Are you going to visit your French friend’s birthday? Do you want to impress someone on their special day? Well, we’ve got an interesting idea - wish them a happy birthday and sing them the birthday song in French.
Sounds interesting? Well, then make sure to keep reading. Today’s topic is birthday expressions in French. Here, you’ll find everything you need to know to wish someone a happy birthday, write a birthday card, or even attend a birthday party.
And what about singing the birthday song in French? We’ve got it here. In this article, you’ll learn all the necessary French vocabulary to have fun during someone’s special day and make that person really happy.
First Things First… How Do You Wish Happy Birthday in French?
There are several ways to say “Happy Birthday” in French, but “Joyeux anniversaire !” is the most commonly used phrase
“Joyeux anniversaire !” is widely used in Europe. It is the standard birthday greeting for the Parisian French. Its English translation would literally be “Happy Birthday.”
Joyeux anniversaire !
Is There Something Interesting About Vocabulary?
The French word “joyeux” is also pretty common in other celebratory wishes - for example, in Joyeux anniversaire de mariage (Happy wedding anniversary). You can also use it to wish someone a happy Christmas or New Year.
When it comes to the word “anniversaire,” it means “anniversary,” but it can also mean “birthday.” It is an appropriate birthday greeting for people of all ages, so you can use it whether the birthday person is turning 21, 36, or 50.
How can you distinguish whether “anniversaire” means a birthday or an anniversary? That’s simple - look at the context and the preposition de. If you have something like “anniversaire de mariage,” it will definitely mean a happy anniversary. If you see the word “anniversaire” alone, it’s implied that it’s the anniversary of your birth, or your birthday.
What About Grammar in “Joyeux anniversaire ?”
The one interesting thing here is the space before an exclamation point - that’s not a mistake. In French, certain punctuation marks require a space before and after them. These include:
- exclamation marks - as you might have guessed
- question marks
- the percentage mark
- currency symbols
- the hash
- and the guillemet
...Or Say “Bon Anniversaire”
“Bon anniversaire !” is another common way of saying “Happy birthday” in French. While “joyeux” means “happy,” “bon” is translated as “good.” Because of that, the meaning also changes.
While with “Joyeux anniversaire,” you’re wishing someone a happy birthday, “bon anniversaire” implies wishing a good birthday experience. So you’re basically saying, “have a good birthday.”
Bon anniversaire !
How Do You Pronounce That?
Both in “Bon anniversaire” and “Joyeux anniversaire,” a liaison occurs, which means that the last sound of the first word moves to the beginning of the second. In a liason, words blend together. Because of it, you will pronounce the sound eux with a nice zzzz at the end - as well as pronounce the n at the end of “bon.”
So, “Joyeux anniversaire” will sound similar to something like: zhwah-yeuh⤻zah-nee-veR-seR, and “Bon anniversaire” will sound like boh⤻nah-nee-veR-seR. Want to listen to a native speaker pronouncing it? Check out our app.
Be aware that when pronounced out loud, “Bon anniversaire” does sound like “Bonne anniversaire.” Nevertheless, “anniversaire” is masculine - remember that.
How to Use These In A Sentence
If you want to use these phrases to make a whole sentence to give someone your best wishes, simply add “I wish you” to “Joyeux anniversaire” or “Bon anniversaire.” For example, you can say:
- Je vous souhaite un bon anniversaire !
- Je vous souhaite un joyeux anniversaire !
- Je te souhaite un bel anniversaire ! (I wish you a beautiful birthday).
Feel free to interchange “te” and “vous” depending on the formality of the situation.
For When You’re in Canada - “Bonne Fête”
While classic French “Joyeux anniversaire” may be widely used in Europe, it’s less common in Canada. Across the Atlantic, you’re more likely to hear “Bonne fête” (Have a good party).
Have a good party
Of course, if you don’t want to learn a new phrase, you can always use “Bon anniversaire” in Canada - most French speakers will understand you. However, it’s best not to say “Bonne fête” in Europe - there, this expression is used to celebrate a person’s name day, which doesn’t usually fall on their birthday.
Forgot About Your Friend’s Special Day? Wish Them a Happy Belated Birthday
Let’s say you forgot about your friend’s birthday. Don’t worry, that can happen to anyone. And just like in English, you can wish someone a happy belated birthday, you can do the same in French.
Simply add “en retard” at the end. It means “late” or “belated.” This way, you get Joyeux anniversaire en retard !
Joyeux anniversaire en retard !
Happy belated birthday!
