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I Love You in Chinese: 17+ Romantic Phrases Used by Mandarin Speakers

Saying “I love you” in Mandarin isn’t always as simple as saying 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ).

There are many other, less straightforward ways to convey the same sentiments. 

In China, you’d mostly use expressions other than “I love you” to show your love and affection.

Let’s dive in deeper and look at some different ways to express the sentiment of “I love you” in Chinese!

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1. 我爱你

Pinyin: wǒ ài nǐ
English: I love you

This is the most literal way to say “I love you” in Mandarin, but be careful with this one! The phrase isn’t commonly used in traditional Chinese culture.

While you may be entirely accustomed to telling your friends, partners and family members that you love them, Chinese families are not very vocal or direct when it comes to their affection for their loved ones.

So naturally, saying 我爱你 to someone from China might come across as strange, and that person might react in a way that’s less than ideal. 

Romance isn’t really embedded in Chinese culture the way it is in many other cultures. While English-speaking cultures often make a big deal out of who says “I love you” first, Chinese couples generally don’t really care.

In a comparative analysis of luxury brand ads in the West versus China, a stark contrast in perceptions of romance was unveiled as it was shown that the Chinese ads focused on commitment, reassurance and security, whereas the American and European ads highlighted passionate and erotic love.

2. 我喜欢你

Pinyin: wǒ xǐ huān nǐ
English: I like you

This phrase is typically meant romantically—you won’t really say it to friends!

In fact, it’s often used when you’re confessing your feelings for someone. You can also say it casually to someone you’re already dating if 我爱你 comes off as too strong. 

3. 我好想你

Pinyin: wǒ hǎo xiǎng nǐ
English: I miss you so much

This works with both close friends and loved ones as well as significant others. The milder version of it would be 我想你 (wǒ xiǎng nǐ), which simply means “I miss you.” 

4. 我为你疯狂

Pinyin: wǒ wèi nǐ fēng kuáng
English: I am crazy about you

If you’re extremely infatuated with someone, this might be one phrase you’ll want to practice! 

5. 我暗恋你

Pinyin: àn liàn nǐ
English: I have a crush on you

暗恋 (àn liàn) means liking someone romantically, but in a secret way—the other person doesn’t know. 

6. 我希望和你交往

Pinyin: wǒ xī wàng hé nǐ jiāo wǎng
English: I would like for us to (go on a) date

This is a straightforward way to ask someone out! Aside from 交往 (jiāo wǎng), you can also say 约会 (yuē huì)

7. 我想跟你在一起

Pinyin: wǒ xiǎng gēn nǐ zài yì qǐ
English: I want to be with you

在一起 literally means “to be together” in Mandarin, so use this phrase when you’re ready to get serious with someone or you’re already committed to each other.  

8. 我想吻你

Pinyin: wǒ xiǎng wěn nǐ
English: I want to kiss you

Be careful with the tones for this! (wěn) means “kiss”—make sure to say it with the third tone. The other person might mistake what you’re saying for (wèn) and assume you’re just going to ask them a question. 

9. 我只属于你

Pinyin: wǒ zhǐ shǔ yú nǐ
English: I only belong to you

You’ll usually hear this in Chinese love songs and dramas. Of course, you can also flip it around: 只属于我 (nǐ zhǐ shǔ yú wǒ) — you only belong to me

10. 我爱你一生一世

Pinyin: ài nǐ yī shēng yī shì
English: I love you for life

This is a very romantic phrase, to the point that it even has its own holiday! 

In 2013, January 4 was declared as “Love You Forever” day. The reason why it was such a big deal was that the date 2013/1/4 in Mandarin is 二零一三一四 (èr líng yī sān yī sì), which sounds similar to this phrase.

That holiday was literally a once-in-a-lifetime event, with thousands of couples rushing to get hitched on the historic date.

11. 爱老虎油

Pinyin: ài lǎo hǔ yóu
English: I love you

This slang expression is a transliteration of the English “I love you,” and it’s a lighthearted way of sharing your feelings. You’ll often read it online or on chat.

12. 一三一四 / 1314

Pinyin: yī sān yī sì
English: Forever

Number slang is also common via text or online. As you can see from the last two phrases, the Chinese are very big on creating slang by using similar sounds between numbers and other words.  一三一四 / 1314 is a homophone of 一生一世 (yī shēng yī shì), meaning “forever” in English.

