Bienvenue is the most common way of saying “welcome” in French but as with most common words and expressions, there are variations. And there’s also a totally different verb to express “to welcome”: accueillir.
Let’s take a welcome dive into these words and more, starting with seven common ways to say “Welcome” in French.
The simple “Welcome” – Bienvenue
The easiest, quickest way to wish someone welcome in French is to simply say Bienvenue.
This word can be used on its own, just like the English word “Welcome”, not to mention similar greetings in many other languages.
In fact, a good way to remember Bienvenue is the multilingual opening line of the famous song Willkommen Bienvenue Welcome, from the musical Cabaret.
Note that when you use bienvenue on its own this way, you never have to make it agree with the number or gender of the people you’re welcoming. This is because, when you think about it, bienvenue is being used as a noun here: essentially, a one-word welcome like this is a shortened form of something like “I wish you welcome” – a form we’ll actually look at a little later on in this article.
“Welcome to…” – Bienvenue à/au/à la/aux/chez/sur
Now that we’ve got the basics covered, you may be wondering how to say “Welcome to….” in French.
To say “Welcome to…” in French, you’ll need to pair Bienvenue with a preposition, which will most often be a form of à (to), although there are exceptions.
As a general rule, use the preposition that’s usually goes with the person, place, or other location. For instance: Bienvenue aux délégués. (Welcome to the delegates.) Bienvenue à Lyon. (Welcome to Lyon.) Bienvenue dans ta chambre. (Welcome to your room.)
You’ll know which preposition to use by studying French prepositions and getting familiar with French by reading and listening to it.
Another thing to keep in mind is that since Bienvenue is not being used as an adjective, it doesn’t have to agree in gender or number with the person/people you’re welcoming or the place/location you’re welcoming them to.
Let’s look at some examples of this way of welcoming someone, either when referring to a person or a place:
“Welcome to” a person/people
You’ll always use a form of à.
Welcome to all/Welcome, everyone.
Bienvenue à Isabelle, qui a voyagé de si loin pour être avec nous ce soir.
A big welcome to Isabelle, who traveled so far to be here with us tonight.
“Welcome to” a place or location
Use the preposition that goes with the place/location in question. This will often be a form of à, but not always.
- Bienvenue à Paris. (Welcome to Paris.)
- Bienvenue au village. (Welcome to the village.)
- Bienvenue sur mon site. (Welcome to my website.)
- Bienvenue chez moi. (Welcome to my home.)
The slightly formal welcome – Sois le bienvenu/Soyez les bienvenus
If a stand-alone “Welcome” just won’t do, one common “welcome” phrase in French is Sois le bienvenu or Soyez les bienvenus. This be can roughly translated as “Please feel welcome.”
This expression is a bit formal, so you probably won’t use it with someone you’re very close to, unless you haven’t seen them for a long time or they’re visiting your place for the first time.
Keep in mind that because bienvenue is used as an adjective here, it will have to agree in number and gender with the person or people being welcomed
The conjugation of être, which is in subjunctive tense because it’s expressing a wish or ideal, will have to agree with them in number, too.
For instance, if a group of male and female guests come to my house, I would say Soyez les bienvenus. Bienvenu is masculine (Yes, remember that there is a rule in French that an adjective becomes masculine if even one male is involved. Sigh….), which means the “e” we usually see tacked onto its noun form disappears.
Additionally, because there are multiple people, we add an “s” to the end.
The subjunctive verb form is in the second person plural: Soyez.
Now, what if I’m, say, welcoming a female neighbor to my home?
I would tell her Soyez la bienvenue if I don’t know her well or if I prefer to address her formally (vous). But if we’re friendly or the same age, or if she’s a teenager or child, I’d say Sois la bienvenue. (Sois is the subjunctive conjugation used with the informal second-person singular pronoun tu.)
Also, as you may have noticed, bienvenue here has an “e” at the end, since my guest is a female.
How about you give it a try? How would you greet a male friend? That’s right: Sois le bienvenu.
This may seem complicated, but I promise that these phrases are used so often that you’ll get used to them.
And bonus good news: As long as you get the verb right, when you’re saying this phrase, no one will really hear the difference between bienvenu, bienvenus, bienvenue, or bienvenues.
