Learn to Say I Love You in French (and other French love words)

Bonjour, c’est Géraldine. Bienvenue sur Comme une Française !

You know the cliché: French is the language of love. And there’s some truth in that 🙂
But it’s easy to make embarrassing mistakes and sound like a fool when sharing what you like.
Valentine’s day is coming, so let’s fix this

Learning goals:
This is what you’ll be able to do after watching this lesson

  • Beginner: Master the conjugation of “aimer”
  • Intermediate: Avoid the classic embarrassing mistakes around “like VS love” in French
  • Advanced: refine your vocabulary when talking about your tastes and hobbies, in French

Bonjour c’est Géraldine, Bienvenue sur Comme une Française. C’est parti !

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1 - The basics: the conjugation of “aimer”

You’re never too advanced to review your basics!
aimer = to love

Like most verbs that end in “-er”, Aimer is a “first group” verb. All first group verbs share the same conjugation. At the present tense, we have:

J’aime → I love
Tu aimes → You love (singular, for friends or family) [the “s” is silent]
Il/Elle/On aime → He/She/”Informal We” love
Nous aimons → (“formal”) We love [the “s” is silent]
Vous aimez → You love (plural, or “formal” singular) [the “ez” sounds like “é”]
Ils/Elles aiment → They love (masculine or feminine “They”) [“ent” is silent]

2 - The big embarrassing mistake with “aimer”

Aimer” (alone) someone = to love (romantically or in your family). By itself, it’s very powerful!

It’s a strange verb, really: the more you add to it, the less powerful it becomes. We’ll see that in part #3. If you add an adverb to “aimer (quelqu’un)” (= to love someone), it becomes “to like” or at least a bit less than “to love.

In French, we don’t “love” easily: “Aimer” (on its own) is used much less in French than “love” is in English. In French, it’s more subtle.
I love cheese !” is a bit different than “J’aime le fromage !

But still: “Aimer” someone = romantic/family love.
Michel aime Jeanne.
= Michel is in love with Jeanne. (Nothing less!)

It can be used in some literary (or ironic) meaning for a very strong friendship bond, on par with family ties, but you need the exact right context to make it sound casual.

So be very careful with your use of “aimer” in French. It can sound weird.

3 - How to translate “to love” and “to like” in French

So this might sound strange:
Aimer + adverb + someone = to like

Adverbs take down the intensity.
Famous popular French singer Jean-Jacques Goldman delves into this topic here.

So:
Je t’aime (I love you) > Je t’aime beaucoup (literally “I love you a lot” = I like you a lot) > Je t’aime bien (literally “I love you well” = “I like you”)

Paul aime beaucoup Pierre. → He likes him a lot.
Marc aime énormément Pierre. → He likes him a lot, enormously.
Marie aime bien Jeanne. → She likes her.

Other verbs to translate “love” and “like”:
Adorer : I love cheese. → J’adore le fromage (“Aimer” is more a “background” feeling – “J’adore” has a meaning of “being delighted,” actively enjoying something. There’s no meaning of “adoration” or devotion, it’s just a way of speaking.)
Apprécier : I like Pierre a lot. → J’apprécie beaucoup Pierre. (It’s a neutral, friendly way – almost like an assessment of personality, rather than a personal connection.)

Plaire : Pierre me plait (beaucoup) → I “like” Pierre, I might be romantically interested in him.
In context, the romantic angle can disappear: “Pierre me plaît” might mean “I like what I see in Pierre,” as a “gut-feeling” assessment of his potential, his use, or his character.

Grammatical fun fact: As you can see, “Plaire” inverts subject and object.
Paul aime bien Pierre” (“Paul” subject, “Pierre” object) = “Pierre plaît à Paul” (“Pierre” subject, “Paul” object) = Paul likes Pierre
If you know a bit of Spanish, it might remind you of the Spanish verb “gustar” with a similar construction.

4 - Quizz!

