How do you actually say how are you in French?

Updated: Apr 4

When meeting someone, comment vas-tu (how are you or ) is one of the first things you say after hello in French. It is part of the basic greetings, and it is a great conversation starter.

But how do you actually say how are you in French? Should you say comment ça va, ça va, or the formal comment allez-vous?

So, keep on reading to learn different ways of saying how are you in the French language and how to respond to them in formal and informal situations.


How do you translate how are you in French?


Let's break it down.

  • How: the French translation of the word how is comment;

  • Are: in this context, are is not translated as être( to be) but as vas or allez, the conjugated form of the verb aller which means to go in English;

  • You is translated as tu or vous depending on the context.

The most common way of translating how are you in French is Comment vas-tu or comment allez-vous and not comment êtes-vous as some of you may be tempted to say.

The formal and polite way would be comment allez-vous. This is the safer way as you don't have to worry about disrespecting someone. Comment allez-vous can also be used when talking to a group of people.


What about the other ways of asking how someone is doing?


1. Comment ça va? - How is it going?

Comment ça va can be translated as how is it going? It is a little less formal than comment allez-vous and can be used in many situations.

2. Ca va? - How is it going /Are you okay?

Ça va is used to ask how someone how he/she is feeling, or how a task or project is progressing. It literally means it goes, but can be translated as how is it going, or are you okay. It is an informal way, so you should use it with close friends, or relatives. It is to be used with care with people older than you as it can be considered rude to greet an elderly like that.

Nowadays, young people are using the sa va version when texting each other. One of the motivations for doing so is its simplicity as you do not need to write down the c cédille. But as a French learner, it is better to keep away from texting shortcuts as they tend to get you lost with time.


3. Tu vas bien? - Are you well?

This is another way of taking someone's news in a familiar context. Are you good or are you doing well is the meaning. You can also ask "vous allez bien?" when referring to several persons (plural) or in formal situations.

4. Comment te sens-tu ? How are you feeling?

How are you feeling would be mostly used in the context of checking on a sick person. Comment vous sentez-vous is the other version. You can check out the lesson about how to wish someone get well soon to explore more expressions.

5. Ça roule? Is it rolling?

This is a friendly way of asking how things are going in someone's life, a very informal way in fact. Ça roule is translated as is it rolling.

6. Ça gaze? What's up?

Ça gaze comes from the verb gazer which means to speed up. Ça gaze is a very informal way of saying how are you? It was mainly used among young people but is less and less used nowadays.



7. Ça baigne? Is it bathing?

Another casual way of taking someone's news. It can be translated as "are things going well"? Sometimes, you will hear another variant which is "tout baigne? ". In that case, it means " is everything going well/ is everything ok"?

8. Qu'est-ce que tu deviens?

This is a colloquial French expression. It is literally translated as "what are you becoming" but I guess it is more like "What have you been up to"?

9. Quoi de neuf ? What's new?

Quoi de neuf is also a colloquial French expression. It is literally translated as What's new? The English counterpart would be what's up.

10. On dit quoi? What's up?

On dit quoi is literally translated as what do we say? This is an African French slang that you will encounter if you travel to francophone western Africa, in countries like Côte d'Ivoire or Burkina Faso. It's the equivalent of the English What's up.

You have just learned many ways of saying how are you, and from now on, you have no excuse not to use this conversation starter to interact with French speakers.

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How do you reply to the question "How are you"?


There are obviously various ways to respond to the question How are you in French. In general, you reply first and then you ask in return how the other person is feeling to show you care for him/her.


So, the next time someone greets you in French, think about saying et toi? Or et vous? Just like you would say in English in this example:

  • Comment vas-tu? => How are you?

  • Je vais bien, merci. Et toi? => I am well, thank you. And you?

NB: A common mistake lots of French learners make is saying" je suis bien" when they mean in fact I am good/I am well. So don't make the same mistake! Keep in mind that you should say "je vais bien" instead.


Here is a list of the possible answers with their English translation.

  • Ça va => fine, ok

  • Ça va bien => things are going well

  • Ça va bien, merci => Things are going well, thank you!

  • Bien, merci => Well, thank you!

  • Très bien, merci => Very well, thank you!

  • Je vais bien => I am fine

  • Super => Great

  • Ça roule => it's rolling

  • Ça gaze => it's ok

  • Tout va bien => everything is fine

  • Pas mal => not bad

  • Ça ne va pas => things are not going well

  • Je vais mal => I am not fine

  • Ça pourrait allait mieux => it could be better

  • Ça pourrait être pire => it could be worse

  • Comme ci comme ça => so so

  • Comme d'hab (comme d'habitude) => as usual

  • Je suis malade => I am sick

  • Je ne me sens pas bien => I don't feel well

  • J'ai la pêche / J'ai la frite / Je suis en forme : these are French idioms and all of them convey the idea of someone feeling great.


You have just learned how to ask and reply to the question how are you. As we say, practice makes perfect. I found an interesting exercise, and I am sharing it with you as it would be great practicing on it to check whether your understanding of today's lesson. Click here for the exercise.


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