First time posting, sorry if I missed any guidelines.

I was curious to know if it would be both correct / acceptable to say 我爱你 to a very close friend. Not in a romantic way but in a platonic way. I've thought of using 我喜欢你 instead but I am unsure of what would be correct.

  • 1
    This phrase, "我喜歡你", has more nuances than meet the eye. It, amongst others, could be used as a "gentle put down" for someone expressing his / her love to which you do not wish to reciprocate but at the same time do not want to hurt that person's feelings. It's like saying to that person you are a "brother" or "sister". You are saying, "I do like you", with the implied hint of "But do not love you" Thus be careful when you use this phrase to Chinese friends to avoid misunderstandings. Commented Jun 17 at 2:15
  • 我喜欢你 is a very specialized romantic term because this is how students having a crush on each other usually confess to others. However, similar terms that avoid this certain four is ok, like 我很喜欢你 is much more normal.
    – ZhenRanZR
    Commented Jun 17 at 9:13
  • If you just want to give your compliment, just use things like 你很好 or whatever expression that look more objective instead of confessing your real emotion.
    – ZhenRanZR
    Commented Jun 17 at 9:16

5 Answers 5


Quote:- "...if it would be both correct / acceptable to say if it would be both correct / acceptable to say 我爱你 to a very close friend. Not in a romantic way but in a platonic way. to a very close friend. Not in a romantic way but in a platonic way"

Yes and no.

Here context dictates how and when it is appropriate to say 我爱你 in either a romantic or platonic sense.

我爱你 is of course an imported term by translating "I love you" I hope someone could tell us exactly when in Chinese literature 我爱你 was first used in any sense. I would put my money on the late 19th Century.

In English we could find in "Romeo and Juliet", "My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep. The more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite" Even here there is no "I love you"

So too, in Chinese, we have our own euphemisms for expressing romantic / platonic "Love"

"我爱你 is primarily, (I would even venture strictly), used in a romantic context, and very rarely used platonically.

However, for expressions of platonic "love" or rather "fondness", we have "我爱你们 is often used for close family or common interest groups.

"我喜欢你 could, in an appropriate social context, be used for really close friends as there is no obvious indication of romantic love here, though, in certain circumstances in an innocent playful way among young friends. Here again, this term is unlikely to be used in a same gender context, (especially among males), unless of course such circumstances already exist.

It is therefore extremely awkward and down right inappropriate to say 我爱你 to friends in Chinese, however close the relationship.

However, there are expressions, for example, "我很关心你, meaning "I really care about you" which might be more in line with Chinese conservative customs and sensitivity in this area of social interaction.

In fact recently during a social occasion among colleagues, I was asked by a female member, (with whom I've worked with for over 20 years), why I seem to notice certain personal habits of hers by saying to me, "你看來很注意到我", to which I reply, with a cheeky smile, "因為我关心你". My reply was taken and accepted in the spirit of familiarity among longtime colleagues with no implications of anything else.

But given the liberal social atmosphere now pervading Chinese societies, I don't think anyone would raise an eyebrow if 我爱你 is used platonically, which of course speaks more for the insidious "invasion" of Western social norms than any inherent shift in Chinese conservative values.


Traditionally, the Chinese are very emotionally reserved, the word 爱 (love) is rarely spoken between equal peer

君主可以說他愛臣民 - A monarch can say that he loves his subjects, and in return, his subjects are required to repay with loyalty and obedience

父母可以說他們愛子女 - Parents can say they love their children, and in return, their children are required to repay with filial piety and obedience

人可以說他愛寵物 A person can say that he loves pets, and in return, pets only need to obey their master

The closest non-romantic relationship between companions is brotherly mutual respect and loyalty

In Chinese culture, if you 'love' someone as a friend, the most you would say is “你是我的好兄弟” (you are my good brother). In classical speech: "你我情如手足" (our affection for each other is brotherly)

In a lesser degree: "I admire you"(我欣賞你), "I respect you" (我敬重你)

When you see someone actually say he 愛 (loves) someone, it usually pointing at a particular area of that person


曹操愛關羽忠義 (Cao Cao loves Guan Yu for his loyalty)

李白愛杜甫才高 (Li Bai loves Du Fu for his great talent)

  • I wouldn’t say the Chinese are emotionally reserved as such – just less likely to verbally express feelings of love than some others (particularly Americans, who excel at it). I’ve heard many Chinese people saying, “我恨你” to their friends or even fairly loose acquaintances (jokingly, that is, not as an expression of actual hatred), and as Wayne mentions in his answer, also “我很关心你” and similar expressions. As a Northern European, that’s quite emotionally forward to me – I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone how I feel about them in any way, positive or negative, even jokingly. Commented Jun 16 at 14:25
  • Quote:- "I wouldn’t say the Chinese are emotionally reserved as such" Yes, if you are referring to the younger generation; i.e. those born after the invention of the iPhone. In my generation, (born in the 40s / 50s) it was drummed into us that "words", written or spoken, have mystical properties, for good or ill. I was told to not even step on a Chinese character for fear of negative repercussions. And added to that most marriages then were arranged, and thus expressions of romantic love happened only after the nuptial, greatly curtailing opportunities for overt expressions of romantic love. Commented Jun 17 at 2:09

can you use 我爱你 platonically

Would you trust a guy who uses a nickname, and said nickname probably means broad-shouldered?

Πλάτων (Platon), born Ἀριστοκλῆς (Aristocles)

Notwithstanding all the trouble the Greeks have caused throughout history, the fact that emotions are difficult and the expression thereof even more difficult, if you wish to tell your friend in Chinese that you love him or her, just say:


But I am reminded of Leonard Cohen: "I don't trust my inner feelings, inner feelings come and go" RIP LC


I was curious to know if it would be both correct / acceptable to say 我爱你 to a very close friend. Not in a romantic way but in a platonic way.

Acceptable? Yes. If 1. you are a foreigner, 2. expressing your"appreciation for his/her good deed", or "fondness of his/her witty/lovely act in certain occasions", under a none romantic environment.

Correct? It depends. Depending on the particular situation/circumstance, there may exist a better, more innocent, expression, such as "你真行/棒/好/可愛, 我喜歡/愛你了".

Note that the phrase "我喜歡你" is often misunderstood as the desire to advance your friendship to start a love affair, unless it is stated jokingly or in a non-serious manner, especially when only the two of you are present.


Imagine saying "I love you" to a co-worker, acquaintance or even close friend, in English. There are situations where you might be able to pull it off, with a wink or joking smile to show that you are not really declaring your romantic attraction to the other person. But, consider all the ways it could turn out awkward, or worse.

Then multiply that by all the scope for misunderstanding that cross-cultural interactions could bring to this most loaded of phrases.

I would hesitate to say that 我爱你 could never be understood platonically between friends, but you would be taking a risk. It's certainly not the first thing that would come to mind.

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