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I was speaking with a French-Canadian person recently, and he mentioned that there's a French greeting that translates to "Are you happy?" I thought this was interesting because it strikes me as a pretty profound question when asked in English - or at least, certainly not a lighthearted greeting.

I've been trying to figure out what the exact phrase is in French (I have no way of contacting this person anymore), but I haven't been able to find anything. The closest I've come is "Tu vas bien?" which strikes me more as "Are things going well?" than "Are you happy?"

Was there a misunderstanding here? Or is there really a common French (or French-Canadian) greeting that translates like this?

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Not a common one but there is a French expression that can be used a jocular way to greet someone:

Alors, heureux ?

It translates to "So, are you happy ?" and possibly "So, did you enjoy it ?"

While this phrase is technically not that different from the mainstream ça va ?, it can't really be used without a context and implies familiarity between the parties involved. It might be ironical too, toward someone that has reasons not to be happy.

It is the masculine variant of the well known catchphrase

Alors, heureuse ?

which is mocking the kind of question a macho lover might ask to his partner after doing it.

  • Would you say that "Alors, heureux?" could be used without context? Like, when there's nothing specifically implied to be happy about / enjoy? – Cameron Sun Oct 7 at 4:04
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    It can't. Answer updated. – jlliagre Oct 7 at 7:07
  • You can say that only in the context of an event that involves the person talked to in the way of ending in gratification for that person. – LPH Oct 7 at 9:21
  • Et que dirais-tu de « Ça boume ? » variante souriante et familière du banal « ça va ? ». À moins que ce soit vraiment passé de mode ou encore une question de génération... – Laure Oct 7 at 16:20
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    Absolument. Je pense qu'il y a sans doute encore plus de confusion et qu'on ne saura jamais vraiment. L'interlocuteur aurait du indiquer de quoi il voulait parler. La question confirme que l'équivalent anglais d'un groupe de mots français ne sert absolument à rien et ne permet pas à l'apprenant d'apprendre quoi que ce soit sur la langue. – sinople incandescent Oct 9 at 10:41
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I suggest "Alors, ça va comme tu veux?", or "Ca roule?". Both questions have a slight problem, in that they could be suggesting a current problem or task that both parties agree on. If not it's life in general, that is being referred to.

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Your being at a loss for a usable translation, at least in metropolitan French, seems to reflects reality : I'm afraid there is no such formula. There are a few formulas that you might use with people that life has recently treated badly or people who are depressed and as far as inquiring about someone's state of mind by way of a greeting, it's the closest to what is concerned by the question.

  • Comment va le moral ? also • Comment ça va le moral ?
    (Apparently, "How is the morale?" is not used in English (ref.1, ref2). In that language it seems that "How have you been feeling lately?" is what comes closest. (see the first ref.))

  • Comment vous sentez-vous aujourd'hui? (English : How are you feeling today?)

You use the first question to show that you are wondering whether the person you're talking to is in fairly high spirits. They are not under an obligation to answer and they may reply with their own greeting; if you think it important to have an answer, you may politely reiterate the question. Even though it is used as explained above it can also be used in a lighthearted way for greeting anybody you know well enough. This is not true of the second, which is specific to situations referred to in the introduction; this second formula will in fact be often preceded by another greeting and be more of a real question than a greeting.

I don't know about Canadian French, there might be a possibility in that variant of French.

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