Learning French is no mean feat and you’ve had the courage to start and stick with it all the way over to this article.
So what better way to drive this home than to discover the many ways we can express our congratulations in French?
Let’s get ready to learn a little more and celebrate along the way, with one important note: Don’t forget to bring the champagne!
Your Simple, Go-to Phrase Using the Nasal Sound “õ”
As a beginner, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the quantity of vocabulary and grammar within a single topic.
That’s why it’s important to begin with a simple phrase you’ll remember, instead of not being able to remember anything at all.
So let’s take a look at the standard phrase for “congratulations” in French:
Félicitations ! (Congratulations!)
How about the pronunciation?
Well, félicitations is a perfect example of a word that includes the French nasal sound “õ”—one of four more “unusual” vowel sounds for English speakers.
If we take a look at the standardized phonetic system of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), we can see how this looks: [felisitasjõ]
This short sound is best learned by doing a lot of listening, such as watching real-world videos or even practicing through specific exercises that focus on “õ,” which will allow you to spot it in other words and show you where to expect it.
3 Informal Ways to Say Congratulations in French
Saying Congratulations to Your Buddies and Loved Ones
Now that you know the standard word for “congratulations” in French, it’s time to check out some more informal ways to say it to people you know well.
It’s important to remember that sometimes, there’s an undefinable overlap in terms of what one would describe as “informal” and “slang.” If you aren’t sure when to use some of these, you can watch these words being used by native speakers with the FluentU program. Or, find them in use in French vlogs on YouTube, where you’re sure to see them in a natural context.
The good news is, none of the terms or phrases in this list are inherently offensive.
Bravo ! (Congratulations/Well Done!)
Bravo is probably the most standard of the informal ways to say “congratulations” in French, and it’s something you’ll hear a lot. Like félicitations, you can use it in most situations.
Let’s look at a dialogue:
—Je viens de réussir mon examen. (I’ve just passed my exam.)
—Bravo ! (Congratulations/well done!)
Chapeau ! (Congratulations/Well Done/lit. Hats off to You!)
Chapeau is arguably more old-fashioned than bravo and slightly less versatile. It’s often used to say congratulations for minor successes, such as resolving an argument or cooking a tasty meal.
—Les soufflés sont parfaits ! (The soufflés are perfect!)
—Chapeau ! Ils ont l’air savoureux. (Congratulations! They look tasty.)
French friends have occasionally sent me a hat emoji when I’ve told them about something successful in my life, so this is a modern interpretation to look out for!
Bien joué ! (Congratulations/Well Done/ lit. Well Played!)
As you might expect, bien joué can relate to the world of sports in the same way it does in English.
But it can also be used whenever you want to say congratulations to someone in a very informal context; particularly when wanting to compliment them on the way they did something.
—J’ai fait descendre le chaton de l’arbre sans lui faire de mal. (I brought down the kitten from the tree without hurting him.)
—Ouf, bien joué ! (Phew, well done!)
You’ll often hear bien joué said ironically, so if you think someone isn’t really congratulating you, they probably aren’t!
3 Formal Ways to Say Congratulations in French
Use the following phrases when you need to curb your enthusiasm, including professional situations and in writing.
Féliciter (To Congratulate)
As in English, to congratulate someone in a formal way either in speech or writing, we can simply use the verb “to congratulate” or féliciter in French.
—Je vous félicite pour l’obtention de votre doctorat. (I congratulate you for receiving your PhD.)
Tous mes compliments/tous nos compliments (Sincere Congratulations)
This is a very formal way to express your congratulations in French, and even though it’s possible to hear people say it, it’s equally common in writing to someone you don’t know well or in a professional situation.
—Tous mes compliments pour votre rapport. (Sincere congratulations on your report.)
Je tiens à vous féliciter pour… (I Must/Should Congratulate You For…)
This is when, in a formal situation, you want to really emphasize your congratulations to someone else, perhaps for a great achievement or by way of saying thank you for something they did that in turn benefited a group of people working towards the same goal.
—Je tiens à vous féliciter pour votre dévouement à l’entreprise. (I must congratulate you for your dedication to the company.)
What to Do When Stuck Between Informal and Formal “Congratulations” in French
A Simple Tip and Cultural Mention About “Congratulations” in French
Although not true 100% of the time, a helpful way to test whether “congratulations” in French is either informal or formal is to look at its length. You may have noticed that the shorter ones tend to be informal and the longer ones formal.
The other thing to keep in mind is that French is spoken in many countries outside of France. So if you’re planning to visit a French-speaking country that isn’t France, remember there’s also a cultural part to play. They might not use the same slang or informal ways to say “congratulations.”
The French are arguably more blasé (blasé/indifferent) when it comes to showing excitement, and you might find that some individuals won’t express themselves in the same way you’d expect in your own country. Just something to bear in mind.
Essential Grammar for Congratulations in French
How to Congratulate Yourself Using a Reflexive Verb
You’ve already seen the verb “to congratulate” in French. Now all we need to do is add se (to oneself) before féliciter to create a reflexive verb in the infinitive:
Se féliciter (to congratulate oneself)
Reflexive verbs are common in French and in this case, refer to when you’re talking about an action of which you’re the receiving party.
In the first person present tense this is:
Je me félicite ! (I congratulate myself)
—Je me félicite pour la réalisation de mon projet ! (I’m giving myself a pat on the back for the completion of my project!)
You may be struggling to work out which word to use after “congratulations” in French. No worries!
If you want to say congratulations to somebody, in French you use the preposition à:
—Félicitations à ton frère ! (Congratulations to your brother!)
And if you want to say congratulations on or for something, you use the preposition pour:
—Félicitations pour ton nouveau travail ! Tu commences quand ? (Congratulations on your new job! When do you start?)
Using the Adjective Bon to Be Ultra Specific
Another way to say congratulations is to use the adjective bon (good) before a noun—especially when you’re wanting to congratulate someone on something specific. For example:
—Bon travail les gars ! (Good work, guys!)
—Bonne réussite ! (Great success!)
Note: the masculine bon becomes bonne before a feminine noun.
Well done for reaching the end of this article! As we’ve seen, saying congratulations in French can be tricky to navigate as it breaches both worlds of informal and formal. Yet with practice, this will become second nature and with time you’ll know exactly how to express your congratulations in French in all manner of situations!
Sophie McDonald is a freelance writer with a burning passion for writing and languages. You can find her Twitter page here, where she’ll most likely be talking about writing and languages.