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I have a small doubt regarding the usage of Bon soir and Bonne soirée. As far as my understanding goes or you can blindly say what I have been doing till now is: Bon soir, when you meet someone and Bonne soirée when you take leave of the same person(s).

I had a situation recently.So when I begin, I go by a salut in the morning and a salut when I leave for home in the evening. Yesterday, for a change I tried Bonne soirée while leaving and the replies as expected were ciao, salut… and some unexpected Bon soir's. So this confused me a bit!

Should I have used Bon soir or Bonne soirée?


Related queries:

While on the way back home if I meet someone whom I had already greeted in the morning, what should be the greeting in the context of Bon soir or Bonne soirée (no actual conversations involved except the greeting)?

What is the factor (time or sunlight) for switching from Bonjour or Bonne journée to Bon soir or Bonne soirée?

Combinations: Merci Bonne journée Au revoir ; Is this combination acceptable or should Bonne journée be the last in the list. Example situation: while leaving a magasin or a bus.

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You could start from this page. Not forgetting that there are regional variations. Et en Suisse –  Laure Jul 20 '12 at 11:38

2 Answers 2

up vote 20 down vote accepted

That's not a question, in fact, but many.

First of all, that's Bonsoir in one word, not Bon soir. But indeed, the general principle you quote at start is mainly correct (meeting / taking leave of someone).

For the confusion you had with people responding with Bonsoir when you left, although it's probably rarer than Bonne soirée, it's possible also. The only "too odd" usage would be Bonne soirée when meeting someone you're going to spend the evening with. Saying Bonsoir when leaving is acceptable, though more formal than the other alternatives you quoted (Ciao, Salut).

When meeting someone on the way back home (but no actual conversation intended beyond simple greetings), use Bonsoir any time, but Bonne soirée if (and only if) you can suppose your interlocutor hasn't actually finished his soirée (in other words, if you somehow know he's going home to sleep, in case you should use Bonne nuit). And, in a way, it makes sense : it would be pretty absurd to wish someone an event in the past. Following this rule, you "can" (and should ! friendliness is a nice thing...) certainly say Bonne soirée to someone on his way back home, if he just mentionned he's having a party at home for his birthday for example. And of course you cannot say it if he just said Je n'en peux plus, je rentre me coucher.

In other words, using Bonne soirée (or Bonne journée) has in fact more to do with your interlocutor's activity than it has to do with time or sunlight. Use a neutral Bonsoir when you don't know.

For your last question, Merci, bonne journée, au revoir sounds (to me) redundant (symbolically if not technically) and is slightly too "heavy". Merci et au revoir ! or Merci, bonne journée ! sound best if I may.)

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What about Bonne fin de soirée ? –  mouviciel Jul 23 '12 at 9:14
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@mouviciel Excellent *other* question ;-) Let's say it stands between Bonne soirée and Bonne nuit... though probably closer to the latter. –  Romain VALERI Jul 23 '12 at 11:46
  • Bonsoir pour au revoir lorsque l'on se quitte en fin l'après midi ou juste avant la nuit.
  • Bonsoir peut se dire aussi lorsque l'on arrive dans une assemblée aux mêmes horaires, plutôt qu'un tardif bonjour.
  • Bonne soirée sous-entend : passez une bonne soirée (en général lorsque quelqu'un a l'intention de passer la soirée en dehors de son domicile) si l'on quitte quelqu'un, ou que ce dernier s'en va.

Précision :

  • Bonsoir s'écrit en un seul mot lorsqu'il s'agit d'une locution.
  • Bon soir désigne une fin de journée particulière :
    Vous allez au théâtre ? Que ce soit un bon soir pour vous !
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