i love you in korean

3 Ways to Say “I Love You” in Korean (Plus 10 More Romantic Expressions)

Love is a very powerful thing, so it makes sense that you want to know how to express it in Korean.

This post will show you exactly how to tell someone you love them, just like a native Korean speaker.

Plus, we’ll teach you some bonus romantic expressions you can use with potential lovers and future partners.


How to Say “I Love you” in Korean (3 Levels)

The word for “love” in Korean is 사랑 (sa-rang).

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of things, we need to remember that we have Korean speech levels that reflect differences in age, rank or social status.

We talk one way when we’re with friends or buddies, and another way when we’re with grandma. It’s pretty much like this all over the world, but it’s more pronounced in Asian cultures like Korea.

This even affects the way we say “I love you.” The root “sa-rang” tacks on different endings, depending on the level of formality conveyed by the situation.

There are informal, polite and formal ways to say “I love you” in Korean.

1. Informal: 사랑해 (Sarang-hae)

Of the three ways to say “I love you,” this is the most informal. You use it with girlfriends/boyfriends or people you’re close to. “Sarang-hae” assumes familiarity and closeness and is appropriate for people you have a standing relationship with.

So maybe you want to greet your sweetheart “good morning,” and with it, you want to sneak in a simple “I love you.” Or, perhaps you want to remind a lover of your affections before you end a call. This phrase is perfect for either situation. 

Here are a couple of example sentences that use this phrase:

자기, 사랑해.(Jagi, sarang-hae.)
Honey, I love you.

우리 싸우지 말자. 당신, 사랑해.(Oori ssauji malja. Dangshin, sarang-hae.)
Let’s not fight. Honey, I love you.

Cultural Fact

Did you know that in Korea, on Valentine’s Day, it’s the women who give their men chocolates? Yup, while their Western counterparts get treated to an expensive dinner and gifts, Korean women buy their men chocolate on Valentine’s Day.

2. Polite: 사랑해요 (Sarang-haeyo)

“Sarang-haeyo” is more polite than “sarang-hae.” Long-time couples can opt to use “sarang-haeyo” if they want to be extra polite with each other, but most just use the casual “sarang-hae.”

“Sarang-haeyo” can also be used when you want to say “I love you” to your mom or dad. So, while English uses the same exact “I love you” for a lover or parent, Korean distinguishes between the two.

Just as some couples use “sarang-heyo” to be a little bit more polite with each other, you could use “sarang-hae” with your mom to highlight not only your familiarity but also your closeness.

You could also use this form if you want to confess your feelings for someone.

Here are a couple of conversations that use this phrase.

Example 1

Teenager to mom:
엄마, 사랑해요.(Umma sarang-haeyo.)
Mom, I love you.

너 어디 아프냐?(Neo eodi apoonya?)
Are you sick?

Example 2

사랑해요… 나랑사귈래요?(Sarang-haeyo… Na rang sa guil lae yo?)
I love you… Will you go out with me?

친구로 남고 싶어요.(Chingoo ro namgo shipuyo.)
I want to stay friends.

Cultural Fact

If women having to buy their men chocolates on Valentine’s Day sounds unfair, don’t worry! Just one month later, on March 14, Korea celebrates “White Day.”

This is when the tables are turned. The men who received chocolates a month before are socially obligated to give their partners gifts, like candy, cookies, marshmallows, lingerie and jewelry.

And the rule is that the value of the chocolates a guy received on Valentine’s Day must be returned three-fold.

3. Formal: 사랑합니다 (Sarang-hamnida)

This is the most formal way to say “I love you.”

Now, you might wonder when we can use the formal form. You can use it when you’re talking to a group of people, like a full auditorium or when you’re giving a presentation or speech.

K-pop acts, especially when they travel abroad, might close a concert and bid the audience goodbye by saying, “Sarang-hamnida!” to all of their screaming fans.

“Sarang-hamnida” is quite formal and can also be used with someone you don’t know really well or someone who’s older than you. If the recipient is higher in perceived social status (even if he or she might be your age), you use “Sarang-hamnida.”

You might hear one of the members of the popular band BTS yell the following to their fans in the Philippines:

사랑합니다, 마닐라!(Sarang-hamnida Manila!)
I love you, Manila!

Because “Sarang-hamnida” is quite formal, it’s not often heard or used in everyday conversations. The term does appear in poems and songs, however.

One example of this is in Tim Hwang’s 2003 hit ballad “Saranghamnida.”

Cultural Fact

Speaking of confessing your love, did you know that Korea celebrates “Black Day?” This happens on April 14, one month after “White Day” (March 14) and two months after Valentine’s Day (February 14).

“Black Day” is reserved for singles, those who didn’t get to participate in the festivities in the last two months. Singles go, with their other single friends, to a Chinese-Korean restaurant where they order Jajangmyeon, a savory noodle dish covered in black sauce.

As of late, instead of wallowing in their singleness, people use “Black Day” to celebrate the perks of freedom and the opportunity to focus on their careers and other worthy pursuits.

Additional Romantic Expressions in Korean

“I love you” may not always be the perfect thing to say. Just as indicated in the FluentU video below, “I love you” is usually reserved for those who are truly committed.

Here are some of the other ways that you can tell a native speaker you are interested in them:

I like you. (polite)

당신은 나에게 무척 소중해요.(Dangsineun naege mucheok sojunghaeyo.)
You mean so much to me. (polite)

When “sarang-haeyo” gets old, you can pretty much say the same thing with this phrase.

정말 아름다우세요. (Jeongmal areumdauseyo.)
You’re so beautiful. (polite)

It’s simple, it’s sweet. Just don’t say this to every native speaker you meet.

정말 잘생기셨어요.(Jeongmal jalsaenggisyeoseoyo.)
You’re so handsome. (polite)

나는 너에게 반했어.(Naneun neoege banhaeseo.)
I’ve got a crush on you. (informal)

나는 너를 친구 이상으로 생각해.(Naneun neoreul chingu isangeuro saengakhae.)
I think of you as more than a friend. (informal)

Use this phrase if you want to let him or her know that they’re not in the “friend zone” but also not yet on “lover’s lane.”

Will you be my boyfriend/girlfriend? (informal)

같이 있고 싶어.(Gachi itgo sipeo.)
I want to be with you. (informal)

(Nan Ne-kkeoya.)
I’m yours. (informal)

저와 결혼해 주세요.(juwa gyulhon haejooseyo.)
Will you marry me? (polite)


You now know the three different ways to say “I love you” in Korean.

You also know a whole bunch of other romantic expressions you can use to show your emotions, so start using them!

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