French is sometimes referred to as the language of love, so it’s no surprise that how to say “I love you” is one of the most commonly requested Google translate phrases. However, like any expression that involves communicating emotion, it’s not as simple as translating French to English or vice versa. To avoid inadvertently committing a faux pas, understanding the nuances of the French language will help you determine which expression of devotion is appropriate for your romantic situation.
If you’re in a relationship, the words you might use to describe a fledging affection in French would be quite different from those you’d choose to communicate profound, abiding commitment. From the simple to the sophisticated, here are five different ways to capture the sentiment of romantic love in French-speaking countries.
Je t’aime is the simplest way to profess your love in French
This statement is quite literally “I love you,” and is the most common expression you’ll hear being used, especially in movies and French cultural references. However, listen carefully because there are some close variations to the phrase that could imply a slightly different level of emotion.
Not in love just yet? Go for Je t’aime beaucoup
We just barely told you that je t’aime is “I love you,” but there is a caveat. The French verb aimer can be both “like” or “love” depending on the context and the words that follow the phrase. Saying je t’aime but then adding an adverb like beaucoup or bien waters down the meaning to something akin to like. When you hear je t’aime beaucoup, it doesn’t mean “I love you very much” but “I like you very much.” This dual meaning can be confusing for English speakers, so it’s vital to learn French phrases in context so you’ll better understand the right situation.
Capture your passion with an idiomatic expression like coup de foudre
Idiomatic expressions are common in every language, and French is no exception. The phrase coup de foudre translates to “bolt of lightning” and is intended to convey that surge of interest and passion many experience in the first stages of love. Or, as some ardent French believe, coup de foudre can capture the zing of love at first sight.
Je t’aime à la folie is for when you’re crazy in love
Love is all about passion and in some cases, jubilant excess. For those situations, you’ll want je t’aime à la folie to express the act of being “crazy in love” because folie means “madness” or “insanity.” You could also use the French phrase je t’aime à mourir or “I love you to death.” Don’t worry—it’s not as morbid as it sounds.
You had me at tu me combles
Even if you’re not in the throes of passion, there are plenty of French words that express the sentiment of faithful and abiding love. Tu me combles or “you fulfill me” is one, but you can also try Tu me complètes which means—you guessed it— “you complete me.”
Want to expand your expressions of love? Check out our video playlist to learn how to say “I love you” in 5 more languages.