‘I love you’ is usually one of the first expressions you learn in a language right after ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank you’. If you are a fan of Korean media, you have probably heard ‘I love you’ said before.
If you have heard ‘I love you’ you might have been a little confused because ‘I love you’ can be said several ways in Korea depending on the speech level being talked in.
In this blog, we will learn how to say ‘I love you’ at every speech level and when it is appropriate to use it. We will also learn other romantic phrases and words.
By the end of this, you will be an expert in love in Korean. You will be able to understand all the confessions of love in your favorite k-dramas and be able to express love yourself. So let’s get started!
‘I love you’ in Korean
There are three ways to say ‘I love you’ in Korean. Each form comes from the verb 사랑하다 which means ‘to love’. I will go over each form below explaining when it is appropriate to use it.
사랑해요 – saranghaeyo
This is the most commonly said form of ‘I love you’. It is the polite form and is used when talking to someone you are either unfamiliar with or to someone who is older than you.
You might say it to your parents, older friends who you don’t speak casual language with, or to people you are not close with.
- 엄마 사랑해요
- (eomma saranghaeyo)
- Mom, I love you
사랑해 – sarangahe
This form of ‘I love you’ is commonly used with close friends, family, children, and animals. It is casual language, so it would be rude to use it on people you are unfamiliar with or who are older than you. This form of ‘I love you’ is most commonly used between couples.
- 나 할 말 있어. 사랑해.
- (na hal mal isseo. saranghae)
- I have something to say. I love you.
사랑합니다 – saranghamnida
This is the most formal form of ‘I love you’. You can use it with people much older than you or in formal situations.
You might hear someone say it to their parents and grandparents or a company to its customers. In both of these situations, the intention is to show respect.
- 우리 고객님들에게 진심으로 사랑합니다
- (oori gogaeknimdeulehgeh jinshimeuro saranghamnida)
- To our customers, sincerely we love you.
‘I like you’ in Korean
Sometimes ‘I love you’ is too strong of a word, but you still want to tell someone you care about them. You could use the phrase ‘I like you’ instead.
The verb ‘to like’ is 좋아하다 in Korean. We will learn 3 ways to say ‘I like you’ below. All of them come from the verb 좋아하다.
좋아해요 – joahaeyo
This is the polite version of ‘I like you’. You can use it on people you are not close with and people you may be close with but are older than you.
- 저는 너를 좋아해요
- (jeoneun neoreul joahaeyo)
- I like you.
좋아해 – joahae
You can use this form with people you are close to, children, and animals. You might use this with siblings, friends, or your lover.
Since this form is casual language, it should not be used with someone you do not already speak casual language with.
- 왜 나를 좋아해?
- (wae nareul joahae)
- Why do you like me?
좋아합니다 – joahamnida
This last version is the formal form of this expression. Use it with people you are in a formal relationship with or with those much older than you.
- 저는 할아버지를 좋아합니다
- (jeoneun halabeojireul joahamnida)
- I like grandfather.
Other Romantic Phrases
Besides ‘I love you’ and ‘I like you’ there are many other ways to express affection in Korea. If you are a k-drama or k-pop fan, you might have heard these expressions before.
If you haven’t, try listening for them next time you watch a drama. I guarantee you are bound to hear some of these phrases.
보고 싶어요 – bogosipeoyo
This phrase means ‘I miss you’. It is a combination of the verb 보다 which means ‘to watch/see’ and 고 싶다 which is a conjugation that means ‘to want’. Together it means, ‘I want to see you’ or ‘I miss you’. This is a very common phrase that you can use with friends, family, or a significant other.
- 너무 보고 싶어요
- (neomoo bogoshipeoyo)
- I miss you very much.
만나고 싶어요 – mannago sipoyo
This is a combination of the verb 만나다 which means ‘to meet’ and 고 싶다 which means ‘to want’. Together it becomes ‘I want to meet you’.
This can have a romantic connotation or be used with friends, family, or people you are unfamiliar with.
- 보고 싶어요. 만나고 싶어요.
- (bogoshipeoyo. managoshipeoyo)
- I miss you. I want to meet.
