FR: bien / bon

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loudsox

Member
USA - English
Moderator note: The question about the difference between bien and bon is extremely common and has been discussed extensively. Many threads have been merged here. This thread is therefore very long but it is also quite complete. See also the following related discussions: mal / mauvais & mieux / meilleur.


Je suis allée en France l'année pasée et j'ai entendu beaucoup de "c'est bien" et "c'est bon." Est-ce qu'il y a une différence entre les deux? J'ai demandé cette question à une femme française et elle m'a dit que, si on parle des choses qu'on peux gouter ou sentir ou quelque chose comme ça, on dirait "c'est bon." Elle a dit qu'on utiliserait "c'est bien" dans les autres cas. Vous êtes d'accord? Vous pensez qu'il y a une vrai différence?

- Jen
 
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  • fetchezlavache

    Senior Member
    france
    this is a tough one. basically and in general, your french friend is right.

    still, we can use 'c'est bon' when we mean 'i'm through', 'you did well', 'this is enough' etc...

    so it's quite tricky... :( :eek:
     

    semiller

    Senior Member
    USA-English
    Yes, I agree this is a tough one. Although languages claim to have rules, in reality how often are they really followed? To be honest as I tell my students, languages are alive and ever so changing. Native speakers determine the rules of languages, not fine written lessons in textbooks. Case in point, "Elle va bien v. elle est bien." Elle va bien=She's doing well. Elle est bien=She's good looking. Yes, one would think, elle est bonne would work here, but the meaning would change a little. Que pensez-vous les autres?
     

    fetchezlavache

    Senior Member
    france
    elle est bien doesn't necessarily mean she's good looking. the context is important semiller.

    par exemple : you can also say that from a teacher : comment est ta prof d'espagnol ? elle est bien.


    regarding elle est bonne, same thing. it only has a slang meaning 'she's good in the sack' when the context says it.

    comment est la tarte aux pommes ? elle est bonne. ;););)
     

    semiller

    Senior Member
    USA-English
    Yes, I agree context is quite important. I guess I didn't really mention that, but I totally agree. I guess I have heard "elle est bien" usually in the context of "she's good looking." I knew that "elle est bonne" meant that she was good in bed, but just didn't have the guts to say that on here. I'm truly impressed with your knowledge of English slang! How did you know that expression, "She's good in the sack?" Chapeau pour ton anglais Fetchez! ;)
     

    Isotta

    Senior Member
    English, Hodgepodge
    Alors, je pose cette question assez élémentaire : quand utiliser "c’est bon" et quand utiliser "c’est bien" ? J’ai l’impression que "c’est bien" est plutôt la réponse à une situation

    Carlos : L’examen est bien passé aujourd’hui !
    Clotilde : Ah, c’est bien !

    tandis que "c’est bon" soit plutôt un objet, ou un dîner

    serveur : Ça y a été ?
    Valentin : C’était très bon, merci.

    Mais parfois j’entends l’inverse.

    Auriez-vous des conseils ? Si cette question a été déjà posée, j’aimerais bien être dirigée au fil.

    Merci d’avance ! Si cette question a été

    Z.
     

    geve

    Senior Member
    France, French
    Question élémentaire, certes, mais fondamentale ! :)
    Let me try to explain (j'accepte volontiers toute contradiction ou remarque !)

    "bon" is an adjective and generally used for food, or for something that gives sensual pleasure :
    (meal) c'est bon. In a restaurant you could also hear C'était très bien, as an equivalent of C'était parfait (meaning the food, the service...)
    (scent) ça sent bon
    (massage -and the rest...) c'est bon / ça fait du bien

    "bon" also means correct, ok :
    (checking ID) c'est bon, vous pouvez passer

    "bien" is an adverb (=does not take gender or plural) and used to express satisfaction
    (congratulations) Tu as rangé ta chambre ? C'est bien !
    (approval) - Pour Noël j'enverrais une carte à mes amis américains. - C'est bien
    (likes and dislikes) Ce film était très bien. L'actrice joue très bien. J'aime bien les films américains. But : C'était un bon film (not "c'était bon" :cross:)

    So... it's a lot more complicate that one (francophone) could think...
    Maybe a trick could be to think of what you would say if you meant the contrary : mal or mauvais ?

    Now let's check if you understood : bon/bien/mal/mauvais
    Tu as tout bon ? C'est bien ! :D
     

    Isotta

    Senior Member
    English, Hodgepodge
    That was my problem, because in English, it's almost always the adjective "good" after "to be," unless you say something like, "All is well."

    Apparently it's idiomatic.

    Z.
     

    french4beth

    Senior Member
    US-English
    Hi Kertek,
    Yes, sounds like an adverb - maybe it's supposed to mean "well done," "well made," "well directed," or some such - it sounds like a verb is missing.
     

    kertek

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The dictionary says that "bien" can be an adverb, as in "il joue bien au foot", or an adjective, as in "ce film était très bien."

