How to Say Cheers in French and make a toast

CHEERS! Bottom’s up! Here’s to us! Easy peasy in English. But how do you say cheers in French? And are French toasting traditions the same as other countries? Let’s find out.

By Annie André ⦿ updated January 10, 2024  
Leonardo Di Caprio in the Great Gatsby making a toast
Leonardo Di Caprio in the Great Gatsby making a toast

Whether you’re in Paris, Bordeaux, Nice, or Montreal, knowing how to say cheers in French and give a toast is an essential skill in social settings.

The French tradition of sharing a drink with friends, family, or colleagues and clinking your glass is a common way for French people to socialize, relax, and engage in conversations, especially during the French apéro.

However, there is more than one way to propose a toast and many French toasting expressions. That’s why it’s important to know which expression to use during different social settings and follow proper etiquette.

From the classic “à votre santé” to the lively “trinquer” (French for cheers), we’ll explore the various ways to propose a toast and say cheers in French, along with the toasting etiquette and traditions that go along with it, including the myth that you can’t or shouldn’t toast with water in your glass. 

 I’ve also included a bawdy French drinking song with a video demonstration, just for fun.

So, whether you’re enjoying a casual glass of wine with friends during an apero, a formal wedding, or attending a French New Year’s Eve party, read on to learn how to say cheers in French and how to properly participate in French drinking traditions.

You might be interested in this list of 77 Predinner Drinks: Ultimate guide to French Apéritifs.

How to say cheers in French: What are some expressions to say cheers in French?

caricature of French man wearing a beret and holding a glass about to say cheers in French

1) To your Health

  • à votre santé : (Formal/Plural)
    The polite or formal way to toast to someone’s health. Also, use this when clinking glasses with a group of people because “votre” is the plural version of (your). 
  • à ta santé : (Informal/Singular)
    Use this when toasting with a person you know very well, a good friend, a family member etc. 

One of the most common ways to say cheers in French and many different languages is to toast to someone’s health. 

 It is a way to show appreciation for the occasion and the people you are with. There are several expressions commonly used to say “to your health” in French. The most common one is “à votre santé,” which is a formal and polite way to toast to someone’s health.

Here is the formal and informal way to say “to your health” in French.

2) Health

  • Santé

Another popular expression used to toast in French is “Santé,” which translates to “health” in English. Santé is just a shortening of the toast “à votre santé” and “à ta santé” (to your health.) It’s perfect in casual situations and might even be the most popular way of saying cheers in French with friends.

3) Here’s to you! / Here’s to yours / Here’s to us

  • à la vôtre (Formal/plural)
    Use it for toasting to a group of people or when you need to be more formal.
  • à la tienne (Informal/singular)
    Use this when toasting with a single person you know well, like a friend or family member.
  • à la notre = Here’s to us

For a more casual setting, you can use “à la vôtre” or “à la tienne,” which both mean “to yours,” but idiomatically speaking, is like saying here’s to you. Both are less formal than “à voter santé.” Alternatively, you could also say, “Here’s to us” (à la notre.)

Another way to use these two informal ways of saying cheers is as a response. For example, if you’re with friends and family members and someone raises a glass and says “à votre santé” (cheers to your health), you could reply in a more casual and friendly way by saying “à la vôtre,” or “à la tienne.”

4) Toast to (add any word here) 

Although toasting to health is a popular and straightforward toast to raise your glass to in France, you can toast to just about anything from love and friendship to passing your French exams.

Here are some common toasting phrases in French. All you have to do is say “TO ” followed by anything.

  • To Love  (à l’amour)
  • To life (à la vie)
  • To friendship (à l’amitié)
  • To us (à nous deux) Literally means to us two, or the both of us.
  • To madness (à la folie)
  • To our loves (à nos amours): This is also the name of a great French film from the 1980s. 
  • To our dogs (à nos chiens)

5) Let’s drink

  • On boit!
  • Buvons!

“On boit” and “Buvons,” French for “let’s drink,” is technically not a toast, but it’s a casual way of suggesting everyone raise their glass and drink. You should use it for ​informal situations. 

When proposing a more formal toast, you might want to use the phrase “Levons nos verres” (Let’s raise our glasses).

Buvons is the first-person plural of the French verb boire (to drink). I’ve conjugated the verb below for reference. 

  1. je bois – I drink
  2. tu bois – you drink
  3. il/Elle/on boit – he/she /one drinks
  4. Nous bouvons – We drink
  5. Ils boivent – They drink

6) Cin Cin 

  • Tchin Tchin
  • Tchin (abbreviated version)

Tchin Tchin in French is pronounced the same as in English / chin chin/.

The origins of this toast are unclear, and there is quite a bit of lore about its true origins.

Is it an onomatopoeia?
One theory is that Tchin Tchin is an onomatopoeia that represents the sound of clinking glasses.

Is it an Italian expression?
One theory is that it’s a made-up Italian expression based on Cinzano, Italy’s famous sweet vermouth brand.

The story is that “Cin” was the shortened version of the brand name that people started saying around the 19th century. From there, it travelled to France and the rest of Europe, and now every country seems to use this expression.

