Hopeless romantics of the world, this is your chance: to finally declare your undying love to the person you cherish the most. In German!
Admittedly, German is not known to be a particularly romantic language — if you believe common clichés, talking Spanish is the hot-blooded way to express your deepest feelings, and if you’re more the romantic type, it is supposedly best done in French.
But saying “I love you” in German?
(Wouldn’t that be more suitable for … yelling at your two-year-old when he’s about to shove a fistful of potting soil into his mouth, for example? I don’t know.)
So it’s true: German is not exactly the language of love. Yet, there are numerous ways to say “I love you” in German, which I’m going to explain to you in this blog post.
You never know when this might come in handy, so let’s have a closer look at the best ways to say “I love you” in German!
The different ways to say “I love you” in German
It might be a cliché about American culture itself, but after moving to the United States from Germany, I noticed a fundamental difference in how Americans approach the word “love” versus how Germans do. Americans are very outspoken about their feelings and what they love.
People love dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, the beach or brunching.
Friends will tell each other “I love you” in a platonic way and what they love about each other. If you’re from a country that is a bit more reserved (like Germany for example) this might be a bit strange, yet quite a refreshing change.
Since there are varying degrees of liking or loving someone, the German language offers numerous ways to express your love (or like) for someone or something.
Ich liebe dich
“Ich liebe dich” literally translates to “I love you” in German — however, this phrase is strictly reserved for your partner or spouse. This phrase is only suitable to be said to a person you are very close with and indicates a great deal of trust and familiarity.
The reason for this is that Germans usually don’t like to make rash decisions, and only use this phrase when they are absolutely sure.
If you’re responding to someone who says “Ich liebe dich” — and if the feeling is mutual — you can either say “Ich liebe dich” or “Ich liebe dich auch” (“I love you too”) in return.
So … you might ask yourself, what if you kind of like someone, but it’s a bit too early to say the infamous three words?
There are ways to solve this conundrum.
Ich bin ich dich verliebt / Ich habe mich in dich verliebt
“Ich bin in dich verliebt” translates to “I am falling in love with you”, whereas “ich habe mich in dich verliebt” can be translated to “I have fallen in love with you”.
The differences are, admittedly, minuscule; but try to think of it as a tentative way to express your very strong like for someone. You’re not quite all the way in love yet, but you’re getting there.
Of the two expressions, “Ich habe mich in dich verliebt” seems to be the one that’s a bit more definite, since the development of feelings has already taken place.
“Ich bin in dich verliebt” in some way almost seems to be a bit more tentative, as if the process is still going on. But as I said, the differences are minuscule, and thus oftentimes those two phrases can be used interchangeably.
Either way, the expression is quite ponderous and vague — and essentially a placeholder until you are absolutely sure you know the person you are involved with and that he/she is the one you truly love.
(Does this sound complicated? It kind of is.)
Example: “Ich glaube, ich habe mich in dich verliebt.” (“I think I’ve fallen in love with you.”)
[If you feel like being extra vague.]
Ich hab’ dich lieb
If you are looking for a more innocent way of expressing your like for someone, or if you’re talking to a very close friend or a parent, “Ich hab’ dich lieb” (more common than “Ich habe dich lieb”) is probably your best choice.
“Ich hab’ dich lieb” roughly translates to “I like you lots” (if you want to translate it literally, it could be translated as “I have love for you”) and is basically a more platonic way of saying “I love you” in German.
You can also use it to indicate a romantic interest in someone when you’re not ready — or too shy — to say “Ich liebe dich” or “Ich habe mich in dich verliebt”.
Please note: when using it platonically (e.g. when talking to a friend) it is usually women saying “Ich hab’ dich lieb” to each other.
Ich mag dich
“Ich mag dich” is the German way of saying “I like you”. In most cases, it is used in more of a platonic context, but can sometimes be used to indicate a romantic interest, especially when you are too shy to talk about love (yet). Think of the rather awkward teenage stage: this would be the typical time when a phrase like “Ich mag dich” can be used.
Most of the time, “Ich mag dich” is an enthusiastic way to express you like someone in a platonic way, for exampl,e because you have the same taste in music or e.g. because he or she is also a huge fan of DC Comics.
Example: “Du bist auch ein Fan von Batman? Ich mag dich!” — (“You like Batman, too? I like you!”)
