Love is a universal emotion shared between people all over the world. Nothing is sweeter than hearing the words “I love you” from someone special.
While the feeling of love is universal, every culture and language have a unique way of saying these words.
How many ways are there to say “I love you?” We’re not sure of the exact number, but here’s how to say it in eight different languages…
Saying I love you is one thing, but showing your love is another. Let’s look at how to say “I love you” in different languages and some of the cultural rituals, traditions, and holidays to celebrate and express the most beautiful emotion…love!
How to Say I Love You in Spanish
In the United States, we say “I love you” to our parents, family, and friends. Many languages have variations of the phrase for different situations. For example, in Spanish how to say I love you depends on who you’re addressing.
Spanish Love Phrases
Te quiero – (I love you or I care for you). This is mainly used among friends and family to express affection in non-romantic relationships.
Te amo – (I love you). This is a more serious way to express your love. Use this phrase to express your love for a romantic interest or spouse.
Spanish Love Traditions
Culturally, love can be expressed through various rituals and customs. A newer tradition has taken hold in the Spanish city of Seville.
Here, lovers will say “te amo” and then symbolize their love by fastening a padlock to the railing of the Isabel II Bridge, and then throwing the keys into the Guadalquivir river below.
Saint Jordi’s Day
Saint Jordi’s Day on April 23rd, the anniversary of the patron’s saint’s death, is the closest thing to Valentine’s Day in Spain. According to the legend of Saint George, Saint Jordi killed a dragon to save a princess, then plucked a red rose which sprouted from a rose bush on the spot where the dragon’s blood spilled.
It’s tradition on Saint Jordi’s day for men to give their love a red rose, while the women give their men a book.
How to Say I Love You in French
It’s been said that French is the language of love. Here are some ways to express your affection in French.
French Love Phrases
Je t’aime – (I love you). This is the strongest way to express your love to someone.
Je t’adore – (I adore you).
Je te desire – (I want you).
Coup de foudre – Although this translates literally to “a flash of lightning,” this is the French phrase for “love at first sight.”
The French love to express their feelings and often add terms of endearment, much like we might say “I love you, sweetheart”. For example in French, “ Je t’adore ma cherie”, means “I adore you, my darling.”
Just remember, the possessive adjective has to agree with the gender of the term of endearment.
French Love Traditions
Just like couples in Seville, the French have a padlock tradition of their own. Lovers flock to the Pont de l’Archevêché, leave a lock to symbolize their love, and throw the key into the Seine river below. This ritual signifies that the couples’ love will last forever.
La Saint-Valentin (Valentine’s Day)
While the true origins are unknown, many people believe Valentine’s Day started in France. Every year on the weekend that falls closest to Valentine’s Day, couples travel to the village of St-Valentin. Some guests have a romantic weekend getaway while others renew their wedding vows.
How to Say I Love You in German
Much like Spanish, the German language has different levels of “I love you”, depending on the depth of feeling and the relationship with the person being addressed.
German Love Phrases
Ich habe dich gerne – (I have love for you / I care for you). A less serious declaration of adoration.
Ich liebe dich – (I love you). A more serious pronouncement of romantic love.
Du bist die Liebe meines Lebens – (You are the love of my life). This is the strongest declaration of love.
The Germans are extremely efficient when it comes to love! Men are expected to ask the women for a date and to pay. When a man arrives to pick up his date, he must bring flowers, and if she lives with her mother, he must bring her flowers, too.
Finally, lateness is unforgivable. If you’re running late for a date, just go home!
Valentine’s Day in Germany
Celebrating Valentine’s Day in Germany is a newer celebration (post World War II), and is generally considered an adult holiday. While you will find the normal gifts and keepsakes you’d find anywhere else, in Germany, many of these items also include a pig, which is considered a symbol of luck!
How to Say I Love You in Italian
Along with the French, Italians are known for their romantic expressions of love. In fact, whether it’s an operatic aria or simply whispering sweet nothings to your love, many people think the phrase “I love you” is best voiced in Italian.
Italian Love Phrases
There are over a hundred ways to say “I love you” in Italian! Italians have specific ways of saying the phrase to parents, friends, family members, and of course, a romantic interest.
Here are a few examples. Remember, the English translations are not always literal, but correspond to the sense, and vice versa.
Ti adoro – (I adore you).
Ti voglio bene – (I care for you – I want the best for you).
