15

So here is the context: Suppose as a tourist one is helped by someone (not a local though), talking to the locals to get the right directions for me etc. Chances of meeting again seem negligible unless huge (and I mean really huge) coincidences happen. In the end while separating, she says "à bientôt". Wouldn't "au revoir" been more relevant? What is the difference between the two?

15

Your are right "Au revoir" is the good way to leave somebody you will not meet again.

"À bientôt" may be a habit, or a try to encourage the foreigner to come back again in France!

With the latter you hope you will see the person again within a short period of time. With the former, the lapse period is simply indefinite.

9
  • Thanks very much. Could you explain me what you mean with your last sentence, please? May 26 '14 at 9:55
  • 1
    Very good answer (+1) pointing the elegance or friendliness in the choice of à bientôt here. Yes it may be done deliberately against the practical odds, to indicate the hope of another meeting with the interlocutor. I remember doing this from time to time. Noone will be offended if in the end the meeting doesn't happen... Jun 12 '14 at 1:22
  • 2
    @Drew I wouldn't recommend using « adieu » even when you are sure you'll never meet again but stay with « au revoir » despite its inner meaning. Nowadays, in spoken French, « adieu » is almost only used for theatrical effects.
    – jlliagre
    Jun 12 '14 at 1:58
  • 1
    @jlliagre That's not my experience, but I'm no reference. Certainly, Au revoir is always appropriate (and is essentially good-bye), but I maintain what I said about Adieu. Perhaps I have been influenced by a particular regional use (Provence), where Adieu has, I am pretty sure, the connotation I suggested compared with Au revoir. I think I recall the same being the case in Ile de France and elsewhere, but it was longer ago that I lived in Paris, so I might be mistaken about that.
    – Drew
    Jun 12 '14 at 2:50
  • 2
    @Drew Provence usage is special, "Adieu" is still used there, especially by elder people, as a generic greeting (Hello, Bye) from the Provencal "A Diéu Sias" (Be to God), Occitan "Adieussiatz". It hasn't at all here the standard French "last salutation" meaning.
    – jlliagre
    Jun 12 '14 at 6:24
8

À bientôt

Literally means “See you soon”.

4

It's more about how soon you expect to meet that person again, and how close you are to the person (if you're close, you'll probably meet again soon, though).

Au revoir litterally means "until next time we meet".

So, in order of increasing time span:

A tout de suite: see you in a bit, for example when you separate, usually under an hour

  • à tout à l'heure: within the day

  • à plus tard: see you later

  • à plus: undefined time span

  • à bientôt: other meeting greatly expected, sooner or later, kind way to say goodbye

  • au revoir: more formal, more distant than "à bientôt"

  • adieu: farewell, might be linked to "à dieu", meaning "at god", or when we'll be at god's side.

  • casse toi pov con: presidential way to say goodbye to an old man who doesn't want to shake your hand

Now you bring this question, i'm wondering if there are so many ways to say goodbye in other languages.

1
  • A bientôt is see you soon in my opinion. So you aren't supposed to use it if there are few chances to meet the person again in the near future. Unlike au revoir that doesn't necessarily mean you are going to meet again, despite revoir meaning... to see again.
    – Destal
    Mar 17 '17 at 10:48
2

If you translate it literally. It means "see you soon". But a lot of people say it just to say "good bye". They say too "à tout à l'heure" (or "tantôt" in Belgium) which means "see you later" even if you don't see him later. Just another way to say "good bye".

1

A bientôt > See you soon

Au revoir > Goodbye

1

Bientot means soon; A, in this case, is used in the sense of until, rather than "to" - in effect, a shortening of jusqu'a. So the implication is "until soon"

Au revoir utilizes the same sense of A - and revoir is voir - "to see" and re - again, so revoir is to see again. A bit more abstract and indefinite - "until the seeing again" or until we meet again - whenever that might be.

A bientot would be used in the case of, say, I'll see you after lunch, whereas au revoir might be used when seeing someone off at an airport on a trip.

Finally, adieu is, in essence, the analog of vaya con dios - go with God - and would be used when it is not at all clear that you will meet again.

0

"À bientôt" is literally "till well soon".

-3

Most languages luxuriate in excess.

Even in English, there are:

  • Hip borrowings. Like 'ciao'.
  • Friendly informalities. Like 'bye' (short for goodbye). Or 'see ya' (short for 'see you soon' but meaning 'see you whenever'). Or 'cheers' (a mix of 'thanks' and 'acknowledging our interaction is over')
  • Friendly but literal. 'See you later', meaning later that day.
  • 'Good bye'. Used on phone, more formally. In theory from 'god be with you', but long ago lost any religious sense.
  • Very formal. 'Farewell' (literally 'hope you fare well'). Used either in high register, or bidding someone off for a long time.
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4
  • 2
    The question is about the differences between “Au revoir” and “À bientôt”
    – Toto
    Sep 18 at 10:54
  • 3
    This doesn't answer the question. french.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-answer
    – None
    Sep 18 at 14:06
  • There is also what is really means: See you soon. But yes, it is not literal necassarily.
    – Lambie
    2 days ago
  • Hi and welcome to French Language SE. Since you are new to this network, you may not know that the rules are a bit different here from forums and some other places on the internet. On Stack Exchange, what is posted as an answer should genuinely attempt to answer the question rather than adding only tangentially related information. Could you please edit your answer to make it relevant to the question? Thanks in advance!
    – Tsundoku
    2 days ago

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