots of French singers have covered the “Ça ira”, but personally, my absolute favorite version of the song is the one sung by Edith Piaf. The passion and even glee in her voice as she sings about hanging aristocrats is at once pleasant and a chilling echo of the downtrodden masses’ longing for change – and the reign of terror that it brought about.
How to make ça va negative
To make ça va negative; just use ne…pas… before and after the verb, va. For example: Ça ne va pas (It’s not going well/That’s not okay).
You can also, of course, make it negative when a pronoun is involved. For example:
Ça va, Charles ? (How’s it going, Charles?/Are you okay, Charles?)
Ça ne va pas du tout. J’ai passé une très mauvaise journée. (Things aren’t going well at all. I’ve had a really bad day.)
Here’s another example:
C’est ça la robe qu’elle aime ? Mais ça ne lui va pas ! (That’s the dress she likes? But it doesn’t look good on her!)
And keep in mind that with no particular context, Ça ne va pas means “That’s not okay” or “That’s not all right”. This can be used when someone acts inappropriately, rudely, makes an unwanted physical advance, etc.
Is Ça va pas correct?
You will probably hear – or even see in informal writing – Ça va pas.
While this isn’t technically grammatically correct, many French people do indeed shorten the phrase when they’re talking, texting, or chatting online. (On that note, there is also a way to write Ça va in French internet and texting slang: sa va)
Some common ça va expressions
Here are some of the most common expressions that include ça va.
- Ça va bien. – I’m doing well/It’s going well.
- Ça va aller. – It will be all right/It will be okay.
- Ça va pas, non ? – What kind of way is that to act? Basically, an outraged, very informal (hence the dropped pas) exclamatory phrase. You’ll hear it in a lot of French films.
- Ça ne va pas la tête ?/Ça va pas la tête ? – Another informal expression. You can think of it as the equivalent of “Are you crazy?” or “Are you nuts?” As this thread explains, the idea is that you’re asking if the person’s head (brain) is okay.
- Ça va chauffer. – There’s going to be trouble.
- Oh ! Ça va ! – Enough already!
- Ça va chier. – It’s/This is going go badly./The shit is going to hit the fan. Note that, while common, this expression is obscene and informal. Check out our article on French swear words to learn more about the fascinating and versatile word chier.
- Ça va passer. – It will be okay (in the sense of, “This will pass/be over soon”).
If you had trouble with ça va before, I hope that after reading this article, ça va mieux (it’s gotten better.). And if you’ve just discovered ça va, don’t worry: Ça va aller – soon you’ll be using this ubiquitous and useful French phrase like a pro!