사랑에 빠졌어 – sarangeh banhaesseo
This expression means, ‘I fell in love’. 사랑 is ‘love’ and 빠졌어 comes from the verb 빠지다 which means ‘to fall into’.
- 여자 친구랑 잘 되고 있어?
- (yeoja chingurang jal dwego eeseo)
- Are things going well with your girlfriend?
나 사랑에 빠졌어 – na sarangeh bbajyeosseo
- I fell in love
- 반했어 – banhaesseo
반했어 comes from the verb 반하다 which means ‘to be attracted, to be enchanted’. This expression is usually used when saying you fell for someone.
- 난 수지를 어제 만났는데 이미 반했어
- (nan sujireul eojeh manatneundeh eemee banhaesseo)
- I met Suji yesterday, but I have fallen for her already.
너 뿐이야 – neo bboonia
너 means ‘you’ and 뿐 means ‘only’. So this expression means, ‘it’s only you’ or ‘you are the only one’. This is another way of saying ‘I love you’. It is mostly used in romantic relationships.
- 다른 여자들을 보지마
- (dareun yeojadeul bojima)
- Don’t look at other girls
- 당연하지. 너 뿐이야.
- (dangyeonhaji. Neo bboonia)
- Of course. It’s only you.
너 빢에 없어 – neo bakkeh eobseo
This means ‘there is no one but you’. 밖에 means ‘besides’ and 없어 comes from the verb 없다 which means ‘to not exist’.
This expression can be used with friends or in a romantic relationship. When used with friends, it is usually said jokingly when your friend does something for you.
- 내 삶에 너 밖에 없어
- (nae salmeh neo bakkeh eobseo)
- You are the only one in my life.
- 나랑 사귈래? – narang sagwilrae
나랑 is ‘with me’ and 사귈래 is a combination of the verb 사귀다 which means ‘to date’ and 을/를 래 which means ‘do you want to?’. Together it is, ‘do you want to date me?’.
This is commonly used in confessions of love. You might have heard it in a drama or two when one of the characters confesses their love for the other.
- 연진아 난 널 좋아해. 나랑 사귈래?
- (yeonjinah nan neol joahae. Narang sagwilrae)
- Yeonjin I like you. Do you want to date me?
And finally the ultimate proclamation of love. This expression means, ‘will you marry me?’. 결혼할래 comes from the verb 결혼하다 which means ‘to marry’.
Proposals are a big event in Korean culture too. When a man asks this question, he will usually do a grand romantic gesture beforehand.
- 사라야 난 너를 너무 사랑해. 나랑 결혼할래?
- (Saraya nan neoreul neomoo saranghae. Narang kyeolhonhalrae?)
- Sara, I love you very much. Will you marry me?
Terms of Endearment Between Couples
당신 – dangshin
This term of endearment is used between married and unmarried couples. It means ‘honey’ or ‘dear’. It is not used as often in the younger generation but it is common in most generations.
- 당신은 왜 웃어?
- (dangshineun wae ooseo)
- Honey, why are you laughing?
여보 – yeobo
This term is used between married couples. It is weird to use it outside of marriage. It also means ‘honey’ or ‘dear’.
- 여보, 오늘 뭘 할까?
- (yeobo ohneul mwol halkka)
- Honey, what should we do today?
오빠 – oppa
In Korea, it is more common for women to date older men than it is for men to date older women. Women usually want their boyfriends to be the same age or older than them. When a woman dates an older man, she calls him 오빠. While 오빠 can be used outside of relationships with close friends, it is seen as flirtatious in relationships.
- 오빠 나 귀여워?
- (oppa na gwiyeowo)
- Oppa am I cute?
내 사랑 – nae sarang
This term of endearment means, ‘my love’. It can be used in any romantic relationship. It is not as common as the above terms but still used in some situations.
- 내 사랑, 널 만나고 내 인생을 바꿨어.
- (nae sarang neol mannago nae insaengeul bakkwosseo)
- My love, I met you and my life changed.
That is the end of this blog! You now know how to profess your love to someone in dozens of ways. You also learned some common terms of endearment in Korea. You are now a master of love. Go out there and practice what you learned!
Also, look for these expressions the next time you watch a K-drama or listen to K-pop. You are sure to find some of these expressions and get a better understanding of when they are used.