Ça va
French

What is Ça va and how to use it like a pro

Ça va is surely one of the few things that you will encounter as a beginner. This is mainly because ça va is a popular and versatile expression that can be used in a variety of contexts.

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The literal translation of ça va is “it goes” or “that goes.” This expression is most commonly used to inquire about someone’s well-being, even if you are not expecting or desiring a response.

For example:

  • Salut, ça va? (Hi, how are you? /how are things? /how is it going?)

This expression can be considered informal. This means you should use it with caution in certain situations, especially when addressing people with vous (formal/plural) rather than tu (informal/singular).

Learn the difference between different French expressions, for example, being a French learner, it is important for you to know the difference between tout vs tous, so that you can use the right expression at the right time.

Now in the rest of the post, we will discuss the uses of Ça va in different contexts and how you can use this expression without making any mistakes or errors.

Ça Va as a response

Now that you have asked someone how they are doing, or, as in the preceding example, someone has just asked you, you need to know how to respond. Simply respond with ça va in a neutral to positive tone of voice—only if you are feeling that way (that is pretty obvious). For example, you can say:

Ça va. (I am fine/ everything is good.)

In order to make your response a stronger one, you can add a positive adverb such as bien (well). For example:

Ça va bien. (Things are going well.)

Many French students believe that the phrase comme si, comme ça (like this, like that) is appropriate at this point, especially if you are feeling “just fine” or “not very well”.

You are more likely to hear ça va in the positive form, but in a tone that suggests the speaker isn’t feeling well for whatever reason.

If you want to be more obvious about your negative feeling, you can simply say:

Ça (ne) va pas. (Everything is not good/ I am not okay.)

You can also express this by using the adverb mal (badly).

Ça va mal. (Things are not going well.)

Now, that was how ça va is associated with describing how you are feeling. There are several other contextual uses of this expression. If you want to speak French fluently, book your lessons with italki. Along with 150 other languages, italki has the right resources to make you learn French online.  You can have a free trial lesson to assess your learning pace and experience.

Ça Va and its association with fashion

Assume I have just walked out of a fitting room wearing a suitably tailored pair of trousers. We are close friends (i.e., we use tu), and you would like to compliment my fashion sense by saying, “hey, those trousers look great on you!”

In which case, you can say

Ça te va bien! (That really suits you!)

Or if you think the trouser doesn’t look good on me but want to be polite and honest, you can say

Ça te va pas. (That does not suit you.)

Use of Ça Va to call in sick

No matter, if you are too tired because of yesterday’s shopping or you have been working all day, there are two handy expressions you can use to express this, especially if you need to call in sick:

Je ne me sens pas bien. (I do not feel well.)

Ça ne va pas. (I do not feel well.)

Now, let’s look at it in the light of an example in a professional setting:

Boss: Bonjour __, c’est très tôt—ça ne va pas? (Hello__, it is very early—is there something wrong? / are you sick?)

You: Oui monsieur/madame, ça ne va pas du tout. Je crois que j’ai une gastro-entérite. (Yes, sir/madame, I do not feel well at all. I think I have gastroenteritis.)

Use of Ça Va to make everyone happy

When you want to know if what you are suggesting is acceptable to someone else, use a ça va.

It can begin the sentence as in:

Ça (te) va si j’achète cette voiture? (Is it okay if I buy this car?)

Or at the end of a sentence as a fast validation:

Je veux y aller ce soir—ça (te) va? (I want to go there tonight—is that alright?)

Let’s have a look at an example:

Ça te va si je m’assois là? (Is it alright if I sit there?)

Je peux manger le sandwich qui reste—ça (te) va? (Can I eat the leftover sandwich—is that okay?)

Ça Va to express that something will happen

This expression can be used to indicate that something will occur. Something will happen in the future, as indicated by the construction ça va + infinitive.

Let’s say you have had a bad day, you ruined your favorite shirt or you just got late for an important meeting and you are feeling drained and decide to share the story of your day with a friend or a loved one.

In this situation, they might respond with something like:

Ça va passer. (It will pass.)

Ça va aller. (It will be alright.)

You can, of course, change the meaning to say something will happen negatively by using mal (badly), as we have seen before:

Ça va mal finir. (It is going to end badly.)

Use of Ça Va with plural nouns

Ça va can be used to ask how everyone is doing. So if there is a whole group of friends sitting together, you will definitely use a phrase like:

Ça va les gars? (How is it going guys?)

Les gars are plural, but the verb does not conjugate to reflect this. Another situation in which ça va can be used in this manner is when a parent enters their son’s study area to inquire about his homework:

Comment ça va les devoirs? (How is the homework going?)

To make use of ça va in different contexts, you need to learn French grammar. Knowing French grammar, vocabulary words, and pronunciations are what will make you a fluent French speaker.

Use of Ça Va to indicate that future situation is going to be difficult

A few expressions that begin with ça va indicate that a future situation will be difficult, or more precisely “heated.”  For example:

You: Mais qu’est-ce qui se passe? (What is happening?)

Friend: John a encore joué un tour à Pierre. Ça va barder. (John has played another trick on Pierre. Things are going to get heated).

Use of Ça Va when someone is being hypocritical

There are times when someone is being hypocritical and is unable to justify their words. Maybe your friend is always making fun of how bland your cooking is, even though they can’t cook themselves! In English, we might say something like: “that is rich coming from you!” or “you can talk!”

For example:

Ça te va bien! (Figuratively—that is rich coming from you!)

By now, you should have a better understanding of the many applications of ça va.

Conclusion

Now that you are aware of how it is used, you will probably start hearing it when you hear native French speakers speak French. How can you put this expression into practice so that you can use it yourself? You can also get yourself a French teacher to make you understand the contextual use of ça va as well as the use of several other French phrases.

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You should strive to see ça va used in as much authentic native content as possible to contextualize its meanings. There are numerous options, such as reading French books, listening to French music, watching French TV shows, and so on. Locate ça va and take note of the scenario in which it is used. French language learning programs such as italki can also help you practice ça va and other expressions in context. They can also provide their own unique tools to help people remember things in the long run.

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