“Oh my gosh, that’s my favorite song too—I, like, totally love you!”
“I freaking love chocolate cake, and I freaking love you for giving me some!”
It seems that we English speakers are guiltiest of using “I love you” way too lightly.
Elsewhere in the world, the L-word is a heavy, serious and meaningful thing—definitely not to be delivered at the drop of a hat.
If you’re wondering how lovers from around the world and its diverse cultures express love and affection, then you’re in the right place.
Are you also one of the following?
You’re an enthusiastic linguist looking to add more diverse phrases to your multilingual arsenal.
You’re a hopeless romantic, and love learning more about love—and its various expressions.
You’ve got it bad for one special person whose native language isn’t English, and you want to tell them exactly how you feel in their native tongue.
You want to impress every potential love interest you meet with your worldly sophistication by saying “I love you” with sounds they’ve never heard before.
If you’ve said “yes” to any of the above, this post is 100% for you! If you’ve said “no” to everything, then it sounds like you need a little more international love in your life, so, read on, you wonderful curmudgeon, you.
How to Say “I Love You” in 15 Different Languages
1. Je t’aime
What better way to start this amorous list than with French—and by extension Paris, the City of Love. People the world over travel to Paris to fall in love…with the food, the place and, of course, the people. If your paramour is of the French persuasion, just say, “Je t’aime.”
You don’t even need flowers or chocolates for this one. Say it with wistful eyes, an enchanting smile and a face that says, “I really do love you,” and you’ll be golden.
You could cap the line with the French for “my darling” at the end, as a flourish. Say, “ma chérie,” if you’re saying it to a woman or “mon chéri” if you’re confessing you love to a man.
2. Te amo
Spanish-speakers are arguably some of the most passionate people on God’s green Earth. You can taste that passion in their food, hear it in their music and you can definitely see that in their dances. Just check out some salsa, bachata or tango routines to see what I mean. It’s that fierce longing-and-desire-that-can-barely-be-contained kind of passion.
The sweet and simple words te amo perfectly encapsulates that spirit, of lovers lost in each other’s arms. It’s an informal pronoun used, expressing real intimacy. And Spanish-speakers don’t toss amo around lightly—there are other ways of saying “like,” “like a lot” and “like-like” in their language. Amo is reserved for the real deal.
If you’d like to put “forever” in there because you’re absolutely sure they’re the one you have to spend the rest of your life with, you can say, “te amo para siempre.”
3. Ich liebe Dich
Contrary to common misconception of the “cold, calculating German,” the Deutsche do know how to fall in love. Big time!
The whole world is falling in love with them too. Just ask Heidi Klum, Claudia Schiffer and Diane Kruger. So, if ever in this lifetime you find yourself falling for a handsome or beautiful (or beautifully handsome) German, be prepared to say, “Ich liebe Dich.”
Have this one in the bag. You never know what wonderful kind of person you’ll run into in the streets Berlin. (It really helps that many of them have limpid blue eyes and gorgeous wavy blond hair. And I’m just talking about David Hasselhoff!)
4. 我爱你 (Wo ai ni)
Language: Mandarin Chinese
The Chinese have a saying, “Lovers’ hearts are linked together and always beat as one.”
Romantic, right? It is, but it’s not referring to your happily-ever-after kind of romance. The line is from a melancholic poem where the writer expresses profound regret for not having the chance to marry the love of his life. It’s like two lovers destined to be together but ripped apart by unspeakable circumstances.
You don’t want to be in the same situation do you?
Then what are you waiting for?! Fess up and say, “Wo ai ni.”
Just a little warning though, “I love you” might come a little too strong in the Chinese culture. Parents and children rarely say this to each other. So, for your confession of admiration, letting out an “I like you” equivalent is perfectly fine and would sometimes be more appropriate. To do this, you just say, “wǒ xǐ huān nǐ.”
5. 愛してる (Aishiteru)
Did you know that, in Japan, women are expected to give gifts on Valentine’s Day?
That’s right! But don’t worry ladies, the men have their own day one month later, March 14, on what’s called White Day. Then they give gifts of various kinds to their partners. (Chocolates are a big hit on both occasions.)
But that doesn’t mean, in any way, that the Japanese culture is not conservative in terms of doling out the L-word. In fact, “love” is a very strong word and expressions of “love” are not very common in the Japanese culture—apart from in those television dramas we’re all so fond of.
So, only use “Aishiteru” when you’re really committed to the person you’re telling it too. The Japanese don’t take that one lightly.
But if you really want to tell your partner how much you like them, you can say, “大好き” (daisuki), which means “I like you a lot.”
6. 사랑해 (Saranghae)
You’ve probably heard of this one if your usual fare are Korean dramas and movies. Like the proverbial but sweet piggyback ride given by the male lead to the comically drunk heroine, “saranghae” is practically a required line for Korean scripts, usually uttered by the handsome male actor drenched in a heavy downpour, while the woman of his dreams cries behind a closed door.
