German is a beautiful language, and don’t let anybody tell you any different.
You just have to hear it spoken by the right people.
Even Martian or gobbledegook spoken by a beautiful person would sound charming to the ear.
And once your thoughts are heading in a certain romance-ward direction, it’s hard to get them off course. There’s probably only one thing on your mind, and that’s telling your new muse how you feel.
So, how do you say “I love you” in German?
Any fool can open up a dictionary app and rattle off a translation. But if you want to do more than get laughed out of the room, you’ll need to have a bit of a deeper understanding of how to talk about love in German.
That’s what this article is for. Read on to learn everything from casual flirting phrases to quotations from medieval literature.
How to Say “I Love You” in German and Win Hearts
You can’t learn emotion from a textbook. Sure, we can teach you the words for saying “I love you” in German, but if you really want to learn how to properly convey them, you’ll need FluentU.
What does a German language learning program have to do with expressing your innermost feelings? Well, since FluentU uses real-world videos like music videos, movie trailers and other authentic content, you’ll get plenty of chances to see how the language—even the language of love!—is actually used by native German speakers.
Plus, the content is broken down and augmented for you, the learner, with vocabulary explanations, flashcards and more. Between FluentU and the lovely love words and phrases below, you’ll be all set to proclaim your love like a native speaker!
How to Say “I Love You” in German
Let’s start with the simplest, most straight-to-the-point way to express love in German:
Ich liebe dich. (I love you.)
Of course, there are other ways to say “I love you” in German, and to learn them, you’ll need to get acquainted with some useful German words.
German Verbs of Love
The verb “to love” in German is lieben. The direct object—that is, the person you love—takes the accusative case.
Ich liebe meinen Mann. (I love my husband.)
Therefore, the way to say “I love you” in German is nice and simple, as we previously said:
Ich liebe dich. (I love you.)
It’s a simple and beautiful phrase and, even better, you can use it to practice your German cases. Imagine this conversation: a confession of love and a surprised reply:
“Ich liebe dich.” (“I love you.”)
“Du liebst mich!?” (“You love me!?”)
Of course, that’s not the only way that you can profess your love in German. Another quite common verb is jemanden Lieb haben — to have love for someone.
Ich hab’ dich Lieb. (I love you.)
Interestingly enough, this particular phrase is always said with the contraction hab’ instead of the full word habe. Many people feel that this is a lighter and less intense way to say the same thing as ich liebe dich.
Even lighter still is one last phrase related to feeling attracted to someone: jemanden gern mögen.
Ich mag dich sehr gerne. (I like you very much.)
This isn’t the school playground kind of “I like you.” This is more like: “Let’s take this friendship to the next level.”
Our vocabulary lesson doesn’t end there. What do we do with the people we love? We hug them, perhaps. That’s umarmen in German, followed often (if you’re lucky) by küssen, “to kiss.”
Ich will dich umarmen. (I want to hug you.)
Könnte ich dich mal küssen? (Could I kiss you?)
In this last sentence, mal doesn’t really have any meaning. It’s a filler word, meant to keep things informal, and also with the sense of “just once.”
The verb “to cuddle” has a cute sound to it in English, and in German it’s the same: kuscheln.
Ich habe nichts mit ihm getan, nur kuscheln. (I didn’t do anything with him, only cuddled.)
Lovely German Adjectives
If you want to pay someone a nice compliment in German, you can never go wrong with some of these sweet adjectives.
First, you have your standard adjectives for attractiveness such gutaussehend (good-looking), schick (handsome, stylish), hübsch (pretty) and more.
Was für ein hübsches Mädel! (What a pretty girl!)
Du siehst heute so schick aus. (You look so handsome today.)
These words can sometimes have a bit of a feeling of childishness to them. It’s a little more grown-up to describe attractive people with adjectives about their characteristics.
Some of the most useful adjectives in that category are nett (kind) and rücksichtsvoll (considerate).
Ich finde sie sehr nett. (I think she’s very kind.)
Ich will einen rücksichtsvollen Freund. (I want a considerate boyfriend.)
Open up any cheap German romance novel, and you’ll find page after page of breathless adjectives that get more specific about parts of the body (no, not that—get your mind out of the gutter!).
