6 ways to say “Good evening” in French

Bonsoir is the most common way to say “Good evening” in French.

Although Bonjour is a French greeting you can use at any time, the French have a fondness for being specific. That’s why you’ll usually hear people greet each other with Bonsoir instead, in the evening and night.

But Bonsoir isn’t the only way to say “Good evening” in French. Let’s look at this one and some others, too!

A man and a woman pop a squat by a fountain and look at each other, smiling, at sunset.

In English, we often feel strange saying “Good evening” in everyday situations, as it’s associated with formality and, for some, Dracula. But in French, it’s a totally neutral and modern greeting that most people use.  

Here are some common ways to say “Good evening” in French.

The go-to “Good evening”: Bonsoir

Bonsoir is the standard way to say “Good evening” in French. It can be used in formal and informal situations.

The “Good evening” goodbye: Bonne soirée

Bonne soirée means “Have a nice evening” in French. It’s a common way to say goodbye in the evening, or at night, if you don’t know if the person you’re talking to is planning to go right to bed.

Like its greeting form, Bonsoir, you can use Bonne soirée in formal and informal situations.

The formal “Good evening” goodbye: Je vous souhaite une bonne soirée

If you want to be formal – or show some distance from someone – opt for Je vous souhaite une bonne soirée. This means “I wish you a good evening” or “I bid you good evening.”

It’s possible to say Je te souhaite une bonne soirée, but using the informal tu with a formal phrase like this might be a bit jarring for French people, unless there’s a specific context or reason for it.

In general, if you’re using tu with someone, it’s best to stick with the neutral Bonne soirée.

The less common “Good evening”: Excellente soirée

Sometimes, you may hear someone say or see someone write Excellente soirée, short for Je vous souhaite une excellente soirée or Je te souhaite une excellente soirée – “I wish you an excellent/a wonderful evening.”

These are other ways to say Bonne soirée, but they’re not very common, especially in informal, everyday speech. You’re more likely to hear them on TV or in advertising.

Keep in mind that the French aren’t fans of exaggerating or expressing big emotions, so it’s always better to stay with Bonne, as opposed to Excellente, unless you really want to drum up enthusiasm for something.

The news anchor “Good evening”: Mesdames, messieurs bonsoir.

For decades, many – though not all – French news anchors have started the evening newscast with the phrase Mesdames, messieurs, bonsoir (Good evening, ladies and gentlemen) or sometimes Bonsoir mesdames et messieurs.  If you watch or listen to a French newscast, see if the anchor says this iconic phrase!

In older newscasts, you may hear the plural of mesdemoiselles (the plural of mademoiselle), also included: Mesdames, mesdemoiselles, messieurs, bonsoir. Mesdemoiselles is usually not included in a modern newscast greeting because the title mademoiselle has been phased out of official French communications.

Although it’s most strongly associated with the news, you might sometimes hear Bonsoir mesdames et messieurs in certain other contexts, for instance the start of a live performance or lecture.

But it’s best not to use it unless you’re making a pop culture reference or hosting a performance of your own!

Warning: Bonne nuit is NOT “Good evening”!

A dog lies in a bed on top of a cozy blanket and looks at the viewer with kind eyes.

Bonne nuit is another nighttime French goodbye you’ve probably heard, but it doesn’t mean the same thing as Bonne soirée.

Bonne soirée implies that you have no idea what the person or people you’re saying it to will do with the rest of their evening. They may go out, go home, who knows.

Bonne nuit, on the other hand, is only said when you know the person is turning in for the night and going to bed.

Its English translation, “Good night”, is more flexible; you might use it this way or you might use it to wish someone a good evening, essentially. But in French remember that it is always used to wish someone a good night (of sleep)! It’s not a synonym of Bonne soirée.

Do I need to say “Good evening” in French?

Although the French are generally polite people who love precision, don’t worry: They won’t get upset if you forget to say Bonsoir and greet them with Bonjour instead. After all, Bonjour is the most common, go-to French greeting.

That said, they will appreciate it if you use Bonsoir in the evening or at night.

On the other hand, if you say goodbye with Bonne journée (Have a nice day!) instead of Bonne soirée (Have a nice evening!) in the evening or at night, they might be confused, though.

So it’s best to be familiar and comfortable with Bonsoir and Bonne soirée at least. (Or, if you forget Bonne soirée, use Au revoir, the standard French goodbye, instead.

How can I get used to saying “Good evening” in French?

By reading, listening to, and watching things in French, you’ll get used to Bonsoir and other ways to say “Good evening”.

Regular conversations with a French person can also be a helpful way to get comfortable with French greetings. If you don’t know any native French speakers, there are a number of websites (many of them free!) where you can find a French conversation partner.

And while we don’t often promote our own offerings, it’s hard not to mention the French Together app in this case – it’s a great way to listen to everyday French conversations with audio from native speakers.

I hope this list of ways to say “good evening” in French has been helpful. Do you have a favorite way to say “Good evening” in French? Feel free to share it 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.