What’s the difference between “Ich habe dich lieb” and “Ich liebe dich”?

  • What’s the difference between Ich habe dich lieb and Ich liebe dich?

    Both are defined as “I love you” in many dictionaries, as I’ve checked.

    I've heard Germans say "there's a difference but hard to explain", I wonder if there really is a difference or it's just their biased opinion.

    Interesting you ask that, since I experienced the exact same confusion even though being a native German - over 10 years ago, a girl I loved said "Ich hab dich lieb" to me and meant "Ich mag dich sehr gern", but I understood it as "Ich liebe dich". The good part of it is, that today she's my wife, so no harm done. ;-)

    Not quite sure about this but what range of emotions and commitment does "you are (near and) dear to me" cover?

    The spelling is "Ich hab dich lieb. A variant is "Ich hab dich gern", a Bavarian variant is "I mo di (Ich mag dich)". All these variants mean the same as "Ich liebe dich", but they have a more colloquial and regional value and don't sound as official as "Ich liebe dich".

    Oh, there is a very very big difference, you can not imagine :) If you don't want to say `I love you` you may use `ich habe dich lieb`. If you say 'ich habe dich lieb` to your wife, in worst case, it can be understood something like: `It is not easy but I can endure you`

    Quote from Erich Mielke (head of the East German Ministry for State Security): "Ich liebe, ich liebe doch alle, alle Menschen, na ich liebe doch, ich setzte mich doch dafür ein!“ See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XBEqyu5Mck. Doch vielleicht hatte er sie nur lieb.

  • Hackworth

    Hackworth Correct answer

    10 years ago

    “Ich liebe dich” is stronger and more profound than “Ich habe dich lieb”. The difference is hard, if not impossible, to translate to English, or only with some extra language acrobatics; but in German, there is indeed a difference.

    “Ich habe dich lieb” is commonly used among somewhat close and beloved family members, such as towards aunts/uncles/nieces/nephews, grandparents/grandchildren, parents/children etc., or as a more light-hearted, not quite as “binding” declaration of love for the significant other. Saying it to mere friends or acquaintances would be inappropriate usually.

    (Edit: It can be used outside the family circle, among friends in a very affectionate way, but only towards someone who knows exactly how you mean it, unless you want to risk misunderstandings.)

    “Ich liebe dich” is reserved for the significant other such as boy/girlfriend, wife/husband, or your closest family such as parents/children. It is the unambiguous declaration of love.

    I've not read or found anything about this part: ""Ich habe dich lieb" is commonly used among somewhat close and beloved family members, such as towards aunts/uncles/nieces/nephews, grandparents/grandchildren, parents/children etc.", do you have any citations?

    You're welcome. No citations, just my understanding as a native speaker.

    If you were completely right, why would people write HDL ("hab dich lieb") in text messages to their significant other? Or is someone who uses (god beware!) acronyms in text messages not serious? ;) Note that I'm not saying that Hackworth isn't right, it's still a +1 answer for me. It's just that the difference isn't as strict as this answer suggests.

    @OregonGhost I did write that HDL can be used in a love relationship. "HDL" specifically, in short messages, owes to the brevity of the, well, SHORT messages, and can be used even more liberally, since it's also more casual even than "Ich habe dich lieb". It's typically used among teenage girls, or young women being affectionate with each other. That may just be my prejudice though, I can offer no source other than my experience, so YMMV.

    By my experience, teenage girls use "hdl", "hdgdl" (= "hab dich ganz doll lieb") and "hdal" (= "hab dich auch lieb") extremely often in text messages or chats, but almost never in spoken language. Males would only use it towards their girlfriends, not towards each other (even for close friends). That also is just my experience as a native speaker.

    What about "Ich habe dich ganz doll lieb" what is the difference? Just stronger?

    Yes, "ganz" and "doll" are used as intensifiers, if "doll" is "plusgood" then "ganz doll" is "doubleplusgood".

    This answer is not accurate! Ray's answer below reflects German better. "Ich liebe dich" clearly implies being in a long-term relationship and can not be used otherwise.

    I think you are right. But you can go further with the play and say `lieb dich`, which means I love you *and* love your self ( https://liebdich.biz for email signature for love & biz ).

    Good answer. Short addendum: `Ich hab dich lieb` shouts out `friendzoned!` to me ;)

    FWIW, as a native speaker, I have never witnessed a child telling their parent "Ich liebe Dich". In my experience, that is strictly reserved for romance.

    "Ich habe dich ganz doll lieb" is a childisch colloquial way of expressing that. Whether family members say "hab dich lieb" or "ich liebe dich" seems to be a regional thing or something like that. Or maybe just wrong translations in films. "hab dich lieb" could also be used by a boy-/girlfriend in a more everyday way of communicating or if they're not yet ready to admit, they really do _love_ each other (e. g. downplaying it).

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM