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I came across the sentence "Si on veut une femme, il faut se faire un peu désirer" and I'm having a hard time translating it. Literally it seems to me it means "if you want a woman, you need to be desired a little" (since according to Wiktionary this is how "se faire + infinitive" is used, so that se faire désirer means "to be desired" and not something like "to make yourself desire/to make yourself desirous"). My guess would be that this is a way of saying you should keep your distance (since by being absent you'd be desired).

However, it seems not unlikely to me that perhaps in this context this could mean something else entirely (perhaps even it does mean "you should be desirous", i.e. express your desire, which is pretty much the opposite).

Is my interpretation correct? Is this a standard way of using se faire désirer or is this a little vague even in French?

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You're guessing right, in the context of flirting, se faire désirer is kind of like to play hard to get.

  • Thank you! That makes a lot of sense. – Salamano Aug 4 at 5:22
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You say "so that 'se faire désirer' means 'to be desired'"; this not correct; "se faire désirer" means "to act in such a way that the persons witnessing your behaviour will find it appealling and therefrom have a desire for you".

Your translation which precedes that, namely "if you want a woman, you need to be desired a little" is therefore not correct. There'll be several ways to put that and possibly none to satisfy everyone; but here are a couple;

  • If you want a woman you must make yourself desirable to her.
  • If you want a woman you must make yourself appealing to her.

You are correct though in saying that the meaning is not "to make yourself desire/to make yourself desirous".

It's very difficult however to adhere to your theory of the male playing hard to get ("you should keep your distance (since by being absent you'd be desired")) as this way of acting is —It seems we all know that— representative of the behaviour of women sometimes and looked down upon by the rest of society, whereas typically the male shows an outgoing attitude and knows where his chances are; he is never reproached with indulging in such "tactics". this is more or less true in all cultures, I think, and the French do not escape the rule. On the contrary, "se faire désirer" for a male lies in the way of being true to his kind and being outgoing, in engaging in real interaction rather than in wrapping himself in a passive and glittering aloofness. This present point of view not being explicit in the sentence, your suppositions that it could be a prescription for passivity might very well be realised in the interpretation that some rare person might have, but that can't be what should come to mind for most readers; the traditionnal roles, although less important as guides of social behaviour, still predominate.

Whatever the modern attitude towards this behaviour, it is of the sort that in American psychology of days not too long gone by and probably still today was called "games" and "games" are not viewed as a desirable type of behaviour; society at large (the Anglo-Saxon societies in particular) does not like people who play games.

  • So you think the definition in wiktionary: "(reflexive, followed by an infinitive) to be, to get (used for a passive action). Se faire piquer. ― To be stung. Je me suis fait avoir. ― I got screwed." is wrong? Regarding "It seems we all know that— representative of typical female behaviour, whereas typically the male shows an outgoing attitude and knows where his chances are", I am not sure that's true, I think it is often suggested to men not to let it show how interested they are in a woman. – Salamano Aug 4 at 5:28
  • Anyway, thanks for your answer! Although I'm a bit loss now since the other answer says pretty much the exact opposite... – Salamano Aug 4 at 5:28
  • Here's another thought: even if "playing hard to get" is something which is usually women and not men are advised to do, I wouldn't interpret this phrase in the sentence "if a man wants a woman he should play hard to get" in a an unusual way. Perhaps it is an unusual sentence, but its meaning is clear. – Salamano Aug 4 at 5:31
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    @Salamano I feel bound to add a small comment in view of the conversation with LPH. The key question of what it is that will excite desire in a woman is for everyone to find their own answer to. There is a large spectrum of possible attitudes from fawning over her to being completely cold and aloof. I think "se faire un peu désirer" tilts towards "aloofness" because it's qualified by the "un peu" that gives me the idea that it's part of a game and that a little coldness can be used as bait but I'm not claiming I'm right and LPH, never one to doubt himself, is entitled to disagree strongly. – petitrien Aug 4 at 8:06
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    @LPH. That's me relieved! I'm wrong, you're right. Don't change, LPH, you're priceless! – petitrien Aug 4 at 8:30

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