The formal welcome – souhaiter la bienvenue à quelqu’un
If you want to welcome someone in a formal way, you’ll probably opt for the expression souhaiter la bienvenue à quelqu’un (to bid someone welcome).
This phrase is usually used with reflexive pronouns: a subject + an object + the appropriately conjugated form of the verb souhaiter + la bienvenue.
Note that since bienvenue is used as a noun, not an adjective, it won’t change to agree with the number or gender of the person/people being welcomed.
Here are some examples:
- Je vous souhaite la bienvenue. (I bid you welcome.). Since the pronoun vous is used here, I’m either greeting multiple people or someone I’m addressing formally.
- Je te souhaites la bienvenue. (I bid you welcome.) Since the pronoun tu is used here, I’m greeting someone I know or someone who would be addressed in a less formal way.
- Nous vous souhaitons la bienvenue. (We bid you welcome.)
- Nous souhaitons la bienvenue à tous nos invités. (We bid welcome to all of our guests.)
- Les hôtes m’ont souhaité la bienvenue. (The hosts (of a bed and breakfast or other rental) bade me welcome).
“You are welcome here” – être le/la/les bienvenu(e)(s)
The verb tense here is in the present simple tense. The reason is that this statement is a fact; the speaker is glad you’re there (or at least they’re pretending to be…).
Note that in this case, bienvenue is an adjective, so it must agree in gender and number with the person or people who are welcome.
For example, you would say Tu es le bienvenu to a male guest you’d address with the informal pronoun tu. For a female guest you’d use tu with, you’d say Tu es la bienvenue.
You would say Vous êtes les bienvenus for a group of males or males and females together. You would say Vous êtes le bienvenu for a male guest you’d address with the formal pronoun vous. For a female guest you’d address with vous, you’d say -you guessed it – Vous êtes la bienvenue.
More rarely, this expression can be used with different pronouns – for instance, Ils m’ont dit que j’étais la bienvenue. (They told me I was welcome.)
The “Make yourself at home” welcome – Fais comme chez toi/Faites comme chez vous
There are many ways to show someone they’re welcome without using the word “welcome”. Telling someone Fais comme chez toi or Faites comme chez vous is one of the most common ways to do that in French.
The phrase translates to “Act as you would at your own home”, and expresses a desire for the person to feel at ease.
This phrase is fairly informal and is most often used with “you” pronouns, but you may see it used with other pronouns as well, although it would usually not be in an imperative form. For instance: Il m’a dit de faire comme chez moi (He told me to make myself at home.)
The “Make yourself comfortable” welcome – Installe-toi/Installez-vous
The informal phrase installe toi/installez-vous is another one where the exact word “welcome” isn’t there, but the meaning is. It means “Settle yourself in” and is a common way to express “Make yourself comfortable” in French.
Ex: Salut Sophie, installe-toi, je serai là dans un instant ! (Hi Sophie, come in and make yourself comfortable, I’ll be there in a minute!)
How do you say “Welcome back” in French?
Interestingly, there’s no exact translation for “Welcome back” in French.
Instead, you would express your happiness at seeing the person again. The most common phrases you’ll see or hear for this are:
Content de te revoir./Heureux de te revoir.
Of course, as you may have guessed, there are two factors that can make these phrases vary a bit:
- The adjective (content or heureux) has to agree with the subject (i.e. the person speaking).
- You have to choose whether to use te or vous.
So, you could end up saying one of the following:
- Content de te revoir/Contente de te revoir/Contents de te revoir/Contentes de te revoir/Content de vous revoir/Contente de vous revoir/Contents de vous revoir/Contentes de vous revoir
- Heureux de te revoir/Heureuse de te revoir/Heureuses de te revoir/Hereux de vous revoir/Hereuse de vous revoir/Heureuses de vous revoir
Luckily, in spoken French, the plural forms won’t sound different from the singular ones.
You can also make this greeting a bit more formal or emphasized by adding the subject pronoun. For instance: Je suis content de te revoir vs Content de te revoir.
Aside from making it more formal, adding the subject pronoun can also make the phrase translate to: “I’m/We’re (so) glad to see you.”
Not having an exact translation for “Welcome back” in French can be daunting for us Anglophones. I say this from experience. But over time, you’ll get used to it, although to be honest, every now and then you may still find yourself hesitating about welcoming someone back. When that’s the case, just speak your heart and say how you feel about seeing them again. Or just greet them with Bonjour and their name.