Du gefällst mir
While not exactly a way to say “I love you” in German, “Du gefällst mir” is a phrase that might come in handy when trying to explain that you fancy someone. The expression is a bit hard to translate, the literal translation actually is “you please me”. This can refer to someone’s looks, but also to their personality if you discover that you share similar interests — though it is commonly used when talking about someone’s appearance rather than personality.
Since the translated phrase “you please me” sounds a bit off in English compared to the German original, I am going to use the translation “I like you” or “you are lovely” for this phrase as well.
Just be aware that in German, there is a difference between the phrase “Ich mag dich” and “Du gefällst mir”.
Example: “Marc sieht gut aus. Er gefällt mir.” (“Marc looks good. I like him.” or “Marc looks good. He is lovely.”)*
[*Although again, it is probably best to consider who you’re talking about when deciding whether to use “I like you” or “you are lovely”.]
German Terms of Endearment
What would love be without terms of endearment?
While a lot of couples in Germany choose to use nicknames for their partner or spouse that no one else is using (kind of like e.g. an inside joke shared only between two people), there are a few German terms of endearment that everyone knows and has probably used at one point in their life.
Let’s take a closer look at some German terms of endearment!
“Schatz” translates to “precious” or “treasure” and is probably the German equivalent to the American expression “baby”. It is widely used between lovers, but also by parents who refer to their kids as “Schatz”.
Next to that, it is also used by female friends when addressing each other, especially at a younger age (most likely between the ages of twelve to twenty-five, but sometimes also among older people).
There are several modifications of the word, such as “Schätzchen” (little treasure) or “Schatzi” (similar meaning as “Schätzchen”).
“Schatzi” is very popular with a younger (female) crowd. When addressing someone in a written note, an infinite amounts of i‘s can be added: such as calling someone “mein Schatziiii”. Please note that there is a humorous element in adding the last vowel — this does, however, not take away from the feelings involved.
You could say that calling someone “Schatzi” would be like calling your significant other “bae” — a term you either love or despise.
The German expression “Liebling” means “darling”. It seems that over time it has become a bit more of an old-fashioned term. If used it refers to your spouse or significant other.
Fun fact: the German title of the 1989 Disney smash hit “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” is “Liebling, ich habe die Kinder geschrumpft”.
This is the point where we’re definitely entering sappy territory. “Engel” means “Angel” in German. It is definitely one of the more popular terms of endearment, especially when a couple is still in their honeymoon phase.
When traveling in Germany, you also might see heart-wrenching messages scribbled on bridges and walls: “Ich liebe dich, mein Engel” (“I love you, my angel”).
“Hase”, which translates to “rabbit” or “bunny”, is similar to Engel, yet despite its kitschiness, it is one of the more popular German terms of endearment. And who would disagree: a bunny is one of the cutest creatures to roam our planet. Thus calling your significant other “Hase” might be kind of sappy, but let’s face it — “Hase” is kind of cute.
Just like with pet names such as “Engel” or “Hase”, “Maus” (which means “mouse”) is a term you either love or hate. Yet many couples choose to address their partner with “Maus”. This term of endearment is used for men and women, so it is not necessarily gender-specific.
Sometimes parents — especially mothers — also like to call their daughters “Maus” or “Mausi”. As you can see, adding the vowel i at the end is a popular thing when it comes to German terms of endearment.
If you want to be extra sappy, you can also use the pet name “Mausezähnchen”. This means “little mouse tooth” and is most likely going to get you a couple of eye rolls if you’re using it in public — because it’s so cute that it is simply hard to stand sometimes. So when it comes to using “Mausezähnchen”, depending on the nature of your relationship, it might be best to use it only in the comfort of your own home.
Kitsch alert! “Bärchen” (“little bear”) is a very popular pet name, especially for guys. And who could deny it: little bears are cuddly and cute.
So what pet name could be anymore suitable for the man of your dreams?
You might be surprised to see that despite the German tendency to be a bit more reserved when it comes to addressing and expressing feelings, we tend to go all out when it comes to using terms of endearment.
The German language might sound a bit harsh, but the pet names used are most likely the cutest you will find.
I hope I could give you some insight into ways to say “I love you’ in German”. As usual, you can test your knowledge below with Clozemaster!
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