How to Express I love you in Japanese

In romantic Japanese anime, manga, movies, J-dramas, or even in any platform of media that shows Japanese, you might be very familiar with this phrase, one of the most well-known romantic Japanese phrases, “Ai shi te ru”. Although it is very easy to know the translation meaning in English is ”I love you”, it actually has so much deep and very emotional meaning.

After studying Japanese and living in Japan for several years, talking and discussing deeply with Japanese natives, I am honestly feeling so amazed by the actual meaning of “Aishiteru” and why the Japanese rarely use it in their real life. This time, let’s discuss together about the meaning of “Aishiteru” and figure out what is the reason behind the fact that this phrase is not often used by Japanese in the daily life.

The meaning of “Aishiteru” in Japanese

The phrase of “Aishiteru” in romaji or alphabet that we all know comes from the original kanji (Japanese characters) 愛 (ai) and follows with the hiragana (Japanese phonetic lettering system) してる (shiteru). To know the exact meaning and the structure of this phrase, we have to break all of them down further.

  • 愛 (ai) is the first and only kanji for Aishiteru, means “love” in Japanese. 
  • してる (shiteru) or している (shiteiru) is the present continuous form of する (suru) that means “doing”. This part is in Aishiteru is commonly written in hiragana not kanji. We can also write aishiteru in hiragana as あいしてる (aishiteru).
  • してる (shiteru) is the しゃべり言葉 (syaberi kotoba) the talking word of している (shiteiru). The expression “~teiru” is often expressed as “~teru” in spoken language, nevertheless, this is only in spoken language and colloquialism. When expressing it in written language, remember that it should be correctly expressed as “愛している (aishiteiru)” unless you have a special preference or occasion.

Therefore, when we typed this phrase as it is using the translator to English and wants the most literal meaning of it, then it actually means “loving” or “(I am) loving (you)”. Please note that, in Japanese, their phrases are different from English. In Japanese, the word “I” and “you” as the subject and object are often considered implicit and unnecessary to use in their daily conversation.

Therefore, only saying the verbs is a very common way of speaking in Japanese real life other than mentioning subject and object in every sentences they speak, while when you try to add subject and object would be sound unnatural. 

Moreover, when you heard 愛してる (aishiteru) said, you have to understand that actually, it means “I am loving you” (present continuous). However, the message that person would like to express is “I love you”. Here are the other phrases that you might have heard as well that has the same meaning with 愛してる (aishiteru).

  • 愛 (ai) means “love”
  • 愛する (aisuru) means “to love” or “do love”. This is the dictionary form of “love” as a verb in Japanese
  • 愛している (aishiteiru) means “I love you”. This is the present continuous form in the Japanese
  • 愛しています (aishiteimasu) means “I love you” as well, exactly same with 愛している (aishiteiru). However, it is a formal version
  • 愛した (aishita) means “I loved you”. This is the past form in the Japanese language

Then, please keep in your mind that this phrase, 愛してる (aishiteru) is literally a very serious romantic phrase to express the extremely sincere love with such a profound meaning and special for the most loved one. Although, most of the time you might hear this phrase is used or said very often in anime, song’s lyrics or J-dramas, however in the real life, you will rarely hear it said by the Japanese. Instead of hearing 愛してる (aishiteru), you will hear they say 好き (suki) or 大好き (daisuki) a lot, which means “I like you or I like you very much”.

When the Japanese say “Aishiteru”?

As we have discussed previously, this phrase in the real life for the Japanese is a very deep and serious expression of love. For them, this phrase is not so often or even very rarely said because of this condition. Not only can be expressed for someone who we are romantically loved, but this phrase is also can be used for a very close family member. Considering how deep, serious and precious this word is, it can even be heard as a final “goodbye” from or to someone that you care about most in your life.

The Japanese phrase 愛してる (aishiteru) can be considered as a very sincere and deep feeling for one and another that it is only stated when someone declares his/her very deep and serious love and respects in a long-term and permanent relationship. The present continuous form “愛してる or loving” is used to emphasize the ongoing (ever-lasting) deep statement or expression of feelings. Then, when the Japanese would say 愛してる (aishiteru) to express their feelings? Only in the followings situations:

  • Stated with hope for a long-term and permanent relationship, for example in the wedding.
  • Stated as a final goodbye for someone most you loved when you are parting away in a long time.

Why “Aishiteru” is rarely said in the real life?

As we have discussed above, the meaning of 愛してる (aishiteru) is very weight and much serious. We can consider that in reality this phrase is not so often be used or even only comes very rarely because of the cultural and linguistic differences of Japanese. Then, let’s we talk about what is the reason why the Japanese do not use this word so frequently even for their girlfriend, not like 大好き (daisuki) or 好き (suki) which are more familiar and appropriate in some occasions.

