The question is on the clause as highlighted in this passage from La porte étroite by André Gide.

Parfois j’hésite si ce que j’éprouve pour lui c’est bien ce que l’on appelle de l’amour – tant la peinture que d’ordinaire on fait de l’amour diffère de celle que je pourrais en faire. Je voudrais que rien n’en fût dit et l’aimer sans savoir que je l’aime. Surtout je voudrais l’aimer sans qu’il le sût.


  1. Does it parse to

    ce que l’on appelle de | l’amour

    in which appelle de forms a verb, or to

    ce que l’on appelle | de l’amour

    in which de l' is a partitive article?

    (One of the online dictionaries says appeler de means appeal against e.g. a court decision, which does not seem to fit the context well.)

  2. What would be the standard way to say what people call love? E.g. Gide's phrasing, or ce que l’on appelle amour, or ce que l’on appelle l’amour?

  3. If Gide's phrasing is not the standard way, why would Gide have used a non-standard one? What effect is he aiming at? (I realize it may be difficult to tell without more context.)

  • 1
    Ce qu'on appelle | de l'amour (de la haine / des vies bien remplies etc.).
    – None
    Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 15:38

1 Answer 1


De is a partitive article. If you had a different noun you could have :

Ce qu'on appelle :

  • de la rage
  • des hommes avisés

ce que l’on appelle de l’amour

is what I would expect here in the context of Gide's book.

We could of course encounter the phrase ce qu'on appelle amour. For example, Nietzsche's text Was Alles Liebe genannt wird has been translated as Ce qu'on apelle amour (The things people call love).

In Gide's text we are dealing with a specific case with particular people involved. Nietzsche's text is philosophical and deals with love as a (philosophical) concept.

We could also have ce qu'on appelle l'amour. I find it difficult to see a difference in the case of Gide's sentence.

I'm fully aware it's beside the point, but it's just occurred to me that in English you would not differentiate between those, unless maybe you capitalized Love... ?

  • Thank you. As for English, I believe you are right that we don't have other options if the thing in question is love. (I.e. neither 'some love' nor 'the love' would do.) We might get 'what we call the love of a father' though.
    – Catomic
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 0:12

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