Is Paris a romantic city? Is French a romantic language?
If you had asked me a few years ago, I would’ve answered “Nope!”
But that was then. Things have changed quite a bit for me since my first experience living in the City of Light, trying to learn la belle langue. I returned to Paris several times and finally started to see what everyone was raving about. And of course, when I visited Paris with my wife Lauren, the romantic side of the city really became apparent.
It’s also no secret that French is widely considered to be one of the most romantic languages. Even if you don’t know what French-speakers are saying, the sound of the language is just beautiful to listen to. The pronunciation rules mean that phrases always flow smoothly from one word to the next. Even non-French speakers routinely use romantic-sounding French phrases to endear themselves to their beloved: ma chérie, je t’adore, and (not exactly “romantic” per se) voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir. 😉
So, what are some other romantic French words and phrases you can learn as you take your first steps into the language of love? Read on for a guide to the romantic side of French.
Before we get started, if you’re looking for an online French course, here’s the course I recommend: French Uncovered – Learn French Through the Power of Story, a course with a fascinating new method by my friend Olly.
How to say “My Love” in French
There aren’t many terms of endearment more romantic than mon amour, which means “my love” in French.
Whether you’re speaking to a man or a woman, the term is the same: mon amour. Mon is usually the masculine form of “my” in French, but you also use it before any word that begins with a vowel, even feminine words.
Another term you’re sure to hear often in French-speaking countries is mon chéri (said to men) and ma chérie (said to women). This means “my dear” or “my darling”, and is a more general term than mon amour. Just like in English, it can be used for other close loved ones besides your romantic partner.
How to say “Beautiful” in French
In English, the word “beautiful” has distinctly feminine connotations. In French, both men and women can be “beautiful”.
The masculine word for “beautiful” in French is beau (or bel before a word starting with a vowel), and the feminine is belle. The masculine form is usually translated as “handsome” in English when referring to a man. In other instances, both beau and belle can translate as “beautiful”. For example, a beau pont in French would translate to English as a “beautiful” bridge, not a “handsome” bridge.
Beau and belle aren’t much use unless you put them into a sentence. Here are a few sample romantic phrases containing these words:
- “You are beautiful”: Tu es beau (to a man) and Tu es belle (to a woman).
- “Hello, beautiful”: Bonjour mon beau (to a man) and Bonjour ma belle (to a woman). This phrase isn’t generally as common in French-speaking countries as it is in English countries.
- “Life is beautiful”: La vie est belle.
How to say “Beauty” in French
This one is easy. The English word for “beauty” comes directly from French: la beauté.
One of the most popular expressions about beauty is that it is in the eye of the beholder. The French translation of this universal phrase is La beauté est dans l’œil de celui qui regarde.
How to say “Pretty” in French
Like “beautiful”, the word “pretty” in French (joli/jolie) doesn’t have to apply only to feminine people and objects. In reference to a man or masculine-looking object, joli translates more accurately as “good-looking” or “pleasing to the eye”.
A good mnemonic for joli/jolie is to think of the very pretty actress Angelina Jolie.
How to say “Cute” in French
I don’t know why, but I find mignon/mignonne, the French word for “cute”, a really, well, cute word.
In France, you can use mignon/mignonne pretty much how you would use “cute” in English: to describe a cute animal, toy, or even a cute guy or girl you like.
In Quebec, mignon/mignonne tends to come with the connotation of small and cute, more along the lines of “adorable”. So you wouldn’t use it to describe a person you have a crush on, for example. But that’s OK, because there’s another word for “cute” in Quebec that you can use exactly like English. And that word is…
No, really. Cute is a very popular loan word in Quebec, and you can use it just like “cute” in English.
How to say “Sexy” in French
Speaking of loan words, the French language has borrowed the English word “sexy”, and the translation is the same: sexy! You can use it exactly how you would use it in English.
How to say “Heart” in French
Just like in English, and most other languages, the heart is associated with love and romance in French.
The French word for “heart” is le cœur. It sounds totally unrelated to English at first, but many English “heart-y” words have their root in the French cœur. Courage, cardio, cordial, accord, chord, and the list goes on. Even the word “core” – the centre or essence of something – is widely believed to come from cœur. This makes quite a bit of sense when you think about it. In fact, there’s a ready-made mnemonic for you!
A popular term of endearment in English is “my heart”. In French, this translates as mon cœur or sometimes mon petit cœur (“my little heart”). But it’s not generally used as a romantic term. It’s more often used by an adult toward a young child such as a grandchild or niece/nephew. You can say it to a boy or a girl.
How to say “Party” in French
There are a couple of ways to say “party” in French.
As a noun, the “proper” way to say “party” is la fête. For example, a birthday party is une fête d’anniversaire and a Christmas party is une fête de Noël.
Informally in Quebec, you can use the English loan word le party (which itself was originally borrowed from French!). It’s pronounced differently from English though: it sounds more like the 90s slang word “partay” 😀 . You can use le party the same way as the English “party”.
