Many believe French is the language of love. Quotes from French novels, music, and proverbs all illustrate the romance of France, the French way of life, and the French way of thinking. Whether you are a fluent French speaker or not, these quotes illustrate that certain je ne sais quoi that makes French the language of love.
French Literary Love Quotes
French literary masterpieces are often overflowing with romance. Many of these authors' quotable lines have made their way into English speakers' hearts over the years.
Marcel Proust (1871-1922) was, among other things, a novelist whose greatest contribution to literary history is À la recherche du temps perdu known in English as In Search of Lost Time or Remembrances of Things Past. He is also the source of many great quotations like this one from his novel, La Prisonnière (The Captive):
- On n'aime que ce qu'on ne possède pas tout entier.
"We love only what we do not wholly possess." (Proust)
George Sand, born Amandine Aurore Lucile Dupin, and later known as the Baroness Dudevant, was a famous French novelist. She is well known for having defied convention by living apart from her husband, and for being Frédéric Chopin's lover. She is also remembered for dressing in men's clothes, thereby gaining access to places she wouldn't have been able to otherwise. Her most famous quote by far is from a Letter to Lina Calamatta:
- Il n'y a qu'un bonheur dans la vie, c'est d'aimer et d'être aimé.
"There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved." (Sand)
More Writers on Love
Other famous French love quotes include:
- Il n'est rien de réel que le rêve et l'amour.
"Nothing is real but dreams and love," from Le Cœur innombrable, IV, Chanson du temps opportun by Anna de Noailles
- En amour, écrire est dangereux, sans compter que c'est inutile.
"In love, writing is dangerous, not to mention pointless," from Le Demi-Monde by Alexandre Dumas Fils
- Si tu m'aimais, et si je t'aimais, comme je t'aimerais!
- "If you loved me, and if I loved you, how I would love you!" from Toi et moi, Épigraphe by Paul Géraldy
- L'amour fait les plus grandes douceurs et les plus sensibles infortunes de la vie.
- "Love makes life's sweetest pleasures and worst misfortunes," from Choix de pensées de l'amour by Madeleine de Scudéry
- Aimer, ce n'est pas se regarder l'un l'autre, c'est regarder ensemble dans la même direction.
- "Love doesn't mean gazing at each other, but looking, together, in the same direction," from Terre des hommes by Antoine de St-Exupéry
French Quotes from Songs
French songs have also provided many memorable quotes about love.
Serge Gainsbourg et Jane Birkin
Je t'aime is probably the most famous love quote of all as it means I love you. It is also the title of one of the sexiest songs ever recorded in France or anywhere else; it was un succès de scandale when released in 1967.
A Belgian singer, one of Jacques Brel's most famous songs is Quand On N'a Que L'amour (If We Only Have Love). The song touches on the power of love to transform not only personal relationships, but also individual and societal experience:
Quand on n'a que l'amour
Pour tracer un chemin
Et forcer le destin
A chaque carrefour
"If we only have love
We can forge a path
And create our own destiny
At each crossing."
Piaf, who led a life of suffering and passion, was the queen of French love songs. One of her most famous, La Vie en Rose, includes the following mots d'amour:
Quand il me prend dans les bras
Il me parle tout bas
Je vois la vie en rose
"When he takes me in his arms
and speaks to me softly
I see the world through rose-colored glasses"
There are many more passages from this song, and others by Piaf, which speak of love.
French Proverbs on Love
While the following phrases cannot be attributed to a single writer, they have shaped conceptualizations of love in French and in other languages.
- En amour on pardonne mais on n'oublie jamais.
"In love, we forgive, but we never forget." (Unknown)
- Si l'amour n'est qu'une illusion, alors qu'est-ce que la réalité?
"If love is nothing but an illusion, then what is real? (Unknown)
Capturing French Sentiment
Somehow, French writers seem to have a talent for capturing the essence of mankind's favorite emotion in words. For several centuries, the concept of love has been a focal point in French writing. Whether you read 19th century French poetry or Tristan et Iseut, you are bound to find some unparalleled phrases in French for expressing the sentiment of love.