How to Say “I Love You” in 20 Different Languages

Tuesday, February 7 6 min read

“I love you” is one of the most important phrases in any language. The word “love” has been in English since the Middle Ages, and a look at its etymology reveals that “love” is a combination of its predecessors: Old High German luba (“love”), Old English lēof (“dear”), and Latin lubēre , libēre (“to please”). In English, we can say “I love you” to family, close friends, and romantic partners, but some languages have important distinctions between romantic love and familial relationships. Even better, some languages have fun ways to express love, such as the English phrase “love at first sight.”


Direct translation: Je t’aime

Cultural phrase: Coup de foudre — “Bolt of lightning”

To tell someone you love them in French , the simplest way is Je t’aime . The verb aimer can also mean “to like,” so be careful with the phrase Je t’aime beaucoup , which actually means “I like you very much.” The nuances of this verb can be confusing to non-French speakers. The French also have a playful phrase, coup de foudre , which means “bolt of lightning” — their way to describe love at first sight.


Direct translation: Nakupenda

Cultural phrase: Nakupa moyo wangu — “I give you my heart”

Ninakupenda and nakupenda both mean “I love you” in the East African language of Swahili . The latter is simply a shortened version of the first, similar to “bye” and “goodbye” in English.

Mandarin Chinese

Direct translation: Wǒ ài nǐ (我爱你)

Cultural phrase: Yïrìqiānlĭ (一日三秋 – ) — “One day three autumns”

The direct translation of “I love you” from English to Chinese is Wǒ ài nǐ . The word “love” has stronger connotations in Chinese than in English, so to say that you “like” someone instead is also appropriate, Wǒ xǐhuān nǐ . The Chinese have an endearing phrase to use when they’ve really missed someone, yïrìqiānlĭ (“one day three autumns”), meaning that a day felt like three years.


Direct translation: Volim te

Cultural phrase: Ti si moj mali miš / Ti si moj mišić — “You are my little mouse”

The most practical way to say “I love you” in Croatian is Volim te . Similarly, “I love you a lot” is Jako te volim . Croatians often refer to their significant others with diminutive forms of animal names — not just “little mouse.” Other popular terms of endearment include “little elephant” ( slonić ) and “little fish” ( ribica ).


Direct translation: Saranghae (사랑해)

Cultural phrase: Haebaragi (해바라기) — “Sunflower”

There are two ways to say “I love you” in Korean : Saranghaeyo is formal, and Saranghae is informal. The latter, informal version is most often used by romantic couples. The formal version is often used with parents because it also evokes a sense of gratitude along with love. Terms of endearment are popular in South Korea, such as “sunflower” ( haebaragi ) and “butterfly” ( nabi ).


Direct translation: Ich liebe dich

Cultural phrase: Ich liebe dich in allen sprachen der welt “I love you in every language in the world”

Ich liebe dich is reserved for serious romantic relationships in German , while the phrase Ich hab’ dich lieb is used with close friends or family. To say “I like you” in German, use Ich mag dich .


Direct translation: Main tumhe pyaar kartha/karthee hoon

Cultural phrase: Meri jaan — “My life”

In Hindi , one of the official languages of India (the other being English), the gender of the speaker (not the recipient of the sentiment) changes the verb. For a woman to say “I love you,” the phrase is Main tumhe pyaar karthee hoon , while a male speaker would say, Main tumhe pyaar kartha hoon . Jaan is a popular term of endearment in Hindi and Urdu. It means “life,” “loved one,” or “darling.”


Direct translation: Te amo or Te quiero

Cultural phrase: Eres mi media naranja — “You’re my half orange”

There are plenty of ways to say “I love you” in Spanish . Two of the most popular are Te amo (a very serious romantic love between spouses) and Te quiero (“I want you in my life”), which is reserved for very serious relationships, but is a step down from te amo . There is also a cute Spanish phrase — Eres mi media naranja (“You’re my half orange”) — which is the equivalent to “better half” in English.


Direct translation: Ana bahebak/bahebek (انا بحبك )

Cultural phrase: Habibi (حبيبي) — “My love”

Arabic is another language where gender determines the word used, so there are two ways to say “I love you.” When speaking to a man, it is Ana bahebak, and when speaking to a woman it’s Ana bahebek ; the slight difference is a change in the final vowel. Both versions look the same in Arabic script because short vowels are omitted in writing.


