In this lesson, we'll take a look at some of the different ways of welcoming people in French, all involving the word bienvenue (welcome).
In English, you usually welcome people to a particular place: “welcome to my house,” “welcome to New York,” and so on. In French, however, any number of prepositions can follow bienvenue, depending on their object:
Bonjour et bienvenue sur Yabla.
Hello and welcome to Yabla.
Bienvenue dans la plus chic des stations alpines, Gstaad.
Welcome to the most fashionable of the Alpine ski resorts, Gstaad.
Cap. 3, Le Journal: Gstaad
Bienvenue au théâtre, mes amis!
Welcome to the theater, my friends!
The choice of preposition specifies the kind of place where you are being welcomed. In the first example, Yabla is a website, and if you are on a website, you are sur un site web. So here you are literally being welcomed “onto” the website. In the second example, you are being welcomed “into” a ski resort, dans une station alpine. And in the third example, you are being welcomed to the theater: au théâtre.
Another way to welcome someone in French is with the expression être le bienvenu / la bienvenue / les bienvenus / les bienvenues (to be welcome):
Que les visiteurs soient les bienvenus sous mon toit.
May visitors be welcome under my roof.
Cap. 9, Il était une fois... L’Homme: 6. Le siècle de Périclès – Part 3
Ben, vous êtes les bienvenus à découvrir de visu...
So, everyone is welcome to come in and see with their own eyes...
Literally translated, the expression vous êtes les bienvenus means something like, “you are the welcome ones.”
Note that bienvenue used as a greeting (either alone or at the beginning of a sentence) is a feminine noun, short for je vous souhaite la bienvenue (literally, “I wish you welcome”). Therefore, its spelling doesn’t change. On the other hand, the bienvenu/e/s after être le/la/les is an adjective used as a noun that must agree with its subject. So you would write, Vous êtes les bienvenus/bienvenues en France, but not, Bienvenus/Bienvenues en France! The correct form would be: Bienvenue en France!
You can also put the above expression in the imperative form:
Soyez les bienvenus chez moi.
Welcome to my home.
It is also very common to see bienvenu/bienvenue used to express a wish, as in this sentence:
Vos suggestions seraient les bienvenues.
Your suggestions would be welcome.
And if you’re in Quebec, you’ll hear bienvenue used by itself to mean “you’re welcome.” So when you say merci (thank you) to a French person, he or she will respond with de rien or je vous en prie. But a French Canadian will answer, Bienvenue!
As you can see, you have a lot of options with this one elementary word. But no matter how you use it, you’ll definitely make people feel welcome!