Life is filled with happy and joyous occasions to celebrate, from job promotions and exams to weddings and new babies. Whatever the occasion, congratulations are usually in order. And if you’re new to French, you may not know how to congratulate someone celebrating.
The French language has many wonderful phrases to express different things, depending on the situation and the person you’re speaking to. In this article, we’ll teach you a few different ways to say “congratulations” in French, both formally and informally, along with some other helpful information on how to use it. Let’s get started!
- 1. The classic “congratulations” in French
- 2. School- or work-related “congratulations”
- 3. “Congratulations” on getting married
- 4. “Congratulations” on buying a house
- 5. “Congratulations” on a new baby
- Bonus: Congratulations with a hat?!
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1. The classic “congratulations” in French
The most common and neutral way to say congratulations in French is félicitations.
It can be used in most situations, regardless of whether it is formal or informal. For example, if your friend announces a job promotion, you can say: “Félicitations !” Likewise, if your boss announces a new investment in the company, you can use the same term.
2. School- or work-related “congratulations”
As mentioned, félicitations works in most situations and for most people but there are plenty of other congratulations phrases you can use in French. When somebody passes an exam, a more common term would be bravo. It’s an informal term that suits many situations used for achievements (passing exams, job promotions, buying a house, etc.). And because we use it in English as well, it’s easy to remember!
If you want another option, you can use bien joué (well played). This congratulations phrase is a way of complimenting somebody on something they have achieved, like an exam or a sporting event.
Bon travail (good work) and bonne réussite (great success) are other handy expressions to offer congratulations for a school- or work-related achievement.
3. “Congratulations” on getting married
A wedding is a more formal event, so while félicitations is acceptable, there are other more formal ways to give wedding wishes in the French language. Here are a few phrases you can say to the happy couple:
- Tous nos vœux de bonheur (best wishes)
- Meilleurs vœux à vous deux (best wishes to both of you)
- Nous vous souhaitons à tous les deux tout le bonheur du monde (we wish you both all the happiness in the world)
These wonderful wedding wishes are a step up from the classic congratulations and are much more appropriate in the context of a wedding, essentially a formal occasion. Culturally, weddings are different in every country so it might be a good idea to read up on some French wedding traditions too.
4. “Congratulations” on buying a house
Buying a house is a wonderful event in a person’s life and always deserves congratulations! For more informal congratulations, for example with a friend, you can say:
- Félicitations, bravo ! (Congratulations, well done!)
For more formal congratulations, for example with a new colleague, try:
- Félicitations pour l’achat de votre maison (Congratulations on buying a house)
- Mes sincères félicitations (My sincere congratulations)
5. “Congratulations” on a new baby
Another happy occasion is the birth of a new baby. A very common term when referring to this in French is une nouvelle arrivée (a new arrival), so some congratulations phrases include:
- Félicitations pour la nouvelle arrivée dans votre famille ! (Congratulations on the new arrival in the family!)
- Nous sommes ravis d’apprendre la naissance de votre petit garçon/petite fille ! (We’re delighted to hear of the birth of your baby boy/girl!)
This could also be a great opportunity to add on a French quote or saying about life.
Bonus: Congratulations with a hat?!
Chapeau (literally hat) is a fantastic French expression used in the context of congratulations, and no, in this context it does not mean hat! Take a look at an example where this expression is used:
Imagine you run a 10 km race and you’re telling your French friends about it. They might say chapeau to you as a way to say congratulations. The closest equivalent in English is “hats off” and is a lovely way of your friends saying congratulations or well done. It is generally used for minor successes like this, or for example if you manage to make a really great French meal for the first time. It is an informal expression.
Some people also use the expression chapeau bas (literally low hat) which is just another way to use the term, but it means the same thing as chapeau and is used in the same situations.
Toast to the happy event!
There are many situations in which congratulations are in order and the French language has many ways to commemorate these different moments. Now, whether you’re popping open a bottle of bubbles or toasting a happy event, you know exactly what to say. So why not head to the shop to buy a bottle of champagne to have on hand for the next big celebration!
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Clara Avrillier is a writer, linguist and content manager living in the South of France. She loves getting out in nature, doing sport, reading and playing music. She also works with expats looking to move to France. Connect with her on LinkedIn.