When you say, “saranghae,” the answer you would be looking for would probably be, “judo sarang haeyo.” (I love you, too!)
If the other person responds with something in the vicinity of, “chin-goo ro namgo shipuyo,” (I want to stay friends), then maybe they’re just not that into you…but you may also have just gotten a friend for life, if things aren’t too awkward after this exchange.
However, if they say, “je boomonimkge insa deuriruh gayo” (I’d like you to meet my parents), then…congratulations and best wishes!
7. ٲنَا بحِبَّك (Ana bahebak)
There are around 200 million Arabic speakers, with a rich culture and tradition that dates back millennia.
Arab women may be more conservative and dress a bit more modestly than you’re accustomed to (depending on your country and culture of origin), but make no mistake, they’re as brilliant and as headstrong as any other modern women. That’s why you need to be prepared to declare your love properly—no less will do.
No matter what Arabic-speaking person you fall in love with, “Ana bahebak” are the magic words you need.
8. मैं तुमसे प्यार करता हुँ (Main tumse pyar kartha hoon)
Over sixty percent of Indians still prefer arranged marriages. But don’t fret, many say that love must be part of the equation.
And, hey, we’re really getting ahead of ourselves here talking about marriage and weddings here (which, by the way, last 3 days and involve the whole town and a whole lot of rituals and partying).
The bottom line is that “main tumse pyar karta hoon” is the phrase you need to express love to a woman. To express this most profound emotion to a man, say, “main tumse pyar karti hoon.”
9. Σ΄αγαπώ (Se agapo)
After a long day philosophizing and mesmerizing the crowds, Socrates would have to walk home to his equally argumentative wife. Ever wondered how he would say “I love you” to her?
Se agapo. Those are the words Xanthippe would hear.
And greeting the great Socrates by the door, she would probably say, “mou leípeis,” which means “I miss you” in Greek but translates much closer to “you are missing from me.”
These words are all still used today in modern Greece.
10. Ti amo
We come now to the language of Casanova himself—Italian—which is considered by many to be the true language of love.
If you survey women on Earth and ask them who the best lovers are, the Italians would definitely be right there on top of the list. The stereotypical Italian stallion has this aggressiveness and confidence that many women find alluring. He has this single-minded purpose in life, and that is to sweep you off your feet.
But, of course, like all stereotypes, this must not be taken terribly literally. Italians, regardless of gender, all speak one of the most passionate languages around. They will charm their way into your heart.
So when you hear, “ti amo,” you’d better watch out—that Italian is out to make you fall in love.
11. Я тебя люблю (Ya tebya liubliu)
From Russian with love. I’m sure James Bond (you know, 007) would agree that Russians know their way around the arts of love and seduction.
Take a page from them and learn Russian for “I love you”: Ya tebya liubliu. (Say the last word three times fast, and it’ll start to sound like “love, love, love.”)
12. אני אוהב אותך (Ani ohev otakh)
Traditional views on love connected with Hebrew would point to love not being simply an emotion. Rather, love is an action, a solemn lifetime commitment, not just that warm, giddy feeling of butterflies in the stomach when a crush walks by.
And they do have the vocabulary for it. Hebrew is another one of those languages where expressions of love would differ depending on who is confessing love.
If you’re saying “I love you” to a woman,” you’d say, “ani ohev otakh.”
On the other hand, if you’re saying “I love you” to a man, you’d say, “ani ohevet otkha.”
The Cheyenne are a Native American tribe that live in the Great Plains of Minnesota, Montana, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota.
The Native Americans have a saying: “Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture the heart.”
And when someone does capture your heart, pursue them and sweep them off their feet by getting this word out: Nemehotatse. It’s the Cheyenne way of saying “I love you.” Use it only when you really, truly love someone.
14. Mahal kita
Tagalog is the language spoken in the Philippines.
Mahal kita is used no matter your gender or the gender of your significant other. Although it’s mostly spoken in a romantic context, the phrase is sometimes used to express love to parents and friends.
If you want to increase the implied intensity of that “love,” and mean that you really, really love the person, you can double up or even triple up on the word mahal (love) and put the word na between them. So expression now becomes, “Mahal na mahal na mahal kita.”
Incidentally, mahal also means “expensive” in Filipino. Women often joke that their boyfriends can easily prove how much they mahal (love) them depending on how mahal (expensive) their gifts are.
15. ᓇᒡᓕᒋᕙᒋᑦ (Nagligivaget)
We reserved Nagligivaget, the Inuit way of saying “I love you,” for last to prove that, even at the ends of the Earth, even in the coldest places, the warmth of love and the heat of passion rings true.
Even when things are so cold that you cover your entire body several times over. Even when only your noses are exposed to the great outdoors and available for use to greet each other (as is done in the typical Inuit kunik greeting) love still finds a way.
And that rounds up our list of different ways of saying “I love you.”
If you want to communicate with (or really impress) your paramour, why not learn their whole darn language? As we’ve learned from some of the expressions above—love is often more about action than verbal expression.
So, hop to it!