How to Say Happy Birthday in French
If you’re anything like me you dust off your French learning books ever so often with the brilliant idea of becoming fluent again, only to realize you can’t even conjugate a verb anymore! So when you are about to go to a birthday celebration with a French friend, you quickly start googling what the appropriate thing to say in French is. Others who haven’t studied French might have another brilliant idea: learn a phrase or two to surprise a French speaking friend, or get by during a visit to a French speaking country, or territory. As the story goes, sooner or later you are bound to want to wish someone happy birthday in French. Below you’ll find some of the most popular phrases for doing so, as well as some French “happy birthday songs.”
The most common way of saying happy birthday by far is “joyeux anniversaire.” Directly translated “joyeux” means “happy,” “joyful,” or “merry.” “Anniversaire” on the other hand, means “birthday,” or “anniversary.”
“Joyeux anniversaire” is a term that is used both in France and in the French speaking parts of Canada, though it’s a phrase more commonly used in France.
You can also congratulate someone by saying “bon anniversaire,” “bon” meaning “good,” “happy,” “decent,” “right,” “correct,” or “tasty,” depending on how the word is used. It can also mean “coupon” (which is a noun as opposed to an adjective).
“Bonne fête” is the term most frequently used in the French speaking parts of Canada for wishing someone a happy birthday. However, you cannot use it in France, as it is translated to “happy name day” over there. In Europe each day of the year has several different names attached to it and you celebrate someone’s name day in a similar manner to how you celebrate someone’s birthday in some countries – it varies from country to country.
“Bonne” is the feminine version of “bon” (in the French language nouns are either feminine, or masculine and, as a result, the adjective changes depending on the noun – anniversaire is a masculine noun, hence it’s “bon” instead of “bonne”), whereas “fête” means “celebration,” “party,” “fun,” “feast,” or “festival.”
If you’re a day or two late with your birthday wishes, then say “bonne fête en retard,” which means “happy belated birthday.”
Instead of just saying “bon anniversaire” you can say “je te souhaite un bon anniversaire,” meaning “I wish you a happy birthday.”
If you just want to tell someone you wish them a marvelous/wonderful day, then you can use the phrase “passez une merveilleuse journée.” You can also say ”je vous souhaite une bonne journée.”
If you just want to give someone your best wishes on their birthday, then you can use the phrase “meilleurs vœux.” If you want to say “I give you my best wishes” then it’s “je vous souhaite mes meilleurs vœux.”
The Tongue Twisters
If you really want to go for it and wish someone a day of spectacular splendor, then say “en ce jour, je te souhaite que tous tes désirs deviennent réalité, que tu sois heureux, aimé, que tu n’aies que des rayons de soleil dans ta vie et bon anniversaire!” Directly translated it means that “on this day you’re wishing that all their wishes will come true, that they are happy, loved, have nothing but sunbeams in their life and have a happy birthday.” As that’s a direct translation it doesn’t sound great, but in French it flows a lot better!
Another elaborate birthday greeting, would be “dans ta vie, je te souhaite un ciel bleu sans nuages, bonne chance et beaucoup de joie! Joyeux anniversaire!” This means “I’m wishing you a life with a blue sky without clouds, good luck and lots of happiness. Happy birthday!”
Birthday Songs in France
As for birthday songs sung in France, there are two versions, of which one is by far the simpler.
Joyeux anniversaire [name],
Joyeux anniversaire !
As you can see that is not much of a challenge! The one below on the other hand, might take some practice before you learn it.
Bon anniversaire, nos vœux les plus sincères
Que ces quelques fleurs vous apportent le bonheur
Que l’année entière vous soit douce et légère
Et que l’an fini, nous soyons tous réunis
Pour chanter en chœur : “Bon Anniversaire !”
Birthday Song in Quebec
If you are looking to sing happy birthday in Quebec, then you’re in luck – it’s straight forward!
Bonne fête à toi
Bonne fête à toi
Bonne fête à [name]
Bonne fête à toi