How Chinese Actually Express I Love You In Mandarin Chinese
In this article, we are going to introduce how Chinese people actually express ‘I love you’, or their love towards someone, in Mandarin Chinese. We will also introduce some common vocabulary, slang, and idioms used in Chinese to describe relationships.
I moved to the States about 10 years ago. Recognizing the difference between how Americans and Chinese express their love was an interesting topic.
As many of you may know, how to say I love you in Chinese, is “我爱你 Wǒ ài nǐ.” But what you may not know, was that when I grew up in my family, I never heard my parents say “我爱你 Wǒ ài nǐ” to each other, at least not in front of me. And this is a very typical case in a Chinese family. Don’t get me wrong. My parents love each other. I have no doubt of that. They express their love in actions, not really verbally. They take care of each other whether they are rich or poor, whether they are healthy or sick.
Love can be deep or shallow. But no matter what you experience, express it! Let the one you love know of your love for them, by your actions or verbally!
Because of the cultural differences, do you know how Chinese actually say ‘I love you’ in Chinese? Let’s learn how Chinese actually express their love in Chinese.
How Chinese Actually Express love In Mandarin Chinese
我喜欢你。/ 我喜歡你。 Wǒ xǐhuān nǐ. I like you.
This is the most common phrase used when Chinese express that they are attracted to someone. Keep this in mind, when we say “我喜欢你 Wǒ xǐhuān nǐ” in Chinese, it doesn’t necessarily mean we have less feelings towards someone compared to when you say “I love you” in English. We are just not used to saying the word “爱 ài” out loud!
你很可爱。/ 你很可愛。nǐ hěn kě ài. You are cute.
This can be used when you think the person looks cute or you find their behavior adorable.
你很漂亮。/ 你很漂亮。nǐ hěn piào liang. You are pretty.
You can use this to tell a girl that you think she is pretty. It is not necessary for her to be your girlfriend. When people flirt in Chinese, this is something they will say to a girl.
你很帅。/ 你很帥。Nǐ hěn shuài. You are handsome.
Pretty much the same usage as the one above. Just this is said to a boy or a man.
我觉得你很好看！/ 我覺得你很好看！Wǒ juédé nǐ hěn hǎokàn!I think you are pretty good looking.
好看 hǎokàn literally means “good to look.” If you think someone is pretty or handsome, besides telling them pretty or handsome, you can also use this general term, “好看 hǎokàn.”
我想跟你在一起。/ 我想跟你在一起。 Wǒ xiǎng gēn nǐ zài yīqǐ. I want to be with you.
The translation is “I want to be with you,” we particularly refer to “to be with you” in a relationship, not just for a few minutes or a few hours.
我很想你。 / 我很想你。 Wǒ hěn xiǎng nǐ. I miss you.
I will say this is another common and indirect way to express your love in Mandarin Chinese. If you haven’t seen your partner for a little while, this is a great way to tell them your love and feelings for them.
妳可以做我女朋友吗？ / 妳可以做我女朋友嗎？ Nǎi kěyǐ zuò wǒ nǚ péngyǒu ma? Could you be my girlfriend?
It used to be common for a boy to pursue a girl and it was rarely seen vice versa. But I have to say it is so different nowadays. So, of course, you are welcome to replace “女朋友 nǚ péngyǒu girlfriend” with “男朋友 nán péngyǒu boyfriend.”
我爱你。/ 我愛你。 Wǒ ài nǐ. I love you.
In the older generation, people are not used to expressing their love by saying 我爱你. But I do notice that since the Internet and travel have become popular, western culture has started to mix with Chinese culture. The younger generation is not shy about expressing their feelings to their significant one with 我爱你.
A fun fact about the “爱 ài love” character in Chinese: Whenever I teach the word “爱 ài” in Chinese, I always mention that I prefer this character in traditional Chinese rather than simplified. If you compare these two characters,
Do you see the difference? In the middle of the traditional character, there is a “心 xīn,” which means “heart” in Chinese. Who can love without a heart?!
你愿意嫁给我吗？ / 你願意嫁給我嗎？ Nǐ yuànyì jià gěi wǒ ma? Would you marry me?
A fun culture fact: Do you know we have a few different characters for being “married” to someone?
嫁 jià is used when a woman is “married” to a man. For instance,
她去年嫁给 Michael 了。Tā qùnián jià gěi Michael.
She married Michael last year.
娶 qǔ means a man “marries” a woman. For instance,
我娶了初恋女友。Wǒ qǔle chūliàn nǚyǒu.
I married my first girlfriend.
结婚 / 結婚 jiéhūn To get married
This is the most general term that we use for getting married in Chinese.
我们结婚了！ Wǒmen jiéhūnle!
We got married!
我们结婚吧！ wǒ men jié hūn ba
Let’s get married!
If you are in a stable relationship and both of you commit to each other, then it is time for you to say this “我們結婚吧！ wǒ men jié hūn ba!”
一见钟情 / 一見鍾情 yījiànzhōngqíng Love at first sight
You can use this idiom when you have a crush on someone at first sight. For instance,
我对她一见钟情。 Wǒ duì tā yījiànzhōngqíng.
I fell in love with her at first sight.
执子之手，与子偕老 / 執子之手，與子偕老 zhí zǐ zhī shǒu, yǔ zi xiélǎo
This idiom literally means
执 to grasp
子 noun suffix
之 possessive particle
与 together with
偕老 to grow old together
So, if you combine the meanings together, to hold your hand, to grow old with you. We usually use this to bless them when someone gets married. I personally really like this idiom. The moment you decide to hold a person’s hand, you wish to hold that same hand to the end. In today’s generation there are now less and less couples willing to commit the rest of their lives together. This idiom reminds me that when making a commitment, you have to work at it.
