What is the difference between bon and bien in french?

Though you could say this problem is a fairly basic one, this was always a question I had difficulty with during school, and I felt that I never got a clear answer. Having now spent a year in France, I will do my best to explain.

Fundementally, 'bon' is an adjective and 'bien' is an adverb. That is, if you want to say a 'good book' you would say 'bon livre' or a 'bonne glace' for 'good ice cream' (here we use bonne as glace is a feminine word). 

On the other hand, you might say 'tu cuisines bien' (you cook well) 'il a bien joué' (he played well). Here bien is the adverb of the sentence, and can be translated as 'well'. 

One difficult more specific difference between the two words is comparing 'c'est bon' and 'c'est bien'. If you go to France you will probably hear these two expressions a lot, and it's important to understand the difference between them. 

'C'est bien' is easier to directly translate into English, it simply means 'that's good'. So, for example, you might after someone gets a good grade, you'll tell them 'c'est bien'. Or if you've just enjoyed a nice holiday and somebody asks you how it was, you might say 'yeah it was good', i.e. 'oui c'était bien' (c'est bien in the imperfect). 

'C'est bon' on the other hand can be roughly translated as 'it's fine' or 'that's ok'. For example, when offered help from someone, you would say 'c'est bon' as in 'that's ok (don't worry)'. Or if you're at a shop and the shopkeeper is giving you a quantatiy of fruit, you would say 'c'est bon' ('that's fine/enough') to tell him to stop. Bon can also be associated with physical senses, so if you want to compliment a meal, you would say 'c'est très bon' for 'it's very tasty'. 

As I said, the difference between 'bon' and 'bien' is very difficult to define clearly, but I hope I've given you a better understanding of it. 

Joseph P. GCSE Maths tutor, A Level Maths tutor, GCSE French tutor, U...

7 months ago

Answered by Joseph, a GCSE French tutor with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


PremiumNaomi C. GCSE French tutor, A Level French tutor, GCSE Spanish tutor,...
View profile
£24 /hr

Naomi C.

Degree: Modern Languages- French and Spanish (Bachelors) - Durham University

Subjects offered: French, Spanish


“Hello/Hola/Bonjour! Final year French and Spanish student. Passionate about my subject. Keen to help you excel in your language learning!”

PremiumRobert G. GCSE French tutor, A Level French tutor, Mentoring French t...
View profile
£22 /hr

Robert G.

Degree: French (Bachelors) - Oxford, Keble College University

Subjects offered: French, Economics+ 3 more

.MLAT (Modern Languages)
-Personal Statements-
-Oxbridge Preparation-

“Passionate Oxford French language undergrad, keen to help tutees at any level up to A2/Advanced Higher/Equivalent. Lots of first-hand French experience, also willing to help sixth-formers with personal statements and Oxbridge admissions.”

Simone V. A Level Biology tutor, A Level Chemistry tutor, A Level Dut...
View profile
£18 /hr

Simone V.

Degree: Biochemistry (Bachelors) - University College London University

Subjects offered: French, Science+ 4 more


“I believe that the most important thing a tutor can do is to motivate the student and make learning fun! That’s exactly what I want to achieve during a session. At the end of a session, I want you to feel like you learned something in...”

About the author

Joseph P. GCSE Maths tutor, A Level Maths tutor, GCSE French tutor, U...
View profile

Joseph P.

Currently unavailable: for regular students

Degree: Mathematics (Bachelors) - Warwick University

Subjects offered: French, Maths+ 1 more


“About MeI am a 20 year old mathematics student at the University of Warwick, about to enter my final year. Though I have always enjoyed a range of subjects (from Latin to Music) I have a particular fondness for maths, and have much ...”

You may also like...

Posts by Joseph

What is exactly differentiation?

What is the difference between bon and bien in french?

What is the highest common factor of 24 and 90?

Other GCSE French questions

When do I use être or avoir in the past?

Qu-est-ce que tu aimes faire pendant tes temps libres?

How should I use the 'subjonctif'(subjunctive) with the 'verbes d'opinion'?

How do you construct the past tense in French?

View GCSE French tutors


We use cookies to improve our service. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss