Learn How to Say I Love You in Japanese

Japanese couple with newborn baby
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One of the most popular phrases in any language is probably "I love you." There are many ways to say "I love you" in Japanese, but the expression has slightly different cultural meanings than it does in Western nations like the U.S. 

Saying 'I Love You'

In Japanese, the word "love" is "ai," which is written like this: 愛. The verb "to love" is "aisuru" (愛する). A literal translation of the phrase "I love you" in Japanese would be "aishite imasu." Written out, it would look like this: 愛しています.

In conversation, you're more likely to use the gender-neutral word "aishiteru" (愛してる). If you wanted to express your affection for a man, you would say, "aishiteru yo" (愛してるよ). If you wanted to say the same thing to a woman, you'd say, "aishiteru wa" (愛してるわ). "Yo" and "wa" at the end of a sentence are sentence-ending particles

Love Versus Like

However, the Japanese don't say "I love you" as often as people in the West do, mainly because of cultural differences. Instead, love is expressed by manners or gestures. When Japanese do put their feelings into words, they're more likely to use the phrase "suki desu" (好きです), which literally means "to like."

The gender-neutral phrase "suki da" (好きだ), the masculine "suki dayo" (好きだよ) or feminine "suki yo" (好きよ) are more colloquial expressions. If you like somebody or something very much, the word "dai" (literally, big) can be added as the prefix, and you can say "daisuki desu" (大好きです).

Variations on 'I Love You' in Japanese

There are many variations of this phrase, including regional dialects or hogen. If you were in the south-central part of Japan surrounding the city of Osaka, for example, you'd probably be speaking in Kansai-ben, the regional dialect. In Kansai-ben, you would use the phrase "suki yanen" (written as 好きやねん) to say "I love you" in Japanese.

This colloquial phrase has become so popular in Japan that it's even used as the name of an instant noodle soup.

There is another word to describe love, which is "koi" (恋). The primary difference between using the word "koi" instead of "ai" is that the former is typically used to express romantic love for one person, while the latter is a more general form of love.  However, the differences can be subtle, and there are many more ways to say "I love you" in Japanese if you want to be particularly eloquent.