Ich liebe dich vs. Ich habe dich lieb- Difference & pronunciation

Are you confused between "ich liebe dich" and "ich habe dich lieb"? You aren't alone. Here are the differences so that you don't tell your one night stand that you love them and see a future with them.

I just had a long conversation with my German husband about these expressions and I might still be a bit confused, so I'll do my best to put it into words.

Both expressions translate into "I love you", but don't be fooled, it's not as simple as it looks. The difference between both expressions may be a bit complicated to explain.

Imagine you have a love scale for your significant other and another one for family and friends. Both of these expressions mean the top of the scale, but the audience and type of love for each are different.


We can say that "ich liebe dich" denotes a strong and more profound type of love.

This is what you would say to your significant other and the list stops there. Yes, stop there!

Some people would add parents/children to this list, but many others would not. For example, my husband Tobi only says "Ich liebe dich" to me 🥰 🥰, but would NEVER EVER say this to his parents or sister, even though he does love them.

When you tell a person "ich liebe dich", you are declaring your love to a person. Say this only to your husband, wife, long term partner to let them know you aren't joking around, you mean business, you LOOOOOVE them! Good for you.

Listen to Tobi saying "ich liebe dich". Pay attention to the pronunciation so that you can wow your s.o.


"Ich habe dich lieb" is what you would say to your friends, relatives, close family members or to the person you are dating. This expression won't put you in the true-love-together-forever-and-ever,-till-death-do-us-part category.

Don't worry, this expression doesn't put you in the lived happily ever after territory. It simply tells the person that they are not indifferent to you and that you are even fond of them. You can say it without much fear.

Here's Tobi's beautiful voice again. This time he is saying "Ich habe dich lieb". Pay attention to how he pronounces the verb "habe"- Have you noticed that he does not say the "e"?


I know. So what does one say when you are dating but not in the I-Love-You phase? You can tell them "Ich mag dich" or "Ich habe dich gern". These expressions mean you like this person and have some kind of affection for them but not the I'll-love-you-forever kind.

You can say "ich mag dich" if you like the person. It's a bit like saying "I like you" in terms of their personality, but it can also mean that you're attracted to them.

If you have been dating the person for a while and already have some kind of affection for them, you can say "ich habe dich gern". Don't worry because it doesn't put you in "love" territory, but it shows them that you care.

Want to learn how to pronounce them? Listen to Tobi say them! Again, pay extra attention to the pronunciation of "habe".

Go on, listen!

Have you heard of any other uses or rules for these expressions? Let us know! And while you're here, check out how you can learn with us!

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