Let Me Count the Ways: 11 French “I Love You” Phrases for When “Je t’aime” Doesn’t Cut It
Hallmark cards make it look so easy.
But love is complex. Complicated. It evolves and changes.
A corny card won’t cut it.
Neither will one simple phrase, like Je t’aime (I love you).
If you’ve fallen for a French speaker, you’ll need a whole range of romantic phrases from the early stages of your relationship to your deepest commitment together.
French, la langue de l’amour (the language of love), has many different ways to express “I love you” and more.
So put down that Hallmark card, and instead pick up these 11 French “I love you” phrases to impress new loves or long-time partners.
Romantic French Culture to Fill Your Heart (And Vocab)
- Romantic reads: Literature can teach us how to describe many kinds of love, especially in the romantic realm.
Love in French literature runs the gamut, from the illicit affairs in Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ “Les liaisons dangereuses” (“Dangerous Liaisons”) and Gustave Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary,” to André Breton’s surrealist “Nadja” and Alain-Fournier’s idealistic coming-of-age tale, “Le Grand Meaulnes” (“The Great Meaulnes,” sometimes called “The Wanderer”).
Want to charm your special someone with assonance, alliteration, meter and rhyme? Try a bottle of wine (or other favorite libation) and a book of French love poetry.
Cuddle up together in front of a cozy fire while enjoying the art of the vintner and reading the romantic musings of luminaries such as Paul Éluard, Charles Baudelaire, George Sand, François Villon or Victor Hugo.
- Chansons d’amour (Love songs): What are songs but poetry set to music? Expressions of love are found throughout classic and contemporary French songs.
Édith Piaf was well-known for love songs. These include her most famous—the delicately sweet “La vie en rose” (“Life in Pink”)—to the no-holds-barred “L’hymne à l’amour” (“The Hymn to Love”), in which Piaf declares that she would give up her friends, her country, her life and even her hair color if the love of her life desired it.
Maybe the swinging ’60s and ’70s sensibilities of Georges Moustaki are more your style. Moustaki, formerly a songwriter for Piaf (as well as her paramour), went on to become a celebrated performer in his own right. In “Je ne sais pas où tu commences” (“I Don’t Know Where You Begin”), he expresses oneness with his lover: she suffers from his sleepless nights, just as he can feel the coldness of her feet as though her feet were his own.
Through the decades, the beat has gone on with artists like Patricia Kaas, Hélène Ségara, Chimène Badi and Keen’V. After all, love is timeless.
- Romance on the silver screen: French cinema has its share of great love stories. There are dramas such as the 1945 epic “Les Enfants du Paradis” (“Children of Paradise”), François Truffaut’s New Wave love triangle “Jules et Jim” (“Jules and Jim”) and Jacques Demy’s conflicted love story, “La baie des anges” (“Bay of Angels”).
Recent gems include romantic comedies like “Les Émotifs anonymes” (“Romantics Anonymous”), the story of a shy but brilliant chocolatière (chocolate maker) and her equally timid employer.
There’s the comedic tale of two warring neighbors: “Un peu, beaucoup, aveuglément.” Usually called “Blind Date” in English, the French title of this movie (which literally means “a little, a lot, blindly”) is a nod to the French version of “He loves me… he loves me not.”
“I Love You” in French: 11 Romantic Phrases for Every Stage of Dating
Love goes through many stages, and saying “I love you” in French goes far beyond the simple yet classic je t’aime.
An idylle (love affair) starts out as a tiny bouton (bud — literally, “button”) of feeling. Il fleurit (it blossoms) into a crush or infatuation. Then, il s’épanouit (it blooms) into l’amour (love).
You’ve moved beyond flirting in French, but you’re not sure your relationship is ready for declarations of undying love… or maybe you’re past the point where even je t’aime could possibly say enough.
Learn many expressions for the many moods of your love, so that you can reveal your true feelings of love in all of its glorious phases.
Un soupçon d’amour (A Hint of Love)
This is love at first blush.
