When it comes to learning a new language, one of the most important – but often overlooked – skills is knowing how to give compliments. After all, what good is it to know how to say “hello” and “thank you” if you can’t also tell your friends and loved ones how great they look today?
In French, as in any other language, there are specific words and phrases that are used for complimenting someone. And, while it may seem like a simple task, giving compliments in another language can be tricky. That’s because you need to take into account cultural norms and etiquette when praising someone in a foreign tongue.
So, if you want to start impressing your friends and loved ones with your French skills or simply want to tell someone “Good job!” in French, read on.
Starting off with a basic Bravo! or Félicitations! (Congratulations!) is a great way to express your admiration for someone in French. But, when it comes to giving compliments more specifically, there are some key words and phrases that you should know.
So, here are some French words for praising someone on a fine job.
Bon travail !
Bien joué !
Well done! (literally: well played!)
C’est du bon boulot.
It’s a good job. (more casual)
C’est du bon travail.
It’s a good job. (more formal)
Bon effort !
And, of course, you can play with these phrases in a sentence:
C'était un travail de première classe.
That was first-class work.
C'est ce que j'appelle un bon travail !
Now that's what I call a fine job!
Vous avez fait un excellent travail aujourd'hui.
You did a really great job today.
Vous faites un excellent travail.
You're doing a great job.
Compliment Someone’s Looks
Now, let's get more down-to-earth and learn some of the most common compliments people make. Yes, we're talking about phrases you can use to tell your friend or loved one that they look great.
There are numerous ways to do that in French, so here are just some common ones:
Tu es beau.
You are beautiful. (male)
Tu es belle.
You are beautiful. (female)
Tu es mignonne !
You are cute!
Tu es charmant.
You are charming.
Tu es superbe !
You look fantastic!
With the same structure, you can create numerous compliments – just change the adjective. However, remember that French adjectives should always agree with the subject, and their endings will change depending on whether you’re talking to a man or a woman.
Of course, just like with any compliments, you can also get more specific:
Tu as de beaux yeux.
You have beautiful eyes.
J’adore ton sourire, il est tellement charmant.
I love your smile, it’s so charming.
J’aime beaucoup ta nouvelle coupe de cheveux.
I like your new haircut.
J’aime bien cette couleur, elle te va vraiment bien !
I like this color, it really suits you!
Je veux le même t-shirt !
I want the same T-shirt!
Tu as beaucoup de goût.
You have great taste.
Compliment Someone’s Personality
Of course, looks are not the only thing that matter, so you also need to know how to compliment someone’s personality. Fortunately, if you already know some basic French words, that will be easy.
Just like with the compliments above, choose the right adjective, and go on:
Tu es très sympa.
You are very nice.
Tu es adorable.
You are very sweet.
Tu es drôle.
You are funny.
You can also compliment someone’s skills:
Tu chantes bien.
You sing well.
Tu dessines vraiment bien.
You draw very well.
Tu as une bonne conduite.
You have a good driving style.
Or, dive a bit deeper into positive qualities and create more complex compliments:
Ça, c’est vraiment intelligent !
That’s what I call smart!
J’adore ton sens de l’humour !
I love your sense of humor!
J’apprécie ta sincérité.
I appreciate your honesty.
Tu es tellement attentionné !
You are so considerate!
Tu fais vraiment bien la cuisine !
You really are a great cook!
Just as you can praise someone for their work, there are also specific phrases that you can use in French when you want to encourage them – for example, after a test or a big project.
So, if your friend just nailed an exam or your colleague just finished a huge project, let them know with one of these encouraging words:
C'est bien pour toi !
Good for you !
Vous avez réussi.
You did it. (formal)
Tu l'as fait !
You did it! (casual)
Je savais que tu pouvais le faire.
I knew you could do it.
Tu l’as bien mérité !
You’ve earned it!
Vous l'avez bien compris !
I'm very proud of you.
Ça a l'air facile !
You made it look easy!
You can also use the following phrases to motivate someone (or even yourself) to keep going:
Vous l'avez presque maîtrisé !
You've almost mastered that!
Tu t'améliores chaque jour.
You're getting better every day.
Ça avance bien.
That’s coming up nicely.
Continuez comme ça.
Keep it up.
Eh bien, regarde toi aller !
Well, look at you go!
Continuez à travailler dur !
Keep up the hard work!
Vous apprenez vite !
You’re learning fast!
Vous êtes sur la bonne voie maintenant.
You're on the right track now.
Respond to Compliments Correctly
Finally, you also need to know how to respond to compliments – after all, you won’t be just giving them, but also receiving them.
Here are some things you can do:
- Express your gratitude. Say Merci ! (thank you!) or Merci beaucoup ! (thank you very much!)
- Answer with another compliment. Complimenting someone back is just as common in French as it is in English. You can simply say Toi aussi ! (you too!) or be more creative.
- Don't deny compliments or try to explain why you don’t deserve it. This will sound awkward, so just embrace the compliment, and accept it with modesty.
Compliments in French Culture
Unlike in English, compliments are not so common in French culture. While French people do appreciate compliments, especially good ones, they don't give them as easily as others often do. For example, in the workplace, it's unusual to encourage someone with a compliment. Instead, if you don't hear any complaints, that already means you're doing a good job.
Many French people also won't give "fake" compliments, meaning that they will only say things they mean. Your French friends won't be drastically honest about your new outfit, but they might say something like, "It's original, but I wouldn't wear it."
Generally, the French are usually not super enthusiastic about things – they won't be screaming or jumping in awe in front of a beautiful dress, and their compliments can feel a little bit cold. That is, unless they have a certain agenda with you – for example, trying to invite you on a date or sell you something.
However, this friendly honesty also signifies that if someone compliments you on something, they really mean it. So, embrace it, and don't be shy if someone praises you.
Giving compliments in French can be tricky, but it's worth the effort to learn how to do it properly. Use these phrases to learn how to give compliments in French as well as how to encourage and motivate others.
Remember that when you compliment someone in French, it shows that you've put effort into learning the language and its culture – so, get out there, and start impressing your friends and loved ones today!