How would you translate:
I love swimming. [that’s my favorite hobby]J’adore nager.
I’m interested in Marie.Marie me plait.
You really like cheese. → Tu aimes beaucoup le fromage.

Et toi ?

→ Tell me about one person you love and one thing you like to do.

Comment on the blog, I’d love to hear from you 🙂 In French if you dare! For instance:

“J’aime Paul, mon mari.” or “J’aime beaucoup cuisiner.”

I read all the answers on the blog, and I’ll give you some tips to improve.

Allez, salut 😉

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And now:
→ If you enjoyed this lesson (and/or learned something new) – why not share this lesson with a francophile friend? You can talk about it afterwards! You’ll learn much more if you have social support from your friends 🙂

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Join the conversation!

  • J’aime beaucoup parler français!
    J’adore le pain au chocolat!
    Une question, Géraldine: Comment exprimer “I love you very much” en français? Merci!

  • Je voudrais me servir du mot trucmouche, mais je ne comprends pas comment le mettre dans une phrase ou une question? Pourrais-tu me donner un ou deux exemples? Je te remercie à l’avance… aussi, est-ce que c’est poli de te tutoyer, ou devrais-je vous vouvoyer ? Merci de cette explication aussi.
    Je trouve tes leçons vraiment très fraîches et amusantes. Je suis heureux de te/vous avoir trouvé ce matin sur ton site. À+…

  • Moi, j’aime mon mari, Colin. J’adore jouer au tennis. J’apprécie beaucoup tes leçons sur Comme une française! Merci bien!

  • J’apprécie beaucoups Comme une francaise et tes leçons, espécialement les petits trucs de la conversation! Mais rien ne se passe lorsque j’essaie de télécharger le pdf. J’aime bien le lire plus tard, tant et plus. Je fait quelque chose de mal?

  • Bonjour Geraldine! Ceci me rapelle une conversation questions j’ai EU avec un couple questions que je connais: Madame se plaignait que Monsieur ne disait plus “Je t’aime”. Monsieur a repondu que, aprés tant d’années ensemble, elle devrait savoir que (je cite) “je t’aime bien”!!! Oufff!

  • Je n’ai jamais compris la célèbre chanson
    Je T’aime ~ Moi Non Plus de Serge Gainsbourg
    et Jane Birkin, ou au moins, qu’est que c’est que
    ça veut dire ? Je l’ai demandé à un ami français
    (qui etait musicien) il y a assez longtemps, et
    il m’a dit qu’il ne la comprenait pas non plus !!
    Quelle confusion …

  • J’aime beaucoup Kath, Elle est mieux mon amie.
    CE que de correcte , Geraldine, did I say Kath my best friend, I like her a lot.

  • J’aime mes parents et mes soeurs. J’aime énormément mes amis! J’apprécie tous mes clients. Ma patronne me plait beaucoup. J’adore lire et apprendre.

  • What is the best way to say, “What do you like to do on Saturdays?” Qu’est-ce que vous aimez?????faire le samedi? Merci.

  • I am reminded of an old joke.

    A young man in college is taking a beginning French class. One day he walks by the dorm room of a young lady he has a crush on. The door is open and she is working at her desk.

    The young man puts his hands over his heart and calls out dramatically, “Je t’adore!”

    The young lady looks up from her work and says, “Shut it yourself.”

  • Merci, Géraldine pour le leçon, ça me plaît beaucoup! Je vais partager avec mes étudiants: ils vont aimer apprendre ces phrases pour leurs études de Saint Valentin.

  • Ca me plaît parce qu’elles sont exactement mes phrases … mon mari s’appelle Paul (et oui, j’aime Paul!), et c’est vrai que j’adore cuisiner! Merci pour la leçon, Géraldine : )

  • Ca me plaît parce qu’ils sont exactement mes phrases … mon mari s’appelle Paul (et oui, j’aime Paul!), et c’est vrai que j’adore cuisiner! Merci pour la leçon, Géraldine : )

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