You’ll just want to hint at your feelings, without actually saying the “L” word… by which, of course, we mean l’amour (love).
J’ai le béguin pour toi. (I’ve got a crush on you.)
Béguin translates roughly to “crush” or “hots.”
The phrase can also mean, “I have a thing for you” or “I’m sweet on you.”
J’ai un faible pour toi. (I’ve got a weak spot for you.)
Un faible is literally “a weak spot” or “weakness.”
In this context, un faible is sometimes translated as “a soft spot.”
Il y a une place dans mon cœur réservée pour toi. (There’s a place in my heart [reserved] for you.)
You may hear variations on this one.
For example, in her recording of “Space in my Heart,” Patricia Kaas whispered, “Il y a une place dans mon cœur qui t’attend” (“There’s a place in my heart waiting for you”).
Love in Bloom
If the classic je t’aime (I love you) doesn’t quite seem to express the depth of your newfound, growing emotions, try out these variations on the object of your blossoming love affair.
Je suis tombé/e amoureux/amoureuse de toi. (I’ve fallen in love with you.)
Very similar to the English expression, with the masculine/feminine variants to match the speaker.
Note that the preposition used is de (of; from) and not avec (with).
Je me suis amouraché(e) de toi. (I’m infatuated by/enamored with you.)
S’amouracher (to become infatuated) can also be defined as “to fall hopelessly in love.”
Its roots go back 500 or 600 years to amourescher, meaning “to court” or “to woo.” It’s related to pejorative Italian words for being in love (amorazzo, amoraccio).
Je suis amoureux/amoureuse de toi. (I’m smitten with you.)
Technically, être amoureux just means “to be in love.” But it’s a phrase commonly used to translate “smitten” into French.
La folie de l’amour (The Madness of Love)
Cajun band BeauSoleil recognized the fine line between love and madness in the title of their 1997 album, “L’amour ou la folie” (“Love or Folly”).
Indeed, the intensity of love can make us feel reckless. Here are some French expressions for signaling that love has moved from a more manageable phase to the lunacy of what we might term “full-on moonstruck.”
Je suis fou/folle de toi. (I’m crazy/mad about you.)
When you’re somewhere between giddy with love and completely carried away, you might tell your significant other that you’re crazy about them.
Just make sure you’re not so out of control that you neglect to use the correct gender—fou (masculine) or folle (feminine)—to describe your unbridled mental and emotional state.
Je t’ai dans la peau. (I’ve got you under my skin.)
This literally means, “I have you in my skin.” Yep, the French cram love right in there between the epidermis and the dermis.
English speakers tend to bury it deeper… somewhere below the hypodermis.
Tu me combles. (You fulfill me.)
The verb combler can mean several related things, including:
- To fill in un trou (a hole)
- To fill un besoin (a need) or une lacune (a gap)
- To make good a deficit
- To fulfill
In this case, it characterizes the fulfillment you feel when you’re with your perfect match.
Tu me complètes. (You complete me.)
Like tu me combles, tu me complètes uses a reflexive form, which means that the object of the love and fulfillment goes before the verb, rather than after it.
You can also use the phrase to describe someone else’s love affair. For example, Elle te complète (She completes you), Il vous complète (He completes you [formal]) or Vous le/la complétez (You [formal] complete him or her).
Is anyone else thinking of this little duet from a certain spy film parody series?
Je ne peux pas vivre sans toi. (I can’t live without you.)
This is where love goes from poetic to a bit desperate, when you declare that your need for your lover is essential to your very existence.
Of course you could go on living without your pupuce (tiny little flea of love), even if they’re your moitié (better/other half). But, au fond de votre cœur (in your heart of hearts), you’d really rather not.
Now that you can navigate your way through a love affair in French, don’t be afraid to let yourself tomber amoureux (fall in love).
After all, as George Sand said, “Il n’y a qu’un bonheur dans la vie, c’est d’aimer et d’être aimé.” (“There is but one happiness in life: it’s to love and to be loved.”)
…No matter how you say it.