Ti amo! – (I love you).
Ti voglio tanto bene – (I love you so much).
Sei tutto per me – (You are everything to me).
Senza di te non posso piu vivere – (I can’t live without you).
Sei il grande amore della mia vita – (You are the love of my life).
Italian Love Traditions
Italians have a romantic vision of love and finding “the one,” unlike many cultures where speed dating and matchmakers reign supreme. Flirting is an art in Italy. Men tend to be very complimentary and chivalrous, opening doors and paying for dates, even asking if it’s OK to kiss.
Women respond by laughing at a man’s jokes or making clever comebacks when they’re interested. In Italy, love truly is an art form and the many ways to say I love you prove it.
How To Say I Love You in Arabic
The Arabic language has one common variation of I love you, depending on the gender being addressed.
Arabic Love Phrases
Ana Uhibbuka – (I love you)
Habib Albi – (Love of my heart).
Enta Habibi – (You are my love).
Arabic Love Traditions
Arranged marriages (arranged by the parents with the children’s consent) are still common in some Arabic-speaking countries. In many Arabic-speaking countries, religion and culture strictly discourage dating prior to marriage.
Similar to other countries, there are several celebrations leading up to a couples’ wedding ceremony including an engagement celebration in the bride’s home, a party to celebrate signing the marriage contract, and Henna night where the bride-to-be and her female friends draw Henna tattoos and enjoy refreshments and dancing.
How to Say I Love You in Mandarin
Mandarin Love Phrases
Wo duini ganxingqu–(I’m fond of you).
Wo ai ni – (I love you).
Wo ai nǐ shengguo yiqie – (I love you more than anything).
Learn even more Mandarin love phrases here.
Chinese Dating Traditions
According to a blog on dating from YoYo Chinese, Chinese men start thinking about marriage much earlier in the relationship. Despite this intention to date to marry, they may still take the relationship slowly, and a large number of Chinese couples live and work in different cities.
Qixi Festival (Double Seventh Festival)
The Qixi Festival falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month and is a celebration based on the legend of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu.
According to Chinese legend, a supernatural fairy, Zhi Nu, travels to Earth to marry her love, Niu Lang, a kind-hearted farm hand. This upsets the God of Heaven, and Zhi Nu is forced to return to Heaven.
Niu Lang travels to Heaven with his children (thanks to the help of celestial cows) in search of his love. The Queen Mother creates a river to separate Zhi Nu from his love.
Niu Lang and Zhi Nu were allowed to reunite only on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, hence the double seventh festival.
The Qixi Festival is celebrated with gifts for loved ones, romantic dinners, and special dates.
How to Say I Love You in Japanese
Japanese Love Phrases
Daisuki desu – (I really like you). This can be used among friends, or playfully between couples.
Aishiteru – (I love you).
Watashi no isshoo no koibito – (You are the love of my life).
Japanese Love Traditions
Arranged marriages are still common in Japan, in fact, approximately 10 percent of all marriages are arranged.
Yui-no is a dinner to celebrate a newly-engaged couple, where the bride- and groom-to be-exchange gifts
Japanese weddings often take place in Shintô temples with Japanese architecture like stone dogs and water pavillions. Wedding celebrations have evolved in Japan, and in addition to Shinto traditions, some couples also incorporate Western traditions (like a white wedding dress) in their ceremony.
Learn more about Japanese wedding traditions here.
How to Say I Love You in Korean
Korean Love Phrases
Sarang hae – (I love you).
Jugeul mankeum sarang hae– (I love you to death)
Dangshin-eul geu eotteon geot bodado deo saranghaeyo – (I love you more than anything).
Learn more romantic Korean phrases here.
Korean Love Traditions
Along with the national holidays, in South Korea, the 14th of each month is a fun, unofficial holiday. In Korea, women give men chocolate as a sign of affection on Valentine’s day. Generally, men will reciprocate this gift and give women chocolate on White Day (March 14th).
There is also Black Day on April 14th, where singles celebrate their lack of a serious relationship. Single friends come together to eat jajangmyeon (black noodles), and wish each other luck in finding that special someone in the coming year.
While each culture has its own unique rituals surrounding dating and relationships, all have in their language the words we all long to hear, “I love you.” If you’d like to impress someone special, or search for your true love in a faraway land, learning to speak a second language is a great way to prepare!
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