Has it ever happened that each time you get asked “How are you” in French, it sounds a bit different?
Sometimes you hear “Ca va“, other times “Comment ça va?”, at times “Quoi de neuf“, and find yourself not knowing how to answer all of these variations.
This article will show you different ways to ask How Are You in French, from formal to informal and colloquial expressions.
Rule n1: Don’t Translate Literally
There are a few things to watch out for when asking the basic question in French.
The first thing you should avoid doing is translating the sentence literally from your native language. The chances of getting the phrase all wrong are higher than you think.
Today, we’ll cover all possible scenarios you might face when asking this question.
It’s All about Culture!
Did you know that sentence patterns reveal a lot about culture and mentality? By simply looking at how different nations ask How are you, we can gain a deeper understanding of their culture’s philosophy.
People in Italy, for instance, use the verb “stare” (to stand) to ask how someone is. On the other hand, the French use the verb aller to ask the same question. By only observing the choice of a verb, we can see how much Italians value stability, whereas the French people value movement.
- Italian Language – Come stai? – How are you?
- French Language – Comment ca va? – How are you?
The French way of saying “How are you?” requires you to understand a bit of grammar first.
The most common mistake when asking “How are you“ in French is trying to translate the question literally from your native language. This is especially wrong with English because while in English we use the verb to be, in French, the common verb is aller.
To learn the conjugation of the verb aller, check out Reverso Conjugator.
Asking “How Are You” Formally
French are big on formalities and politeness. The good news is that it only takes the pronoun vous, to ask formally “How are you” in French.
How are you?
Vous allez bien?
Are you well?
Asking “How Are You” Informally
If you want to ask “How are you?” in a casual way, you can simply sayÇa va which closely translates as “How is it going?”. Interestingly, the answer is usually the same “a va“, but with a different intonation.
- Question: Ça va?
- Answer : Ça va.
Asking “How are you” in French, has many variations, but in the core of this question in French, there is always the verb “aller.” Let’s take a look at examples.
How’s it going?
Comment ça va?
How’s it going?
Tu vas bien?
Are you okay?
How to Respond?
If someone, asks you any of the variations of the question Ca va/Comment ça va? remember that you can always respond by repeating the question, only using a different intonation.
Ça va? – Ca va.
How are you? – I am good.
Comment ça va? – ça va.
How are you? – I am good.
Basically you need to imitate the verb you heard in the questions. If the question used the verb aller, you should respond using the same verb, only in the first person.
Another thing to note is that you should also reply the question, after answering.
Respond with a simple.
Je vais bien, et vous?
I’m doing well, and you?
Likewise, you can just say:
Bien, et vous?
Well, and you?
- In the formal setting, you can ask – et vous?
- in the informal setting – et tu?
However, there are plenty of different ways to answer this question.
- Comme ci comme ça. / So-so/ Neither good nor bad.
- Bien, merci !
- Ça roule – “It rolls”
- Pas mal – “Not bad”
- Comme d’hab – “Same as always”
- Tout va bien – “All good”
- Assez bien – “Well enough” or “quite well”
- Je n’ai pas à me plaindre – “I’ve got nothing to complain about”
A Typical Interchange in French
Ça va Camille?
How’s it going, Camille?
Oui, ça va bien, merci. Et toi?
Yes, I’m fine, thank you. And you?
Ça va bien.
I’m fine. (Or even: “Things are going well.”)
What Do You Do in French
This kind of open question, demands a more complex answer. The keyword to learn is the verb faire and its conjugation.
Qu’est-ce que tu fais?
What are you up to?/What are you doing?
What’s New in French
Quoi de neuf?
Quoi de beau?
What’s Wrong in French
Qu’est-ce qui ne vas pas ?
Qu’est-ce qu’il y a?
What’s wrong?/What’s the matter?
If you want to be sure you are able to reply to all sorts of How are you in French, see the Top 10 Responses to How Are You in French.
Ça Va Toi?
With this article, you learned to ask and reply to the most basic question in French, and now you are able to expand your conversation a bit more after saying Bonjour in the passage.