Learn how to toast in French: What to say to sound like a local

Learn how to toast in French: What to say to sound like a local

by Clara Avrillier

Updated May 12, 2022

France is the culinary mecca of Europe. The country is renowned for its gastronomic dishes, incredible chefs and general obsession with food. It is a fundamental part of the culture. And where there is food, there is wine, which brings us on to the topic of toasting. 

A good toast can make or break the ambiance at a dinner party, so we’ve put together some of the golden rules of toasting. Below, you’ll learn how to make a toast in French (including how to say “cheers” in French), and some other useful tips to help you toast the right way!

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The golden rules of toasting in French

France is a country with many traditions and rules of etiquette, such as the famous bises (a kiss on the cheek when you greet somebody). It’s no different when it comes to giving a toast, or porter un toast in French. Let’s start with some of the golden rules of making a toast in French: 

  1. Toast with alcohol – water is a no-no, as it’s considered bad luck so make sure you have a glass of wine or some other alcoholic beverage when you say “cheers” in French.
  2. Always look your guests in the eyes when clinking glasses – otherwise you may suffer 7 years of bad luck (or so the myth goes)!
  3. Once you’ve given your toast (more on that later), you can then clink glasses with your guests, but don’t cross over glasses!
  4. Politeness is important etiquette in France so remember to toast all of your guests before taking a sip of your drink.
  5. And that leads us onto the final golden rule: once you have toasted everybody, you must take a sip of your drink before putting your glass down.

Tu or vous?

French is the language of love so there’s no shortage of wonderful sayings and expressions used in everyday life. However, one of the vital things to figure out is whether you will be giving a formal or informal toast – the use of tu and vous in France is very important. Both words mean ‘you’, however tu is used at informal gatherings and events (such as with friends), while vous is used in more formal settings (such as work events). 

Once you’ve figured out which pronoun to use, you can move on to the next section, which is all about how to say “cheers” in French.

How to make a toast in French

Now you know the dos and don’ts of making a toast in French, let’s move on to what the French actually say when making a toast. Do they say “cheers”? Is there French slang for “cheers”?

There are actually several options:

  1. Santé – this is probably the most common word to use when making a toast in French. It translates as ‘health’ and is a way of wishing for your guests’ good health. It can also be expressed as à votre santé or à ta santé, depending on who you’re speaking to. 
  2. A la vôtre / à la tienne – roughly translates as ‘to your health’ or ‘cheers to you’. It is a simplified version of the expression in number one, as we simply remove the word ‘santé’ from the phrase – it’s implied. 
  3. Tchin-tchin – this is a more relaxed way to say “cheers” in French. This phrase is used in other countries as well and was based on a Chinese saying which means ‘please please’. It is more suitable to use at an informal gathering, such as with friends.
  4. Trinquons – the verb trinquer literally means to clink glasses and in France, it’s used to say ‘let’s toast’. 

The art of making a toast in France

We hope this article has helped you to feel more confident about making a toast in France. It is a subtle art, but if you follow our tips then hopefully you will be able to impress your French friends. Giving a fantastic toast will also open the door to making new friends and starting great conversations. So what are you waiting for…trinquons!

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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 many expats looking to move to France. Find out more on her website, ON IT Translations, or connect with her on LinkedIn

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