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I’ve seen some instances where only the verb is said and “it” is implied. For example, just saying “J’aime” to say “I like it”. Are there any other times where you can leave it off like this and it’s implied?

  • Actually to mean I like it we will say J'aime ça (literally I like it), I think that the usage is the same as english language where we could also say I like or I enjoy etc. – stbr Jun 19 at 8:18
7

Both French and English can have ∅ objects when they're indefinite (Ils embauchent/ they're hiring, je mange là/I'm eating right now, etc).

French also allows ∅ objects when they're generic, while English doesn't. When the object refers to a specific thing, the weak pronouns le/la/les are heavily favoured:

  • Les pâtes, j'aime beaucoup (ça) (I like pasta a lot -in general)

  • Tes pâtes, je les aime beaucoup (I like your pasta a lot)

This generic object can be human :

  • Tu ∅ fais chier !

  • Le beau temps ∅ invitait à la paresse

As you can tell from the above examples, the ∅ pronoun alternates with the strong pronoun "ça", with identical meaning, when the referent is a non-human.

Note that a more specific object can be coded as generic for a stylistic effect. For example, when offered the last room in a hotel, you may answer "je prends" (I'll take it) despite the object being this very specific last room. Doing so backgrounds the object (which isn't really relevant because no choice was offered) in favour of the action (the agreement to the deal) which is the really relevant part. Likewise, you can hand a book to someone and tell them "lis" (instead of the expected "lis-moi ça" if the focus is on the order to read

Whether ça or ∅ is used depends a lot on the verb. Some generalisations can be given, but they won't give a full overview:

  • with perception or psychological verbs, ∅ is favoured: je vois, j'entends, je pense, j'imagine.

  • with verbs of action, ∅ will be favoured for a generic meaning, and most "ça" will be demonstrative.

Additionally, there exists verbs which break the rules outlined above. For example, "je sens" can only mean "I smell" or "I smell it" while "je le sens" is required if the intended meaning is "I feel it".

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It's not very common to say J'aime alone in French.

We'd rather say :

J'aime bien, J'aime ça, Ça me plait.

We never use Je l'aime as I like it, but as I love him / her

Aimer is a complex word in French, since it can have a lot of meanings.

But in French we translate it as le / la. And don't find any other example where we don't do it.

  • Difficult to backup with factual elements, but my feeling is that it is more common (at least in informal speech) to use the turn of phrase without the article in the interrogative form, eg Tu aimes ? as a quick way to ask someone's opinion on a meal, a song, a movie, etc. – Greg Jun 19 at 8:47
  • Don't you also leave it off with verbs like penser, croire...? – lmc Jun 19 at 10:11
  • We say Je pense que, Je crois que (I think that) or if you mean I believe in then in french we'll say Je crois en lui (him), dieu (god) etc. However there are a few cases where we can drop it. I think that I was wrong becomes Je crois que j'avais tort but you can also say Je crois m'être trompé. At the oral when someone ask your opinion about something but you're not sure you can answer simply Je pense, ex: Did she work hard to get such a high grade, Je pense / J'pense (meaning probably here, or I think so). – stbr Jun 19 at 12:44
  • Dropping the object is common in spoken French: j'aime, j'aime pas, je prends, j'achète, je vends, je suis (I follow)*, j'adore, je déteste, je partage, je distribue, ...* – jlliagre Jun 19 at 13:03
  • Que penses-tu de ma mousse au chocolat ? Je l'aime (bien) ! => In some occasions "Je l'aime" can be used to say "I like it". – Laurent S. Jun 19 at 15:57

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