According to the sugoren (https://girl.sugoren.com/report/1397786790594), a famous Japanese dating site that has conducted an online survey in 2014 asking 165 bachelors in their teens and twenties about the reasons why they don’t say “ai shiteru” to their girlfriends. As the result, there are 9 patterns of reasons that came up as the answers as follows:

  • It’s a special word that could not be used lightly.
  • If say it, the shy and embarrassed feeling would come first, so much better to avoid this word.
  • It is too soon to state it.
  • It is because 好き (suki) is nicer than 愛してる (aishiteru).
  • Because they want to maintain a cool guy image who doesn’t get hooked on love.
  • They still don’t know what “love” truly is and need more time to know and find out more.
  • They do not want to make the girl feel like being flirted too much by saying 愛してる (aishiteru)
  • Some of them also feel their affection has already faded and they want to avoid this word would be used as only a lie.
  • Because they believe that the girl already knows, therefore, unnecessary to say it outloud.

What about you guys? Would you think similarly like Japanese men? or Just lightly say it to your loved one. Share us your thought!

How to use “Aishiteru”

In Japanese culture, straightforward expression is not familiar. For them, 愛してる (aishiteru) is an extremely special phrase. On the other hand, they also think that this phrase is an abstract word that can be used in a broad sense as well and need very detailed explanations and actions to show it. There are various forms of love for us to contemplate, such as love, romance, respect, and charity as well. When we think of it broader, this word is not only can be used for humans but is also very applicable for anything such as our passion, work, hometown, etc.

The meaning of the word “Aishiteru” would also change depending on the context and situation. Managing this word very carefully as Japanese does is a very nice thing to know as well as try to say this for everyone to thank or to show our gratitude for someone who has presented their time to chat us asking our conditions in this pandemic situations as small as their 5 minutes time for you would be very awesome too.

The similar phrases with “Aishiteru”

In this part, to broaden your preference of the word 愛してる (aishiteru), you might take a look for the following phrases that would suit your occasions:

  • 大事に思う (daiji ni omou), this phrase means “I will keep it precious!”
  • 大切に思う (taisetsu ni omou), this is means “I would think this importantly!”
  • 守りたいと思う (mamoritai to omou), means “I will protect you!”
  • 慈しむ (itsukushimu), this means “I love you and cherish it!”
  • 愛好する (aikou suru), this phrase means “I love and like you!”

After reading this, please freely try to use the Japanese sentences above to express your love, cherish, or respect for your loved one in Japanese. Therefore, your expression of love would be very unforgettable and unique.

The Example of Sentences using “Aishiteru”

In order to know more how to use 愛してる (aishiteru) in the daily conversation that you might wonder how to use it practically, please go through the following sample of sentences that can be used to express the love with 愛してる (aishiteru) phrase in it.

Example in Japanese

1.本当に君を愛してるからなんだ。」

How to read in alphabet

`Hontōni kimi o ai shiteru kara nanda.’

Meaning in English

I really love you.

2.愛してるということさえも考えない。

`Ai shiteru to iu koto sae mo kanggaenai.’

I don’t even think about the matter of loving (someone)

3.あなたは一体山田先生を愛してるのですか」

`Anata wa ittai yamada sensei o ai shiteru nodesu ka’

Do you really love Yamada sensei?

4.「愛してる様子を示すこともできなかった。」

`Ai shiteru yōsu o shimesu koto mo dekinakatta.’

I couldn’t even show how I love you.

5.「母親を愛してる息子(むすこ)は俺だけだ。」

`Hahaoya o ai shiteru musuko (musuko) wa ore dakeda.’

The only son who loves mother is Me.

Conclusion

Well, upon exploring the new facts regarding 愛してる (ai shiteru) meaning in Japanese from multiple perspectives, we can conclude as follows:

  • Unlike in English, the phrase ”愛して, Ai shiteru, I love you in Japanese”, actually has so much deep and very emotional meaning.
  • Considering how deep, and precious the phrase Ai shiteru is, it can even be heard as a final “goodbye”.

The meaning of the word “Ai shiteru” would also change depending on the context and situation.

About Eka 72 Articles
Hi, I’m Eka. I’m one of the awardees of the 2016 MEXT College to College Recommendation Scholarship. I completed the one-year JASSO-Tokyo Japanese course (2016-2017) and won second place in the Japanese speech competition held internally at JASSO at that time. After that, I continued my education at NIT. Akashi College and earned a Bachelor of Engineering degree after 2 years of study. I love teaching children English and Japanese, writing blogs, designing graphics, and creating digital content. I hope you enjoy the knowledge I share here based on the experience I gained in Japan for over 5 years. Thanks!