Aimer – to like, to love

Aimer - French verb
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A Likeable French Verb

The regular -er verb aimer is ubiquitous and very useful, but can also be confusing for a couple of reasons.

Aimer = to like / to love

Aimer can mean either "to like" or "to love." In some contexts, this can make a world of difference as you certainly don’t want to tell someone you love them when you’re just friends, so how can you make it clear how you feel? It depends on the rest of the sentence.

1) In front of a non-human noun or an infinitive, aimer can mean either like or love, so your tone of voice will be the best indicator of how strongly you feel.

Par exemple…

– Est-ce que tu aimes le chocolat ?
– Oui, j’aime le chocolat.
  – Do you like chocolate?
– Yes, I like chocolate.
J’aime le cinéma !   I love the movies!
Il aime skier.   He likes skiing.
Nous aimons faire la cuisine !   We love cooking!

 When your feelings are intense, you can add beaucoup or use adorer instead.

Il aime beaucoup skier.   He really loves skiing.
Nous adorons faire la cuisine !   We really love cooking!

2) With a person, aimer means "to love" or "to be in love with."

J’aime mes sœurs.   I love my sisters.
– Tu aimes Sylvie ?
– Non, j’aime Francine.
  – Do you love Sylvie?
– No, I’m in love with Francine.

You can make aimer stronger with très fort or else use adorer:

J’aime très fort Francine.   I really love Francine.
J’adore Francine.   I adore Francine.

 2½) To say that you like a person, you cannot use aimer on its own – it means "love." For like, you have to add an adverb: assez, bien, or beaucoup. This can seem counterintuitive, especially beaucoup which normally intensifies meaning (including when aimer is used with a non-person, above), but with aimer plus a person it does just the opposite: it softens the meaning from love to like.

J’aime assez Francine.   I like Francine.
Tu aimes bien Marc ?   Do you like Marc?
Il aime beaucoup David.   He really likes David.

3) Ne pas aimer means "to not like" no matter what or whom you’re talking about.

Il n’aime pas l’ail.   He doesn’t like garlic.
Elle n’aime pas danser.   She doesn’t like dancing.
Je n’aime pas Dorothée.   I don’t like Dorothée.

You can soften this dislike with beaucoup:

Il n’aime pas beaucoup l’ail.   He doesn’t much like garlic.
Elle n’aime pas beaucoup danser.   She doesn’t really like dancing.
Je n’aime pas beaucoup Dorothée.   I don’t particularly like Dorothée.

Aimer with pronouns

The other major difficulty with aimer has to do with pronouns: when you want to say something like "I like it" or "I love him" – learn more.

Conditional

Aimer is used in the conditional to express something that you would like (but may or may not get).

Par exemple…

J’aimerais aller en Russie un jour.   I would like to go to Russia some day.
Je ne sais pas si j’aimerais voyager seul.   I don’t know if I would like traveling alone.
Nous aimerions une maison avec un grand jardin.   We would like a house with a big garden.

 J’aimerais is more theoretical than je voudrais, which is a polite way of making a request.

S’aimer

S’aimer can reflexive or reciprocal.

1) Reflexive: to like oneself

Je m’aime avec cette robe.   I like myself in this dress. (I think I look good in this dress.)
Tu t’aimes en rouge ?   Do you think you look good in red?

2) Reciprocal

   a) to love each other, to be in love

Aimez-vous les uns les autres.   Love one another.
Ils s’aiment depuis 10 ans.   They’ve been in love for 10 years.

   b) to make love

Ils s’aiment tous les jours.   They make love every day.

Expressions with aimer

Aimer is found in many expressions, including

Aimer in action

Do these French expressions need the subjunctive?

 Related lessons

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Aimer - to like, to love
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