Comment allez-vous ? – “How are you?”
When it comes to greeting your fellow French speakers, there are many ways to ask how they’re doing.
In this article, I’ll teach you how to ask someone how they are in French. That way, the next time you greet your French friends, you’ll be equipped with plenty of options beyond comment ça va?
Plus, I’ll share several fun ways to respond to the question.
1. Comment allez-vous ? – “How are you?”
When you first crack open almost any French language learning resource, one of the first expressions you’ll learn is comment allez-vous?, literally “how are you going?” It is, by far, one of the most well-known French phrases for asking someone how they are.
The nice thing about comment allez-vous is that it's the most safe and polite of all greetings in French. You can use it in almost any situation. And in addition to it meaning “how are you?” in the formal sense, it can also be used when asking a group of people. It’s handy in more than one situation!
If you’d like to ask the informal version of this question, then you say comment vas-tu ?
2. Comment ça va ? – “How’s it going?”
This is slightly less formal than comment allez-vous, but it’s still a safe bet when you’re not sure about what level of formality you need to use. It literally means “how it goes?” but translates to “how’s it going?” or “how are you?”
3. Vous allez bien ? – “Are you well?”
When you see someone you know and you want to check up on them beyond the standard “how are you?”, you can use vous allez bien ? to ask them if they’re well. Word-for-word, it’s “you go well?” but what you’re really asking is “are you well?”
Again, note the formal vous rather than tu. If you’d like to ask this informally, it would be tu vas bien ?
4. Ça va ? – “How’s it going?”
With ça va? we’re beginning to step into more informal territory, but this particular expression can still be used in a fairly wide range of contexts. It’s not so informal that it should be reserved for friends and family, but it’s best to stick with either of the first two questions in explicitly formal situations. This expression still means “how are you?” even though it literally translates as “it goes?”
Note that in French, most of the expressions for asking how someone is use the verb aller (“to go”) and not être (“to be”).
5. Comment vous sentez-vous ? – “How are you feeling?”
If you know that someone has been feeling a little under the weather, this is a good way to ask how they’re feeling. This particular expression is used in formal situations or when asking more than one person.
If you’d like to ask just one friend or close acquaintance, then you say comment tu te sens ?
6. Quoi de neuf ? – “What’s new?”
This expression is one of the more casual ways to ask how someone is doing in French. It literally means “what’s new?”
7. Ça gaze ? – “What’s up?”
This expression is very informal and is best used with friends or those that you are close to. It’s a little outdated, but can still be a fun way to get the conversation rolling or to get your friends laughing because they’re amused you’ve picked this one up.
8. Quoi de beau ? – “What’s beautiful?”
The French like to use the word “beautiful” in a surprisingly large number of situations. You might hear it in qu’est-ce que tu fais de beau dans la vie ? (literally: “what do you do in life that's beautiful?”) for “what do you do for a living?” and il fait beau (literally “it's beautiful”) for “the weather is nice”.
And, of course, it’s in the phrase Quoi de beau ? for asking someone how they’re doing.
9. Ça roule ? – “It’s rolling?”
When you want to ask your friend how they are and perhaps, more specifically how a certain situation or task is going, you might ask “ça roule ?” Literally, it means “it’s rolling”, but it’s a fun way to check up on someone in a casual way.
10. Ça baigne ? – “It bathes?”
Similar to ça roule ? is ça baigne ? It translates to “it bathes?”, but is another informal way to ask how someone is doing.
Turn It Around
A quick hack for turning the question around in case the person you’re talking to gets to it first is by asking “and you?” In French, this is “et vous ?” for formal situations or when you’re talking to more than one person and “et toi ?” for informal situations and when there is just one other person.
How to Reply to “How are You?” in French
Now that you know how to ask how someone is doing, it’s time to prepare a response for when the question is turned back over to you. Here are 10 ways to reply to “how are you?” in French.
1. Bien, merci ! – “Good, thanks!”
The go-to response to “how are you?” in French is bien, merci ! (“good, thanks”). It’s polite and keeps the conversation rolling. You can even give it a little more oompf by adding très to the front to say très bien, merci or “very well, thanks.”
2. Ça va – “It goes”
This is another typical reply to “how are you?”, especially when the question was phrased as “comment ça va ?” or “ça va?”. It’s short, to the point, but still polite enough to be appropriate in most situations.
3. Ça roule – “It rolls”
Earlier you learned ça roule ? as a question, but if you change your intonation, you can say the same thing as an answer in more informal contexts.
4. Comme ci, comme ça – “Okay”
If you’re neither great, nor bad, in French you might be “like this, like that”. Comme ci, comme ça is a fun way to let the person you’re chatting with know that things are going okay.
5. Pas mal – “Not bad”
If you’d like to be a little vaguer in your response, or perhaps a little more down to earth, you can reply with pas mal. It literally translates to “not bad”.
6. Comme d’hab – “Same as always”
This reply is a shortened version of comme d’habitude or “like usual.” It can be used to mean “same as always.” It’s more on the informal side.
7. Tout va bien – “All good”
This expression literally means “all goes well” and can be used to say “all good” in either formal or informal situations.
8. Assez bien – “Well enough” or “quite well”
This reply can be used to share that you’re “well enough” or “quite well”. It’s still relatively positive and is a useful alternative to très bien or just bien.
9. Ça pourrait être pire – “it could be worse”
If you’d like to be a bit more realistic or even somewhat humorous in your reply, you could go with ça pourrait être pire (“it could be worse”). To make it even more colloquial, you can add a bof to the beginning to say bof, ça pourrait être pire meaning “meh, it could be worse.”
10. Je n’ai pas à me plaindre – “I’ve got nothing to complain about”
If you’re feeling pretty good about things, you could say “I’ve got nothing to complain about”. In French, this would be je n’ai pas à me plaindre.
How do You Like to Say “How are you?” in French?
I hope you find these phrases useful! Are there any ways to say “how are you?” in French that I've missed? Let me know!