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How to say, “I love you!” in Italian

To tell someone we love them in Italian, we must first learn how to use the verb amare, which means “to love.”  But be careful!  Because this is the Italian verb of romantic love! In fact, Italians often address their romantic love simply as “amore,” which is the noun that means “love.”  Italians also address loved ones as “amore mio,” which means “my love.” Beautiful, isn’t it?  The full conjugation of this important verb is given below, with the stressed syllables underlined.

Amare – to love

io amo I love
tu ami you (familiar) love
Lei/lei/lui ama you (polite) she/he loves
     
noi amiamo we love
voi amate you all love
loro amano they love

For our focus on conversational Italian, the most important conjugations to remember for the verb amare will be the first and second persons – amo and ami. We can use these two verbs when speaking to our “one true love,” to ask about and declare our feelings of love. This is a bit tricky in Italian, though, since the sentence structure is different from English.

In English, we say, “I love you, putting the direct object pronoun “you” after the verb “love.” But, in Italian, the word order is the opposite. The direct object pronoun for “you,” is “ti” and ti is placed before the verb “love.”  So, “I love you,” is “Io ti amo,” in Italian.  But, the subject pronoun, is left out as usual, so we come to the simple phrase, “Ti amo.” 

To tell someone that you love them in Italian, you must think like an Italian!  In my mind, to keep this all straight, I use the English sentence structure, ” It is you who I love!”

When asking the question, “Do you love me?” in Italian, the sentence structure is the same as the statement, “You love me,” but with a raised voice at the end to signify that this is a question.  In Italian, it is not necessary to say, “Do you…?” the way we do in English when asking a question.  So, the Italian phrase would be, “Tu mi ami?” Leaving out the subject pronoun, we come to, “Mi ami?” for “Do you love me?”

Let’s summarize:

amare to love in a romantic way
amore / amore mio love / my love
essere innamorato(a) di… to be in love with…
Mi ami? Do you love me?
Ti amo!  I love you!

After you and your romantic love have announced your love to each other, you may want to describe your feelings to someone else.  Or, you may be talking to your friend about how someone you both know has fallen in love with another. My favorite Italian phrase to describe this head over heels feeling is, “Ho/Ha perso la testa per…”  “I/he,she has lost their mind for…”

Another expression: essere pazzamente innamorati di…”  – “to be madly in love with…” 

“Sono pazzamente innamorato di lei.” = “I am madly in love with her.”

Or, “amare (qualcuno) alla follia” –  “to love (somebody) to distraction”. 

“Amo lei alla follia.”  = “I love her to distraction.”

Below are different variations of  the first phrase, which is the one I have heard most often,  listed in a table.  Of course, you can substitute a male name for “lui” and a female name for “lei” and use the same verb form. 

Ho perso la testa per lui! I’ve fallen in love with him!
Ho perso la testa per lei! I’ve fallen in love with her!
Lei ha perso la testa per lui! She has fallen in love with him!
Lui ha perso la testa per lei! He has fallen in love with her!

The phrases we have just discussed for romantic love are very useful. But, we know that in life there is more than just romantic love.  What about our love for family and friends? For places or things?

In America, we seem to “love” everyone and everything – from our spouse to our best friend, our hometown, our favorite movie, a comfortable pair of shoes, pizza… Everyone and everything can be “loved” in America! 

But, as an Italian friend once told me. it is best to reserve amare for that one and only, special romantic love.* 

So, how do we tell family and friends that we love them in Italian? We use the Italian phrasal verb form “volere bene (a qualcuno)” and the expression, “Ti voglio bene,” which really doesn’t translate well into English.  It has been translated as, “I care for you,” or “I wish you well,” but really, it is the way Italians tell their children, parents, and friends that they love one another.

The phrase, “Ti voglio bene,” is also used frequently between spouses or romantic couples.  In other words, this phrase can also be used to express one’s romantic love for another.  When you watch old Italians movies, listen closely, and you will hear this phrase come up often!

Mi vuoi bene?  Do you love me/care for me? (for family and friends, and also your true love)
Ti voglio bene.  I love you/care for you/wish you well.

Finally, when Italians want to say that they love a place or  thing, they usually use the verb piacere.  Watch for later blogs in this series learn how the verb piacere works!

If you can learn to use the verbs amare and volere in these expressions, you will have really learned to think in Italian!

Remember these phrases, and I hope you can use them every day!

  *I have recently seen and heard exceptions to this rule about amare in advertisements: on a billboard in Milan, in an Italian magazine, and on Italian TV, but I still think it safest to be careful when choosing to use the verb amare.

If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!”  just click HERE.

About Kathryn Occhipinti

Dr. Kathryn Occhipinti is a radiologist who has been leading Italian language groups in the Peoria and Chicago areas for more than 10 years. She is the author of the “Conversational Italian for Travelers” series of books to teach adults Italian with the vocabulary they need to travel to Italy. She is very active on social media promoting Italian language and culture through her Facebook group Conversational Italian! as well on Twitter @travelitalian1. Links to audio for her Italian language dialogues and her blogs for beginning and intermediate Italian can be found at www.learntravelitalian.com.