à bientôt (au téléphone, vs. "au revoir")

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by englishman, Jul 17, 2006.

  1. englishman Senior Member

    English England
    Yesterday I spoke to a French woman by phone (who I don't know, but will be seeing in the near future). At the end of the conversation, I said:

    "À bientôt"

    to which she replied, very clearly, a couple of times:

    "Au revoir"

    and I got the impression that my expression was either some kind of faux-pas or just stupidly wrong. However, I can't see the sense of "Au revoir" under these circumstances - there's no "revoir" since there's been no "voir" in the first place.

    So, did I say something silly, or was she merely gently correcting me ? (or have I misinterpreted the whole thing).

    Moderator note: multiple threads merged to create this one
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2011
  2. Gardefeu Senior Member

    x
    x
    Neither, as far as I can tell.
    If you are indeed planning to meet her, there's absolutely nothing wrong with "à bientôt", which means "see you soon".

    Please note that "Au revoir" did mean "Till we meet again" originally, but that it bears nowadays no meaning of "see again" whatsoever. It's a standard and very neutral expression, just the same way "Good bye" has no hint of God in it, in modern English.
     
  3. MonsieurAquilone Senior Member

    Auckland
    NZ - English
    I agree with 'gardefeu', and I add that perhaps she was justing saying it for no reason. I remember commenting on something - saying "ah, c'est bon ca!" with the reply, "oui, c'est chouette, c'est chouette."
     
  4. englishman Senior Member

    English England
    Yes, I'm aware of the generic meaning of "au revoir", but it seems to me that in the situation that I described, it makes more sense to use "à bientôt", if anything.

    And re: her response: maybe I mumbled the words or something, and she didn't understand what I said, so she tried to get rid of the silly englishman by "au revoir" as clearly as possible :)

    En y réfléchissant de plus, je me demande si "au revoir" est plus formel de "à bientôt", et elle en veut me corriger poliment ?
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2011
  5. Gardefeu Senior Member

    x
    x
    Not very self-confident, are you, englishman?
    No, I shouldn't think she was trying to correct anything. It is quite common, when saying goodbye or hello, not to answer with the same expression.
    E.g.:
    -Bonjour
    -Tiens, salut!


    or

    -Bonsoir!
    -Oui, à demain!


    or
    -A bientôt!
    -C'est ça! Au revoir!


    It's a habit we have... I'm sure there's nothing more to it!
     
  6. KaRiNe_Fr

    KaRiNe_Fr Senior Member

    France, Provence
    Français, French - France
    Je pense comme Gardefeu, englishman. Ce serait étonnant qu'elle ait voulu te corriger.
    Je dis d'ailleurs comme elle, "au revoir", en raccrochant le téléphone. Je dirais "à bientôt" si j'étais plus certaine d'un nouvel appel peu de temps après celui-ci. Si elle pense comme moi (rien n'est moins sûr !), elle voulait peut-être te signifier qu'elle ne souhaitait pas que tu la rappelles de si tôt ? ;)
     
  7. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod

    IdF
    French (lower Normandy)
    Hello englishman

    Personally I've always been surprised to hear complete strangers whom you'll never see again say "see you".
    "au revoir" is the more common ending of an oral conversation.

    Working as a secretary at the moment, I can't imagine saying "à bientôt" to someone.
    I could say "à tout à l'heure" but not "à bientôt".
    It's what you say to friends or what your computer will tell you if you log off :D but I have the feeling it's not really formal and professional.

    Anyway, you'll never get it wrong if you say "au revoir"...
     
  8. polaire Senior Member

    English, United States
    [...]
    But "A la prochaine" is something you could say to friends and acquaintances (who you were going to see again) alike, right?
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2011
  9. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod

    IdF
    French (lower Normandy)
    Yes, it works with friends and acquaintances, and with other people I suspect: but definitely not a secretary on the phone. Maybe because she just answers the phone and you won't go to see her (not sure it's clear).
    I think that even shopkeepers could say that: "à la prochaine", see you again, but not necessarily soon, no pressure on you...

    Very colloquially you could say: "à la revoyure".
     
  10. englishman Senior Member

    English England
    Oh dear - You've got me worried again now - I probably insulted her or something. Can you explain why you "can't imagine saying à bientôt to someone" ? It makes it sound like a criminal offence.
     
  11. polaire Senior Member

    English, United States
    Thanks a lot. :)

    I await the answer from the francophones, but maybe because it's interpreted as putting a little too much pressure on someone you don't know.

    This is interesting because until now I didn't realize that there was much of a difference between "a bientot" and "a la prochaine."

    I've forgotten what "à tout à l'heure" signfies. So long until some unspecified time in the future?
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2011
  12. viera Senior Member

    Paris suburb
    English/French/Slovak
    Yes, at some unspecified time, but on the same day.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2011
  13. geophile New Member

    America, English
    From what I recall, "À Bientôt" is used amongst friend and family or in very informal situations; "Au revoir" is the more formal way to say goodbye. So, if this was a business call, or if you two had just met, the socially correct way to say goodbye would be "au revoir".
     
