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Help?: Happy Birthday en français

It might seem like a very simple question, but how do you say Happy Birthday in French?

I have heard that the common ones are:

  • Joyeux anniversaire

  • Bon anniversaire

  • Bonne fête (which I think is used more in Quebec, so let's focus on the other two unless I'm mistaken)

Is there a difference (other than their literal translations)? Which would I write on/in a friend's birthday card?

Which is used most in Switzerland, if anyone happens to know that?

Thank you very much!

July 26, 2017



You can say Joyeux anniversaire or Bon anniversaire: it is the same but Bonne fête is a little different because "fête" means "party". Bonne fête is used for the days like Valentine's Day


Il y a plusieurs possibilités: Bonne fête, Joyeux anniversaire de naissance, Bon anniversaire. Au Québec, nous disons le plus souvent Bonne fête.


The first two are uncommon in France.


The French side of my family reserve bonne fête for saints days, never for birthdays.



We do not say 'anniversaire de naissance' either. Since it is the person's 'anniversaire', it has to be the anniversary of their birthday, of course. If the person was born 300 years ago, though, we can celebrate 'le 300ème anniversaire de sa naissance'. In other words: we only use 'anniversaire de naissance' for dead people.


We use generally "joyeux anniversaire" It's the perfect translate of Happy birthday . "Bon anniversaire" is also use, but less commonly.


Thank you very much :) are you French?


you're welcome, and yes I am French :)


Sorry but I have another question! :') - How would you say 'Happy 16th Birthday'? (I would like to write it on the front of a card)


In general, we don't specify the age of the personne in french to wish him/her. Or otherwise, you add after "joyeux anniversaire", "Déjà 16 ans ! :) " (already 16 years old) or "16 ans déjà" (the same things) But if you want really say that like that, you can say "Joyeux 16e anniversaire" but it is a little strange. ^^


Okay, this is super helpful, thank you for your help:)


In addition to Lamicorne's very good answers, I will mention that the young generation often uses a shortened version of 'anniversaire', with no stable spelling: 'annive, anniv, annif' (I hate that one), and in general paired with 'Bon' because it is shorter than 'Joyeux', but the latter is also used. 'Anniv' and 'annif' are equally common; 'annive' not as much.

You will not get wrong with 'Joyeux anniversaire', though. But there are things you need to know, like 'à toute' (à tout à l'heure), 'bon ap' (bon appétit) and 'bon annif'.

EDIT: Lamicorne is now Kamorii.


Au Québec, ça pourrait être: Joyeux 16e anniversaire de naissance! (Je viens du Québec)

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