Direct translation: Ti amo

Cultural phrase: Sei il mio tesoro — “You’re my treasure”

Ti amo is the go-to Italian phrase to express romantic love with your partner. To tell your family or close friends that you love them, use Ti voglio bene (“I want you well”) instead. Amore mio is a playful way to say “my love.”


Direct translation: Tá grá agam duit

Cultural phrase: Taw moh kree ish-tig un-at — “My heart is in you”

Also called Gaelic, Irish is a language that has many ways to say “I love you.” The most popular and direct is Tá grá agam duit, which translates directly to “There love I you.”


Direct translation: Aishiteru (愛してる)

Cultural phrase: Rabu rabu (ラブラブ) — “Lovey-dovey”

Aishiteru refers to deep romantic love in Japanese and is not used lightly. A more common phrase is Daisuki da yo , which means “I really like/love you.” To refer to couples who are still in the honeymoon ( hanemu-n ) phase, the term rabu rabu (meaning “lovey-dovey”) is used.


Direct translation: Mo nifẹẹ rẹ

Cultural phrase: ìfẹ́ mi — “My love”

To express romantic love in the West African language of Yoruba , use the phrase Mo ni fẹ́ rẹ , which most closely translates to “I have your love.”


Direct translation: Te amo

Cultural phrase: Saudade — “I miss you so much”

There are a few ways to say “I love you” in Portuguese , depending on where you’re from. In Brazilian Portuguese, it’s Eu te amo , and in Portugal, it’s Amo-te , but both use the shortened form Te amo . The term saudade has no direct English equivalent, but in Portuguese it means to miss someone very much, and it’s often used to express a deep longing.


Direct translation: Jag älskar dig

Cultural phrase: Sötnos — “Sweet nose”

The Swedes only use Jag älskar dig in romantic relationships. The similar phrase Jag är kär i dig means “I’m in love with you.” To tell your family or very close friends that you love them, use the phrase Jag gillar dig instead. Some popular terms of endearment are sötnos (“sweet nose,” an equivalent to English’s “sweetheart”) and älskade (“lovely”).


Direct translation: Ani ohev otech ( אני אוהב אותך)

Cultural phrase: Ani daluk alaikh (אני דלוק עלייך) — “I’m on fire for you”

Hebrew uses gender to form words, so the phrase “I love you” can look four different ways in this language: From a man to a woman is Ani ohev otech , from a man to a man is Ani ohev otcha , from a woman to a man is Ani ohevet otcha , and from a woman to a woman is Ani ohevet otech .


Direct translation: Te iubesc

Cultural phrase: Ești parte din mine — “You are a part of me”

Te iubesc is the most basic way of saying “I love you” in Romanian . A more interesting way might be Te ador , which means “I adore you,” and is used to express strong or romantic feelings of love.


Direct translation: Se agapo or S’agape (Σε αγαπώ  or σ’ αγαπώ)

Cultural phrase: Eísai stin kardiá mou (Είσαι στην καρδιά μου) — “You are in my heart”

In Greek , the verb agapi is reserved for unconditional love. It is often used in a romantic sense, but it can be said to family and close friends, too. The phrase Se latréyo , meaning “I adore you,” is another great way to express your adoration for someone.


Direct translation: Anh yêu em/ Em yêu anh

Cultural phrase: Cục vàng “Piece of gold”

In Vietnamese , the phrases Anh yêu em and Em yêu anh are used to say “I love you,” depending on if you’re speaking to a woman or a man, respectively. To tell your friend that you love them, use the phrase Tao yêu mày .


Direct translation: Seni seviyorum

Cultural phrase: Nefesim — “My breath”

The Turkish language has many ways to express feelings of love. The most common way is Seni seviyorum , but the language seems to be built for sweet talk. Common terms of endearment include gülüm (“my rose”), güzelim (“my beautiful”), gözlerim (“my eyes”), and hayatım (“my life”). The possessive “my” is always included in the noun, which alters it, as seen in the difference between gözler (“eyes” the noun) and gözlerim (the phrase “my eyes”).

Featured image credit: Prostock-Studio / iStock

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