    But I'm still not clear on the nuances. What differences do native speakers hear between these sentences:

    "Il est bon, ce film!"
    "Il est bien, ce film!"
     

    geve

    Senior Member
    France, French
    yeah, I was fearing this might come up... :D
    There is this problem of "bien" being used syntaxically as an adjective - and that's why originally I elaborated a little more than Somody.

    So "bien" is indeed an adverb and an invariant(?) adjective. And after checking, it seems that in this thread we're only talking about "bien" adjective... (and that "bon" can also be an adverb... see, I just didn't want to introduce too much confusion !)
    So I will beg forgiveness to you for my lack of accuracy. Please accept as an act of contrition this humble synthesis I've made of what atilf.atilf.fr has to tell us about "bien adj. inv." :

    Bien adjectif invariable :
    - Emplois discursifs. Qui correspond exactement à certains critères d'appréciation individuels ou collectifs
    => Digne d'admiration, Digne d'estime pour ses qualités, ses vertus, D'un comportement agréable, favorable à autrui, Qui remplit correctement son rôle

    - Emplois interjectifs. C'est bien! C'est fort bien! C'est très bien! marque l'approbation, parfois avec une nuance ironique

    Bien adverb :
    Emplois discursifs. En rapport avec certains critères d'appréciation individuels ou collectifs; d'une manière exactement adéquate à l'idée ou à l'effet attendu(e), propre à recevoir l'approbation
     

    geve

    Senior Member
    France, French
    kertek said:
    "Il est bon, ce film!"
    "Il est bien, ce film!"
    Both are correct : you can either say "c'est un bon film" or "c'est un film bien".
    What you CAN'T say is "c'est bon" talking about a movie (that is how I understood and answered the question : c'est + bon/bien :eek: )

    I'm starting to think only a non-native who is feeling quite secure with both terms could explain the difference in a more simple way... :confused: (Benjy, are you there ?)

    (there are 4 or 5 pages on "bon" in the TLFi, so it doesn't just seem complicate... it IS complicate !!)
     
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    glaswegian

    New Member
    French / France
    I think when we (native speakers) use "Il est bien, ce film!" we mean that we like the movie.
    En sortant du cinéma, si on dit que le film était bien, c'est qu'on l'a apprécié, qu'il nous a divertit... On a passé un moment agréable. Il y a donc une notion de divertissement.

    Dans "C'est un bon film", il y a également une notion de qualité je pense. Qualité du scénario, du réalisateur, des acteurs...
    Par exemple au Festival de Cannes, le jury va récompenser un film que l'on qualifiera de "bon film" plutot que de "film bien".
     
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    E-J

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I am comfortable with "bon" and "bien" in most contexts but I'm determined to sort out why you can use "bon" to describe a film in some situations but not in others!

    I will have a stab at finding the nuance here ... If I'm completely off the mark, please let me know.

    "C'était bon" can describe a meal I've just had because it was a good quality meal which is now finished, gone, eaten. It was good while it lasted!

    "C'était bon" CAN'T describe a film I've just seen because the film, although over, remains a good quality film (which can be watched again, by me or by somebody else). Instead, I have to say "C'était bien", which refers to my particular experience of the film on that occasion - or I can say "C'est un bon film" because it is still a good film even though I've finished watching it.

    Am I coming at ALL close?
     

    Agnès E.

    Senior Member
    France, French
    E-J said:
    Pourtant je ne comprends toujours pas vraiment pourquoi on peut dire "C'était bon" pour parler d'un repas, mais non pas pour un film? :confused:
    Parce que l'on ne mange pas le film !
    C'est bon = cela a bon goût.
     
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    Tchesko

    Senior Member
    Czech
    I would like to add this:
    The use of "bon" vs "bien" depends on the way you turn your sentence around. You can say "c'est un bon film", which is a neutral observation (or pretending to sound so). You can also say "il est bien, ce film", which rather reflects a subjective opinion, but you usually wouldn't say "il est bon, ce film" (well... you might say so if you passionately loved the film); "c'est un film bien" is also possible (this observation is likely to be followed by "mais sans plus" or something similar, meaning the film is quite good).
    Do the natives agree?
     
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    xav

    Senior Member
    France
    Puisqu'il y a une question restée sans réponse, je me permets d'ajouter tardivement mon grain de sel. Pour moi, "native", "bien" a plutôt un sens moral et "bon" une connotation sensorielle. Le premier est en principe un adverbe et le second un adjectif, mais l'usage a mêlé les deux au point de créer avec "bien" cet adjectif invariable qui me fait un peu frémir.
    Sous cette réserve, "c'est un film bien" me paraît possible, avec un sens moral : qui élève l'esprit. Comme on dit "c'est un homme bien" = "c'est quelqu'un de bien".
    Ceci dit, sans aucun doute cette nuance est en voie d'extinction (j'allais dire : de perdition...).
     

    judkinsc

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I can't add much to the definition, but perhaps I can throw out a couple alternates for 'bien', which sometimes work in English translations.
    It can, at times, mean "fine". Like, "C'est bien" for "That's fine".
     

    sunbeam1

    Senior Member
    English, Scotland
    Which is right! I think im going over old material but having read it all still not sure!

    context:
    Ce qui est bien/bon dans ma ville est...

