“Comment ça va ?” is one of the first phrases French learners start using, and it remains one of the most common expressions used among native speakers. But what about other options for asking “How are you?” in French? In this post we’ll introduce you to ten more expressions so you can spice up your exchanges.
We’ll start off with the humble “ça va ?”, giving an explanation of this question and its close variants. Then we’ll dive right into the rest of them, ranging from polite to quick to detailed to funny. We’ll give lots of nuanced details to know when it’s best to use each phrase, along with examples and typical responses for each one. We’ll end our post with a longer list of potential responses for whenever someone asks “How are you?” in French.
Ça va bien ? Ok, then let’s get started with our top expressions to ask “How are you?” in French!
Comment ça va?, Ça va bien?, Ça va?
These are the quintessential “Ça va?” expressions used as greetings in French, all essentially asking “How are you doing?”. Literally, “ça va” in English translates as “it goes”, so the first two can be taken to mean “How is it going?” and “It’s going good?”. In reality though, all three forms are just used as simple inquiries when we encounter another person.
“Ça va?” in French is often used somewhat rhetorically, similarly to the English greeting “How’s it going?”, in that the expected response is “Fine” rather than any true details of how the person is actually doing. Nonetheless, honest responses are common enough in French too. This is particularly the case when you see some reason to wonder if the person is really fine or not, for example if you see a child fall off her bike and your first reaction is to help her up and ask “Ça va!?”.
Responses to “Ça va?” can therefore be very superficial, or can get into actual details of how things are really going. For the easiest replies we just repeat the statements in the affirmative: “Ça va”, “Oui, ça va” or “Ça va bien, merci”. It’s even common to double the response with a “ça va, ça va”. Let’s see these exchanges with a few examples:
- Ça va ? / Ça va. – How’s it going? / Fine.
- Comment ça va ? / Ça va, ça va, merci. – How’s it going? / It’s going fine, thanks.
- Salut Marc ! Ça va ? / Coucou Émilie ! Oui, ça va super ! Et toi ? – Hi Marc! How’s it going? / Oh hey Émilie! All good! And you?
Comment vas-tu ?, Comment allez-vous ?
This French expression is a little more involved than the previous ones based around “ça va,” as it’s expected that the other person give a more-detailed answer than simply “ça va – fine.” It’s a particularly common question when two people haven’t seen each other for a while.
Literally, “Comment vas-tu” translates as “How do you go?”, though it’s universally understood to mean “How are you doing?”. It’s a good catch-all option for both formal and informal contexts. “Comment allez-vous” is the version used when addressing one person formally, or when addressing a group of people.
- Hervé, bienvenue à Paris ! Comment vas-tu ? / Merci ! Ça va, ça va. Le vol était long, mais je suis content d’être là. – Hervé, welcome to Paris! How are you doing? / Thanks! Fine, fine. It was a long flight, but I’m happy to be here.
Tu vas bien ?, Vous allez bien ?
Next in our series on how to ask “how are you doing?” in French, we have this statement posed as a yes-or-no question meaning literally “You’re going well?”. Like our previous one, this question is meant to elicit more details than a simple “ça va”, however it’s a lot more informal than “Comment vas-tu”.
This French expression for “Are you doing alright?” can be used pretty neutrally when two people haven’t seen each other for a while. However, it’s also fairly common when there’s some reason to suspect that the other person is actually not doing so well. Responses can start with “oui… – yes…”, “non – no”, or any other caveat in between.
- Ah, Abdel, vous êtes de retour. Vous allez bien ? On ne t’a pas vu depuis mardi. / Bonjour Salim. En fait, moyen. Ma femme était malade alors j’ai dû m’occuper des enfants toute la semaine. Mais là, ça va. – Oh, Abdel, you’re back. Are you doing alright? We haven’t seen you since Tuesday. / Good morning Salim. Actually, so-so. My wife was sick so I had to take care of the kids all week. But now, alright.
- Mélanie ! Tu es déjà sortie du lit? Tu vas bien? / Ouf ! Mais pas du tout ! Je ne peux pas croire combien nous avons bu hier soir… je prends juste un verre d’eau et je retourne au lit. – Mélanie! You’re already up? Are you doing alright? / Ouf! No, not at all! I can’t believe how much we drank last night… I’m just getting a glass of water and getting back in bed.
Comment tu te sens ?, Comment vous sentez-vous ?
