Do you need to know the difference between when you should say bonsoir and when to use bonne nuit? Here we will cover the different circumstances and meanings behind the various ways to say “good night” in French.
Why it's Important to Say Good Night in French
There are many ways that you can say “good night” in French. However, different situations call for a particular “good night” phrase in French, so it is important that you learn the differences between them.
Some of the phrases you will find below can get lost in translation and are only used in specific circumstances. For example, using bonne nuit when someone is going out at night may cause some confusion if you say it to a native French speaker.
Bonsoir – Goodnight as a Greeting in French
Bonsoir is how you would greet someone in the evening; it is used instead of saying bonjour. The word generally means “good evening,” and is used instead of wishing someone a “good night,” or bonne nuit in French.
Bonsoir can also be used when you are saying hello or goodbye to someone in the evening. For example, if they were to leave your home after having dinner, you could say bonsoir as you are waving them goodbye.
Bonne Nuit – Wishing Someone a Good Night in French
Bonne nuit literally translates into “good night” in English. It is sometimes confused with bonsoir and used as a greeting, but is generally meant for wishing someone a good night before they retire to bed. This is because the phrase actually means “sleep well.”
You would use bonne nuit when you know that someone is heading to bed so that they can sleep, not to say goodbye to someone when you are parting in the evening. For example, if you were saying goodnight to a family member when leaving the room for your bedroom, you would use bonne nuit.
Bonne Soirée – Have a Good Night in French
Bonne soirée translates to “good evening”. It is used like bonsoir to wish someone a good evening, though mainly as a farewell. So it is like “good night” in English, and we use bonne soirée instead of bonne nuit.
Remember that bonne nuit is only used when someone is about to go to sleep!
Another common way to use bonne soirée is to say je vous souhaite une bonne soirée which means “I wish you a good evening”.
À Demain – See You Tomorrow in French
À demain is a common French phrase which means “see you tomorrow”.
This phrase can be used to wish someone in your household good night in French, as you will see them the following morning. À demain can also be used when saying goodbye to anyone who you will see the next day in general. In other words, à demain can replace bonne nuit and bonne soirée!
If you are looking for a different way to say goodbye as well as good night, then à demain is a phrase that you will want to learn.
Dors Avec Les Anges – Sleep with the Angels in French
There are several platitudes that are exchanged when someone is heading to bed and the first in this list is dors avec les anges, which translates to “sleep with the angels.” It is used to wish someone a good night’s sleep.
Dors avec les anges can be used on its own or in conjunction with bonne nuit.
Fais de Beaux Rêves – Sweet Dreams in French
The familiar phrase “sweet dreams” is frequently used when someone you are close to is going to sleep. The French equivalent of “sweet dreams” is fais de beaux rêves.
Like dors avec les anges, fais de beaux rêves can be said on its own. You can also say “bonne nuit, fais de beaux rêves” when wishing someone goodnight.
This phrase is not used in formal settings, as it is something spoken between people of intimate or familiar relations.
Dors Bien – Sleep Well in French
Dors bien means “sleep well” in French. It is commonly used in informal situations as it is most likely to be said to someone close to you, just before you or they go to sleep. You can also use dormez bien when you are saying it to multiple people.
This phrase is usually only used with people you are close with. Avoid saying this to acquaintances or professional colleagues.
So, once you have learnt the different ways to say “good night” in French, and the particular scenarios that they are used for, you will be able to confidently wish someone a good night. Just remember which phrases are used for which situation, and whether the person you are saying it to is close to you or not. .
It can be hard to remember which phrase to say and when to use it, but as long as you understand that bonne nuit is only used when someone is going to bed and bonsoir or bonne soiréeare used as a greeting or goodbye, you shouldn’t have any problems.
If you want to look further into greetings and goodbyes in French, here is a list of articles that can help you: