The French language is considered to be one of the most romantic in the world, so we decided to brush up on our petits mots d'amour, in celebration of La Saint Valentin*.
Valentine's Day is celebrated in France in much the same way as in other countries, with cards, flowers, chocolates and a romantic meal, but is usually celebrated between people who are already in love and not as an opportunity to speculate!
If you are in a romantic mood and want to know how to woo a French partner, here is a list of vocabulary to help you:
L’amour – Love
L’amitié – Friendship
Je t’aime or Je vous aime – I love you (using tu or using vous)
Je l’aime – I am in love with him/her
Je suis amoureux/amoureuse de toi, lui, elle, vous… – I am in love with you, him, her, you
Tomber amoureux/amoureuse (de quelqu’un) – To fall in love (with someone)
Est-ce que tu veux sortir avec moi ? – Would you like to go out with me?
Je peux t’offrir un verre ? May I buy you a drink?
On peut peut-être échanger nos numéros ? Maybe we can exchange phone numbers?
Embrasser, s’embrasser** - To kiss
Un baiser**, un bisou - A kiss
Être célibataire – In French this means to be unmarried and not celibate!
Un amoureux/une amoureuse*** – A sweetheart
Un petit-ami/un petit-copain – A boyfriend
Une petite-amie/une petite-copine – A girlfriend
Mon chéri, ma chérie, mon amour… – My dear, my love...
But these simple phrases are just the beginning! Here are two videos of French love songs with French and English subtitles. We suggest you sing along with them, not only to get in a romantic mood, but to improve your French pronounciation and to pick up a few more romantic French phrases along the way!
If your wooing efforts bear fruit, it might soon be time to plan the next step... But before you jump in, take a look at what makes a couple in France these days. According to Insee, France's national statistics institute, the average women marries at 35.6 years old while the average man will marry at 38.1 years, although these figures include those getting married for the second (or 3rd, or 4th...!) time . But marriage in France is not the first choice of many. In 2015 in France, people living together as unmarried couples made up one in five people living as a couple. The number of Civil Solidarity Pacts signed in 2015 was 187,248, compared to 222,664 different-sex marriages and 7,700 same-sex marriages in the same year. Unmarried couples break up more often than married couples or those in civil partnerships. The number of break-ups of unmarried couples living together, estimated at 265,000 per year, exceeds the number of divorces and terminations of civil partnerships (number of divorces 123,668 in 2015).
In France, only marriages conducted as a civil ceremony are legally recognised, although many couples will also have a second religious ceremony to celebrate tying the knot.
If you have successfully navigated the dating mine-field and are ready to get down on one knee, here is some more vocabulary to help you plan the next step:
Est-ce que tu veux bien m’épouser ? – Will you marry me?
Les fiançailles – Engagement
Se fiancer – To get engaged
Un fiancé, une fiancée – someone you are engaged to, sometimes used to say someone you are just dating.
Le mariage – Marriage, wedding
Se marier avec qq’un or épouser quelqu’un – To get married with someone
Un marié – A groom
Une mariée – A bride
Un mari/un époux – A husband
Une femme/une épouse – A wife
Un/une partenaire – A partner. Mostly used for same sex couples in French.
Un compagnon/une compagne – A partner (someone you live with but you are not necessarily married to).
Joyeuse Saint Valentin to you all!
*Valentine's Day is la Saint Valentin in French, where you might expect it to be le. This is because it refers to la fête de Saint Valentin.
** A warning - Un baiser (as a noun) is fine for a kiss, but baiser (as a verb) in French means not "to kiss" but, rather crudely, "to f***", so be careful what you say!
*** Whereas un amant means a lover (i.e. someone you have sexual relations with) or someone you are having an affair with, so be careful how you use it! For example, a wine lover might be better described as un amateur de vin rather than un amant de vin!