One of the first words I remember learning in French was ami (friend). Only three letters long, it seemed so simple.
On the other hand, the concept of friendship itself can be incredibly nuanced, meaning so many different things in various contexts.
To help you talk about friendship in French, we’ve pooled together a rich collection of idioms, poetry, proverbs, literature, and films.
Allons-y ! (Let’s dive in!)
French Idioms about Friendship
French uses a number of idiomatic expressions to describe different facets of friendship.
Types of friends
un ami / une amie – a (male/female) friend [used in standard and formal French]
un pote – a chum, a buddy
un copain / une copine – a (male/female) pal, buddy, mate
mon copain / ma copine – my boyfriend / my girlfriend [the use of the possessive usually indicates a romantic relationship, rather than a platonic one]
le meilleur ami / la meilleure amie – the best friend (male/female)
un vieil ami / une vieille amie – an old friend (male/female)
un ami de la famille / une amie de la famille – a (male/female) friend of the family [de la maison (literally, “of the house”) can be used in place of de la famille]
un ami d’enfance / une amie d’enfance – a (male/female) childhood friend
un petit ami / une petite amie – boyfriend/girlfriend
faux amis – false friends [often used to refer to false cognates, which are similar-sounding yet unrelated words]
un ami des arts – a patron of the arts
un ami des animaux – an animal lover
des amis à quatre pattes – four-legged friends
Degrees of friendship
être très ami(e) avec quelqu’un – to be very friendly with someone
être plus ami(e) avec quelqu’un qu’avec quelqu’un d’autre – to be closer friends with someone than with someone else; to be closer to one person than to the other
Friends on social media
valider une demande d’amitié – to accept a friend request
ajouter quelqu’un à sa liste d’amis – to “friend” someone
supprimer quelqu’un de sa liste d’amis – to “unfriend” someone
amiradier – to “unfriend” someone [slang; a compound word composed of ami (friend) and radier (to cross off; to strike off)]
décopiner – to “unfriend,” in casual Canadian French
devenir ami(e) avec quelqu’un – to make friends with someone; to become friends
être copains comme cochons / être copines comme cochons – to be thick as thieves [literally, “to be friends like pigs”]
être très copain avec quelqu’un – to be buddy-buddy with someone [if the subject is female, copine would replace copain]
être peu amical(e) – to be unfriendly
un match amical – a friendly game (of football, etc.)
je te le dis en ami – I’m telling you this as a friend
nous sommes entre amis – we’re among friends
tendre à quelqu’un une main amie – to give someone a helping (or friendly) hand
faire mes amitiés à quelqu’un – to give my regards (or best wishes) to someone
Amitiés – Best wishes / Regards [sign-off for a letter or email]
French Poems about Friendship
Over the centuries, francophone poets have pondered the nature of friendship and its meaning in our daily lives. Their vivid imagery sheds new light on what friendship can mean to us.
Québécois poet Louis-Honoré Fréchette offers us a short poem, simply titled “Amitié” (Friendship), that sees this type of relationship as divinely inspired. He speaks of friendship as existing under the wings of “un petit ange” (“a little angel”), who is unadulterated by the negativity found in the world. He notes that the angel looks like his friend.
In the poem “Que serais-je sans toi” (“What would I be without you”), surrealist poet Louis Aragon explores the side of friendship that allows us to grow in our perceptions of the world, and our ability to express ourselves:
J’ai tout appris de toi sur les choses humaines
Et j’ai vu désormais le monde à ta façon
(I have learned everything from you about human things / And since then, I have seen the world your way)
Aragon also asserts that the friendship has sparked his ability to feel at all:
Que serais-je sans toi qu’un coeur au bois dormant
(What would I be without you but a heart in the sleeping wood)
This Aragon poem was also the inspiration for a popular song, which has been covered by several francophone artists, including Jean Ferrat, Francesca Solleville, and Daniel Guichard.
The bittersweet poetry of “L’homme au cœur blessé” (“The man with the wounded heart”) is one of the classic songs of Egyptian-French chanteur (singer) Georges Moustaki. Its haunting refrain is sung in poignant harmony:
Les quatre murs de sa maison
N’abritent que l’absence
Où sont partis les compagnons
Avec leurs rires et leurs chansons ?
(The four walls of his house
House nothing but absence
Where have the companions gone
With their laughter and their songs?)
The man in the song lives in a house devoid of joy, surrounded by a dead garden. His memories are like burnt grass, showered only sometimes by his tears.
On a happier note, Hélène Ségara has a song entitled “La famille que l'on a choisie” (“The family we have chosen”). It speaks of the warmth of friendship, which is “Mieux qu’un feu de bois en hiver” (“better than a wood fire in winter”). The refrain indicates that the “chosen family” grows continually, as we make more friends.
Indeed, while lost friendship can bring us heartbreak, true friendship can be delightful. To explore more about friendship through the lens of French poetry, check out the collections of friendship poems on sites such as Poetica and LaPoésie.org.
