Say it Right: How to Choose Between ‘Bien’ and ‘Bon’?

Wondering how to say “good” in French? Is it “bien” or “bon”? Is “bien” an adjective or an adverb? Why do we say “Un bon film” but “Le film est bien”? These questions can be confusing and lead to mistakes. But don’t worry, this article will help clear things up!

Firstly, it’s important to understand that “bon” is an adjective and “bien” is an adverb. This means that “bon” can only be used as an adjective and not with action verbs like “manger” or “parler”. For example, you can say “Je parle bien français” but not “Je parle bon français”. Therefore, “bon” can be translated as “good” and “bien” as “well”. However, it’s not quite that simple.

In French, you can also use “bien” as an adjective. “Bon” is used as an adjective in predicative descriptions, where it works with a state verb like “être”, “paraître”, or “devenir”. For example, “La baguette est bonne” means “The baguette is good”. You cannot use “bon” with action verbs as it would become an adverb.

On the other hand, “bien” is used as an adjective in a predicative description with state verbs like “être” and others. For example, “Le film est bien” means “The movie is good”. It can also be used as an adverb with action verbs like “Je dors bien” (I sleep well). However, “bien” cannot be used with a noun, so you cannot say “Un bien film”.

Finally, when using comparative forms, “bon” becomes “meilleur” and “bien” becomes “mieux”. With food, use “meilleur” as in “La baguette est meilleure” (The baguette is better), and with anything else, use “mieux” as in “Le film est mieux” (The movie is better).

To summarize, “bon” is used with predicative descriptions with state verbs, and “bien” is used with predicative descriptions with action verbs. “Bien” can also be used as an adverb. Remember that “bon” can be used with nouns as an attributive adjective, but “bien” cannot.

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