Romance: it’s everywhere.
Japan is no exception.
Our favorite Japanese comics are filled with blushing students confessing to their 先輩 (せんぱい – upperclassman).
Even all the most action-packed anime seem to have their golden couples.
No matter where you turn, you’re always going to happen across romantic situations.
So, why not familiarize yourself with some ラブラブの言葉 (らぶらぶのことば – lovey-dovey words)?
Whether you’ll be exchanging them with your 愛する人 (あいするひと – loved one) or if you’re like me, single and ready to mingle, you’ll definitely find a way to use them.
Until we find our special someones, we single people can practice these phrases with our body pillows.
At least we’ll prepared when we finally meet our 白馬の王子様 (はくばのおうじさま – prince on a white horse) or 大和撫子 (やまとなでしこ – an idealized type of Japanese woman).
4 Types of Romantic Japanese Phrases to Get Your Love Game On
Before we get started, it’s worth mentioning that many of these phrases begin with 私 (わたし), a pronoun meaning “I.” Depending on your gender or how formal or intimate you want to sound, you can change the pronoun.
Likewise, you can make these phrases more polite or more casual depending on your personal taste and the situations at hand.
When all’s said and done, it’ll serve you well to get yourself acquainted with Japanese grammar if you’re planning on using what you learn in this post.
Finally, you can see Japanese in use by native speakers with FluentU to get a better sense of how the language works. Context is everything!
1. Different Ways of Expressing Affection
From Eskimo kisses to Southeast Asia’s sniff-kiss, affection is displayed differently across the globe.
It’s no surprise that Japan has its own take on affection and endearment.
In your home country, your friend may greet you with a kiss on the cheek and quickly gush how much they love you for treating them to a tasty snack.
You probably won’t see the same outward affection in Japan (especially in public), but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist!
I like you.
I love you.
好き (literally: like) and 大好き (literally: like a lot) are great examples of this.
Although, in English, “I like you” doesn’t quite match up to that other three-word phrase, when said with sincerity both 好きです and 大好きです can be just as powerful as “I love you.” Speaking of love though, you’ll probably be needing the next word on the list…
Using this vocabulary word, there are two more formal ways that you can say love:
These are both ways to literally say “I love you,” however they’re used far less often than 好きです or 大好きです.
If you’re still unconvinced about using 好きです you could say:
あなたのことが全部好きです。 (あなたのことが ぜんぶ すきです。)
I like/love everything about you.
2. Old School vs. Modern Confessions of Love
Let’s be honest, what may seem really romantic in a movie or your favorite drama might be a little cheesy in real life.
Similarly, there are some ways to confess your love that haven’t been used since our great grandparents said their “I do’s.”
To confess to someone is 告白する (こくはくする) while to be confessed to is 告白される (こくはくされる).
The term for “date” is デート (でーと) while “to date” is デートする (でーとする). For example, this could be used in a sentence like:
今度どこかに一緒にデートしない？ (こんど どこかに いっしょに でーとしない？)
Do you want to go on a date sometime?
You can also use the more formal (and more official-sounding) 交際する（こうさいする）to say “going out.”
Will you go out with me?
Please go out with me.
今度一緒にどこかに遊びに行きませんか？ (こんど いっしょに どこかに あそびに いきませんか？)
Do you want to go out sometime?
Will you go steady with me?
It may seem a bit of overkill to ask someone to go steady, but it’s actually very important to pop the following question to someone you’re interested in being with:
Please officially go out with me.
This phrase allows you to tell your significant other when you want to take your relationship to the next level. You definitely don’t want to hear one of the following phrases in response to that:
私には付き合っている人がいます。(わたしには つきあっている ひとがいます。)
I’m seeing someone.
I have a (boyfriend/girlfriend).
Hopefully you’ll get a “yes” or an “of course.” Especially if you’re asking the big question:
Will you marry me?
As we’re constantly looking towards the future, it’s no surprise that traditional proposals are becoming less and less common in many countries — Japan included. An old-fashioned proposal in Japan would sound like:
俺の味噌汁を作ってくれないか？(おれの みそしるを つくってくれないか？)
Would you make me miso soup everyday?
俺と一緒のお墓に入らないか？(おれといっしょの おはかに はいらないか？)
Will you share my grave with me?
The phrases above are great examples of something you might read in a manga (as a pun), but probably wouldn’t go over too well with your soon-to-be fiance(e) in modern times. If you’re really set on sounding traditional when you get on one knee, then the following phrase could be a fresher alternative:
一緒に年を重ねよう。(いっしょに としを かさねよう。)
Let’s grow old together.