In France, this loan word is much rarer, but if you use it, people will certainly understand you. Beware though, the pronunciation is different – “partee” – and just to make things difficult, the gender is different too: la party! Best to just stick with la fête in France.
How to say “Friends” in French
The feelings between friends can vary from a casual liking to platonic intimacy, and all the way to romantic love (consider how many people say they married their best friend). So of course a post about love in French should include the word for friends!
The French word for “a friend” is un ami (for male friends) or une amie (for female friends). The plural “friends” is les amies (for a group of female friends) and les amis (for a group of male friends or a mixture of both). What’s interesting though is that the word generally used for “a boyfriend” un copain or “a girlfriend” une copine, can also commonly mean “friend”. When you say “my” (mon/ma) before the word then it is more likely to be the more intimate version!
To say “my friend” in French, it’s mon ami or mon amie. You can’t say ma amie even if your friend is a girl, because the two words will clash on the vowels and sound awkward. And a romantic language like French must never be awkward!
How to say “Feelings” in French
The general French word for “feelings” is les sentiments (“a feeling” is un sentiment).
In English, “feelings” can be used informally to mean “affectionate” or “romantic” feelings. For example, if you tell someone, “I have feelings for you,” they can infer that it’s not just any old feelings, but a feeling of attraction.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t work the same way in French. Les sentiments are just run of the mill feelings, and you have to be more specific if you want to refer to romance or attraction.
If you want to confess your feelings for someone in French, you could use one of the following phrases to give the person a pretty good hint about what you’re trying to say:
- Je te trouve très bien (“You’re pretty neat”)
- Je t’aime bien (“I like you”) – be sure to put “bien” at the end of the sentence, because “je t’aime” translates as “I love you”, which might not be quite what you wanted to say!
- Tu me plais (“I like you” – literally, “You please me”)
How to say “Amazing” in French
Amazingly, “amazing” isn’t really a word that translates into French very well. All of the French translations of this word already have equivalents in English.
For example, “amazing” could translate as étonnant, which translates back to English as “astounding”. Incroyable and stupéfiant are also decent French translations, but they already mean “incredible” and “staggering” in English, respectively.
Don’t worry though. There are enough ways to express how amazing something is in French that the language hardly needs yet another word. Here’s a small list of French synonyms for “amazing”:
- Incroyable (“incredible” – in my unscientific personal experience, this appears to be the most common way to say “amazing” in French)
- Suprenant (“surprising”)
- Étonnant (“astounding”)
- Exceptionnel (“exceptional”)
- Stupéfiant (“staggering” – I would put this down as one of the rarer translations of “amazing”)
In English, “amazing” usually has positive connotations. It doesn’t just mean surprising, it can also mean “surprisingly great” or “fantastic”. Here are few ways to express this idea in French:
- Super (“super” – but much more common in French than in English. This can be an adjective (Tu es super!) or an adverb (”Tout est super génial!”))
- Génial (“great” – also very common)
- Fantastique (“fantastic”)
- Magnifique (“magnificent”)
- Merveilleux (“marvelous*)
- *Extraordinaire” (“extraordinary”)
How to say “Hot” in French
You’ll have guessed that “hot” is quite a slang word in English when it describes someone’s appearance. Like many slang words, “hot” doesn’t translate directly to French.
Trust me on this. Don’t ever say il/elle est chaud to describe a good-looking guy or girl. It doesn’t mean “he/she is hot”. It doesn’t even mean “he/she feels hot” when it’s a hot day outside (that would be il/elle a chaud). Rather, it’s a slang which means “he/she is sexually aroused”. You have been warned!
So, what if you want to describe someone as hot-looking in French? Well, sexy, mentioned earlier, is a pretty reliable term that expresses the same thing. But sometimes you don’t want to come right out and use the “S-word”. In France, you can also use the slang word “canon”, which applies equally to a man or a woman (il est canon or elle est canon).
How to say “Farewell” in French
There are two main ways to say “farewell” in French, and I love them both.
The first is au revoir. It’s the everyday word for “goodbye” that you’ll hear all the time in French. But it doesn’t simply mean “goodbye”; it’s much more eloquent than that. The most accurate translation of au revoir is “until we meet again”. I like this expression. It communicates hope that you’ll see each other again one day, even if you’re saying au revoir for a long time.
The other, more literary way to say farewell is adieu. It translates as “go with God” (à = “to” and Dieu = “God”), and expresses your wish for safety and good fortune upon the one who’s departing. Whether or not you believe in a deity (hmm, the word “deity” suddenly looks familiar, doesn’t it?), it’s a nice, warm sentiment to be sent off with.
And on that note, au revoir and adieu, dear reader! Until we meet again…in the comments! If you know other romantic words in French, or in another language you speak, let me know in the comments. Merci!
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.