Picture this, you walk into a Paris bistro and the French girl or guy of your dreams is standing alone by the bar. You want to go up to say hello but all that comes to mind are the basic phrases you learned in school: Comment-vas tu? Je m’appelle John. Je viens de Londres. Not exactly poetry.
Flirting is a fine art to master, no matter which language you speak. But if you’re planning a trip to France or have your eye on a French beauty, it can be even more of a challenge. That’s because romantic phrases aren’t typically included in a standard French textbook. Flirting also requires a certain subtlety or boldness of approach for which you need a measure of control over the language. Pronunciation should be accurate as delivery is important. You will also want to have a few one-liners memorized to be sure you make a strong first impression.
Here’s where you need to exercise some caution. Just like in English, starting off with Je t’aime (I love you) may be a bit intense in French. Commenting on someone’s physical appearance — Comme tu es belle! (you are so beautiful)– can be perceived as a unoriginal. Tu veux rentrer avec moi? (do you want to come home with me) is more of a proposition than flirting. But in the end It all depends on the preference of the person on the receiving end.
Have a read through our list of the top French phrases you need for flirting and then try our tips for committing them to memory. One thing is certain, the more you learn and practice these expressions in conversation, the better prepared you’ll be when love at first sight strikes!
French as the language of love
French, like Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian is a romance language. This doesn’t mean that French is particularly romantic, but rather that it comes from Latin. In pop-culture French is often referred to as a language of love because of the way it sounds. It turns out nasal vowels have a seductive effect on English ears. There’s also something to the intonation. French phrases have less syllables than English ones because of the liaisons or connections you need to make between words when you are speaking.
Local culture inevitably plays a role. The French are known for their sense of fashion, their wine and their poetry. When you hear an accordion and see the Eiffel Tower, it’s hard not to summon “La vie en Rose” and fall in love with the next person you meet. In fact, many people decide to learn French because they want to travel to France and have exactly this kind of experience. French has a reputation for being a highly cultured language that is romantic, dramatic and expressive. And then there’s the French people themselves with their berets, talons hauts (high heels), cigarettes and sexy accents!
How flirting works in France
So how do the French flirt? The first thing you need to know is how to address someone in France. French has two words for “you”: tu and vous. The latter is both the plural version and the formal term used for a person you don’t know. Using vous places a certain amount of distance between you and the individual you are speaking with and this can be inappropriate if you’re in an informal situation. That’s why when it comes to flirting you usually want to go with tu as your pronoun of choice. There are of course exceptions and to be on the safe side you can always start off with vous to show respect and then ask your conversation partner if they’re comfortable changing register: Est-ce que je peux vous tutoyer? (Can I call you by the informal “you”?)
When it comes the prevalence of flirting in France, you’ll find it is pretty common. If someone is single and out and about there’s no reason why you can’t approach them. Be advised you may have to penetrate a group of friends first as French men and women rarely go out for a night on the town on their own. It may help to be strategic in your timing. A weekend evening often begins at 9pm when friends meet at a pub or bistro for drinks. The party will typically move to a nightclub between 11-12pm where dancing ensues and wraps up in the wee hours over croissants and sunrise. Making your move earlier on can mean you’re invited along for the ride and of course all of the loud music and crowds will render any mistakes in your French less obvious.
Phrases you need to know
When you learn French in a traditional course you tend to focus on broad categories of vocabulary — words and phrases for eating out, going shopping, traveling on the train etc. This approach is useful because the phrases are related and can be combined in different ways in the same conversation. There’s no reason why you can’t do the same when it comes to flirting.
Try this set of common French expressions to start with:
Tu es mignon, toi. (You’re cute.) Calling someone “beautiful” can be perceived as a bit over the top. One word that better suits an informal situation is mignon which means “cute” in French. Note this word is a bit tricky when it comes to using the feminine form of the adjective. If your new love interest is a girl you’ll want to say: Tu es mignonne and be sure to pronounce that final ‘n’. Repeating the pronoun at the end is not necessary but gives the phrase a more familiar and native-like feel.
Je te trouve ravissante. (I think you are beautiful.) If you want to go for a big effect, up the stakes and lead with calling her beautiful! There are so many adjectives you could learn: ravissante, charmante, très belle, etc. This is the kind of pick up line that works best on women though.
T’as d’beaux yeux tu sais. (You’ve got pretty eyes.) Sounds nice in theory but it’s best to avoid this one if you don’t want the person to laugh! However, if that’s what you’re after– go for it. It’s a famous pick up line from the film Le Quai des Brumes. Sometimes humor is the best way to get people in France to open up, particularly if you’ve not met before.
Je t’ai jamais vu avant. Tu viens souvent par ici? (I’ve never seen you before. Do you come here often?)