Saying “Welcome back to school in French”
Now that you know that there is no exact translation for “Welcome back” in French, you can imagine that it’s a bit complicated when it comes to welcoming someone back to a particular place or event. But there is one type of situation that’s so common that there is a phrase that corresponds to it.
To say “Welcome back to school” in French, you would say Bonne rentrée !
This can also mean “Good luck this school year/Happy back-to-school”. But in context, it will work, and if you think about it, all of these things are essentially expressing the same sentiment in a way: you want the student to feel welcome and have a good school year.
The verb “to welcome” in French – accueillir
Accueillir means “to welcome” in French.
Yes, unfortunately, the single-word verb form of “welcome” in French looks nothing like bienvenue.
Unlike Bienvenue, accueillir and its noun form, accueil, can’t be used on their own to mean “Welcome”.
Accueillir is always used in a sentence or as part of an expression (ex: réserver un bon accueil à quelqu’un (to be preparing a warm welcome for someone)).
Here are some examples:
Elle nous a accueilli les larmes aux yeux.
She welcomed us with tears of joy in her eyes.
On prépare la chambre d’amis pour accueillir mes beaux-parents.
We’re preparing the guest room so that we can welcome/host my in-laws.
Although accueillir is a perfectly good verb, the other “welcome” expressions on this list tend to be more common.
What does accueil mean?
You’ll probably encounter accueillir most commonly in its noun form, (un) accueil.
Accueil can mean several things, including, most commonly:
- A welcome: Merci pour votre accueil. (Thanks for your warm welcome.)
- The reception desk/front desk: Vous pouvez demander des informations à l’accueil. (You can ask for information at the front desk)
When used with another word, accueil can have a number of additional meanings. These include:
- une page d’accueil – homepage (main page on a website)
- une famille d’accueil – either a foster family or a host family for exchange students, depending on the context.
You can check out this page for additional meanings and phrases with accueillir and accueil.
Other expressions with “welcome” in French
In English, there are expressions with “welcome” that don’t exactly mean a greeting. Here’s how to say two of the most common in French:
You’re welcome to – Nous vous invitons à…
There are several ways to express that someone is welcome to do or try something in French. The most common polite form of this is Nous vous invitons à….
Literally translated, this means “We invite you to…” but in context, it means, “We humbly propose…” or “You’re welcome to….”
Ex: Nous vous invitons à essayer le nouveau robot. (You’re welcome to try out the new robot.)
You’ll most commonly see this phrase as Nous vous invitons à…., often on signage or in formal or professional correspondance.
But depending on the context, it can be used with other pronouns. For instance, Mesdames et messieurs, je vous invite à vous asseoir. Le dîner sera bientôt servi. (Ladies and gentlemen, you are welcome to sit down/please be seated. Dinner will be served soon.)
A longer, less formal way to express “You’re welcome to” is simply to tell someone they can do something (using the verb pouvoir), often adding si vous voulez/si tu veux or si tu voudrais at the end of the phrase to show even more of an invitation/suggestion.
For instance: Vous pouvez essayer le nouveau robot si vous voulez. (You can try out the new robot if you like.)
To be welcome (news, an event, etc.) – être le/la/les bienvenu(e)(s)
To say that something is welcome (wanted) in French, you would use bienvenue in its adjective form, preceded by le, la, or les. This means that in this case, bienvenu(e)(s) must agree with the subject.
We welcome your suggestions.
Nous avons trop de souris chez nous ! Un chat serait le bienvenu !
We have too many mice in our house! A cat would be welcome!
You can find some other ways to say “welcome” in French, as well as additional uses and expressions with bienvenue and accueillir/accueil on this helpful webpage. The WordReference English-French entry for “welcome” is also a good source for more information.
How do you say “You’re welcome” in French?
You may have opened this article thinking it was about another kind of “welcome” in French – you’re welcome, as in the response to Merci. We’ve got an entire separate article about the many ways to say “You’re welcome” in French.
De rien !
I hope this article on how to say “Welcome” in French was helpful. If that was the case, Bienvenue dans un monde où tu connais tout sur les mots bienvenue et accueillir ! (Welcome to a world where you know everything about the words bienvenue and accueillir!