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Valentine’s Day: How best to express your love in French

We look at the different ways to say ‘I love you’ and how not to get confused by the ambiguous ‘je t’adore’

Loving couple spending time together at a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner Pic: 4 PM production / Shutterstock

Are you a couple living in France who want to celebrate Valentine’s Day like the French would? 

We look at the various different ways in which you can tell that special someone that you love them in French. 

‘Je t’aime’

The most straightforward way to say ‘I love you’ is ‘je t’aime’. 

Je t’aime’ is a highly emotionally charged phrase for French people, so much so that people sometimes shy away from saying it or go about it in convoluted ways. ‘Je t’aime’ signifies the height of the affection that you can feel for another person. 

Je t’aime’ is hardly ever heard in commercials or casual settings, as it is considered by some to be a public display of affection and therefore not to be said in company. French people will normally say it to their partners in private settings. 

‘Je t’aime’ + variations

Je t’aime’ can also be said in combination with another word in a variation on the traditional phrase. Surprisingly, this usually lessens the intensity of the words’ meaning.  

Variations starting with ‘je t’aime’ include ‘je t’aime de tout mon coeur’, (with all of my heart) ‘je t’aime de tout mon amour’ (with all of my love), ‘je t’aime du fond de mon coeur’ (from the bottom of my heart), ‘je t’aime à la folie’ (I am crazy in love with you), ‘je t’aime à en mourir’ (I love you so much I could die for you).

Je t’aime bien’ is harder to interpret as it can both introduce an undertone expressing greater feelings than friendship but can also simply mean ‘I like you’ platonically. 

One famous French children’s rhyme involves taking a daisy and pulling off one leaf after another saying ‘I love you’ with five variations including : ‘un peu’ (a little bit), ‘beaucoup’ (a lot), ‘passionnément’ (passionately), ‘à la folie’ (madly) and ‘pas du tout’ (not at all). 

The final leaf to be torn off reflects the love one has for another. Let’s just hope you do not finish on a ‘pas du tout’ leaf! 

Convoluted ways

Tu me plais’ can be an indication of someone’s interest for another as it does not convey the charged ‘je t’aime’. ‘Tu me plais’ is the equivalent of ‘I am fond of you’ or ‘I like you’.

Je t’adore’ can be another convoluted way of expressing your love for another person but it very much depends on the tone of voice or the accompanying look as ‘je t’adore’ is most often employed for non-romantic things.

JTM’ is a shortened form of ‘je t’aime’ used by young people in text messages. 

Difference between ‘je t’aime’ and ‘je t’adore’

Saying ‘je t’adore’ to signify ‘je t’aime’ is a French faux pas, as the expression is normally nowhere near equivalent to ‘je t’aime.

Unlike English speakers – who normally only use the word ‘love’ – French people have another expression to indicate fondness for people and things without implying romance: ‘je t’adore.’

Je t’adore’ is the equivalent of ‘I like’ and is often associated with a strong feeling of pleasure for something, whether it is an object, an idea, a person or a place. 

If someone says ‘je t’adore’, it doesn’t necessarily means he or she is interested in you romantically, as ‘je t’adore can often be translated to a huge ‘thank you’, ‘thank you very much’ or ‘I like you very much’ when said to someone else. 

J’adore’ often indicates a keen interest in something. 

When reading your favourite newspaper, you should say: ‘J’adore The Connexion’ (I love The Connexion) and not ‘j’aime The Connexion’. Saying ‘j’aime’ here is not grammatically incorrect but it somehow sounds lacklustre or indifferent to French people when employed for objects.  

The case for ‘je te kiffe’

Je te kiffe’ is the French slang version of ‘je t’adore’. 

The term comes from the Arabic word ‘kiff’, which means ‘amusement’ or ‘pleasure’ and was introduced by immigrants coming from northern Africa. The word has been absorbed into French as the verb ‘kiffer’ and acts as the slang equivalent of ‘to like’.

When young people say: ‘Je kiffe cette meuf’ (I like that girl) or ‘je kiffe ce mec’ (I like that guy), it can definitely suggest that they are interested in or in love with someone else. 

Related articles 

The French village that celebrates Saint Valentine every day

‘Wine for people in love’: Exploring France’s two most romantic towns

French really is ‘language of love’

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