Toasting Etiquette I saw a toast on one of my detective shows and needed a translation. It seems, along with all the other manners we’ve lost in this world, the art of elegant and proper toasting is now extinct. I’m having none of it!!! Namaste, The Queen Cronistsa
French toast, anyone? We’re not talking about the delicious bready breakfast pain perdu! We recently showed you how important body language is for communication in various parts of the world, and France is no exception. If you’re celebrating over a meal or at a party, you’ll need to know the right way to give a toast in French. So today, we’re talking about how to say cheers in French, why the toast so important, and the weird and wonderful way that saying cheers in French became a performance in itself!
What’s the Occasion? Choosing the Right Vocabulary for Your Toast
Food and drink is a huge part of French culture, so if you’re spending some time in France with natives, you’re likely to be part of a toast. Let us walk you through the who, what, where, when and why of how to give a toast in French, the right way.
If you’re the one who is giving the toast, you’ll need to choose the right way to propose a toast in French depending on the event. Let’s have a look at the different situations where you might need to propose a toast, and how to do it!
- Where and when? Specific events and celebrations
Who? Know your audience!
As with anything you say in French, you’ll have to consider who you are talking to. Remember that in French, there are two types of address: tu and vous. Well, when you want to say cheers in French, you need to consider this too. There are formalways to give a toast in French, and there are separate phrases for toasting with friends.
Giving a formal toast in French
There are two common ways that the French formally give a toast. The first official way to propose a toast is to porter un toast. Lift your glass and suggest to your listeners, “Portons un toast.” If you want to tell people who or what you are toasting, add “à” and your subject. For example, “Portons un toast à la santé du nouveau-né” (Let’s toast to the health of the new baby).
The second formal way to propose a toast in French is to say “Levons nos verres” (Let’s raise our glasses). In the same way as portons un toast, you can add “à” and your subject to make this more specific.
Toasting with friends in French
No matter how much of a party-goer you might be, not all toasts are at special occasions. If you’re saying cheers in French with your friends, keep it simple. Here are some easy ways to say cheers in French, and sound like a native when you do.
- À ta santé / À votre santé – the most common way to say cheers in French. This literally means “to your health.”
- Santé – the French love to shorten their words and phrases, and this is simply a shortened version of à ta santé. If you don’t know whether to use a formal or informal way to say cheers, then this is a safe bet.
- À la tienne / À la votre – this is another spin on à ta santé. It translates to “to yours.” This doesn’t make much sense in English, but the “santé” is assumed.
- On trinque? / Trinquons – this literally means “Shall we drink?” / “Let’s drink,” and is a very informal way of giving a toast in French. You might use this in a conversation about an achievement or success.
- Tchin-tchin – another very informal way to toast in French, this phrase comes from the old Chinese adage “qǐng qǐng.” This means “please please.” As in, please drink!
What? Dos and Don’ts when Saying Cheers in French
- Never toast with non-alcoholic beverages
In France, making a toast with water or fruit juice is considered bad luck. The Greeks used to toast with water to signify the journey of a loved one into the afterlife. Definitely not something you want when you’re proposing a toast to a new marriage or baby!
- Stay cool, no ice
In France, never add ice to your wine. And if you have to, do it in secret! Making a toast in French with ice in your glass is a big no. Even vin de glace (ice wine) doesn’t contain ice. When your ice melts, it dilutes your wine, which is considered an insult to the art of the vigneron (wine-maker). Not very French!
- Think before you drink!
If you’re the one who is proposing a toast in French, make sure everyone has a full glass before you start. And when we say full, we mean French full – half empty to allow your wine to breathe.
- Look into my eyes
In France and most of Europe, eye contact is key. If you are saying cheers during a toast, look into the eyes of the person you are clinking your glass with. If you fail, you are doomed to seven years of bad luck or bad sex, depending on who you ask!
- Keep it up
Keep your glass lifted for the entire speech, and until everyone has finished clinking their glasses. Don’t set your glass down until everyone has had their first sip!
- Bottoms up
If you are making a toast in French with hard liquor like whisky, and you hear someone say “cul sec” (dry bottom), that’s your cue to… well, dry the bottom of the glass. Drink until your glass is empty, in one go if you can. Be careful with this one though. If someone is making a toast and calls for a cul sec on a full pint of beer, maybe rethink that!
- Why so Serious? The Story Behind the Curious French Toast
Il était une fois en France…
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