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Live, Laugh, Love – How to Express These Verbs in French Posted by on Oct 6, 2016 in Vocabulary

Last night, my friend and I were in a home decor store and came across one of those signs with the words live, laugh, and love painted on it. You know the ones I’m talking about – they’re a thin piece of wood with the words painted on in cursive. Sometimes they’re not painted at all, and the words are carved out of a block of wood. Still not sure what I’m talking about? Spend a few minutes on Pinterest, and you’re bound to find something similar.

If you’re expecting me to give you some home interior tips in the following paragraphs, I’m sorry, but you’re going to be disappointed. Instead, I’m going to show you how you can take any experience you have and improve your foreign language skills through it. Let’s take the 3 words from that sign and examine them a bit. Do you know how to say those words in French? Do you know of other ways to say them? Do you know the differences between those answers?

 

Live
This is one of the first verbs you learn in French. While it’s not as important as avoir or être, it is indeed needed to say where you live. The verb you learn for this, habiter, is a normal -er verb and doesn’t pose many problems until you come across the verb vivre. What’s the difference?

 

Habiter
Use this verb when you want to show where you live or reside. Habiter can mean to live IN, so, as John pointed out in a previous post, you don’t have to use a preposition with it. You can absolutely use the preposition, though, if you wish to (and I always do).

Nous habitons (à) Toulouse.
We live in Toulouse.

Olivier et Stéphane habitent dans un appartement à Lyon.
Olivier and Stéphane live in an apartment in Lyon.

Blanche Neige habite avec les 7 nains dans les bois.
Snow White lives with the 7 dwarfs in the woods.

***

Vivre
Use this verb to express existing or being alive. Vivre generally answers how and when. Note that vivre is an irregular verb!

Marc ? Il vit dangereusement !
Marc? He lives dangerously!

Louis XIV a vécu au 17e siècle.
Louis XIV lived in the 17th century.

Je vis pour elle !
I live for her!

Ils vécurent heureux et eurent beaucoup d’enfants.
They lived happily and had a lot of children.
This is the French equivalent of “They lived happily ever after.”

 

As you can see, there is a difference between the verbs, but vivre is a bit more flexible as it can also express where you live.

Je vis dans une maison de verre.
I live in a glass house.

Laugh
I don’t need to tell you that laughter is the best medicine, is universal, etc. etc. We all know laughing is great. Regular laughter is important for a happy soul, but what’s not regular is the French verb for to laugh. Rire is an irregular verb, though the conjugation is pretty easy to memorize.  Let’s take a look at some terms related to laughing:

un rire – a laugh, laughter
un rire jaune – a force laugh
rire – to laugh
glousser* – to giggle/chuckle
rigoler* – to laugh
se marrer* – to giggle
rire à plein dents – to laugh your head off
se tordre de rire – to be in stitches
être mort de rire* – to be in stitches
se rire de quelqu’un/quelque chose – to laugh at someone/something
avoir un fou rire – to have a fit of the giggles
éclater de rire – burst out laughing
rire au nez de quelqu’un – to laugh in somebody’s face

* informal

Text speak
MDR – lol (literally mort de rire – dead from laughter)
EDR – lol (écroulé de rire); less common than MDR
PTDR – lmao (pété de rire)

Love
The last word in the wooden decor mantra is love. If you don’t think word choice is important when it comes to love, ask a French person if she’d rather hear her boyfriend say je t’aime or je t’aime bien. If you look up aimer in the dictionary, you’ll see the definition as to like or to love. What’s the difference? How can you tell someone if you like them or if you like like them?

When you use aimer with no adverb, you’re saying you’re in love with the person.

J’aime Karine.
I love Karine. (=I am in love with Karine)

You can also use the verb être amoureux/amoureuse de quelqu’un to mean the same thing.

Je suis amoureux de Karine.
I’m in love with Karine.

If you want to express liking someone as a friend, you just need to tag an adverb on it. Also note that if aimer is used with a negation, it can mean “don’t like” or “don’t love.”

 

J’aime bien Luc.
I like Luc. (=I like Luc as a friend.)

J’aime beaucoup Luc.
I really like Luc. (=I really like Luc as a friend.)

J’aime assez Luc.
I kind of like Luc. (=He’s an okay guy.)

Je n’aime pas Luc.
I don’t like Luc.

Je n’aime pas beaucoup Luc.
I don’t really like Luc.

So when to use aimer as to like if you need all these adverbs to clarify things? If you’re talking about an object, it can translate as like with no confusion.

J’aime les fruits.
I like fruit.

 

So, chers lecteurs (dear readers): live, laugh, and love!

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About the Author: Josh Dougherty

Just your typical francophile. If you have any topics you'd like me to discuss, feel free to let me know!