Do you remember, my old Ask a Frenchman blog? A few years ago, I imported a few posts here. Well, what about I import more? Maybe all of them if I find the time?
Let’s start with this one.
It was originally posted in 2009, so some things may have changed since then, but I doubt it.
When do French people say I love you?
(asked by Tracie from Tucson, Arizona)
“Most American males do not say they I love you until after the female has said it first. As Americans, we love to be loved and so we toss the word love around like awesome, or great. We say it to everything, people (family, friends, hairdresser, and other people that we don’t have an intimate relationship with, or family), food, hobbies etc. I was wondering if it is the same in France.”
It is true that in France we don’t toss around the word love every five minutes as you do in the US. In France, “I love you” – or rather “Je t’aime” – almost always means one thing and that is “I’m in love with you.”
You will very rarely hear “Je t’aime” outside of a couple/lovers paradigm.
You don’t usually say it to your friends, definitely not to your hairdresser, even with family members it’s extremely rare – except maybe with young kids saying it to their parents and/or their parents responding.
I’m talking about the expression “Je t’aime” itself here, not of the verb aimer (to love). This verb is indeed used on many occasions when you love food, a movie, etc. Especially because aimer both means love and like. So the verb itself is quite common.
So how do French speakers express that they love their friends?
They use other verbs like adorer for example (which can mean to adore but more commonly to love). Some other times, adding adjectives with a modal value as in “aimer bien”, “aimer beaucoup” will do the trick.
I won’t get into more details here, we’re starting to leave the cultural aspect of the issue and enter the linguistic one.
Now, if we consider a couple or two lovers, I feel that in France – along the same lines as the relative absence of social rules regarding dating and relationships in France – saying “I love you” isn’t so much of a big deal as it can be in the US. Who says it first, after how much time together, and those kinds of things Americans love to bother themselves in their love lives aren’t usually so much on an issue. People say it when they feel like saying it and that’s pretty much it, I believe.
Hoping this answers your question.
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