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Ich liebe dich
Starting with the stock and standard, Ich liebe dich is the classic way to say ‘I love you’ in German. It’s most appropriate for serious, long-term relationships. If the sentiment is mutual, you can say ‘I love you too’ by adding auch (‘also’) to the end of the phrase.
Ich bin in dich verliebt
It is important to make some clear distinctions as to the kind of love you are professing. Ich bin in dich verliebt is a display of affectionate words between lovers, but it isn’t quite as serious as dropping the l-bomb.
Ich hab’ dich lieb
This is one of those happy-go-lucky colloquial phrases that you might say to your partner at the end of a phone call, and can also be used for friends and family. It means something like ‘Love ya’.
Ich bin bis über beide Ohren verliebt
When you’ve totally lost your marbles over somebody, this bold declaration of love translates literally to ‘I am until over both ears in love’; in English you might say, ‘I am head over heels in love.’
Du bist mein Ein und Alles
When you’ve really been hit by Cupid’s arrow, and know that you’re in it for the long haul, this phrase is the equivalent of saying ‘You’re my everything’, or ‘You mean the world to me’ in English.
Ich steh’ auf dich
The relationship is still in its early days, but you can’t help it, you’re smitten, and would profess your Ich liebe Dich love if only it weren’t so scary. Rather play it cool with the phrase Ich steh’ auf dich, which means, harmlessly, ‘I’m into you.’
Dein ist mein ganzes Herz
Probably something you would find on a Hallmark Valentine’s Day card, Dein ist mein ganzes Herz declares that ‘Yours is my whole heart.’ Save it for when your relationship is quite well established.
Du bist die Liebe meines Lebens
Reserved for the most sentimental of hearts, this phrase is a strong one. It means ‘You’re the love of my life’, and is probably best kept for the wedding ceremony. Until then, why not try the phrase Ich bete dich an, meaning ‘I adore you.’
Du gefällst mir
This one’s tricky to translate. It means something like ‘You suit me’, and is used when you find yourself attracted to somebody. It could just be that you like their style, their eyes or their quirks, or it could be that biological attraction that makes you want to ask Willst du mit mir gehen? meaning ‘Will you go out with me?’
Liebling, Schatz or Mausi
These are German pet names for loved ones. Take your pick of any of the above, and you’ll end up with something along the lines of ‘darling’, ‘sweetie pie’ or ‘sweetheart’.
Ich habe dich gerne
And then, of course, there’s that inconvenience known as unrequited love. If you find yourself on the giving end, remember to let a brother or sister down easy with the response Ich habe dich gerne, meaning ‘I care for you.’