Learning to say ‘I love you’ in Korean is actually quite simple, but because of the way this special phrase can be used in many different contexts, learning its direct translation is not enough. We also need to learn the various ways this phrase can be used.
So in this article, we’ll first look at the most common ways of saying ‘I love you’ in Korean and how the expression is used in practice. Then, we’ll look at how to say ‘I don’t love you’, and how to say someone is a person we love.
‘I love you’ in Korean
The phrase for ‘I love you’ in Korean is:
- 사랑해 (saranghae).
What does it mean?
The word 사랑 is a noun that means ‘love’ and the verb for ‘to love’ is 사랑하다 (saranghada).
사랑해 is the casual form of 사랑하다. So this sentence only has the verb, and there is no ‘I’ or ‘you’ in the sentence. Forming sentences with just the verb is a common feature of Korean language, and sentences are formed in this way because based on the context, it’s very clear who’s expressing their love to whom.
However, if you wanted to make it clear that it was you that loved the other person and you wanted to include the pronouns ‘I’ and ‘you’, then you can say:
- 난 너를 사랑해 (nan-neoreul-saranghae).
난 means ‘I’ and 너를 means ‘you’, so this sentence literally means ‘I love you’.
How ‘I love you’ is used in Korean
사랑해 is the casual form of ‘I love you’, and when we express our love to our partner, we use the casual language because we already have a close relationship with them. Also, when close friends say ‘I love you’, they use the same casual form.
When to use the polite form
It’s not as common for people already in relationships to use the polite form of this expression, but some people do, and as with all Korean sentences, we can make the polite form by adding -요 at the end:
- 사랭해요 (saranghaeyo).
However, the polite form of ‘I love you’ has a broader range of uses. We can use this form to say ‘I love you’ to parents and teachers as it is more respectful, and in Korean, we say ‘I love you’ to parents and teachers not only to express our love, but also to show our appreciation and gratitude.
Is there a formal form of ‘I love you’ in Korean?
The answer is yes, and it is:
- 사랑합니다 (saranghamnida).
Again, the formal form of ‘I love you’ is rarely used between couples, but some couples may use this form just to be super polite. Similarly, when saying ‘I love you’ to parents and teachers, some people may choose to use the formal form because they want or need to be more respectful.
‘I don’t love you’ in Korean
As sad as this expression is, if we’re learning how to say ‘I love you’, then we should also learn to say ‘I don’t love you’ in Korean.
There are two ways to say ‘I don’t love you’ in Korean:
First way of saying ‘I don’t love you’ in Korean
The first way is to say:
- 안 사랑해 (an saranghae).
Simple way to form negative statement is to add the word 안 in front of the verb, so the polite and the formal forms would look like this:
- Polite – 안 사랑해요 (an saranghaeyo)
- Formal – 안 사랑합니다 (an saranghamnida).
The second way of saying ‘I don’t love you’ in Korean
The second way is to say:
- 사랑하지 않아 (saranghaji ana).
We make this negative statement by adding 지 않다 to the verb stem. Earlier we learned that the verb to love is 사랑하다.
So here, we remove 다 and then add 지 않다 to make the negative form. Then to make the casual form, we change 다 at the end of 지 않다 to 아. The polite and the formal forms look like this.
- Polite – 사랑하지 않아요 (saranghaji anayo).
- Formal – 사랑하지 않습니다 (saranghaji anseumnida).
‘I like you’ in Korean
Similar to English, another way of saying that we have positive feelings for someone is to use the verb ‘to like’, and this verb in Korean is 좋아하다.
So to say ‘I like you’, we can say:
- 좋아해 (joahae).
좋아해 is the casual form, and it’s very common in Korea for people to express their feelings of fondness by using the verb 좋아하다. The polite and formal form of 좋아하다 look like this:
And like ‘to love’, if we want to say ‘I like you’ and include ‘I’ and ‘you’ in the sentence, we can say:
- 난 너를 좋아해 (nan-neoreul-joahae).
