German

How to Say “I Love You” in German

When you’re in love, whether it’s a long-term committed relationship or the first flames of a wild passion, expressing the exact sentiment intended is essential. “I love you,” isn’t a phrase you’re likely to hear thrown around lightly in the German language, whose speakers aren’t known for being emotionally effusive. While you might “love” those new boots, you probably don’t feel quite the same amount of affection for a pair of shoes as you do for your soulmate.

German culture emphasizes efficiency, and the language’s usage of German phrases to capture the degree of emotion reflects their value for precision. German speakers use the verb for love, lieben, much less frequently than English speakers or even other European language speakers. While you could just rely on Google translate to interpret your intent, translation engines can’t take into account the power of the word love in the German language. To express the appropriate amount of affection, you’ll need to get beyond German to English translations and learn more about the nuances behind how to say “I love you” in German.

Here are five ways to capture your feelings in German alongside guidance about how to communicate your degree of affection without embarrassment.

Ich liebe dich is how to say “I love you” in German

If you want a straightforward translation, ich liebe dich is how to say “I love you” in German, but it does come with some strings attached. This phrase is only used for serious relationships, typically intimate ones that you’d have with a trusted partner or spouse. This is also not the kind of comment that would be extended impulsively by a German speaker. If someone expresses this sentiment and you want to return it, you can repeat back ich liebe dich and then attach an auch to the end to reflect “I love you, too.”

Fall for the German phrase ich bin in dich verliebt

A cursory translation of ich bin in dich verliebt means “I’m in love with you,” and as you might expect it’s used to express a strong emotion that’s fairly new and still tentative. While it’s not as committed as “I love you,” this German phrase holds the promise of more to come and is usually used between lovers moving into a serious phase in their relationship.

Ich hab’ dich lieb expresses German affection

What if you’re not an intimate partner, but still want to express your feelings? Whether you’re a parent talking to a child or a close friend or family member, you can use ich hab’ dich lieb, which is the platonic version of “I love you.” Keep in mind that this usage of the phrase is usually between women or sometimes used in passing at the end of a phone call as a kind of German slang for “love ya!”

Take it down a notch in German with Ich mag dich

If you’re unbearably shy or you just aren’t ready to take your romantic connection to the next level, you can stick with ich mag dich, the German equivalent of “I like you.” This is a German phrase that might get thrown around more casually in conversations in regards to a passionate interest you have like a nerdy hobby, an athlete you idolize, or your latest celebrity crush.

Germany’s head over heels is Ich bin bis über beide Ohren verliebt

English has “head over heels,” and German has Ich bin bis über beide Ohren verliebt or “I am over both ears in love.” This implies the sort of passion that might inspire a few German endearments, so be sure to have some on hand. Try Schatz, which means “treasure,” or Liebling, the German word for “darling,” and you’ll impress your sweetheart with your language skills.

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