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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Language of love – 15 of the best romantic French phrases

French is the language of love and when it comes to expressing your affection - for a lover, a friend or a family member - you are spoiled for choice for phrases. Here are 15 of our favourites.

Language of love - 15 of the best romantic French phrases
So you've met your French dream lover, but what do you say next? Photo by Tiny Tribes on Unsplash

So you've met Monsieur or Madame Right and now you're dating, but how do you let them now that they've won the keys to your heart? And more importantly, should you be worried if they call you a flea?

Here are some of the most common pet names used among lovers in France;

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Mon amour – perhaps slightly formal, but this tells someone that you love them, it literally means 'my love'. Also in the realm of more formal and slightly old-fashioned greetings is mon coeur – my heart or my love.

Ma puce – slightly weirdly, this translates as 'my flea' (as in les marché aux puces – fleamarkets – that are common in French towns and cities). Fleas aren't most people's idea of a cuddly pet so quite how it came to become a term of affection is unclear, although it could be that saying it makes you pucker up your mouth like you're about to kiss someone.

Mon trésor – this translates as 'my treasure' which sounds a bit weird in English but is commonly used in France to refer to someone who is important in your life. Maybe it better translates as precious, although that still sounds a little sickly to English ears.  

Mon bébé – it's the French version of 'baby' or 'babe'. Its most frequent users are lovers and girlfriends.

Mon loulou – this doesn't really translate but it's said to derive from the French word loup (wolf). It's only used for men or boys.


Is the man in your life a cuddly teddy bear? Photo: AFP

Mon nounours – my teddy bear. This is another one only for men, so if you have a man in your life who wouldn't object to being described as a teddy bear (and no-one's judging here) then go right ahead and call him mon nounours, it has a nice sound when you say it out loud.

Ma biche – and here's one for the ladies, this means doe (a deer, a female deer) and is used as a general term of affection for women, usually but not always girlfriends. Some derivatives of it include ma bichette and ma bibiche.

Minou / mon chaton – Two terms of endearment that both refer to kitty or pussy cat. Ca va minou / mon chaton – are you OK my kitty cat?

Ma poupée/poupette – my doll. Another one specifically for women, it's a common term of affection. Une poupée means a doll in French (so you will also see the word in toyshops) and poupette is just a slightly cuter way of saying it to a loved one.

Photo: Miriam Mezzera/Flickr

Mon petit chou – this is often cited as a 'typical' French term of endearment by English speakers, but in fact it's pretty rarely heard in France these days. It might be another one to consign to the sacre bleu list.

The above tend to be used for people you are in a romantic or sexual relationship with, but there are also plenty of nice terms for people who are important to you in other ways.

Mon pote – this one means my mate, buddy or chum. It's used both by children and adults and you can either use it to refer to someone – il est mon pote (he is my friend) or directly to them Tu viens, mon pote? – You coming, mate? It can be used to men or women, the female version is ma pote.

Ma grande – this one sounds a bit odd to English speakers, calling someone 'my big girl' but it's a friendly expression roughly similar to calling someone 'my dear'. It's mostly used by older people and although there is a masculine version (mon grand) it's very rarely used.


Eh, ça va, ma poule? Photo: AFP

Mec – specific to men, this one can also be used directly to someone or to describe them. Depending on the context, you can also use it to describe a boyfriend – mon mec is trop chaud – my fella is so hot. But it's more usually used among men as a term of affection – ça va, mec? You OK, mate?

Meuf – this is the female version of mec. It's a Verlan inversion of femme (woman) and was originally used as a slightly derogatory description of a woman – similar to describing someone as a chick in English – but in recent years it's been reclaimed and women, especially young women, will use it to refer to each other. Une soirée avec mes meufs? Formidable! A night out with my gal pals? Great!

Ma poule – Often used in families and for children this is similar to calling someone sweetie or honey. Salut ma poule, passé une bonne journée? Hi honey, did you have a good day? Another option is simply calling someone poulette (this only goes for women).

 

Member comments

  1. Chouchou? Until very recently, the term used for the Queen’s fondness for Harry, but maybe (hope not) any more.

  2. “mon mec is trop chaud” – euhh, sorry? Plutôt beau, canon, sexy.. even “hot” if you wanna go down the Anglicism road, but not “chaud” unless we’re literally talking about temperature.