Sie hatte fließende Haare, lange Beine und ein sehr schönes Lächeln. (She had flowing hair, long legs and a very beautiful smile.)
German Nouns for Love
German uses plenty of nouns in the quest for love, as well. As you can imagine, some are metaphorical, like das Herz (the heart).
Wenn ich dich sehe, schlägt mein Herz. (When I see you, my heart beats.)
How about the stars in the sky, or die Sterne? In German as well as in English, they’re associated with mystical wonder and beauty.
Jemand hat Sterne in deine Augen gelegt. (Somebody’s put stars in your eyes.)
Das Gefühl is another good one, simply meaning “feeling.”
Wenn ich mit dir bin, habe ich ein gutes Gefühl. (When I’m with you, I get a good feeling.)
Since German nouns can easily become compound nouns, you can have ein Liebesgefühl (love feeling) as well, or der Blick (view) and der Eindruck (impression). These are words not in and of themselves related to love, but that can and do get used often to describe love. Have a look at the examples:
Als ich dich gesehen habe, war es wirklich Liebe auf den ersten Blick. (When I saw you, it was truly love at first sight.)
Ich hatte auf einmal einen sehr guten Eindruck von dir. (I immediately had a very good impression of you.)
Cute Names for You and Yours
In German, the word for a “pet name” is der Kosename. Be warned, though: There’s something about the German language that makes mushy nicknames sound significantly more mushy than in English.
Perhaps that’s even related to the word. Because in German, Kosename comes from the verb kosen, meaning “to caress.” So you don’t have a pet name, you have a “caress name!”
The top of the list for pet names in German is always Schatz, meaning “treasure.” There’s a similar word, the verb schätzen, which means “to value, treasure or protect.” It makes sense that this is something you’d like to do to your loved one!
Another classic favorite is Liebling, which roughly means “little loved one” or “favorite” and is close in connotation to the English “darling.” The German language has a number of useful diminutive suffixes, namely -ling, -chen and -lein. When it comes to pet names, these come out in full force, like you’ll see in a minute.
People the world over think that small things are cute, and so any language with diminutives will tend to use them to describe cute or romantic things. German dives right into this. The animals der Bär, die Hase, die Katze and die Maus all take diminutive endings when they turn into mushy nicknames: Bärchen, Kätzchen and Mäuschen are the elegant translations of “my little bear, cat, mouse” respectively.
Anyone who’s watched a German vlog or modern TV show knows that Germans are no strangers to the English language. Therefore, Baby, Sugar and even Honey are occasionally used to refer to one’s dearest.
Beware False Friends
Since English and German are related languages, there are a lot of words with similar pronunciations and meanings. However, thanks to the mysteries of time, some root words diverged into two very different words in modern languages.
One huge false friend to avoid is Lust, which has no modern connection to the English word “lust.” It still means “desire,” but not in that strong of a way and with no sexual connotation. You most often see it in this set phrase:
Ich habe Lust auf Bücher zu lesen. (I want to read books. Lit: “I have the desire to read books.”)
Another is das Kissen. Earlier we learned that the verb “to kiss” is actually küssen, so what could this mean? It’s a pillow, just like you’d find on your bed or the couch!
Ich mag harte Kissen. (I like hard pillows.)
This isn’t a false friend but it’s a little confusing all the same. We have the verb lieben, which in German can easily switch its part of speech to a noun, die Geliebte. It has the meaning of “someone (female) who is loved” but also “lover” or “mistress.”
Next is the word “friend,” itself. In German, Freund and its counterpart Freundin mean “romantic partner” as well as “friend.” This is a surprisingly big distinction for a language not to have!
Context will generally clear up any confusion, and if you want to be completely specific, you’ll say ein Freund von mir “a friend of mine” instead. In any case, this confuses native German-speakers sometimes as well!
“Gehst du heute Abend mit deinem Freund feiern?” (“Are you going partying with your boyfriend tonight?”)
“Ich habe keinen Freund, er ist nur ein Freund von mir.” (“I don’t have a boyfriend, he’s just a friend of mine.”)
Crushes and Flirting in German
Watch any high school movie and you’re guaranteed to hear somebody talk about their crush. It’s practically a law for the genre!
You might also be interested in how to flirt in German. Germans have the reputation of being rather straightforward about love and sex, but it’s all relative. You can’t expect to simply have people fall into your arms left and right.
