Mastering the Art of Congratulations in French

Ellison Clapton7 min
Created: Jan 26, 2024Last updated: Apr 2, 2024
Congratulations in French

Finding the right words to greet a person during their special day is often challenging. However, it’s important to learn how to do it properly in French, especially if you plan to dip into the language environment. Imagine yourself in a situation where it’s your colleague’s birthday, and you cannot say a word. In this case, mastering congratulations in French will be a benefit; you will feel comfortable on any occasion. 

“Félicitations” [felisitasjˈɔ̃], translated as “congratulations,” is the most common expression that natives use. The word originated from the verb “féliciter” [felisitˈe] (congratulate). It’s suitable for different events, including birthdays, Christmas, Victory Day, etc. 

French people have multiple holidays and special days when greeting each other is customary. Moreover, it’s common for locals to congratulate people on their important achievements. “Félicitations” is suitable for formal and informal occasions, so memorize this word and remember to use it in your speech. 

Beyond Félicitations in French: Diverse Ways to Express Joy

French people are known as friendly and open, so you can often hear them expressing emotions. Therefore, congratulations hold a special place in the heart of every local. However, “felicitations” is not the only expression to be used when greeting others. Take a look at some common words and phrases that may come in handy during important events:

  1. Je te félicite pour… [ʒˈə- tˈə- felisˈit pˈuʁ] – I congratulate you for…
  2. Je tiens à vous féliciter pour… [ʒˈə- tjˈɛ̃ ˌaaksɑ̃ɡʁˈav vˈu felisitˈe pˈuʁ] – I would like to congratulate you on…
  3. Tous mes vœux de bonheur [tˈus mˈe- vˈø dˈə- bɔnˈœʁ] – All my best wishes.
  4. Mes vives félicitations [mˈe- vˈiv fəlisitasjˈɔ̃] – My warmest congratulations.
  5. Tous mes compliments [tˈus mˈe- kɔ̃plimˈɑ̃] – All my compliments.
  6. Je suis heureux(euse) pour vous [ʒˈə- syˈi øʁˈø(ˈøz) pˈuʁ vˈu] – I am happy for you.
  7. Je suis fier(fière) de vous [ʒˈə- syˈi fjˈɛʁ(fjˈɛʁ) dˈə- vˈu] – I am proud of you.
  8. On va fêter ça [ˈɔ̃ vˈa fɛtˈe sˈa] – We are going to celebrate it.

The above expressions are common in formal and informal occasions, so using them in the business environment will be fine. However, these phrases might seem too official when congratulating family members and friends. So, let’s explore some informal collocations that French people often use.

Formal and Informal Félicitations French: Congratulating Like a Native

The versatile expressions listed above are suitable under any circumstances, so it doesn’t matter which holiday it is. For instance, you can say “félicitations pour un nouvel employ” [felisitasjˈɔ̃ pˈuʁ ˈœ̃ nuvˈɛl ɑ̃plwˈa], meaning “congratulations on a new job,” when a person shares details about their latest workplace. However, sometimes, we all need something less formal for our friends and close people. Take a look at some options you can use: 

  1. Bien joué [bjˈɛ̃ ʒwˈe] – Well done (the direct translation is “good game”).
  2. Bravo [bʁavˈo] – Congratulations/Well done (the word is borrowed from the Italian language).
  3. Trop fort [tʁˈo fˈɔʁ] – Too strong (to highlight someone’s important achievements).
  4. Chapeau [ʃapˈo] – Congratulations (this word is translated as “hat”).

The last wording on the list is especially exciting for language learners. It originates from the phrase “tirer son chapeau à quelqu’un” [tiʁˈe sˈɔ̃ ʃapˈo ˌaaksɑ̃ɡʁˈav kˈɛlk'ˈœ̃], meaning “take your hat off to someone.” It’s an old-fashioned way to demonstrate honor and respect. French people simplify the expressions and utilize “chapeau” when congratulating someone on a significant achievement. “Chapeau bas” [ʃapˈo bˈa] is another collocation with the same meaning that can often be heard from native speakers. 

So, what is the best way to say congratulations my friend in French? It depends on your preferences, so explore the above wordings and choose the one you like most. Wishing health, happiness, love, prosperity, and other benefits is also popular among residents of France. Your words should come from the heart, and then your interlocutor will definitely be delighted with such congratulations. 


