The intricacy of "Love" in Vietnamese

“Love” is the hardest 4-letter word. In Vietnamese, however, the word is not a 4-letter, but it’s true that it’s hard.

“I love you” is hard to convey accurately through words in Vietnamese for 2 things:

  1. Who is “I” and “you”? You have to choose the right pronouns to reflect your gender, age, relation to the other person.

  2. What “love”? Vietnamese people don’t casually express strong emotions so there are many words to identify the subtlety of “love”. Soooo many. To name but a few (and put it very simply):

  • Love between friends: mến, quý, thích
  • Love within family : yêu, thương
  • Love romantically: yêu, thương, thích

Let’s say you wanna tell your sister you love her in Vietnamese, do you know what to say?

PS - We explain all the subtleties among the many ways to say “I love you” - Expressing Affection & Love in Vietnamese // How It’s Really Done


“In Vietnamese, the word for missing someone and remembering them is the same: nhớ. Sometimes, when you ask me over the phone, Có nhớ mẹ không? I flinch, thinking you meant, Do you remember me ?

"I miss you more than I remember you.”

― Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

Speaking of intimacy, my personal book recommendation if you want to read more Vietnamese literacy is “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong. He is a Vietnamese American author. His book was published first in English and later translated in Vietnamese under the title “Một thoáng ta rực rỡ ở nhân gian”. It’s an easy read, and incredibly beautiful.


This is really interesting!! It makes me wonder if we overuse the word ‘love’ in English :eyes:

How would you say ‘I love you’ to a boyfriend/girlfriend? I heard it was Anh Yêu Em, but now I’m not sure if that’s the most ‘romantic’ way of saying I love you in Vietnamese

I think if it’s coming from the heart then you can’t overuse a word :wink: In Vietnamese, it’s true that “anh yêu em” is romantic (just don’t say it after the 1st date lol). I heard for some people, “anh thương em” is considered more heartfelt. I can see their reasons but i can’t explain it

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Funny you say that. Apparently Italian’s find it very weird we use the same word for an intimate partner as we would with a friend, sibling or parent.

In England we tell our friends we love them, our partners, and our family etc.

In Italian they have two - ti voglio bene would be used for friends and ti amo only for your partner. This led to a rather fun and interesting conversation between my English family and my wife’s Italian family!! Culture shocks never stop :smiley:


Haha noted for first dates :wink: super interesting that people find different versions more heartfelt!

Sounds like a minefield if you’re learning Italian and want to let your friends know how much you appreciate them :laughing: but I do like that the language has a designated word for romantic love

I feel like the closest distinction we have is ‘to love someone’ and ‘to be IN love with someone’

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When you’ve had a few too many next time, tell @Ottavia-Mandarin_Simplified_HS ti amo… watch the reaction :rofl:

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:eyes: :joy: :joy: