How To Say I Love You In Dutch (+ Terms Of Endearment)

  • Fergus O'Sullivan
    Written byFergus O'Sullivan
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How To Say I Love You In Dutch (+ Terms Of Endearment)

If you meet a new love and they speak Dutch, you naturally want to look up different ways in which you can tell them “I love you”.

Unlike some other languages, there aren’t a lot of creative ways to say you love someone in Dutch.

Though Dutch people can be quite emotional people, our expressions aren’t as romantic.

Declaring your love to the Dutch or Flemish beauty of your choice can be a rather constrained affair.

Still, I’m going to give you some advice and phrases to make the most of it.

Saying “I love you” in Dutch ❤️

Let’s start with the big guns - telling somebody you love them.

There are two ways to do so, and they very much depend on whether you’re speaking Dutch north or south of the Belgian border (read all about different kinds of Dutch in my article on Dutch dialects).

Ther weird thing is that neither way involves the word for “love,” liefde.

It’s a little strange that a language expresses their love without using the word for it, but there you go.

Ik hou van je

In the Netherlands, we usually say ik hou van je when we want to tell people we love them.

Listen to audio

Ik hou van je

I love you

Literally, it means “I hold of you,” which is a far cry from more poetic languages like French.

I recommend you don’t rack your brain too much on this one, just remember that the preposition van is part of the verb.

It can be used with family members as well as lovers, though reminding your parents, aunts and uncles how much you love them too often will raise some eyebrows.

Used with people, houden van definitely means “love” as that created by bonds of blood or romantic love.

It can also be used to say when you like something a lot, like:

Listen to audio

Ik hou van pindakaas

I love peanut butter

As with English, this doesn’t mean you fall asleep hugging a jar of sandwich spread every night, just that you’re very fond of eating it.

In all honesty, houden van is a slightly blunt expression, and, well, it fits a people that can be pretty blunt.

The Dutch themselves make fun of it, too — it doesn’t help that houden sounds a lot like the verb “to cleave,” houwen.

Still, though, it’s what we’ve got and even if the words aren’t pretty, the sentiment behind them is beautiful.

Ik zie je graag

Of course, the Flemish prefer to have form follow function and thought up a way around this expression.

Unlike in the Netherlands, Belgian Dutch speakers will often say something along the lines of ik zie je graag instead of ik hou van jou.

Listen to audio

Ik zie je graag

I love you

Literally, it means “I see you gladly” or even “eagerly” and it’s only one of the many, many differences between Dutch and Flemish.

The Flemish being FLemish, they might also replace je with u, thus changing the sentence to be formal rather than informal, but that’s just a quirk of their dialect; don’t use u with the Dutch version!

Even though the word “love” isn’t present in the phrase, it very much means that you love somebody, so don’t say it unless you mean it.

North of the border, though, it means nothing, it’s definitely exclusive to Flanders.

To be “in love” in Dutch 👩‍❤️‍👨

Thankfully, saying you’re in love with somebody is a lot easier, and also a little more poetic.

On both sides of the border it’s:

Listen to audio

Ik ben verliefd op jou

I'm in love with you

Verliefd zijn op is the verb-phrase “to be in love” and there are two things to keep in mind here.

The first is that the word liefde does make an appearance inside of the word verliefd.

The second is that you’re in love on somebody in Dutch, not with like in English.

If you have butterflies living in your belly and you have sleepless nights thinking about them, this is the phrase for you.

Other phrases

There are other ways to express your affection than telling people you love them or are in love with them, of course.

Most of these are a lot nicer than the slightly boorish ik hou van jou, so there’s a good chance you’ll run across them before you do the big one.

Ik ben gek op jou

Like in English, you can tell people you’re crazy about them, though in a Dutch quirk you say you’re crazy on them.

Listen to audio

Ike ben gek op jou

I'm crazy about you

I like this one because you skirt the “love” issue and just tell them you like to spend time with them.

You can use it when you’re with somebody longer or for a shorter fling; it’s a semi-serious way of announcing how you feel.

Ik vind je leuk

For a slightly weaker, cutes-y version, you can also try ik vind je leuk.

This phrase doesn’t translate well: leuk is usually taken to mean something like nice, but it’s stronger than that.

The whole phrase more or less is a stronger version of “I like you.”

You can use it to declare intent, as in “I like you and I’d like to see more of you,” though it’s also a way to say that you’d like to keep seeing somebody after a first date.

You may want to hold off on using this one until you’ve heard it used a few times, there’s a few nuances to its use.

Terms of endearment

Though the Dutch (and to a lesser extent, Belgians) fail to make an impression with heartfelt declarations of love, we make up for it with our terms of endearment (words that show affection).

Here are two you’re bound to come across.

Schatje

The first one is schatje or schat, depending on who you’re talking to you may want to avoid the -je diminutive.

Both men and women use it for each other, though women seem to use it a little more than men do.

Literally, it means “treasure” and, well, that’s kind of how it’s used.

Listen to audio

Wat ben je toch een schatje!

You're such a treasure!

It’s something you say when somebody is really sweet or cute.

It’s used a lot in relationships, and schat is a bit like “babe” or “dear” in English, it’s thrown into conversations all the time.

Listen to audio

Schat, doe jij de deur even dicht?

Babe, would you close the door, please?

That said, it’s also used a lot by men cat-calling women on the street, so if you’re a man, don’t call a woman this unless you know her well.

Lieverd

The next term is lieverd, which comes from the word for “sweet” or “nice,” lief.

Like schat, you can use it with anybody you’re close to romantically, though it’s probably less popular than its counterpart.

It’s a bit more old-fashioned than schat, but you still hear it a lot, especially when used to tell somebody they’re being sweet or thoughtful.

Listen to audio

Wat ben je toch een lieverd!

You're such a dear!

Lieverd has a bunch of words related to it you can use as well, like liefje or even just plain lief.

Phrases like mijn lief are popular in Belgium, too, so you can try that if you’re trying to impress a Flemish love interest.

Here are a few more terms of endearment in Dutch:

TermMeaning
Dropjesweetie
Lekker dingdelicious thing
Liefjelittle dear
Knapperdbeautiful

Tell your significant other you love them in Dutch

Hopefully this guide will get you impressing your Dutch-speaking love interest in no time.

With some luck, a low voice and the phrases and words above will be enough. Have fun!

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Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Greek
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Harrison

Harrison

I'm really appreciating the Dutch content, thank you!

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