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I'm traveling to Paris soon. I have been there before. I'm not fluent in French by any means but I do know enough to get around. Most of my studies in French language have been in academic settings but I'm trying to be mindful of using phrases and words that are more natural/informal. I want to make sure I'm still being polite though.

When asking new acquaintances how they are is it acceptable to use more informal greetings such as:

  1. Comment tu vas ?
  2. Ça va ?
  3. Coucou

Or should I be using the more formal

  1. Comment allez-vous ?
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    coucou is an informal greeting but it certainly doesn't mean "how are you" (it's more like "hi!" or "hey") and we wouldn't use it for new acquaintances. It is unclear in your question whether you want to address one or more persons. Comment tu vas ? is just for 1 person. Comment allez-vous ? can be for one person you are on vous terms or several persons you are on tu and/or vous terms. That's something you'll have to decide first. You'll find plenty of lessons on greetings in French on the web.
    – None
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 15:30

1 Answer 1

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It depends on the context. If you have never met said acquaintances before, then the general rule is to go with 2d person plural ("vous"), not singular ("tu").

However, in specific settings like bars/clubs/friends of friends, then "tu" might be acceptable. If you do begin with "vous", then it might switch naturally to "tu" early in the conversation, from one side or another (by asking or not: "Je peux te tutoyer?").

In any case, I would go with the second suggestion in your question for the greeting:

  • Bonjour! / Salut!
  • Comment allez-vous? / Comment vas-tu?

And after you're more acquainted, it can be:

  • Coucou! / Hello!
  • Ça va? / Ça se passe bien? / Quoi de neuf?

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