Some of my Chinese friends speak Chinese. I asked them how to say "I love you" in their language, but most of them said "wa ai lo" not "wo ai ni", how can this be?

I look for google translate, it says "wo ai ni" and not "wa ai lo".

Am I missing something here?

  • 5
    From which region are these friends coming?
    – BertR
    Apr 27 '12 at 7:59
  • Could you ask you friends what the word exactly is? Do you mean 儂, which pronounces nong3, and in standard Mandarin the word should be 你, right which you suppose wrong.
    – Shou Ya
    May 3 '12 at 1:22
  • In Cantonese it is Ngo Jung Yee Nei. Jun 14 '12 at 20:24

Here's a list of how to say "I love you" in several Chinese languages:

Mandarin, Beijing: Wo ai ni

Mandarin, Southwest: Ngo ngai ni

Minnan, Taiwan: Gua ai li

Wu, Shanghai:

(1) Ngu oi nong

(2) Ngu huoe-xi nong

Hakka, Meizhou:

(1) Ngai ai ngi

(2) Ngai jung yi ngi

Yue, Canton:

(1) Ngo oi nei

(2) Ngo jung yi nei

The word for "love" in the second variant in Wu is "歡喜"; in the second variant of Hakka and Yue it is "中意". They are considered somewhat less serious than "愛".

  • It is called Cantonese, not Yue. (Ngo jung yi nei is 我鐘意你) Jun 14 '12 at 20:22
  • 2
    @Derek “粤”包括广东话 Oct 22 '12 at 18:07

If HE or SHE comes from Mainland of China, then you should say "WO AI NI". "WO AI NI" is a Chinese Mandarin / Han Yu.

If HE or SHE use Hokkien (Hokkian) AND from Indonesia (mostly from Medan city) or Singapore or Malay, then I suggest you to say "WA AI LO".

WA = I / me
AI = love / want (to)
LO = you

Some speaking of Hokkien ( Medan, Indonesia version ) :

Wa ai lo.
Means : I love you / I want you.

Wa ai khi.
Means : I want to go

Lo hokkien esai ?
Means : Can you speak Hokkien ?

Lo ciak liao boi ? Wa ciak hamik.
Means : Have you eat(breakfast/lunch/dinner) ? I'm already eat(breakfast/lunch/dinner).

Ce / No / Sa / Si / Nggo / Lak / Jit / Pek / Kao / Cap
Means : 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10

PS: Sometimes I use this for conversations with my friends (from Medan, Indonesia).

Hope this help ^o^

  • Agree! I think "Wa ai lo" is derived from Hokkien: "Gua ai lu". A lot of people outside the originated place where Hokkien being spoken usually pronounce it "Gua" as "Wa". :)
    – mrjimoy_05
    Dec 31 '12 at 13:37

I think "wa ai lo" is Wu, a chinese dialect used in Shanghai and Zhejiang,because Chinese dialects very different from each other. and as far as I know, only Wu pronunce "ni" with the vowel "o".

  • Hello Yangzhe Lau and welcome to CL&U! Like I said under another answer, can you expand on your answer?
    – Alenanno
    Apr 27 '12 at 16:44
  • According to wikipedia it's 我愛儂 ([ŋɯ; e noŋ]) in Wu. See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%90%B4%E8%AF%AD
    – BertR
    Apr 27 '12 at 19:32
  • @Alenanno OK,I think "wa ai lo" is Wu,because Chinese dialects very different from each other. and as far as I know, only Wu pronunce "ni" with the vowel "o". May 7 '12 at 15:13
  • @YangzheLau Please add that to your answer... Remember that the more you elaborate in your answer, the better it is. :)
    – Alenanno
    May 7 '12 at 15:21
  • @BertR Yes, you're right [ŋɯ; e noŋ] is what I pronunce when say 'I love you'. But there isn't a standard in Chinese dialect. Even in Wu area people pronunce differently from city to city. May 7 '12 at 15:22

I'm a native Chinese, I know the right pronunciation is 我(wǒ)爱(ài)你(nǐ). Maybe your friend are learning 粤语 or 广东话, the China official language is Simplified Chinese that is 普通话。

Here is a pic http://i.stack.imgur.com/QSOci.png

I'm very happy can make English friends here.

  • As I know in Cantonese they don't say 'wo ai lo' neither.
    – Shou Ya
    May 3 '12 at 1:17
  • 1
    普通话 = "Standard Chinese", "Standard Mandarin", or just "Chinese". The dialect based in Beijing and adopted in the rest of the country. Simplified Chinese = 簡體字, the simplified characters adopted since the 1950s in the People's Republic of China.
    – Yang
    May 4 '12 at 3:37

All Chinese speakers can understand "wo ai ni" while only few Chinese in specific areas can understand "wo ai lo", because "wo ai lo" is dialect.


How about listening to this song sung in Hokkien / Fujian dialect where the "Gua ai li" is all over the place.


As for "Wa ai lo or lu", could it be the product of a historical "mixture" of the Hokkien dialect with the indigenous Malay language because if you Google Translate "Lu" from Malay to Chinese you get 你们

If you go to Malaysia or Indonesia, (where a sizable Hokkien population could be found), you will find many "Hokkien" words which have no equivalent in Fujian Province itself.


"Wo ai ni" is right, while "lo" is a wrong pronunciation in Chinese. You cannot find "lo" in Mandarin. Note that wa ai lo is dialectal.

  • 1
    Can you expand on this? And are you sure? According to BertR comment above, it might be a regional thing.
    – Alenanno
    Apr 27 '12 at 10:09
  • 2
    @Alenanno Thanks for your reminder first.Generally speaking,there are seven dialects in Chinese language,includes Mandarin,Wu,Yue,Min,Xiang,Hakka and Gan,you can find all the information here.The difference of pronunciation between dialects is particularly large,one can not know them all.For this example "wa ai lo",yes it is "我愛儂", "儂" should be pronounced as "nong" in Mandarin,which have a different pronunciation in other dialects.Feel free to post what you want to say. Apr 28 '12 at 4:27
  • Can you include that in your answer? And make sure it's directed at the question, it would be a good answer! :)
    – Alenanno
    Apr 28 '12 at 9:56
  • Accourding to wikipedia 儂 is pronounced in Wu as [noŋ]. I could be wrong, but that doesn't sound like "lo" to me.
    – BertR
    Apr 28 '12 at 15:07
  • The newer generation of speakers for Shanghainese, Cantonese, etc. are gradually replacing the "n" initial with a "l". Also, a lot of them don't nasalize the ending when they're speaking quickly, or the asker just didn't catch it.
    – Yang
    May 4 '12 at 3:41

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