3. Terms of Endearment
The word for “boyfriend” is 彼氏 (かれし) or 彼 (かれ) and “girlfriend” is 彼女 (かのじょ).
In Japanese, 彼 and 彼女 are also pronouns to say “he” and “she.” You can usually tell if someone is saying “girlfriend/boyfriend” or “he/she” from the context of the conversation. Can you understand the next sentence?
彼女は、彼の一番新しい彼女だ。(かのじょは、かれの いちばんあたらしい かのじょだ。)
She’s his latest girlfriend.
If it gets too confusing, you can use the terms ボーイフレン ド (ぼーいふれんど) for boyfriend and ガールフレ ン ド（がーるふれんど) for girlfriend.
The word for “husband” is 夫 (おっと) and “wife” is 妻 (つま). For couples (mainly married couples), you might hear a woman call her partner あなた as a way of saying “dear.” (In Japanese, We often learn あなた as the term for “you.” ) You’ll probably receive a pet name from your partner before hearing them utter something like “honey” or “darling.”
You look beautiful.
なかなかカッコいいよ。 (なかなか かっこいいよ。)
You look pretty sharp.
今日は特別に（きれい／ハンサム）だね。 (きょうは とくべつに（きれい／はんさむ）だね。)
You look exceptionally beautiful/handsome today.
きれいな目だね。 (きれいな めだね。)
You have beautiful eyes.
あなたは私にとって大切な人です。 (あなたは わたしにとって たいせつな ひとです。)
You’re very special to me.
あなたがずっと好きでした。 (あなたが ずっとすきでした。)
I’ve always loved you.
ずっと一緒にいたいよ。 (ずっと いっしょに いたいよ。)
I want to be with you forever.
4. Pick Up Lines
口説く (くどく) literally means “to pursue/entice.” It’s used to say “make a pass” or “hit on.”
As an example, to hit on or to make a pass at a woman would be:
A “pick up line” is 口説き文句 (くどきもんく).
Here are a few classics:
よくここに来るの？ (よく ここに くるの？)
Do you come here often?
一杯おごらせてください。 (いっぱい おごらせてください。)
Allow me to buy you a drink.
一杯おごりますよ。 (いっぱい おごりますよ。)
Can I buy you a drink?
ここに誰か座ってる？ (ここに だれか すわってる？)
Is someone sitting here?
前に会ったことあったっけ？ (まえに あったこと あったっけ？)
Have I seen you here before?
付き合っている人はいますか？ (つきあっているひとは いますか？)
Are you seeing anyone?
Rejections: It’s Not You, It’s Me
Hopefully your friends and family are still talking about how great your relationship is, sighing:
お似合いのカップルだね。(おにあいの かっぷる だね。)
They make a good match.
Unfortunately, there are times when we need to stop, look off into the sunset and ask ourselves:
これは真の愛かな？ (これは しんの あい かな？)
Is this true love?
“To break up” is 別れる (わかれる).
私は彼氏と別れる事にしました。 (わたしは かれしと わかれること にしました。)
My boyfriend and I are splitting up.
まだマジになりたくない。(まだ まじに なりたくない。)
It’s not the right time for me to get serious.
I don’t want to get (married/engaged) yet.
私達どうも上手くいってない。(わたしたち どうも うまく いってない。)
It’s not working out.
I can’t see you anymore.
まだ友達でいられるかな？(まだ ともだちで いられるかな？)
Can we still be friends?
If you’re not quite ready to let go of a relationship, then you could have a go at the following phrases:
もう一度やり直せない？ (もういちど やりなおせない？)
Can’t we start over?
I’m sorry I haven’t been a good (boyfriend/girlfriend).
あなたを心から愛しています。(あなたを こころから あいしています。)
I love you from the bottom of my heart.
Let’s talk it out.
Hopefully you can remain friends after all! If you do plan on keeping in touch with an ex-boyfriend, 元カレ (もとかれ), or ex-girlfriend 元カノ (もとかの), you could leave them with a few friendly phrases like:
Take care of yourself.
I’ll email you sometimes.
Although showing your appreciation through actions rather than words seems to be more favorable, it’s still nice to remind your gal or guy how much you love them from time to time!
Hopefully these phrases will help you communicate all the affection you’re feeling.
With that, I wish you and your soul mate, 運命の人 (うんめのひと) — or body pillow — happiness!
And One More Thing...
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