Is it an old Chinese expression?
And finally, one theory is that Tchin-Tchin comes from the old Chinese expression, Qǐng qǐng, which means “please please.” This was supposedly the way Chinese people used to toast, as in “please please, let’s drink.”

7) Bottoms Up

  • Cul Sec

When toasting with hard liquor, you may hear the expression “cul sec,” which loosely translates to “bottoms up.” This means you should drink until the glass is empty, preferably in a single shot. You wouldn’t say this with a full pint of beer. 

“Cul sec” loosely translates to “bottoms up,” but it literally means “bottom dry” because “Cul” literally means ass, and sec means dry in French. And when you drink until there is no more liquid, the bottom is dry. “Bottom dry.”

How to propose a toast or drink?

There are several ways to propose a toast in French; you can say “porter un toast” or “lever nos verres,” which means “let’s raise our glasses.”

These expressions are often accompanied by a specific subject, such as “aux mariés” (to the newlyweds) or “à ton BAC” (to your high school / secondary diploma).

Let’s review the various ways to propose a toast or a drink. 

8) Let’s cheers! (Let’s make a toast)

  • On Trinque! / On Trinque?
  • Trinquons! / Trinquons?

“On trinque?” (shall we toast?) is a more casual expression.

Trinquer is from the French verb “Trinquer,” which has multiple nuanced idiomatic meanings; “to clink glasses” as well as “to drink” and “to cheers.” It’s a borrowed French word from the old high German “trinken” from Proto-West Germanic “drinkan.” (FYI, Proto-West Germanic is the ancestor of all West Germanic languages.)

Trinquer has a second meaning, “to suffer.”

 Double entendre

Here’s a French proverb using the verb trinquer to toast/to suffer in a clever double entendre (meant to be interpreted in two different ways.) 

  • “Les parents boivent, les enfants trinquent.”
    • The Parents drink, the children suffer.
    • The Parents drink, the children drink.

9) Let’s raise a toast! (to something)

  • Portons un toast!

In French, “Porter un toast” loosely means let’s toast, let’s raise a glass or let’s raise a toast, and it’s mainly used in formal situations and events like at a wedding or work event. Some might even think it’s a little pretentious for gatherings with close friends. 

So, if you want everyone to raise a toast, you could say, “Portons un toast.”

By adding “à” to the end of the phrase, you can also suggest raising a toast to someone, something, a sentiment, or an achievement. 

For example, here are some ways you could say  if you’re out with friends or co-workers, you could say:

  • “Portons un toast à l’amitiés” = Let’s raise toast to friendship.
  • “Portons un toast à l’amour“= Let’s raise toast to love.
  • “Portons un toast à la vie“= Let’s raise a toast to life.
  • “Portons un toast à la nouvelle année” = Let’s raise a toast to the new year.
  • “Portons un toast aux nouveaux mariés = Let’s cheers to the newlyweds.

10) Let’s raise our glasses to…

  • Levons nos verres à
  • Levons nos verres aux

“levons nos verres,” which means “let’s raise our glasses is very similar to “portons un toast” (let’s raise a toast). And it’s a fun way to get everyone to raise a glass for a toast. 

When making a toast in French, it’s important to use the appropriate phrase or expression for the occasion. Here are some examples:

  • To the newlyweds or married couple: “Levons nos verres aux mariés”- Let’s raise our glasses to the newlyweds.
  • To old friends: “Levons nos verres aux vieux amis”- Let’s raise our glasses to old friends.
  • To love: “Levons nos verres à l’amour” – Let’s raise our glasses to love.”
  • To friendship: “levons nos verres à l’amitié” – Let’s raise our glasses to friendship.
  • To mothers: “Levons nos verres à toutes les mères” – Let’s raise our glasses to all mothers. 
  • To freedom: ” Levons nos verres à la liberté” – Let’s raise our glasses to freedom.

There’s also a fun song called “levons nos verres,” which would be fun to add to your playlist. 

YouTube video player

You might be interested in these famous French songs: 71 Most famous French songs of France of all time: That everyone knows

11) Let’s go or Go on

  • Allez!

In French, “Allez” ( “Let’s go” or “Go”) can be used for just about anything, including to encourage someone to drink. In this context, it’s like saying “Go on” or “Come on,” as in shall we drink? 

  • Allez, on boit! (Come on, let’s drink!)
  • Allez, on boit un verre! (Come on, let’s have a drink!)
  • Allez, on boit aux amis! ( Come on, let’s drink to friends!)
  • Allez, on boit un dernier verre! (Come on, let’s have a last drink!)
  • Allez ! On boit un coup à ta santé! ( Come on, let’s drink to your health!
  • allez, on boit un petit coup! ( Come on, let’s have a little drink:)
  • Allez on boit un coup aux restau! ( Come on, let’s have a drink at the restaurant!)

The French word “coup” has various meanings in French, including a blow, hit, shock and a drink.

BONUS) French Drinking song: “Friend, raise your glass, and above all, don’t spill it…”

Once you’ve had just enough booze to be in the singing spirit, you can always bust out with a French drinking song.