    Merci d'avance!
    :)
     

    sunbeam1

    Senior Member
    English, Scotland
    Oui je comprends bien ca, mais en fait c'est qu'en ce cas, je comprends pas si le mot que je cherche la bas est un ajectif ou adverbe:

    Par exemple:
    C'est bon : concernant exactement ce qui est bon dans la ville (le college par exemple)
    C'est bien : concernant le verbe etre, et donc on utilise l'adverbe.

    Argh, j'espere que j'ai bien expliqué ma probleme!
    :)
     

    CARNESECCHI

    Senior Member
    French / France
    Hello,
    On dit:
    "Ce qui est bien, dans ma ville, c'est qu'on n'y est jamais loin de la campagne"
    mais on ne dit pas
    "ce qui est bon, dans ma ville, c'est le collège", on dit "ce qui est bien, dans ma ville, c'est qu'il y a un bon collège"
    Hope it helps (or does it ?)
     

    vidyalicious

    New Member
    English, USA
    I've heard from a native French speaker that "Elle est bonne" is the equivalent of something like our "She's hot" or "She's smoking"

    So, not necessarily an expression of how good she is in bed, but just her physical appearance.
     

    vidyalicious

    New Member
    English, USA
    My French exchange student put it similarly:

    Bon
    (as previously stated) is for foods, smells, sense descriptions
    OR
    for state of existence of a person
    For example, "T'as mal?" or "Tu m'en veux?" or "Tu veux encore du rix?", the response being, "Non, c'est bon."

    Bien
    being for all other cases. So a skirt is bien, a film is usually bien, and events and situations are bien (that's the "C'etait bien". I would usually prefer the former in these two cases:
    "C'est un bon film" vs "C'est un film bien"
    "Le film est bien" vs "Le film est bon"
    Maybe that's personal or maybe there's somethign more to it.

    […]
     
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    oldirtybrza

    Member
    Canada (English)
    im uncertain if these are interchangeable... here in quebec, i tend to here "c'est bon" in the sense of "that's fine" but the wordreference page says 'bien' can be used to say 'fine', 'alright', etc

    any thoughts?
     

    FrançoisXV

    Senior Member
    Français, France
    i'd say, as already discussed
    that's good = c'est bon
    that's fine = c'est bien
    good/fine job = bon boulot.
    mind "c'est bon!" can mean something like "that's enough!, stop it!"
     

    SweetMommaSue

    Senior Member
    USA
    USA/American English
    Thank you FrançoisXV! I learned something new! I never knew that "c'est bon!" could mean "That's enough! Stop it!" and "bon boulot" is new for me, as well. :)

    However, are c'est bon/bien interchangeable?:confused: I would think so. Can someone give an example or two where they are not?
     
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    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    In modern (colloquial)french, c'est bon and c'est bien are virtually interchangeable, c'est bon meaning ça va (it's OK, fine, alright). The original meaning (which has somewhat been lost) was that bon is generally for TASTE, bien for the state of things (good/right) ...
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    PS : Regarding what SweetMommaSue said about c'est bon ! meaning that's enough ! (true), it is also linked to the use of ça va , which, according to intonation, can have opposite meanings.
     

    Mjollnir

    Member
    English, Canada
    Bien = well.

    C'étais bien fait = It was well made.
    J'ai bien dormi = I slept well.

    Bon = good

    C'étais un bon repas = It was a good meal.
    J'avais une bonne idée = I had a good idea.

    C'est bien = It is well
    C'est bon = It is good

    Both expressions in English are interchangeable, but 'it is well' is pretty obscure and old, very few people use it.
     

    Matcauthon

    Senior Member
    English Canada
    You could say bon and bonne, or you could say bien and bienne, but how do you distinguish what to use between the two?
     

    [Marc]

    Senior Member
    French France
    Bon is for things and bien is more for actions, I would say...
    Bon gâteau, bonne voiture
    Il a bien travaillé, elle a bien fait les courses.
    Bienne does not exist.
    Marc

    Bon is an adjective whereas bien is an adverb.
     
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    Punky Zoé

    Senior Member
    Pau
    France - français
    [Marc];2035332 said:
    Bon is an adjective whereas bien is an adverb.
    Bien can also be used as an adjective:
    Tout est bien qui finit bien
    Je suis bien dans mes chaussures
    un homme bien
    And it's also a noun
    Avoir des biens
    Faire le bien...
     

