Your Guide to Congratulating and Praising in French
Have you ever wondered how France natives congratulate each other? Do they bring a bottle of champagne? Do they buy a gift? Or do they just simply say “congratulations?” This guide will teach you how the French praise and celebrate someone and how to say well done in French. Let’s take a look at the phrases French natives use to congratulate each other, as well as the gestures preformed during a celebration.
How NOT to give praise in French – the Bien Fait trap
When you literally translate “well done” into french you get “bien fait.” However, this is NOT the correct term to use when congratulating someone because it has a negative connotation and means “serves you right.” If someone cut you off while getting on the train, and on their way out they accidentally tripped, you would think “bien fait,” meaning they deserved what happened to them. Another example would be if someone ate too many sweets and got a stomach ache. In this example, you would say “bien fait,” meaning “that’s what comes of it.” The expression is used as a way to show that the outcome of a particular situation was just and fair. As you can see from these two examples, “bien fait” is not the correct way to congratulate or praise someone.
So, how do you say well done in French then?
There are several expressions which are commonly used to give praise in French. As you could see above it is important to use the correct words and phrases when congratulating in French because literal translations are not always accurate.
This interjection bears the same meaning as in English and is often used to congratulate someone, e.g. on a task done well.
Literally translates as “congratulations” and is used in the same sense as in English.
3. C’est fantastique
Translates as “this is fantastic” and is used to comment on extraordinary achievements.
4. C’est super
Literally “this is great”. This phrase also means that the accomplishment was great and fantastic.
How Do You Celebrate in French Culture?
When someone accomplishes something great, whether it be a promotion at work or an engagement to their spouse, it is important to show acts of celebration. For example, many people in North America will drink champagne on special occasions or write someone a card. In French culture, it is common to drink champagne on special occasions as well, such as weddings, anniversaries, parties and holidays. In fact, champagne originated from the Champagne wine region of France. There is nothing more French than a glass of champagne.
French natives do not hug to congratulate, much less hug at all in any public setting. It is the norm to kiss people hello when you meet them on the cheek, also known as “faire la bise.” Hugs are not common in social or public settings. Therefore, when an accomplishment or celebration occurs, hugging is not the norm.
In many cultures, it is common to bring a dessert item to a celebration. For example, in America, many people bring cupcakes to a birthday party. When French natives get together with friends or family for a celebration, they will typically always bring a few things with them. They may bring wine, bread or pastries. Everyone enjoys good food and drinks, therefore when celebrating, it’s critical to have the best food and drinks at the party.
More Ways to Say Well Done in French
As mentioned previously, the literal translation of “well done” is not accurate and could possibly land you in some trouble with the French! To make sure you are expressing your true feelings when congratulating someone, make sure to use the words and phrases mentioned earlier. However, there are a few more ways to compliment someone and their accomplishment. For example, you can use precise phrases to show approval or admiration for something. Saying “Je suis impressioné” is great for expressing approval and literally translates as “I’m impressed.” You can also use “C’est très beau,” meaning “it’s very beautiful.”
Interestingly enough, even though “bien fait” has a negative connotation, “C’est bien fait” means “that’s well done.” It is acceptable to use this form of the phrase, as it has a positive connotation. However, never use “bien fait” by itself. Remember there are a variety of words and phrases to congratulate someone, based on the situation. Use a mix of them to show your praise, appreciation, admiration and respect. Wishing someone well and praising their accomplishment is not difficult in French, even if you are new to the language. As long as you avoid the classic trap of “bien fait” your words and phrases of praise will be well-received.
Well done Meat
And just in case you were looking for “well done” in the sense of meat well cooked, the correct phrase for that would be “bien cuit“.