Germans believe that when your food is overly salty it is because you are in love. The German language might not be the most romantic language but it is still the language of Dichter and Denker “poets and thinkers” and there is a lot of nuance and detail in the different ways of saying I love you.
In the following post, we’ll show you how to say I love you to your friends, family, and significant others. We have ranked these expressions in the order of their intensity and as a bonus, we’ll share the most common German pet names and terms of endearment you can use for your loved ones.
I Love You in German at a Glance
I like you
I like you
I think you’re great
I like you/You are great to me
I'm into you
I love you
I love you very much
I love you very much
I have feelings for you
I am in love with you
I am head over heels in love with you
You are my one and only / You are my everything
You have conquered my heart
You have stolen my heart
I love you
You are the love of my life
All the Ways to Say I Love You in German
It is true that Germans are a little more reserved than the average American. Saying “I love you” to a co-worker who helped you with a presentation or the barista who remembered your favorite coffee order isn’t common. Have you ever wondered how to say “I love you” in German? Liebe is “love” in German and while the true Ich liebe dich “I love you” is reserved for your significant others, lots of other expressions can show your appreciation.
Ich hab’ dich gern
Ich hab’ dich gern is a colloquial way of saying “I like you”. It is meant in a platonic and not a romantic way. You might recognize that habe is shortened as hab’ here – this is informal language and shouldn’t be used in writing. You will find several expressions that use hab’ in this post.
Ich mag dich
Ich mag dich is a straightforward way of saying “I like you”. Depending on the context it can be romantic or platonic. Asking Magst du sie/ihn? “Do you like him/her?” can also be a great first question to ask to find out whether someone is into someone else in an innocent way.
Ich find’ dich klasse
Ich find’ dich klasse means “I think you’re great” and can be used in a variety of contexts – romantic, friendly, or just to congratulate someone for a job well done. Klasse means “great” and it can also be an adjective to describe a person Deine Nachbarin ist klasse which means “Your neighbor is great”.
Du gefällst mir
Du gefällst mir literally means “you are great to me” but can be translated to “I like you”. It is different from Ich mag dich though and expresses a romantic or physical attraction to the other person.
Ich steh’ auf dich
You can’t get much more straightforward than Ich steh’ auf dich . It means “I’m into you” and is definitely used in a romantic and/or sexual way. It is also an informal expression that is most often used by young people.
Ich hab dich lieb
Ich hab dich lieb can be seen as the diminutive of Ich liebe dich “I love you”, which is reserved for significant others. Ich hab dich lieb also means “I love you” in German but is most often used between children and their parents. You can also say it to close friends and to someone who you are involved with when you’re not ready for the big Ich liebe dich yet.
Ich hab dich ganz arg lieb
Ich hab dich ganz arg lieb is slightly stronger than Ich hab dich lieb. Ganz arg means “very much”. This too is a colloquial expression, parents will say it frequently to their children.
Ich hab dich ganz doll lieb
Ganz doll is similar to ganz arg and also means very much so Ich hab dich ganz doll lieb means “I love you very much”. Careful, doll is not the same as toll “great” and shouldn’t be confused.
Ich habe Gefühle für dich
More mature than Ich steh’ auf dich, Ich habe Gefühle für dich means “I have feelings for you”. It is implied that those feelings are romantic in nature. This is the perfect wording for when you aren’t sure if your feelings are reciprocated yet.
Ich bin in dich verliebt
Ich bin in dich verliebt means “I am in love with you”. There is little ambivalence in this expression. It expresses stronger love than Ich hab dich lieb but doesn’t quite reach the level of Ich liebe dich yet.
If you want to emphasize that you are falling in love with the person right now you can also say Ich verliebe mich gerade in dich. Gerade means “right now”. If you have already fallen in love with the person you can opt for Ich habe mich in dich verliebt. Either version will probably get your point across.
Ich bin bis über beide Ohren verliebt
Ich bin bis über beide Ohren verliebt can be roughly translated to “I am head over heels in love with you”. It is quite a strong statement, and people will often use this statement to tease their friends who are in love and have “hearts for eyes”. Thomas ist bis über beide Ohren verliebt in Susanne “Thomas is head over heels in love with Susanne”.
Du bist mein Ein und Alles
“You are my one and only” or “You are my everything”. Those are roughly the translations for Du bist mein Ein und Alles . You wouldn’t say this if you weren’t in, or aiming for, a very serious relationship with someone.
Du hast mein Herz erobert
Du hast mein Herz erobert means “you have conquered my heart”. It expresses deep feelings and is almost on par with Ich liebe dich. Germans aren’t a fan of big, public gestures, but small and consistent efforts will melt anybody’s heart.
Du hast mein Herz gestohlen
Du hast mein Herz gestohlen means “you have stolen my heart” and has a more negative connotation than the other expressions. It could express a situation of unreciprocated love and doesn’t paint the picture of a happy ending.
Ich liebe dich
The classic Ich liebe dich is German for “I love you” and isn’t used as frequently as it is in the English language. It is reserved for very deep and intimate relationships.
A common response to Ich liebe dich is Ich dich auch which means “you too” or Ich liebe dich auch “I love you too”.
Du bist die Liebe meines Lebens
Du bist die Liebe meines Lebens means “you are the love of my life”. This very dramatic way of saying “I love you” in German fits well into wedding vowels or heartfelt letters. You should be sure that the other person feels the same way about you before declaring your love though.
Pet names for your loved ones
Although Germans aren’t quick to say Ich liebe dich “I love you” they do like to call their partner by a pet name. Although some couples have unique pet names for each other, there are also common ones that many people use. Adding an -i or a -chen to a word makes it a diminutive, and creates popular variations of many pet names.
Schatz , which means “treasure” or “sweetheart” in German, is the most common pet name, used for all genders and within all demographics. Schatzi is a popular variation, whereas Schätzchen has more of a negative, sarcastic connotation.
Although it doesn’t seem romantic at first, Schnecke “snail” can actually be a German pet name for a woman. I would however make sure that your partner is happy with that pet name – Schnecke can also be a derogatory term for a woman.
Liebling means “darling” and is a popular pet name for all genders. It is a bit more salonfähig “socially acceptable” than the animal-based pet names and therefore is a pet name you will also hear in public at times.
Liebes is a variation of Liebling and also means “darling”. It is more frequently used for women than for men.
Bärchen might be a less popular pet name, at least for men and at least in public. It roughly translates to “teddy bear” or “little bear” and is usually used in private.
Engel , another pet name for women, means “angel”. Although Germans aren’t overly affectionate in public, they are in private, and Engel is a popular pet name to call your partner.
We hope we could challenge your assumptions that Germans are stern and stiff with this post. In reality, Germans are just very selective with their affection and choose their words carefully depending on whom they are talking to.
From “I like you” to “I love you”, the above list will give you the correct expression for every occasion. Fun fact, the word for friend is the same as the word for boyfriend or girlfriend. A Freund or Freundin can either be a friend you just hang out with, or your significant other so pay special attention to the relationships around you.