How to Say "I Love You" in German - Practical and Efficient Ways to Declare Love in a Notoriously Unromantic Language
Everyone likes to hear a declaration of love. How does it sound in German when some argue that it’s not a very romantic language? We will look into that in today’s article.
What Is “I love you” in German
The simplest translation is “Ich liebe dich.” The IPA pronunciation would be [ɪç 'li:bə dɪç].
In English, you say it to your lover, friends, or family. You can say it to a pizza-delivery guy because you’re just happy to see him and the pizza, of course. Germans use it much less frequently. It expresses really strong romantic feelings. There’s nothing casual about it in Germany.
Quick pronunciation tip: The pronunciation of “ch” [ç] in German is somewhat tricky as it has no direct equivalent in English. It remotely resembles the h-sound in “human” or the way the Scots pronounce “ch” in “loch.”
(Un)fortunately, you will find “ch” in many basic pronouns, such as ich, dich, euch, or sich, so you will get a chance to practice it a lot. Last but not least, there are a lot of regional variants of the ch-sound. So, don’t be surprised if you hear something like [ish leebah dish] meaning “I love you.”
The German Frequency dictionaries are fantastic if you want to work on your German vocabulary. They give you the top 10,000 most used German words. The German entries come with their English translation, the correct German pronunciation, detailed grammatical information, and a German-English example sentence, showing you word usage in context.
How Do Germans Say “I Like You”
What do you say if you are not quite at the I-love-you level? You can use Ich habe dich lieb. Or more informally Ich hab dich lieb. It is something between “I like you” and “I love you.” It means “I’m fond of you.” It is pronounced [ɪç 'ha:bə dɪç li:p].
Actually, a simple “I like you” has several possible translations. For example:
- Ich mag dich. Literally “I like you” (as a person).
- Du gefällst mir. It also means “I like you,” but more in the sense “I like the way you look.” You can also use it when you’re starting to like someone.
- Ich habe dich gern. It’s similar to Ich habe dich lieb.
Saying “I Love You” to a Man or a Woman
The good news is that the German informal pronoun dich refers both to a man or a woman.
So, you can say Ich liebe dich, Hans/Susanne. – I love you, John/Susan.
We already know that Germans use formal and informal pronouns. As we said at the beginning of the article, LIEBE is reserved for strong romantic feelings. So, you don’t see it in formal German very often: Ich liebe Sie, meine Königin. – I love you, my Queen. (formal German).
Quick grammar tip: The pronoun Sie/sie has several possible translations.
- Ich liebe Sie. – I love you. (formal German both singular and plural)
- Ich liebe sie. – I love her.
- Ich liebe sie. – I love them. (The difference between “her” and “them” depends on the context.)
How Would You Say “I’m in Love with You”
If you want to impress your date, you can tell him or her: I habe mich in dich verliebt. – “I have fallen for you.” It’s pronounced [ɪç 'ha:bə mɪç ɪn dɪç fɛɐ'li:pt].
If you want to floor him or her with your expert language knowledge, say: Ich bin bis über beide Ohren in dich verliebt. – “I’m head over heels in love with you.” Interestingly, the literal translation would be “I’m in love with you over both ears.”
Talking about Love in German
We’ve already established that Germans use the “I love you” phrase much less often. You’re dating a German and are not sure about his or her feelings? Just ask them!
Liebst du mich? – “Do you love me?” The IPA pronunciation would be [li:pst du: mɪç?].
The possible answers could be:
- Ich liebe dich sehr. – I love you very much.
- Ich werde dich für immer lieben. – I’ll love you forever.
- Ich verspreche dir, ich werde dich für immer lieben. – I promise I'll love you forever.
- Ich liebe dich auch. – I love you, too.
Common Pet Names
Let’s have a look at some popular pet names that can come in handy:
- By far the most common is (der) Schatz – honey or darling (literally “treasure”).
- You can also encounter (das) Schätzchen – literally “little treasure” or Schatzi (used as a common name without an article).
- (der) Liebling – sweetheart but also favorite
- Germans often use actual animal names as pet names: (das) Bärchen – little bear, (die) Maus – mouse.
Other Affectionate Phrases
- Du siehst hübsch aus. – You look beautiful.
- Ich stehe auf dich. – I’m into you.
- Ich vermisse dich. – I miss you.
- Du machst mich so glücklich. – You make me so happy.
- Du bist mein Ein und Alles. – You mean everything to me.
- Küss mich, aber ohne Zunge. – Kiss me, no tongues.
- Ohne dich kann ich nicht leben. – I can’t live without you.
- Ich war mals in dich verknallt. – I used to have a crush on you.
Now, you’ve mastered all the important love-related vocabulary and are ready to tie the knot in Germany? By the way, “tying the knot” can be translated as in den Hafen der Ehe einlaufen.
It means literally “to go into the port of married life.” Who said that German is not romantic enough? It’s the language of Schiller or Goethe, after all.
Here is a list of some useful phrases related to weddings:
- (die) Hochzeit – wedding (literally, it means “high time”)
- Heiraten oder sich verheiraten – marry or get married
- (die) Braut – bride
- (der) Bräutigam – bridegroom
- (jemandem) das Ja-Wort geben – say “yes”
- Willst du Gerhard zum Mann nehmen? – Will you take Gerhard to be your husband?
- Willst du Ulrike zur Frau nehmen? – Will you take Ulrike to be your wife?
- Ich habe meinen Trauring verloren. – I’ve lost my wedding ring.
German Wedding Customs
German wedding customs are quite similar to the ones in the English-speaking countries. One is especially interesting, though. It’s called Polterabend. It’s a party for wedding guests on the night before the wedding. Poltern means “making a racket.”
The wedding guests break a lot of porcelain because they believe it brings luck to the marriage. In German, they say Scherben bringen Glück. – “Shards bring luck.”
Fun fact: Don’t confuse Polterabend, a lovely wedding tradition, with a Poltergeist. It’s one of the German words which English has borrowed. (Der) Geist means ghost. Poltergeist is a spirit that moves furniture and throws things. But now, we have strayed too far from “I love you.”
Some people say that the German language often sounds harsh and angry. However, after reading today’s article, you surely can’t miss the romantic vibe it gives off. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below.
Ready for more German? Check out the German Frequency dictionaries. You'll find 10,000 most common German words there. What is more, we've carefully selected example sentences that show you their usage in context together with their English translation.