French language For Members

10 need-to-know French expressions for Valentine's Day

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
10 need-to-know French expressions for Valentine's Day
Red heart shaped balloons are held by a couple in front of the Eiffel tower, onValentine's Day in Paris. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

From 'lightning bolts' to 'placing rabbits' and 'dropping old socks' these are some great French dating phrases just itching to be used on Valentine's Day.


Understanding the linguistic subtleties of dating in your own language can be tricky enough – let alone in a foreign tongue.

These are some of The Local's favourite romance-related expressions that might come in handy on Valentine's Day.

Un coup de foudre

Lightning bolts can be lethal, of course. But in France un coup de foudre also means "love at first sight" - the literal translation is 'a hit of lightning'. 

Got a blind date planned for Valentine's Day? Let's hope you both get struck by the lightning of love.

Faire une partie de jambes en l’air

This is of course only to be used if everything goes really well on Valentine's Day.

Literally “an up in the air legs match” or a little more accurately “to play a session of legs in the air”, this commonly used expression has been around for a long time and for want of a better option, can be translated as "to have a bonk".

And just like "to have a bonk" in English, this one isn't really used in everyday chat in France any more. In fact, you're more likely to hear people using it ironically, or to be funny. Which is worth knowing before you try and seduce a French person with it . . . 

Tout ce qui l’interesse c’est une partie de jambes en l’air - all he’s interested in is getting his leg over

Poser un lapin à quelqu'un 

Don't be fooled by this one: it has nothing to do with cute furry mammals. But if your date doesn't show up, then you might say: Il/elle m'a posé un lapin!

Confusingly, this translates literally as "to put a rabbit down", but simply means "to stand someone up".

It's perhaps most commonly used in dating scenarios, but it can also mean not showing up for appointments such as with your doctor. In fact, a proposal to charge people who book medical appointments and don't show up was nicknamed the 'taxe lapin'.

Être jeté comme une veille chaussette

You probably do not want to find yourself saying this on Valentine's Day (or any day for that matter).

With the literal meaning of "to be dropped like an old sock", this idiom is the more blunt equivalent of "to get dumped". A similar English idiom might be "to be tossed out like an old shoe".

Jouer le chaud et le froid

One minute, she's telling you Tu es l'amour de ma vie ! (You're the love of my life) and the next, she's ignoring your phone calls.

You might say: Elle joue le chaud et le froid, similar to the English "She's blowing hot and cold".

Se rouler des pelles/se rouler des patins

In Anglo countries, a "French kiss" may involve a little more saliva than usual. But, in France, the so-called home of tongue-kissing, the phrase is meaningless.


READ MORE: How do the French talk about 'French' kisses, doors and manicures?

The nearest French equivalent is se rouler des pelles/patins, which translates literally as “rolling shovels/skates”.

There is another term you might hear too - gallocher - which means to kiss with tongues. (Very un-romantically, this originally meant a kind of over-shoe, similar to the English 'galoshes'). 


Your flatmate has a hot date and she is dressed to the nines. As she walks out the door, you tell her tu va les allumer ! which literally means 'you will light them up' but figuratively means she's looking amazing and will definitely seduce her date.  

If someone asks you Avez-vous des allumettes ? then don't get too excited, they're just asking if you have any matches (probably for their cigarette) although the root of both words is the same, meaning to light something up. 

Faire moitié-moitié

You're at a fancy restaurant; as the bill arrives, you both scramble for your wallets. In French, you try to suggest that you faire du néerlandais (go Dutch) but this is greeted with a blank stare.

In France, the Dutch are not known for their bill-splitting tendencies, the correct French equivalent is faire moitié-moitié, literally "go half-and-half".

Faire du pied à quelqu'un

There's a metre of table separating you from your beloved at a romantic restaurant, but you feel the need to make your feelings known. Why not engage in a game of footsie or faire du pied à quelqu'un.


Se passer la corde au cou

If all goes well, this expression - which translates literally as "to put the noose around your neck" - might be the last one you'll need. But, no, it has nothing to do with death.

While the English prefer the more uplifting expression to describe marriage - "to tie the knot" - the French take a more dim view of the institution, it would seem.

Do you have any favourite romantic expressions in French? Let us know in the comments below


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also