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What time does bonjour become bon soir?


Daft Doctor

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Several times recently, as early as 4pm, I've greeted a passer by with 'bonjour' only to receive a reply of 'bon soir'.  I know that the reply of bon soir might relate to circumstances as much as the actual time, but is there a rule of thumb to follow so that an expat like me gets it right and doesn't feel completely stupid.  4pm just seemed very early (especially in June) to be greeting someone by 'good evening'.  Thoughts valued!   
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I don't think there are any hard and fast rules any more than there are for the number of cheek kisses you exchange.

The only definition I have heard which makes any sense is that 'bon soir' applies after business hours.

I think you could do worse than be guided by what you experience and if locals are commonly using 'bon soir' as early as 4pm then do likewise.

I'm not quite sure what being June has to do with anything though, 4pm is the early evening every day of the year [;-)]

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One of my neighbours is doing it on purpose, I'm sure. If I say "bonjour", she'll say "bonsoir", and if I say "bonsoir", she'll reply "bonjour".

Apparently, we are not alone.....

[url]http://www.culture-generale.fr/expressions/68-a-quelle-heure-dire-bonsoir[/url]

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[quote user="You can call me Betty"]One of my neighbours is doing it on purpose, I'm sure. If I say "bonjour", she'll say "bonsoir", and if I say "bonsoir", she'll reply "bonjour".

[/quote]

Happens 100% of the time like that around here, I did put it down to quaintness until I read the following on your link:

« C’est très gênant quand tu dis bonjour à quelqu’un et que lui te répond bonsoir. »

Ha ? Je le fais sans arrêt sans aucune arrière pensée et par pur automatisme, j’ai constaté la gène des gens maintes fois mais je n’ai jamais compris pourquoi

In my gym classes and diving training I am obliged to suffer this on average 150 times over 5 groupings so naturally it started getting to me, I decided to wait for the other person to decide whether it was day or evening with their greeting and reply in the same way in the hope that it might gêne them [:P], at the keep fit classes it didnt work as after 2 years there is still not one person that will speak to me, in the diving class you have to shake the hand and kiss everybody so the bonjour/bonsoir cannot be avoided, I note that as well as always replying in the opposite when they do the greeting they flit between bonjour or bonsoir despite it always being 20.00 hrs.

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Perhaps it is a bit more subtle than we realise. Taking the example of English, it used to be customary to change from 'good morning' to 'good afternoon' after one had had lunch or the lunch break. Could it therefore be that French changes from 'bonjour' to 'bonsoir', not when the time has changed but when the activity has changed or is about to change? Thus an after-work activity would be 'bonsoir' which could start quite early.

And perhaps there could be regional variations?

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My experience is that the response is 100% the opposite of the interrogation and that the interrogation from the same person evening to evening or even to different people the same evening is 50/50.

I can think of two hypotheses:

They (that is around here) are just trying to faire chiér.

Or its just common practice to respond with the opposite, perhaps to demonstrate ones wide vocabulary!

It was the comment I copied where the guy said I reply in the opposite without thinking about it but I see a lot of the time it upsets the other person, I just cannot understand why.

If it does genuinely upset many people, presumably French than perhaps it comes down to what type of person you are, you can see it upsats the other, you dont know why so you either stop doing it or take pleasure from doing it every time.

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I got round this years ago and stick with...... Monsieur, or Messieurs, or Monsieurdame, or Madame, or Mesdames. I say it politely and sometimes loudly, if say in the bakers, always with a nod and maybe a smile too, depending on who it is. Works all day and all night, you just have to watch who you are addressing. Friends can get Salut from me. And when I used to go to our get togethers, as I always got there a little later than everyone else and sometimes couldn't get there at all, I'd get 'Ah Idun' with some enthusiasm, and they would get a smile and a 'ca va' and a bisous.

And maybe I get away with this because of my english accent......  I don't know, I know it works for me though.

 

I asked my son about this and he said, after some thought, that it would depend at to whether it was winter or summer. We both decided that from 18h onwards it was definitely soir in summer and from around 17h in winter.

 

 

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I came across  good example about an hour ago. I had to dash to the brico last minute for something, before they closed.

The man who served me said "bon soiree" when I left. He was soon going to be on his way home.

The manageress said "bon jour". She had to tidy up and check the tills etc.

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I did it myself this evening, without wanting to I replied bonjour to a bon soir, perhaps we just dont like to repeat what the other has said.

I am going to start experimenting with "good evening!" and maybe even throw in some "good moaning"'s for good measure [:-))]

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But you can stick "bon" or "bonne" in front of anything at all. I told my neighbour I was popping down to the end of the road to take a photo and she wished me "bonne photo". Then you've got "bonne continuation" and, of course "bonne route". If you're truly cunning and know what your interlocutor is going to do next, you need never agonize over the time of day. Just wish 'em a good whatever-they're-doing-next.

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[quote user="You can call me Betty"]But you can stick "bon" or "bonne" in front of anything at all. I told my neighbour I was popping down to the end of the road to take a photo and she wished me "bonne photo". Then you've got "bonne continuation" and, of course "bonne route". If you're truly cunning and know what your interlocutor is going to do next, you need never agonize over the time of day. Just wish 'em a good whatever-they're-doing-next.
[/quote]

Exactly so!

When people pass my house, walking to the cemetary or walking their dog, I wish them bonne balade, bonne promenade, bonne continuation.

When I pass their house and they are eating outside, I wish them bon appetit.

If they are playing boules in their garden, I say bon jeu.

Perhaps, I shall now start saying bon jardinage or even bon bricolage?[:)]

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[quote user="Christine Animal"]

And if you're going to see them again later on (one for Chancer from his other thread), you can just say "à plus".   [:D]

(short for "à plus tard").

 

[/quote]

Ha! I remember writing that  (well, A+) on an e-mail to a student who thought I was giving a score to their efforts at French....[Www]

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[quote user="You can call me Betty"][quote user="Christine Animal"]

And if you're going to see them again later on (one for Chancer from his other thread), you can just say "à plus".   [:D]

(short for "à plus tard").

 

[/quote]

Ha! I remember writing that  (well, A+) on an e-mail to a student who thought I was giving a score to their efforts at French....[Www]
[/quote]

 

[:D][:D][:D]

 

 

 

 

 

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  • 3 years later...
Even more complicated for me is that I got a rocquet from one of our 3rd Age Club members for using vous instead of tu this afternoon at the AGM!! Kell orror [:-))]

I was always told that bon soir started exactly after the hour of 6, or half past 6 or 7 [8-)] and the number of times I have used the soir in the mid eve to get the reply of jour ???

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