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Le Havre rules: How to talk about French towns beginning with Le, La or Les

If you're into car racing, French politics or visits to seaside resorts you are likely at some point to need to talk about French towns with a 'Le' in the title. But how you talk about these places involves a slightly unexpected French grammar rule. Here's how it works.

An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre.
An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre. It can be difficult to know what prepositions to use for places like this - so we have explained it for you. (Photo by AFP)

If you’re listening to French chat about any of those topics, at some point you’re likely to hear the names of Mans, Havre and Touquet bandied about.

And this is because French towns that have a ‘Le’ ‘La’ or ‘Les’ in the title lose them when you begin constructing sentences. 

As a general rule, French town, commune and city names do not carry a gender. 

So if you wanted to describe Paris as beautiful, you could write: Paris est belle or Paris est beau. It doesn’t matter what adjectival agreement you use. 

For most towns and cities, you would use à to evoke movement to the place or explain that you are already there, and de to explain that you come from/are coming from that location:

Je vais à Marseille – I am going to Marseille

Je suis à Marseille – I am in Marseille 

Je viens de Marseille – I come from Marseille 

But a select few settlements in France do carry a ‘Le’, a ‘La’ or a ‘Les’ as part of their name. 

In this case the preposition disappears when you begin formulating most sentences, and you structure the sentence as you would any other phrase with a ‘le’, ‘la’ or ‘les’ in it.

Masculine

Le is the most common preposition for two names (probably something to do with the patriarchy) with Le Havre, La Mans, Le Touquet and the town of Le Tampon on the French overseas territory of La Réunion (more on that later)

A good example of this is Le Havre, a city in northern France where former Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, who is tipped to one day run for the French presidency, serves as mayor. 

Edouard Philippe’s twitter profile describes him as the ‘Maire du Havre’, using a masculine preposition

Here we can see that his location is Le Havre, and his Twitter handle is Philippe_LH (for Le Havre) but when he comes to describe his job the Le disappears.

Because Le Havre is masculine, he describes himself as the Maire du Havre rather than the Maire de Havre (Anne Hidalgo, for example would describe herself as the Maire de Paris). 

For place names with ‘Le’ in front of them, you should use prepositions like this:

Ja vais au Touquet – I am going to Le Touquet

Je suis au Touquet – I am in Le Touquet 

Je viens du Touquet – I am from Le Touquet 

Je parle du Touquet – I am talking about Le Touquet

Le Traité du Touquet – the Le Touquet Treaty

Feminine

Some towns carry ‘La’ as part of their name. La Rochelle, the scenic town on the west coast of France known for its great seafood and rugby team, is one such example.

In French ‘à la‘ or ‘de la‘ is allowed, while ‘à le‘ becomes au and ‘de le’ becomes du. So for ‘feminine’ towns such as this, you should use the following prepositions:

Je vais à La Rochelle – I am going to La Rochelle

Je viens de La Rochelle – I am coming from La Rochelle 

Plural

And some places have ‘Les’ in front of their name, like Les Lilas, a commune in the suburbs of Paris. The name of this commune literally translates as ‘The Lilacs’ and was made famous by Serge Gainsbourg’s song Le Poinçonneur des Lilas, about a ticket puncher at the Metro station there. 

When talking about a place with ‘Les’ as part of the name, you must use a plural preposition like so:

Je suis le poinçonneur des Lilas – I am the ticket puncher of Lilas 

Je vais aux Lilas – I am going to Les Lilas

Il est né aux Lilas – He was born in Les Lilas  

Islands 

Islands follow more complicated rules. 

If you are talking about going to one island in particular, you would use à or en. This has nothing to do with gender and is entirely randomised. For example:

Je vais à La Réunion – I am going to La Réunion 

Je vais en Corse – I am going to Corsica 

Generally speaking, when talking about one of the en islands, you would use the following structure to suggest movement from the place: 

Je viens de Corse – I am coming from Corsica 

For the à Islands, you would say:

Je viens de La Réunion – I am coming from La Réunion 

When talking about territories composed of multiple islands, you should use aux.

Je vais aux Maldives – I am going to the Maldives. 

No preposition needed 

There are some phrases in French which don’t require any a preposition at all. This doesn’t change when dealing with ‘Le’ places, such as Le Mans – which is famous for its car-racing track and Motorcycle Grand Prix. Phrases that don’t need a preposition include: 

Je visite Le Mans – I am visiting Le Mans

J’aime Le Mans – I like Le Mans

But for a preposition phrase, the town becomes simply Mans, as in Je vais au Mans.

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