Today, we will be talking about French toasts. But no, we’re not talking about the delicious delicacy of French toast slathered in milk and egg, to be fried and smothered in sugar and cinnamon. Instead we’re talking about the words and phrases French people use when they are drinking. In other words, we will talk about French for cheers.
French people love to drink. Whether there’s an occasion or none, expect to see a bottle of wine nearby. Wine is also present at every meal. However, proposing a toast is quite elaborate in France, and they don’t just say “cheers.” There are various ways to do a toast in France, and each way is just as meaningful as the rest. There are also many improper ways of raising a toast, which might raise a few eyebrows.
Table of Contents
- Formal Ways for Raising a Toast
- French for Cheers with Friends
- Other Ways of raising your Glass
- Some Rules, Traditions, and Superstitions
Formal Ways for Raising a Toast
The toast depends on the occasion. Weddings, birthday parties, and housewarming parties all merit a toast, and national events such as Bastille day and festivals all have a toast of their own. So, here are some formal ways to toast on different occasions.
- Portons un toast – this is the formal way to give a toast. “Porter un toast” translates literally as “carry a toast” and if you want to add who or what you are toasting to, add “à” and the subject. For example, “Portons un toast à votre remise des diplômes” which means “Let’s toast to your graduation.”
- Levons nos verres – This means “Let’s raise our glasses.” If you want to be specific, add “à” and your subject. For example, “Levons nos verres à votre nouvelle maison” means ” Let’s raise our glasses to your new house.”
French for Cheers with Friends
When you’re with friends, there are also several informal ways of saying cheers. Here are a few everyday examples of giving a toast in the French language.
- À ta santé or À votre santé – This is the most common way of saying cheers in French. It means “To your health,” which is what is most heard in French films and TV shows. “À votre santé” is the formal version, while “À ta santé” is better suited for friends and family.
- Santé – This is a shortened version of à ta santé because French people love shortening words. If you are unfamiliar with French colloquialisms, this is a safe word to say.
- À la tienne or À la votre – This is yet another take on à ta santé, which directly translates to “To yours.” It may sound confusing in English, but this is perfectly acceptable French for cheers.
- On trinque? or Trinquons! – Its English translation is “Shall we drink?” or “Let’s drink.” It’s a very informal way of saying cheers in French and is commonly used while talking about success or achievement.
- Tchin-tchin – The French adapted this phrase from the Chinese saying “qǐng qǐng,” which means “please please.” Or among friends, “Please drink!”
Other Ways of raising your Glass
- At a wedding, the customary toast is called le toast porté aux mariés. Which in English is “a toast to the bride and groom.”
- On occasions such as Bastille Day, the French say “Je lève mon verre à la liberté,” which means “I raise my glass to freedom.”
Some Rules, Traditions, and Superstitions
As much as there are formal and informal ways of French for cheers, there are also unspoken rules and traditions about drinking. Here are a few of those rules.
- As long as your glass is filled, don’t be tempted to drink immediately. Instead, wait until everyone else’s glass has been filled, then lift your glass to your face and wait for the proposal of the toast. As soon as the toast is made, clink glasses with people near you and utter any of the phrases above before you drink.
- The French frown upon toasting with any non-alcoholic beverage. Toasting with water means bad luck, it is the same as wishing death to the people around you, so your glass must always be filled with wine or other alcoholic beverages.
- Keeping your glass lifted while a toast is being delivered is customary. However, you do not put it down until the toast is made and everyone has clinked glasses and drank from their glasses.
- Don’t cross arms with someone else while trying to clink glasses with someone further away. It is said to bring you bad luck. And even if you don’t believe in such superstition, it would be rude towards the person you’re crossing arms with.
- If you are giving the toast, make sure that you involve the entire group. The French believe that it’s not good to make someone feel left out, especially in a formal setting. That usually also involves clinking glasses with everybody else, but that rule becomes impossible to obey when you are with a larger crowd.
There are many words and phrases in French for cheers, and there are also many rules to remember. However, the French are very open to teaching non-French people about their customs, so it’s easiest to ask what to do.
And now, let’s all raise our glasses. À votre santé!