有情人终成眷属 / 有情人終成眷屬 yǒuqíng rén zhōng chéng juànshǔ Love will find a way
We use this saying to describe a couple that has been through some hard times and they have finally worked everything out to be together. For instance,
Jiějuéle shuāngfāng fùmǔ fǎnduì de wèntí, tāmen zhōngyú yǒuqíng rén zhōng chéng juànshǔ.
After solving the opposition from both of their parents, they finally are able to be together.
How Chinese Actually Express love In Mandarin Chinese Infographic
How Chinese Actually Express love In Mandarin Chinese Video
Chinese Slang About Love
暗恋 àn liàn To have a crush on someone secretly
This phrase means you have a crush on someone secretly. The person you have a crush does not know your feelings toward him or her. For instance,
Wǒ ànliàn tā yī niánle.
I am secretly in love with him
表白 biǎo bái and 告白 gào bái To express feelings, confess to someone
Both phrases mean to express, to reveal one’s feelings. But we mostly use them when we adore or admire someone. For instance,
Tā ànliàn tā hěn zhǎng yīduàn shíjiānle, tā zhōngyú jīntiān yào qù gàobáile.
She has secretly been in love with him for a while. She will finally confess today.
专一 / 專一 zhuān yī One-track mind, focused on one thing
We use this phrase to describe a person who focuses on only one thing or one person at a time. When we use this in a relationship, it means someone is not looking around. He or she only has love for one person.
There is another similar phrase, 专情 zhuān qíng, which we only use to describe a person who is faithful in a relationship. For instance,
Tā shì yīgè hěn zhuān qíng de rén, tā gēn tā nǚ péngyǒu zài yīqǐ wǔ niánle.
He is a faithful boyfriend. He and his girlfriend has been together for 5 years.
花心 / 花心 huāxīn Fickle (in love affairs), unfaithful
On the other hand, this is the phrase to describe a person opposite to the above. If we say someone is “花心 huāxīn,” it means someone who is unfaithful in the relationship.
老牛吃嫩草 / 老牛吃嫩草 lǎo niú chī nèn cǎo A May-December relationship
This saying literally means
老牛 old cow
吃 to eat
嫩草 young grass
Two people in a relationship where there is a big age gap. This saying originally used to describe a romance where the man was significantly older than the woman. But it also can refer to a woman who is much older than the man.
网恋 wǎngliàn Internet dating, Internet relationship
This phrase is used to describe a relationship that starts on the Internet and may remain on the Internet for a while. For instance,
Tā hé tā nǚ péngyǒu shì wǎngliàn rènshì de.
He and his girlfriend got to know each other on the Internet.
What to Call and Introduce Our Significant One as in Mandarin Chinese
In this section, we will introduce some vocabulary that we use in Chinese to cell and introduce our significant one.
男朋友 / 男朋友 nán péngyǒu Boyfriend and
女朋友 / 女朋友 nǚ péngyǒu Girlfriend
These two are the most common phrases to refer to your boyfriend or girlfriend. But there is one thing to keep in mind. In English, some females will use “girlfriend” to refer to their close female friends. We never used “女朋友 nǚ péngyǒu” in this situation.
宝贝 bǎo bèi Baby and
北鼻 běi bí baby
Both phrases have similar pronunciations with the English word “baby.” We use these two phrases when describing our significant one. We use them in conversations, as well as in text messages.
未婚夫 wèi hūn fū iancé and
未婚妻 wèi hūn qī fiancée
When you would like to introduce your fiancé or fiancée to others, you can say,
他是我未婚夫。Tā shì wǒ wèihūnfū.
He is my fiancé.
她是我未婚妻。Tā shì wǒ wèihūnqī.
She is my fiancée.
We have quite a few phrases to describe husband and wife in Chinese. Let’s learn how to use them!
老公 lǎo gōng, this is the most common one to call your husband. You can use it privately. You can also use it to introduce your husband in a rather informal setting. Same usage as 老婆 lǎo pó. Let’s see some examples,
女：老公，我穿这件衣服漂亮吗？ Nǚ: Lǎogōng, wǒ chuān zhè jiàn yīfú piàoliang ma?
Woman: Honey, do I look pretty in these clothes?
女：这是我老公。他叫做 David. Nǚ: Zhè shì wǒ lǎogōng. Tā jiàozuò David.
Woman: This is David. He is my husband..
男：老婆，你今天几点会回来？Nán: Lǎopó, nǐ jīntiān jǐ diǎn huì huílái?
Man: Honey, what time will you be back today?
男：这是我老婆，她叫 Karen. Nán: Zhè shì wǒ lǎopó, tā jiào Karen.
Man: This is Karen. She is my wife.
先生 xiān sheng Husband and
太太 tài tai Wife
This pair of phrases can be used in both formal and informal settings.
丈夫 zhàng fu Husband and
妻子 qī zi Wife
These two phrases are usually used in a formal setting. For example, when you make your vows at the wedding,
你愿意他 / 她成为你的丈夫 / 妻子…
Nǐ yuànyì tā/ tā chéngwéi nǐde zhàngfū/ qīzi…
Your officiant: “Will you take this woman/man to be your wife/husband, …”
We have published two other fun Love-Related posts, check them out!
You have learned how to say I love you in Chinese and the many related vocabulary, sayings, and idioms. What do you call your significant one in your language? Share with us in the comments!