13. 五二零 / 520

Pinyin: wǔ èr líng

English: I love you 

五二零 / 520 is a homophone of 我爱你. When texting someone, you can actually just send them a message with 520 in it, and they’ll understand that you’re saying you love them.

This led to the Chinese Internet Valentine’s Day, created by netizens a few years back on the dates of 5/20 and 5/21. Women often expect gifts or red packets on May 20th, so be prepared!

14. 五二一 / 521

Pinyin: wǔ èr yī
English: I love you

520 is much more popular, but 五二一 / 521 has romantic associations because it also sounds very similar to 我爱你

15. 五二零一三一四 / 5201314 

Pinyin: wǔ èr líng yī sān yī sì
English: I’ll love you forever

If 520 isn’t enough, you can go above and beyond with this number slang! It’s based on an expression we’ve mentioned already: 我爱你一生一世.

You can also shorten this to 2013 for 爱你一生 (ài nǐ yì shēng), which has roughly the same meaning.

16. 七七零 / 770

Pinyin: qī qī líng
English: Kiss you

This is a reference to 亲亲你 (qīn qīn nǐ), where  (qīnmeans “kiss.” 

17. 八八零 / 880

Pinyin: bā bā líng
English: Hug you 

This comes from 抱抱你 (bào bào nǐ).  (bàomeans to hug someone!

More Ways to Say I Love You in Chinese

You’ll often hear many of the phrases above and even the “L-word” in Chinese pop songs and dramas. For example, 我喜欢你 shows up in a popular song from the drama “A Love So Beautiful”:

The screenshot above is from FluentU, where you can watch music videos, drama clips, commercials and other authentic videos. In addition to getting a chance to hear different expressions of love by native Chinese speakers, you’ll also have the support of accurate dual-language subtitles.

On the iOS and Android apps, you can also get a chance to speak these words out loud—so you can practice professing your love to your phone before you test it out on a real person.

But if you really want to do as the Chinese do, here are some gestures to express your love for your Chinese significant other:

More with the gifts, less with the words

The Chinese are all about showing your love as opposed to confessing your love, and this is often done with gifts and financial provisions. While this may seem superficial to those from other cultures, wealth is seen as indicative of stability for the future, which falls in line with the ideals the Chinese have about love.

While Westerners may more often believe that personal sacrifices like time, energy and effort are strong indications of love, China’s history of extreme poverty shaped the social norms of correlating affection with money.

Celebrate all the Chinese romantic holidays

If you thought Valentine’s Day was excessive, wait until you hear about all the romantic holidays in China!

The Chinese might not outright say “I love you” to their loved ones, but they sure do have lots of calendar days celebrating their love for one another.

In addition to international Valentine’s Day, China has its own V-Day known as Double Seventh Festival or 七夕节 (qī xī jié), a traditional festival celebrating the legend about a forbidden love between a weaver girl and someone with a name meaning “cowherd.” It’s on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar.

While many of the festival traditions have disappeared over the years, the day still bears significance to the Chinese, who celebrate by showering their partners with flowers, chocolates and other gifts.

Of course, there’s also the Chinese Internet Valentine’s Day as mentioned above on May 20 and 21! Remember to text 520 to your significant other and celebrate it with them. 

Share the love with food

In Chinese culture, love isn’t always said out loud—and you can see this even with Chinese parents.

By now, you’ve probably already seen the Pixar short “Bao.”

Chinese people and some other Asian people rejoiced as they found that the animated feature perfectly reflected the kind of relationships they had with their own parents. As Chinese-Canadian director Domee Shi explained in Xinhua, “Traditionally, Chinese parents don’t say, ‘I love you’ to their kids. They say it with food or by fussing over them.”

Food is so important to Chinese culture that a traditional greeting is 你吃饭了吗?(nǐ chī fàn le ma?). This is understood as “How are you?”, but its literal meaning is “Have you eaten?”

Because of this, you can definitely use food to make gestures of affection—you might cook dinner for your significant other, bring them their favorite food or invite them to a family dinner. It might seem more subtle, but they’ll likely get the message and feel appreciated! 

 

Love is a tricky business, isn’t it?

If you’re adamant about saying “I love you” in Mandarin in the literal way, by all means, go for it.

Just be prepared for the possibility of strange looks, a bit of laughter and maybe some comments about you being crazy or drunk.

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