The straight translation of this question is “How do you feel?”, and it’s generally used to check up on whether someone is really feeling up for whatever they’re set to do. It’s very informal, which explains the familiar wording (though you can certainly also use the more grammatically-correct version: “comment te sens-tu ?”). People often ask “comment te sens-tu” almost incredulously, with an underlying meaning of “are you up for it?” or “are you really ok?”
- Nous sommes à environ mi-chemin sur notre randonnée. Comment te sens-tu ? – We’re at around the halfway point of our hike. How do you feel?
- C’est enfin demain matin ta défense de thèse! Comment vous sentez-vous ? – Your thesis defence is finally happening tomorrow! How do you feel?
- Ton coloc m’a dit que ta copine vient de te quitter… comment tu te sens ? – Your flatmate told me that your girlfriend just left you… are you ok?
En forme ?
This simple phrase translates generally as “in good shape.” “En forme ?” can be used as a question, as well as an answer to most of the questions for “how are you doing” in French that we’re introducing in this post. Whereas the English translation of “in shape” has an athletic connotation, in French “en forme” is much more general and just refers to a general sense of readiness to face the day. A general equivalent to the question is therefore “are you doing alright?” while in the affirmative we could say “I’m doing fine”.
“En forme” is generally always used on its own rather than forming part of a sentence, though it’s not uncommon to make the statement “je suis en forme” when you really want to emphasize that you’re doing fine. It’s fairly informal, and can just as easily be used between total strangers as between friends and acquaintances.
- Bonjour Jacques ! En forme ? / Oui presque. Il me faut juste un espresso et ça va aller. – Good morning Jacques! Are you doing alright? / Yeah almost. I just need an espresso and it’ll be all good.
- T’as l’air fatigué. T’es en forme pour conduire ? / Oui oui, tout à fait. J’ai assez bien dormi. Je suis en forme. Allons ! – You look tired. Are you in good shape to drive? / Yeah yeah, totally. I slept well enough. I feel fine. Let’s go!
Quoi de neuf ?
Quick and easy, “quoi de neuf ?” translates directly as “what’s new?” It’s very informal, used between people who see each other fairly regularly.
“Quoi de neuf ?” is almost rhetorical, similar to the English “what’s up?”, so short responses are pretty common. We’re really getting into the realm of simple small talk between friends, acquaintances, or colleagues when we use this little expression for “how are you” in French.
- Salut Charles, quoi de neuf ? / Rien de trop. Toi, ça va ? – Hey Charles, what’s new? / Not much. You? You alright?
- Quoi de neuf ? / Il fait trop chaud ! / Tellement. – What’s up? / It’s so hot! / Yeah really.
Quoi de beau ?
This expression is fairly similar to the previous one, though in this case it’s expected that the response have a bit more substance. With a rough translation of “what’s beautiful,” this question also implies that the response should be positive.
“Quoi de beau” is a very informal way to ask “how are you” in French, used between people who are familiar with each other. It’s handy when you see a familiar face and want to ask them, “give me some good news!”
- Guillaume ! Quoi de beau ? / Salut Brice! J’ai mon nouveau vélo. Viens le voir ! – Guillaume! Give me your good news ! / Oh hey Brice! I have my new bike, come see it!
- Caro! Quoi de beau ? / C’est l’annif de ma nièce samedi. Je dois la trouver un cadeau ! – Caro! Give me your good news. / It’s my niece’s birthday on Saturday. I need to find her a present.
Qu’est-ce que tu deviens ?
Now we start veering away from the brief greetings, and getting more into the meatier questions about what people have been up to. This one translates literally as “what are you becoming?”, but is better interpreted as “what have you been up to?” or even simply “how has life been?”.
It’s the perfect catch-up question between people who haven’t seen each other in a long time, and want to get filled in on the different twists and turns their lives have taken in the meantime. The same expression is often used when asking about mutual friends.
When someone asks you “Qu’est-ce que tu deviens ?”, they’re looking for big-picture responses. You got a new job, you split up with your boyfriend, you moved house. It’s definitely an informal expression used between people who are interested in sharing what’s going on in each other’s personal lives.
- Marine, je suis trop content de te revoir. La dernière fois était quand, à Pâques ? Mais qu’est ce que tu deviens? / C’est vrai ça fait longtemps. Tu le savais que j’ai quitté Yusef? Et là, je travaille à l’école dans la prochaine ville. Ce n’est pas mal, finalement. – Marine, I’m so happy to see you again. The last time was when? Easter? What’s been going on in your life? / Wow it’s true, it’s been a long time. Did you know I left Yusef? I’m working now at the school in the next town. It’s not too bad, after all.