A good and neutral French introduction– the astute learner will notice that the first part of the negative sentence is missing. In correct French you would need to say Je ne t’ai jamais vu as French, unlike English, requires double negatives. However, in spoken language slang you can drop the initial “ne”. Remember that if you are speaking to a girl, they’ll be an extra -e added to vue. Fortunately, you don’t have to pronounce anything differently so just learn the rule and carry on with the conversation.
Tu aimes la soupe aux tomates ? (Do you like tomato soup? ) This isn’t one of those romantic French phrases you’ll find in Baudelaire but it will help you play the originality card by asking something absurd. The object of your affection may be curious and ask why. If nothing more it’s a fun way to start a conversation!
Tu veux boire un verre? (Do you want to get a drink?)
If things are going well and you want to keep the conversation going, using this expression can be a good way to suggest you go somewhere for a drink, just the two of you. It doesn’t have to be used in a flirting context and can also work well with friends or colleagues in France. The direct translation from French is “do you want to drink a glass” but this usually refers to an alcoholic beverage.
Je peux t’offrir quelque chose? (Can I buy you a drink?)
Offering to get a new love interest a drink is definitely good manners. It also allows the person to decline politely with a non merci if they’re not interested. If the answer is yes, be prepared for their response as you’ll likely be the one giving the bartender the order. They may want un verre, une pression (no this does not mean “pressure” but rather draft beer) or they may choose to order the brand of drink directly. If you hear a bunch of numbers come out it might be a reference to the French beer Kronenbourg 1664.
Ça te dirait de boire un café un de ces quatre? (Would you like to grab a coffee sometime?) If you want to steer clear of the alcohol, how about suggesting a daytime date? Of all of the phrases you can learn, this is one of the best because you can use it in so many situations.
Ta façon de sourire est charmante. (The way you smile is charming.) The French respond well to people who are trying to be charming so why not pay a compliment to your object of affection! This is one of those great phrases to learn for both men and women crushes.
Salut, j’avais juste envie de te parler. (Hi, I just wanted to talk to you.) Sometimes you just have to go for it! In France if you’re trying to be romantic you can say this to impress someone. Basically tell them they are so amazing you just wanted to speak with them– how nice!
Sympa ton écharpe, je cherche un cadeau pour ma sœur. (Nice scarf, I’m looking for a present for my sister.) Of course, it doesn’t have to be a scarf, it will work if she’s wearing an original accessory. Choose different articles of clothing (or maybe change who you are buying the scarf for) and use this as an opener for anyone you happen to be standing next to.
Tu ne t’appellerais pas biscotte? Parce que tu es craquante! (Is your name cookie ? Because you are irresistible.) Craquant means both irresistible and crunchy so this one is a “double entendre.” It will either be laughed at or hated. But if you try hard to deliver it knowing full well it’s an absurd pick-up line, it can make you look cute. Either way you’ll learn you lesson. People in France get a kick out of Englishmen trying out their French phrases so just hope that’s how it is interpreted.
Top tips for learners
String multiple lines together. You want to make sure your French is dynamic so don’t deliver these all in a row or you’ll end up sounding a bit like a robot. Practice stringing expressions together in a natural way. You may want to imagine various comments from your conversation partner and plan out responses in advance.
Go to meet-ups to practice. Sometimes you need to skip the lessons and find some native-speakers because there’s nothing like real-life chatting to get your French up to snuff. The more you reach for these phrases, the easier it will be to say them in fluent conversation. If you can’t join an in-person French group then try an online language exchange.
Make sticky notes for your flat. If you want to ensure you really learn these phrases then you need to see them as often as possible. Write them on sticky notes and put them all over your bathroom mirror so you can rehearse in the shower. Have them on your lampshade or kitchen cabinets and make them a part of your daily routine. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to remember them!
NO TIME TO MAKE FLASHCARDS? FlashSticks has pre-made French flashcards that come on sticky-notes. They are available for different levels so you can save yourself the hassle of writing out words and focus on delivery and pronunciation instead. They include images, phonetic transcriptions and the French words themselves– there’s even a mobile app to help you practice on the go! Learn more.
Work your pronunciation. Say phrases over and over again until you get them right. When you’re in a loud bar or busy place you need to be confident enough in your French to speak at a higher volume. Imitate native speakers and don’t worry about sounding silly in the beginning. If you give it your all the sounds will come together eventually.
Watch sitcoms and French films. One way to learn French flirting phrases is to watch TV shows produced in France that showcase a stereotypical approach. Pay attention to the cultural aspect and the language. If you turn on French subtitles you’ll have an easier time writing down the phrases you need to remember for future use.
Be comfortable talking about yourself. When the tables are flipped and your new love interest decides to engage you in a bit of flirting, you’ll want to have some answers ready. Students often learn French phrases they can use to describe themselves but you will also need phrases that express complex feelings and emotions.
Do you have any tips on flirting in French? Share them in the comments below.
Want to know how to flirt in Italian next? Check out our blog article: https://flashacademy.com/how-to-flirt-in-italian/