People learn Chinese for different reasons. Some are interested in Chinese culture and want to make friends with Chinese people. Others want to find jobs in China. There are also people who learn Chinese because they have a romantic relationship with a Chinese national.
As a result, a language barrier can be the most frustrating when you’re trying to cross it for love. You may wonder how Chinese people show affection towards their lover in the Chinese language. In today’s article, we’re going to show you how to say “I love you” in Chinese in different ways!
The common equivalent of “I love you” in Chinese
“I love you” is the most common phrase to show love. But in Chinese, do you know how they say it? Easy, just plug it into Google translate, and the answer that comes up is 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ). The character 爱 (ài), which means “love,” is often used to express a feeling of affection for another person.
我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ) is considered an expression of extremely strong emotion and is never used casually. As a result, you rarely hear couples in China use this expression when dating. Only in a formal situation or serious occasions such as on the wedding day or an anniversary do Chinese couples use this expression.
The phrase 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ) is not just for romantic relationships. It can also be used to express love between family members and is mostly used by parents to tell their kids that they love them. But many Chinese natives have revealed that their parents never said 我爱你 to them. The reason is Chinese people consider 我爱你 too strong when it comes to showing affection to their children. They rather show their kids love with actions than words.
To portray this sort of relationship, Domee Shi, who is a Chinese-born Canadian storyboard artist, has written and produced the Pixar short “Bao.” In the movie, the main character, a Chinese-Canadian mother, shows love and care for her steamed bun by feeding him and spending a lot of time playing with him instead of telling him 我爱你. The director, Shi explained “Traditionally, Chinese parents don’t say ‘I love you’ to their kids. They say it with food or by fussing over them.”
Alternatives to 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ)
Phrases and words
Though those three words 我爱你 are literally translated as “I love you” and are common among foreigners, it doesn’t have the same effect in Chinese as they do in English. But thankfully, there are a few other phrases you can use to confess your feelings to someone.
我喜欢你 (wǒ xǐ huān nǐ) – “I like you”
This alternative is used in casual situations where “wǒ ài nǐ” is considered too “formal” or “serious.” When you have a crush on someone, confessing to them with “wǒ ài nǐ” would make the other feel strange and awkward. Instead, use “wǒ xǐ huān nǐ,” and your Chinese crush will understand that you have feelings for them and want to ask them out on a date politely.
我对你感兴趣 (wǒ duì nǐ gǎn xìng qu) – “I’m interested in you”
This phrase is often used interchangeably with the previous “wǒ xǐ huān nǐ” in the context of a confession of feelings. You often use this phrase to tell your crush that you see them as more than just a friend.
我想你 (wǒ xiǎng nǐ) – “I miss you” or “I’m thinking of you”
It’s obvious that a lack of communication can ruin a relationship. There are many reasons for this problem, but a large population has confessed that they have to sacrifice romantic time for working hours. It’s difficult to have a work-life balance, especially for those who are looking to grow at work. At the bare minimum, the thing you should do is to text your partner “wǒ xiǎng nǐ” so that they know you keep them in mind.
你真漂亮 (Nǐ zhēn piàoliang) – “You’re so beautiful”
Sometimes, it’s better to communicate with your crush or lover in a more subtle angle than with common phrases like “wǒ ài nǐ” or “wǒ xǐ huān nǐ.” Especially if your crush is someone who is unapproachable at first, chances are they would turn you down if you confess to them directly “wǒ xǐ huān nǐ.” A compliment such as “Nǐ zhēn piàoliang” (You’re so beautiful) or “Chuān yī fú zhēn pèi nǐ” (You look great in those clothes) is a great way to start your conversation with your crush. It also indicates that you think of them positively.
你是我的唯 (Nǐ shì wǒ de wéiyī) – “You are my only one”
When your relationship gets deeper and more serious, you will not want to keep things casual anymore. You’ll make several changes to advance to an exclusive relationship, starting with your communication. You’ll drop casual lines for honeyed words and phrases. There are phrases you can use to let your partner know they are the apple of your eye.
- 你是我的唯 (Nǐ shì wǒ de wéiyī) – “You are my only one”
- 我的心里只有你 (Wǒ de xīnlǐ zhǐ yǒu nǐ) – “In my heart, there is only you.”
- 我会一直陪着你 (Wǒ huì yīzhí péizhe nǐ) – “I will always stay with you.”
- 你对我而言如此重要 (Nǐ duì wǒ éryán rúcǐ zhòngyào) – “You mean so much to me”
Internet slang isn’t a new concept to anyone. In fact, Internet users prefer this type of language when communicating online and tend to create more and more shorthands. Abbreviations and acronyms are the two most common types in English. But in Chinese, people often use number slang because they sound reasonably similar to other words. This allows people to form sentences, exchange ideas, and even declare love simply by typing out a few digits!
Here are the digits 0-9, and some of their possible word equivalents.
- 零 (líng) — “Zero” can be used to mean 你 (nǐ) — “you.” You may think I’m crazy to say these two words are similar. But let me explain! In some Chinese dialects, the “n” and “l” sounds are interchangeable, which could somehow make sense.
- 一 (yī) — “One” similar sounding to 要 (yào) – “to want.”
- 二 (èr) — “Two” similar enough to 爱 (ài) – “love.”
- 三 (sān) — “Three” is used in exchange for 生 (shēng) – “life.”
- 四 (sì) — “Four” similar to 世 (shì) – “world”
- 五 (wǔ) — “Five” is close enough to 我 (wǒ) – “I”
- 六 (liù) — “Six” sounds like the grammar particle 了(le).
- 七 (qī) — “Seven” similar to 亲 (qīn) – “dear, blood relation”
- 八 (bā) — “Eight” Sounds like 抱 (bào) – “hug”
- 九 (jiǔ) — “Nine” – sound like 久 (jiǔ) – “long time”
Here are some ways of saying how you feel towards others using numbers:
- 1314 / 一三一四 (yī sān yī sì) → 一生一世 (yī shēng yī shì) — forever
- 520 / 五二零 (wǔ èr líng) → 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ) — I love you
- 5201314 / 五二零一三一四 (wǔ èr líng yī sān yī sì) → 我爱你一生一世 (wǒ ài nǐ yī shēng yī shì) — I’ll love you forever
- 521 / 五二一 (wǔ èr yī) → 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ) — I love you
- 770 / 七七零 (qī qī líng) → 亲亲你 (qīn qīn nǐ) — kiss you
- 880 / 八八零 (bā bā líng) → 抱抱你 (bào bào nǐ) — hug you
The bottom line
From words to numbers, there are several ways you can express the idea “I love you.” If you’re a romantic person, there are sweet words for you. Or if you’re a more casual person, numbered phrases could be your thing.
All in all, Chinese is a beautiful language. After reading this post, if you start feeling interested in Chinese, don’t hesitate to take a Chinese course and explore the language yourself. Check out Pandanese if you’re looking for a place to start your Chinese learning journey. Pandanese is a web-based Chinese learning platform designed to help users learn Chinese and build vocabulary easily.