Some French poetry contains words that aren’t used in everyday conversation. To learn less-familiar poetic vocabulary in French, try uploading some poems about friendship into Lingvist’s Custom Decks tool.
French Proverbs and Sayings about Friendship
French friendship proverbs are like little anonymous nuggets of wisdom. Sometimes, they speak of the inestimable value of friendship. Often, they warn us about the dangers of false friendship – or what may happen if we take friends for granted.
- Mes amis sont ma richesse. (My friends are my riches.)
- Les bons comptes font les bons amis. (Good accounting makes good friends.)
- Ami de tous, ami de personne. (Everyone’s friend is no one’s friend.)
- Qui se ressemble s’assemble. (Those that are alike gather together.) [Similar to the English proverb, “Birds of a feather flock together.”]
- Offrir l’amitié à qui veut l’amour, c’est donner du pain à qui meurt de soif. (To offer friendship to someone who wants romantic love is to give bread to someone dying of thirst.)
- Faites-vous des amis prompts à vous censurer. (Make friends with people who are quick to censure you.) [attributed to French poet Nicolas Boileau]
- Mieux vaut un sage ennemi qu’un sot ami. (A wise enemy is worth more than a foolish friend.)
- Un ami est long à trouver et prompt à perdre. (A friend takes long to find and is [or can be] quickly lost.)
- On choisit ses amis, pas sa famille. (We choose our friends, not our family.)
- C’est dans le besoin que l’on connaît ses vrais amis. (It’s in times of need that we know our true friends.)
- Un père est un trésor; un frère est un confort; un ami est les deux à la fois. (A father is a treasure; a brother is a comfort; a friend is both at once.)
Quotes from French Movies and Literature about Friendship
One of the most recognized French quotations about friendship comes from Nobel Prize laureate Albert Camus:
Ne marche pas devant moi, je ne suivrai peut-être pas. Ne marche pas derrière moi, je ne te guiderai peut-être pas. Marche juste à côté de moi et sois mon ami.
(Don’t walk ahead of me; I may not follow. Don’t walk in back of me; I may not lead. Walk right next to me and be my friend.)
Camus saw friendship as a relationship between equals.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s beloved children’s book, Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), reminds us that a friend is someone you laugh with:
**“Tu seras toujours mon ami. Tu auras envie de rire avec moi.” **(“You will always be my friend. You will always want to laugh with me.”)
On the more serious side, the Little Prince ponders that friends are to be valued and remembered, even after they are no longer part of our lives. After all, he tells us, “C’est triste d’oublier un ami. Tout le monde n’a pas eu un ami.” (“It’s sad to forget a friend. Not everyone has had a friend.”)
Étienne de La Boétie, a sixteenth-century French judge and writer from southwestern France, had a very well-known friend: Michel de Montaigne. In fact, their relationship inspired the philosopher’s famous essay, De l’Amitié (On Friendship). La Boétie himself had much to say on the subject, including the following passage from Discours de la servitude volontaire (Discourse on Voluntary Servitude). The power dynamics of tyrants are contrasted with friendship, which La Boétie sees as the purest type of virtue:
“L’amitié, c’est un nom sacré, c’est une chose sainte: elle ne peut exister qu’entre gens de bien, elle naît d’une mutuelle estime […]” (“Friendship, it is a sacred name, it is a holy thing: it cannot exist except between good people; it is born of mutual esteem […]”)
Along similar lines, playwright Jean-Baptiste Racine wrote, “Les vrais amis n’imitent que les vertus dans leurs amis. Les flatteurs imitent les vices.” (“True friends imitate only the virtues of their friends. Flatterers imitate the vices.”)
In more modern times, we’ve come to speak of friendship in less flowery terms. Even so, our desire for the truest and most beneficial virtues of friendship have not wavered.
Friendships are a favorite subject not only in literature but in entertainment, even giving rise to the “buddy comedy” genre. A well-loved French example is the César award-winning film, Intouchables (Untouchables). Based on a true story, it portrays the unlikely friendship between a quadriplegic man named Philippe and his street-savvy caretaker, Driss.
Philippe’s friends warn him that Driss will be callous, lacking any sort of sensitivity or pity. Philippe responds, “C’est ce que je veux — aucune pitié.” (“That’s what I want – no pity.”) Philippe’s unconventional friendship with Driss gives him the normalcy he craves. In return, Philippe places his trust in Driss, who has often faced mistrust due to his immigrant background.
Other French-language buddy films include Quatre aventures de Reinette et Mirabelle (Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle), Les Ripoux (The Corrupt Ones), and Nos futurs (Our Futures).
Whether you find inspiration in idioms, poetry, proverbs, literature, or films, learning French friendship expressions can help you make new friends and appreciate the amitié (friendship) of all your amis, copains, et potes (friends, pals, and buddies.)
Don’t forget to sign up for Lingvist’s online French course today and discover fun exercises for learning French vocabulary.