- Romain, ça fait des lustres ! Qu’est-ce que tu deviens ? / Mon dieu, oui, ça fait quoi ? Six mois? En fait, rien de trop. Je suis toujours au même poste qu’avant ton départ. Juste quelques cheveux blancs de plus. Et toi ? – Romain, it’s been ages! What have you been up to? / My god yeah, how long? Six months? Honestly, not too much. I’m still working in the same position as before you left. Just a few more gray hairs. How about you?
Racontes-moi un peu !
Here’s another familiar way to ask a friend how they’re doing in French, roughly translating as “tell me a little story!” It’s not the first thing to say when two friends see each other, but rather a nice conversation starter once the reunion is underway. If you’re at a party or in a bar and making the rounds to go talk with the different people you’re with, this is a perfect icebreaker to ask someone’s news with no expectations.
The response to “Racontes-moi un peu !” can be short and sweet, while it’s even better to launch into a detailed story of something you’d like to share.
- Marie, c’est cool que tu sois venue. Racontes-moi un peu ! / Oh mon dieu tu ne vas pas croire ce qui m’est arrivé en vacances… – Marie, it’s so cool that you came. Tell me a story! / OMG, you won’t believe what happened to me on vacation…
- Arnaud, t’es toujours là ? Racontes-moi un peu ! / Mais oui, on ne s’est pas vu depuis le début de la soirée. Je te racontes : tu vois cette femme là-bas… / Arnaud, you’re still here? Talk to me! / Yeah, we haven’t seen each other since the start of the evening. Let me tell you: do you see that woman over there…
Ça roule ?
This simple expression translates as “it’s rolling?”, and is basically used to ask if things are cruising along alright. It’s very informal, just used between friends. It’s so informal that if you were to form the question in a full sentence like “est-ce que ça roule ?”, it couldn’t even be taken seriously.
The response to Ça roule ? is usually just to repeat the same statement, maybe with a “Oui” before it. Really, this expression is even easier and more informal than “Ça va ?”
- Ça roule ? / Oui, ça roule. – It’s goin’ alright? / Yeah, all good.
Ça roule, ma poule ?
This is clearly a variant on our previous informal expression for how to ask “how are you?” in French. Like the simple “Ça roule ?”, it’s informal and only used to address someone you know well. A big difference, however, is that it’s essentially rhetorical: no response is really expected. Friends and family can just ask “Ça roule, ma poule ?” as a form of acknowledging the other person and hoping that things are going alright, while being fine with just leaving the conversation at that.
But what about this extra “ma poule”!? In reality, it makes little sense but it sounds fun since it rhymes. Just be sure you’re on good terms with the person, because you’re calling them a chicken! While literally you’re asking “It’s rolling, my chicken?”, a better equivalent is probably “Hey bud, it’s all good?” A nod or a smirk is an adequate response.
- Ça roule, ma poule ? – Hey bud, it’s all good?
How are you in French: Typical responses
Now that you know how to ask how someone is doing in French, let’s look at a variety of possible responses. These don’t all work for every question, though you can generally tell which ones would be suited for how you want to reply.
For the most part, it’s easy enough to return the question by adding a simple “and you?” after your response: “et toi ?” or “et vous ?”
|Ça va, merci||I’m fine, thanks|
|Tout va bien||Everything is good|
|Ça va super bien !||Everything is great!|
|Oui, de ouf ! (very informal)||Yeah, great!|
|Je ne peux pas me plaindre||I can’t complain|
|Ça peut aller||Good enough|
|Pas mal||Not bad|
|Comme toujours||Same as always, Same old, same old|
|Comme d’hab (informal)||Same as usual, As usual|
|Pas trop||Not too much|
|Plus ou moins||So-so|
|Bof (very informal)||So-so, Whatever|
|Pas très bien||Not so well|
|Terriblement mal !||Terrible!|
Conclusion: Expressions for “How are you?” in French
“Ça va bien ?” is probably among the most common expressions in the French language, as a simple option for anyone asking “How are you?” in French. It’s definitely the easiest option for this inquisitive greeting, while “ça va” is also the easiest response when someone asks you how you’re doing.
In order to switch things up though, it’s always a good call to have a few other options for such a common phrase, and also to understand these other expressions when someone asks them of you. In this post we covered ten alternative expressions with similar intent to “ça va”, each with their own particular nuances. We hope you can gradually incorporate some of these into your everyday speech as you interact with people in French, finding a good balance between all these French ça va expressions.