The descriptive word for ‘love’ in Korean
Now, we’ve learned that the noun of love is 사랑, and the verb is 사랑하다. The descriptive word for love, the adjective, is 사랑하는 and we can make this form by changing 다 in the verb to 는.
We can use this word to say that someone is a person that we love, like this:
- 사랑하는 사람 (saranghaneun saram).
사랑하는 is the adjective form for love, and 사람 means person, so 사랑하는 사람 means ‘a person I love’, so to say ‘Mina is someone I love’, we would say:
- 미나는 내가 사랑하는 사람이야. (Minaneun naega saranghaneun saramiya.)
So, we first say the person’s name (미나) with the particle 는. Then we say ‘I’ (내) with the particle 가. And lastly, we say 사랑하는 사람 with the Korean be-verb 이야. Here are a couple of other example sentences:
- Minsu is someone I love.
민수는 내가 사랑하는 사람이야. (Minsuneun naega saranghaneun saramiya.)
- Haejung is someone I love.
해정이는 내가 사랑하는 사람이야. (Haejungineun naega saranghaneun saramiya.)
Other useful adjectives related to love in Korean
Similar to how the adjective form of love is made, the adjective form of 좋아하다 is 좋아하는, so to say that someone is a person I like, we can say:
- 좋아하는 사람 (joahaneun saram)
And likewise, to say 미나 is someone I like, we can say:
- Mina is someone I like.
미나는 내가 좋아하는 사람이야. (Minaneun naega joahaneun saramiya.)
- Minsu is someone I like.
민수는 내가 좋아하는 사람이야. (Minsuneun naega joahaneun saramiya.)
Another common verb Koreans use to talk about someone special is 아끼다 (akkida). 아끼다 means to be special and its adjective form is 아끼는 and it describes someone or something which is precious and special to someone, so to say that someone is precious and special, we can say this:
- 아끼는 사람 (akkineun saram).
Using the same sentence pattern as before, to say that someone is precious to me, we can say:
- Mina is precious to me.
미나는 내가 아끼는 사람이야. (Minaneun naega akkineun saramiya.)
- Minsu is precious to me.
민수는 내가 아끼는 사람이야. (Misuneun naega akkineun saramiya.)
First we looked at ‘I love you’ in three levels of formality:
- Casual – 사랑해
- Polite – 사랑해요
- Formal – 사랑합니다.
These phrases lack a subject and an object, but if we wanted to include ‘I’ and ‘you’ in the sentence, we can say:
- 나는 너를 사랑해.
There were two ways of saying ‘I don’t love you’ and we looked at how we can form casual, polite and formal negative statements:
- Casual – 안 사랑해
- Polite – 안 사랑해요
- Formal – 안 사랑합니다.
- Casual – 사랑하지 않아
- Polite – 사랑하지 않아요
- Formal – 사랑하지 않습니다.
After that, we also looked at the use of ‘to like’ to express our feelings to others, and we looked at three levels of formality:
- Casual – 좋아해
- Polite – 좋아해요
- Formal – 좋아합니다.
We all looked at a sentence that include the subject ‘I’, and the object ‘you’, which was:
- 나는 너를 좋아해.
Finally, we learned three different adjectives to describe people we love, like, and those who are precious to us.
- Someone I love – 사랑하는 사람
- Someone I like – 좋아하는 사람
- Someone precious – 아끼는 사람.
It’s easy to learn how to say ‘I love you’, but when learning the expression in another language, it’s also important to know how that expression is used by native speakers, so as well as learning all the different ways to say ‘I love you’ in Korean, we also looked at how the word ‘love’ can be used as a noun, verb, and adjective, and we also learned other useful expressions related to the topic of love.
Hope you enjoyed reading this article, and as always, don’t forget to practice Korean daily with Clozemaster! 사랑하는 여러분, 안녕히 계세요! Bye for now!
Learn Korean in context with Clozemaster
Clozemaster has been designed to help you learn the language in context by filling in the gaps in authentic sentences. With features such as Grammar Challenges, Cloze-Listening, and Cloze-Reading, the app will let you emphasize all the competencies necessary to become fluent in Korean.