Don’t want to say that in person? Why not send the birthday boy or girl a gift and a birthday card?
What Can You Write on Birthday Cards for a French Birthday?
Well, you can always simply say “Joyeux anniversaire” on the card. In many situations, this will be enough. But if you want to make your French friend happy and/or show how well you know the language, here are some other ideas:
- Mix this with other phrases for better effect;
Que cette nouvelle année t’apporte plein de bonheur !
May this new year bring you lots of happiness!
Quelle belle journée pour fêter ton anniversaire !
May this birthday be particularly happy!
Nevertheless, it’s not super popular to send someone a card for their birthday today. You can use these phrases to send birthday wishes via SMS or Facebook messages - or add a card to the birthday gift.
How Do You Call the Birthday Boy or Girl in French?
While French birthdays are pretty similar to American or British birthdays, some things are different.
First of all, birthday parties are almost never fancy. For a milestone birthday, parents or friends may organize a costume party with lots of dancing. However, you’ll never see people renting ballrooms and arranging incredible activities, such as bouncing castles or magician’s visits for children.
Second of all, there’s no term that is similar to the English “birthday person.” At a French birthday, you’ll most probably hear something like Le héro du jour (m) or L’héroïne du jour (f) (Hero of the day). French people can also say C’est ta journée or C’est ton jour (This is your day).
Le héro du jour / L’héroïne du jour
Hero of the day
C’est ta journée / C’est ton jour
This is your day
What About the Happy Birthday Song?
Aside from the points listed above, French birthdays don’t differ much from American ones. People give gifts, say their wishes, and, of course, sing “Happy Birthday.” Want to do that, too? Here are the lyrics:
Joyeux anniversaire (name of the birthday person)
Sing this to the traditional “Happy birthday” melody. If you remember about the liaison, you will sound like a native French-speaking person.
What About Canada?
In Canada, the melody will be the same, but the lyrics will be a little different. Here they are:
Bonne fête à toi
Bonne fête à toi
Bonne fête à (name of the birthday person)
Bonne fête à toi
Have You Forgotten About the Cake?
If you’re the person responsible for the cake, then you need to know this important piece of information. In France, birthday cakes tend to be really simple.
While some Americans like to go all out with an elaborate Pinterest-worthy cake, le gâteau d’anniversaire doesn’t have to look like it was made by fairies. A French birthday cake often has no frosting or elaborate decorations, and only a couple layers. In France, you’re more likely to see a minimalist cake with subtle flavors and lots of fruit or nuts, such as a fruit tart.
If you need to get a cake for someone’s birthday, you can easily order it at your local pâtisserie - pastry shop - and even ask them to write “Joyeux anniversaire” on it.
Then at the party, when everyone gathers in one room, you’ll dim or turn off the light, light the candles on the cake, and sing “Happy birthday.” Don’t be surprised when everyone starts singing it in French and then in English. Believe it or not, that’s quite common in France.
Learn Some Basic Birthday Wishes in French
Want to broaden your vocabulary even more? No problem. Learn some other ways to wish a happy birthday in French. With these phrases, you’ll be sure to impress that special someone on their birthday.
Je te souhaite pour l’année à venir du bonheur et de l’amour !
I wish you (plenty of) love and happiness for the upcoming year!
Beaucoup d’amour, du bonheur et plein de beaux moments partagés avec ta famille et tes amis. Bon anniversaire.
Lots of love, happiness, and many beautiful moments with your family and friends. Happy birthday.
Aujourd’hui marque la naissance de la personne la plus belle, la plus douce, la plus gentille que je connaisse ! Et oui c’est ton anniversaire ! Je t’aime.
Today marks the birth of the most beautiful, sweetest, kindest person I know! Yeah; it’s your birthday! I love you. (For when you’re saying happy birthday to your loved one.)
Ça fait quoi d’être vieux/ vieille ?
How does it feel to be old? (This is a sarcastic wish for when you’re good friends with the birthday person.)
To Sum It Up: Have Fun!
So how does it feel knowing that now you can attend a French birthday and feel like a native? After all, you have learned everything you need to have fun during a French birthday party.
You can now wish a happy birthday, sing the birthday song in French, and even write elegant birthday cards. You will definitely be able to participate fully in any birthday event. Now that you are familiar with the main birthday traditions, you also know what to wear, when to send a card, and what cake to expect.
However, there’s so much more to learn about French. There are so many more exciting things to learn. Read other articles on our blog and download our app to practice your French and become fluent quickly. And make sure to have fun along the road - after all, learning French can be exciting!