Cultural Nuances in French Congratulations

Now you know how to say congrats in French and have multiple expressions to choose from. However, remember that your words are not the only factor your interlocutor will consider when listening to you. There are many more things you should pay attention to. Gestures, emotions, and tactile contact are significant among French for congratulations, so remember this factor when speaking to locals. 

Therefore, warm words are most often accompanied by kisses on both cheeks. Don’t be surprised if a stranger says hi and kisses you when you first meet. In this way, residents of the country are accustomed to expressing their hospitality and joy from the meeting. Locals call it “la bise” [lˈa- bˈiz], translated as “kiss.” Remember that you should take off your sunglasses and hat before it, which is the basic etiquette rule in French-speaking countries.

However, it’s primarily unacceptable in a business setting; here, a handshake is more common between both men and women. Be friendly, but remember about etiquette and subordination in the business environment. Luckily, there are no limitations in terms of informal congratulations, so just choose the phrase you like most.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Congratulating in French

Memorizing congratulations and some basic etiquette rules is often not enough to create a positive impression when communicating with native speakers. Therefore, it’s essential to avoid some frequent mistakes learners make. First, it’s critical to evaluate the environment and choose the correct congratulations. Using “bravo” or “chapeau” is totally unacceptable in formal settings. Therefore, consider the basic expressions when talking to colleagues or business partners.

Moreover, there are some phrases that you should avoid. For instance, “tu es bonne” [tˈy ˈɛ bˈɔn], meaning “you are good,” seems an innocent expression to praise someone for their achievement. However, keep in mind that for the French, this phrase has sexual connotations, so it is better not to use it in congratulations.

Another common mistake implies confusing “tu” [tˈy] and “vous” [vˈu]. Both words are translated as “you” in English, but it’s important to learn when to use them. “Tu” is used to address family members, friends, and children. In other instances, you should say “vous.” For example, “je te félicite pour un travail accompli avec succès” [ʒˈə- tˈə- felisˈit pˈuʁ ˈœ̃ tʁavˈaj akɔ̃plˈi avˈɛk syksˈɛ] (I congratulate you with successfully performed job) is not the best option for the business environment. Instead, say “je vous félicite pour un travail accompli avec succès” [ʒˈə- vˈu felisˈit pˈuʁ ˈœ̃ tʁavˈaj akɔ̃plˈi avˈɛk syksˈɛ].

Memorizing these simple rules will help you avoid mistakes and misunderstandings when communicating with residents of French-speaking countries. Overall, politeness and respect for other people are the basic requirements. They are essential even during congratulations in French in informal settings.

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Mastering the art of congratulations in French is thrilling, as this rich language often offers something new and exciting. Explore the common ways to greet a person in formal and informal settings, and discover which slang locals use in different situations. Now, you know that “félicitations” is not the only word you can utilize. Memorize all the important expressions from this article and feel more freedom when communicating with different people in French-speaking countries.


What is the right way to use “bien joué?”

This expression is common in the informal environment when you want to congratulate someone with important achievements. However, it can also be utilized in a sarcastic manner when a person is dissatisfied with others’ actions. For instance, “tu as cassé la voiture, bien joué” [tˈy ˈas kasˈe lˈa- vwatˈyʁ, bjˈɛ̃ ʒwˈe], means “you broke the car, well done,” shows disappointment. Therefore, it’s essential to consider the person’s intonation and the situation you are in.

Which resources should I use to master French faster?

Learning the language independently is possible, considering the free data users can now find online. Therefore, manuals, books, tests, and many more materials are available. Online dictionaries are the tools you shouldn’t avoid, as they allow you to translate a new word or expression with a few clicks. Take advantage of WordReference or Reverso when mastering the French language, and remember to memorize exciting words and phrases to boost your vocabulary.

What are the tips to learn the language faster?

Immersing yourself in the French-speaking environment is the best solution, as communicating with natives can significantly strengthen your skills. However, practicing at home is also possible. Speak out loud in front of the mirror, or find like-minded learners to practice together. Moreover, listening to podcasts and watching movies in French can also be helpful. Of course, memorize as many new words as possible to enrich your vocabulary and understand natives better.

How many people globally speak the French language?

According to statistics, over 300 people from different countries speak French. These include residents of Monaco, Switzerland, Belgium, Canada, Madagascar, Congo, and so on. French is the mother tongue for around 98 million individuals, while others have mastered it as their second language.


SamFeb 20th, 2024