“la chanson à boire.”= Drinking song

There are quite a few French drinking songs, but let’s focus on a bawdy French drinking song called:  “He’s one of us” (Il est des nôtres.)

“la chanson paillarde”= Bawdy song or lude song

The song begins with everyone singing, Friend, friend, raise your glass, and above all, don’t spill it,” often adding someone’s name to the song.

Then everyone touches their glass to their forehead, nose, stomach, and crotch, followed by a toast. 

The song is meant to encourage camaraderie and celebrating together with friends while having a good time

Watch the video below to see how it’s done. Directly below the video are the French lyrics with English translations. 

Did you know that the French Onomatoepia for glug glug is “Glou, Glou?” It’s an important part of this French drinking song. 

YouTube video player

Il est des nôtres
French Lyrics  English Translation
Ami(e) (add name),
lève ton verre!
Friend (add name),
raise your glass,
Et surtout, ne le renverse pas ! But definitely don’t spill it!
Et porte-le And put it
au frontibus to your forehead
au nasibus to your nose
au mentibus to your chin
au ventribus to your stomach
au sexibus to your crotch
et glou et glou et glou… Glug, glug, glug, glug, glug,
(* keep repeating
until the drink is chugged)
Il est des nôtres! He is one of us!
Il a bu son verre comme
les autres !
He finished his drink like
the others
C’est un ivrogne he’s a drunk
ça se voit rien qu’à sa trogne ! You can tell just by looking
at their head!
Santé! Cheers

*Some versions of this French drinking song swap out the words ventribus and sexibus with ventarium and pissarium. 

French toasting etiquette

bunch of people in France toasting in French while making eye contact

What are some special occasions where French people commonly make toasts?

Toasting is an integral part of French culture and shows the importance of sharing and celebrating life’s moments together.

Like most cultures, French people commonly make toasts at weddings, birthdays, New Year’s Eve, and other special occasions. They also raise a glass to celebrate milestones, achievements, and personal victories. 

And most importantly, it’s a great time to say cheers while drinking a glass of wine or a cocktail during the French apero. 

What is the proper way to toast in France?

When French people toast, they usually clink their glasses while making eye contact with each person they’re toasting with. It’s a sign of respect, camaraderie, and good manners. But there’s more to it than that.

No matter which phrases you use when raising a glass and saying cheers in French, if someone initiates a toast, here are the most important social norms and toasting etiquette in France.

  • If you are making the first toast, make sure everyone’s glass is full (if you can). 
  • Hold your glass by the stem or the base.
  • Raise your glass and say cheers in French using one of the French phrases above. I like to say santé.
  • As you go around gently clinking glasses with everyone, make eye contact and look each person in the eyes. This is very important. It shows respect and appreciation for the other person. 
  • Don’t take a sip until everyone has clinked glasses with one another.
  • Take a sip with everyone at the same time. It’s rude not to take a sip from your glass.
  • After everyone has clinked glasses and sipped from their drink, you can put your glass down on the table but not before.

Why do you have to make eye contact when clinking glasses in France?

As I already mentioned, when clinking glasses with someone in France, it’s considered polite to look that person in the eyes and maintain eye contact while clinking. This practice was a little freaky to me initially, but you get used to it after a while.

No one knows for sure how this custom began, but there are some pretty interesting theories. 

According to the French website Le Figaro, one theory is that making eye contact dates back to medieval times, when people were afraid of being poisoned when they drank with others.

 They thought that if they clinked their glasses together, the liquid in the drinks would mix, and the person they were drinking with wouldn’t want to poison themselves. So if the person looked down, it meant he or she was looking down to ensure they didn’t poison themselves. If they kept eye contact, then they were safe to drink.

Can you toast with water? The superstition behind this old belief

Champomy: sparkling apple juice for Christmas meal

Yes, it’s perfectly fine to toast with water, juice or any other non-alcoholic beverages. After all, someone might be pregnant, need to drive home, have to take medication, or not like alcohol. Even children in France join in the fun clinking of glasses and toasting with juice or their little glasses of Champomy, a popular fizzy apple juice that comes in a bottle that looks like champagne.

However, some people in France strongly believe you shouldn’t clink glasses with another glass with water or a non-alcoholic beverage. Some even think that doing so will bring several years of bad luck. 

This belief comes from the outdated ideas of the Middle Ages when water was often associated with disease and misfortune. During this period, people had a limited understanding of hygiene and lacked proper sanitation systems for purifying water.

As a result, people often relied on alternative beverages, such as ale or wine, which were considered safer to drink due to the fermentation process.

à voter santé

Be confident in your French drinking tradition knowledge and etiquette.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a 'petite commission' at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through my links. It helps me buy more wine and cheese. Please read my disclosure for more info.

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Annie André

Annie André

About the author

I'm Annie André, a bilingual North American with Thai and French Canadian roots. I've lived in France since 2011. When I'm not eating cheese, drinking wine or hanging out with my husband and children, I write articles on my personal blog for intellectually curious people interested in all things France: Life in France, travel to France, French culture, French language, travel and more.


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