How can I say “I love you” in Japanese?
“Love” is either 愛 (ai) or 恋 (koi). In verb form, “to love,” you add the verb “to do” which is する (suru). So they become 愛する and 恋する.
What’s the difference between ai and koi?
Ai refers to the love of a person, a romantic love. Koi is a more general feeling of love, and describes the feeling itself. The difference is pretty subtle.
How to Say “Love” in Japanese
In dictionaries “love” may be given as aisuru (愛する). Ai shite iru (愛している) maybe how “I love you” is translated in foreign films, but this phrase is not really used much in normal Japanese speech.
There have been two traditional answers for how to say “I love you”.
You don’t. (you don’t say it; but you show it by Various forms such as:
suki da yo (好きだよ);
suki desu (好きです);
ai shite ru yo (愛してるよ);
kimi ni muchuu da (君に夢中だ).
Words for lover include koibito (恋人) “girl/boyfriend”, kareshi (彼氏), “boyfriend”, kanojo (彼女) “girlfriend”. Koibumi (恋文) means “love letter”. Katakana raburetaa (ラブレター) is also used. Other words for love are kesou-suru (懸想する), shibo-suru (思慕する), renbo-suru (恋慕する), and ren-ai (恋愛).
1. Ai shiteru 愛してる = I Love You (Deeply)
The word ai shiteru 愛してる is essentially the default phrase for “I love you” in Japanese. It is also the one that arguably comes closest in meaning to the English expression “I love you.” The character 愛 ai literally translates to “love,” typically with the connotation of romantic love.
Of all the ways you can express your love in Japanese, ai shiteru is by far the heaviest, most deeply felt way of doing so. In fact, I would even translate the word more closely to something like “I love you deeply” or “I am deeply in love with you.” That’s how expressive this one word is!
Because of its heartfelt connotations—and because Japanese culture dictates that love should be expressed through actions and gestures rather than verbally through words—ai shiteru is rarely said aloud.
Normally, the word is used only between serious lifelong lovers or when confessing your love for someone for the first time. Even in these cases, however, you’ll want to be careful not to overuse the word. It’s truly not uncommon for married couples to never say, “Ai shiteru,” throughout their entire marriage!
Despite its weighty implications, you’ll often see ai shiteru used in media, such as TV dramas and pop songs, for dramatic effect.
2.SUKI DESU (好きです)
You may have learned that suki desu (好きです / すきです) means ‘like’.
And you would be right! Suki can be translated as like, but it can also mean love. It depends a lot on the context.
Think of it this way: love is a nuanced thing. There are many different kinds of love, and many different ways to express your love in English too – I love you, I adore you, I’m in love with you, I’m crazy about you….
The love you feel for your boyfriend or girlfriend is different from the love you feel for your parents, your grandma, your pet cat, or for ice cream.
Suki desu is the most usual and natural way to express like, love or adoration for someone or something.
Remember that Japanese people are often not so expressive with words as some other cultures. The real meaning depends on the context. So suki desu! on a first date probably doesn’t mean that somebody wants to marry you and have babies straight away. It means they like you, and they’re having a good time with you.
But suki desu said in a tender moment in a long term relationship can mean ‘I love you’ in the way that we usually mean it in English.
Suki is also the way to say ‘like’ for anything, even inanimate objects.
So you can say nihon ga suki desu (日本が好きです) – I like Japan. piza ga suki desu (ピザが好きです)- I like pizza.
You can also add different endings for emphasis. suki desu is neutral or feminine. suki da yo is a more masculine way to say I love you in Japanese.
3. Daisuki da 大好きだ = I Really Like You
This next way to say, “I love you,” in Japanese is pretty similar to the one we looked at above; the only difference is the addition of the character dai 大, meaning “big” or, in this case, “really (like).” Because of the presence of dai, daisuki da is a little stronger and more direct than suki da.
By saying the phrase, “Daisuki da (yo),” to someone, you’re essentially saying, “I really like you,” “I like you a lot,” or “I really like being with you.”
But, as we discussed above with the adjective suki, daisuki da can also mean something deeper than just “like” and could be implied to mean something closer to the English phrase “I love you” depending on both the context and person.
If you want the direct translation, “I love you” in Japanese is 愛してる (aishiteru). But, in Japanese culture, expressing love and affection isn’t very common. This phrase may be said only a handful of times between a husband and a wife during their life (usually during a proposal or marriage). 愛してる is considered a “heavy” sentiment, almost too intense and dramatic.
In Japan, instead of expressing love with affectionate words, it’s more common to express love through actions, kind gestures, and gift-giving. Japanese culture values loyalty, consistency, and caring actions above all else. This is considered so important that some couples may admit they’ve never even expressed “I love you” verbally to anyone before. It’s becoming more common in younger generations but it’s still not used often. Don’t be mislead by dramas and anime, which romanticize relationships more than real life (what TV show doesn’t, though?).