The German verb for “to flirt” is, easily enough, flirten.
Ich habe gesehen, wie du mit ihr geflirtet hast! (I saw how you flirted with her!)
If you’re interested in hitting the streets to flirt in German, you’ll definitely need some solid German pick-up lines. Here are some classics:
Du kommst mir bekannt vor. Kann es sein, dass du die Frau/der Mann aus meinen Träumen bist? (I think I know you. Can it be that you are the woman/the man of my dreams?)
Whether you keep the second half or not, the first sentence (…kommt mir bekannt vor, “…is familiar to me”) is an excellent all-purpose expression for pretty much anything in German, not just attractive people!
Deine Augen passen zu meiner Bettwäsche. (Your eyes match my bedsheets.)
Ich habe meine Handynummer verloren, kann ich deine haben? (I lost my number, can I have yours?)
Handy is another false friend that, interestingly enough, many Germans feel is correct English. All it means in German is “mobile phone,” so make sure you don’t use it as an adjective unless you want to make some people very confused.
German Idioms About Love
In just a moment we’ll get into some German literature having to do with love, but first, here are some very nice idioms and colloquial phrases having to do with love.
Stehst du auf mich? (Are you into me?)
Auf jemanden stehen is probably the most casual way to say that you want to be with somebody. In this case, it has a connotation of physical desire, or perhaps just a quick fling. Go back to the first half of the article if you want phrases for more serious ventures.
Mein Herz hängt immer noch an dir. (My heart still lies with you.)
In English, we say that one’s heart “lies” with someone. In German, the equivalent is “hang.” By the way, the other meaning of Herz hängen is “to have your heart set on something.” In that case, it doesn’t need to be a person.
Glück in der Liebe! (Best of luck with love!)
This is a short set phrase that you might use when someone has told you that they’re newly single or their love affairs aren’t ending up the way they should.
And now for some cute idioms:
Liebe geht durch den Magen. (Love goes through the stomach.)
Alte Liebe rostet nicht. (An old love never rusts.)
Ich könnte dich vor Liebe fressen. (I love you so much, I could just eat you up.)
Pay special attention here to the verb fressen, which is normally used for animals. The proper German word for a person eating would be essen instead, but fressen evokes a sort of wild frenzy potentially quite applicable.
German Love in the Olden Days
Have you ever read “The Sorrows of Young Werther”? It’s a very famous German romance tragedy by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe from the 1700s. Even reading it in English may bring tears to your eyes.
Love in German literature has had a rich history practically as long as there has been German literature. Even in the Middle Ages, poets and singers were using older forms of the German language to write songs like “Unter der Linden” (Under the Linden Tree), a story from a young woman’s point of view as she recounts a happy afternoon with a knight.
Here are some beautiful literary German quotes about love that, when used correctly and sparingly, will make you come across as both extremely romantic and extremely well-read. Perhaps you know a German-speaker with an interest in literature? These will knock their socks off.
Immer ist der wichtigste Mensch, der dir gerade gegenübersteht; immer ist die wichtigste Tat die Liebe. (The most important person is always the one standing in front of you; the most important action is always love.) — Meister Eckhart, 13th century
In einem Augenblick gewährt die Liebe, was Mühe kaum in langer Zeit erreicht. (In a single moment love accomplishes what toil fails to achieve in a long time.) — Goethe, 18th century
Expressing Eternal Love in German: Never Gonna Let You Go
Love until the end of time is one of the most romantic thoughts in existence.
In German, there are a couple more set phrases to describe long-lasting and eternal love. Remember way back at the beginning when we distinguished ich liebe dich from ich hab’ dich lieb?
These are definitely ich liebe dich territory.
Ich bin in dich verliebt, für immer und ewig. (I’m in love with you, for always and always.)
Ich werde dich nie verlassen. (I’m never going to leave you.)
Ich will dich immer für mich behalten. (I want you to be mine forever.)
There’s quite simply nothing like love in this world.
And with tens of thousands of years of humans describing it, we’ve gotten pretty poetic at it. As flowery as some of this writing is, it’s really just scratched the surface.
And as you can see, talking about love in German is something that gives you applicable skills for talking about, well, anything else.
Now go out there and tell those precious to you that you love them!
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