  14. franksanello New Member

    English-American
    A bientot, "see you soon," isn't meant literally in French or in English. Americans, at least, say "see" you when they're texting, phoning, emailing or in person. "See" is generic for "contact" you.

    As someone of Italian heritage, I prefer to say/write "goodbye" with a bilingual pun: Ciao for niao.

    Bonne chance, mon ami anglais!

    Frank Sanello
     
  15. Wozzeck Senior Member

    Paris
    French


    On ne peut pas vraiment savoir, ça dépend de la psychologie des protoganistes, de la manière dont s'est déroulé l'entretien téléphonique. C'est vrai que le "au-revoir" peut très bien être une manière de ne pas répondre la même chose en réponse à un "à bientôt", mais on ne peut pas non plus exclure que pour une raison ou une autre elle ait ressenti que son interlocuteur tendait à être trop proche d'elle, chose qui peut se produire fréquemment dans des rapports homme / femme, et ça n'a rien de grave, c'est le jeu des rapports humains, et d'une part de séduction qui peut apparaitre de façon involontaire ou qui peut être ressenti par l'un pas par l'autre, or dans ce contexte "à bientôt" est ressenti comme quelque chose de stressant donc on répond deux fois "au-revoir" pour tenir la personne à distance, mais c'est un simple réflexe défensif.

    Ceci étant, à titre personnel, si mon interlocuteur me dit "à bientôt", j'hésiterais à lui répondre "au revoir", car j'ai conscience que cet "au revoir" peut être ressenti comme un rejet, donc je m'efforce de répondre, "moi de même", ou un temps d'arrêt une poignée de main et à mon tour "à bientôt", mais chez la plupart des gens que l'on rencontre tout n'est pas forcément calculé, très loin de là, donc c'est vrai qu'il ne faut pas se formaliser outre mesure par des formules souvent toutes faites.

    D'autre part, s'il s'agit d'un contexte professionnel, un entretien d'embauche, le "à bientôt" doit être utlisé avec une grande prudence. Je ne dirai jamais "à bientôt" s'il s'agit de confirmer simplement la date d'un rendez-vous, à la rigueur je l'utiliserais si l'interlocuteur prenait l'initiative, en revanche si je juge que l'entretien en face-à-face s'est bien déroulé, il m'arrive très souvent de dire sciemment "à bientôt", moins par confiance que par une manière d'invoquer les Dieux pour forcer la chance, et montrer une enième fois à l'employeur que l'on est intéressé par le poste, que le courant est bien passé avec les personnes, mais c'est un jeu subtil, car l'employeur peut tout autant s'en offusquer, interpréter cela comme de l'excès de confiance... c'est un jeu (d'ailleurs c'est très amusant d'observer la réaction de l'employeur, que l'on met un peu dans l'embarras, car s'il répond "au revoir", ça peut être un mauvais signe, c'est une petite astuce que j'utlise pour forcer l'employeur à plus dévoiler ses intentions, son réel ressenti sur l'entretien).
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2013
  16. LMorland

    LMorland Senior Member

    Back in Berkeley until June
    American living in France
    I love your reponse (below), Wozzeck. It makes more sense to me than what gardefeu wrote, as it confirms my own impressions with my Parisian interlocutors.
     
  17. KaRiNe_Fr

    KaRiNe_Fr Senior Member

    France, Provence
    Français, French - France
    Salut Wozzeck,

    Puisque tu me cites, (même 7 ans après ;)) tu as bien dû lire aussi ceci, non ?
     
  18. grav9 New Member

    english
    it's not a criminal offense - it just shows that you are missing some cultural information. First off, business interactions in French culture are generally 'formal'. This means that you use formal style of discussion (using 'vous' verb form) and avoid colloquialisms. If you are speaking to someone you have never met, this rule does not change. Even if you have gone out to a business dinner with someone, this rule does not change.

    The rule is pretty easy to grasp - here are some litmus tests u can apply - can I talk to this person about my marriage? Can I talk to them about some family issue that's troubling me? If yes, perhaps they are more than a business associate. If you can't, if in fact you would be particularly uncomfortable talking to them about such subjects (or, conversely, listening to *their* family issues), then you know what to do - stick to the formal.

    'A bientot' is a colloquial phrase used with 'friends' or people with whom you are on 'familiar terms'. Business transactions in England or the US or Australia are perhaps equally formal but you don't recognize the formality. For instance, what would be your reaction if, after speaking to someone you never met over the phone, the person said, 'u betcha - see ya' or 'sure mate' or 'alright mateee see ya' or some other colloquialism? I suspect your reaction would be - who is this person? What are they talking about? Your reaction would likely be to just say 'good bye'.

    I'm exaggerating a bit to make a point but that's pretty much what happened to you and this french lady. If you try to be 'less formal', as you did by accident, the other party will naturally think one of two things 1) you are missing a cultural rule (as is that case for you) or 2) you are trying to get 'familiar' somehow. This second possibility will suggest to the other party that you are interested in possibly more than just a business relationship. I don't think u meant that did you!!

    Anyway, the best response on your part moving forward is not to 'mention it' - that will just redouble your mistake (unless u want her to think 1 or 2 above) but to just be properly formal with your next interaction.

    All will be forgiven.
     

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