    [Marc]

    Senior Member
    French France
    un adverbe peut servir d'adjectif, c'est donc normal que bien n'échappe pas à la règle. La réciproque n'est pas vraie, sauf erreur de ma part. Un adverbe est invariable, pas un adjectif : bien n'est pas un adjectif.
     

    calembourde

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    [Marc];2035318 said:
    Bienne does not exist.
    I am sure the Biennois will be upset about that! Bienne exists, but it's a place, not a feminine form of bien. :)

    In general I think something is bon if it tastes/feels/smells/sounds/looks good, and bien if it's good in some more abstract, moral sense, though there are exceptions. I remember reading a great thread about this topic a while ago. I can't find it now, but I remember the examples given were:

    c'était bon for a meal.

    and

    c'était bien for a film.

    After much discussion of why this was, and many attempts to define a general rule, somebody hit upon the idea that the film was bien because it was good and, in a way, still is good (the good ideas from the movie still exist in your head) while the meal was bon, because it was good but it's gone now. I might have mis-remembered this, I really wish I could find that thread.
     

    PSIONMAN

    Senior Member
    Br English
    Pourquoi bien? Parce qu'il faut un adverbe, et que bon est un adjectif... ;)
    I'm trying to sort out the difference in my head. My dictionary (Collins Robert) says that both bien and bon can be an adjective, an adverb (and a noun)

    je me sens bien

    but

    ça sent bon

    on est bien ici

    but

    je suis bon en anglais

    Are there any rules about when each one should be used, or do you just have to learn the usages by rote?
     

    balaam

    Senior Member
    french (belgium)
    by rote, i'm afraid (btw the french would says "apprendre par coeur")

    the problem is that "feel" is a reflexive verb in french; AND it talk about both inner feeling and smell.

    i feel good = je ME sens bien = i feel fine
    It feel good is litteraly ça sent bien (feeling) a never used sentence; but for french it mean it smell good.

    je ne le sens pas = I don't feel it = I have a bad feeling about it
    je ne sens rien = I don't smell it OR I have no such a bad feeling

    ça sent bon = It smell good (cooking)
    ça sent mauvais = it smell bad AND I have a bad feeling about it
    je le sent bien = I got a good feeling OR of course I smell it
     

    PPP

    Senior Member
    English
    I'm still unclear on the basic distinction between usage of "bien" and "bon"

    le restaurant est bien?

    le plat est bon? bien?

    la fille est bien? (in the sense of elle travaille bien)

    Is there a rule? Thank you!
     

    themfactor

    New Member
    United States, English
    the distinction between bien and bon in French is the same as the distinction between well and good in English.

    In the case of "Elle travaille bien", it means "she works well". Well is describing the way she works, as bien is modifying the verb travailler.

    If you were to say "Le plat est bon", it means "The dish is good". Good is describing the dish, just as bon describes le plat.

    Hope this helps =]
     

    PPP

    Senior Member
    English
    Thank you very much! I realized last night that the "well"/"good" distinction might help me, and your examples are great.

    But how would I say "she is really great" =

    elle est très bien?
     

    [Marc]

    Senior Member
    French France
    Elle est excellente, elle est très bonne (you need an adjective, here, not an adverb)
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    I beg to differ with the above.
    If you are talking about a girl (female person), you would say :
    -elle est bien, elle est très/vraiment bien
    saying "Elle est excellente, elle est très bonne" would have a sexual connotation, probably rude and offensive.
    This being said, it is true that the difference between bien/bon is not always clearcut in French.
    As themfactor mentioned, basically bien refers to a state of things whereas bon should refer to the taste (normally NOT the appareance).
    But you could say : ce restaurant est bon (food is good)
    ce restaurant est bien (atmosphere, service, location is good).
    You will also say, c'est un bon film/livre, but would rather say ce film est bien (bon is possible, but in that syntactical order less frequent).
    You could also say : c'est un bon appartement (location is good etc), cet appartement est bien (well-equipped).
    Some idiosyncrasy is involved here.
     

    [Marc]

    Senior Member
    French France
    Elle est excellente, elle est très bonne" would have a sexual connotation, probably rude and offensive
    Not "elle est excellente" ! Concerning elle est très bonne, it would depend on the way you say it. Whereas "elle est très bien" could be a bit condescending... once again, it would depend on the way you say it...
     

    themfactor

    New Member
    United States, English
    Whether you would use bien or bon is very circumstantial. Grammaticly, in the sentence "elle est très bien", the verb etre is being modified by the adverb bien. So you are saying, she is very well, as in, she is being well.

    You would say elle est trés bien, if it was a response to a question inquiring to her state of being. You would say Elle est trés bonne if the question was inquiring to her person, or was asking for a description.
     
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