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[LIVE]: How to Talk about Love in Mandarin Chinese


In this fun live hangout, Yangyang and Yoyo Chinese Product Manager Jason will teach you the expressions Chinese people actually use to talk about love, for each step in a relationship.  

This hangout will also give you great insights into love and romance in Chinese culture.  

Watch the hangout now, then review all the vocabulary from the lesson below:

TIP]: Hate Valentine's Day and all this romantic "love" stuff?  Check out our blog post,"Ultimate Vocabulary You Need to Survive (or Avoid) Valentine's Day in China".

Words to Describe Your Feelings


  • 喜欢 (xǐ huān) - like
  • 我喜欢他 (wǒ xǐ huān tā) - I like him
  • 有感觉 (yǒu gǎn jué) - have feelings
  • 我对他有感觉 (wǒ duì tā yǒu gǎn jué) - I have feelings for him.
  • 暗恋 (àn liàn) - a crush

Just like in English though, when you say, "我喜欢他 (wǒ xǐ huān tā) - I like him" - you need to make it clear in the way you say it, that you mean you like the person romantically, not just the same way you like pizza!

To be sure there is no confusion, you could use the expression 有感觉 (yǒu gǎn jué), which means you "have feelings."  For example, you could say, "我对他有感觉 (wǒ duì tā yǒu gǎn jué) - I have feelings for him."  You probably don't have these kind of feelings for pizza!

This word for "crush" -  暗恋 (àn liàn) - actually came up Unit 7, Lesson 2 of our Upper Intermediate Conversational Course.  I went back to my old high school in Beijing with my old friend, and it brought back a lot of memories, including one about a secret crush.  Check it out:


  • 爱 (ài) - love
  • 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ) - I love you
  • 爱上 (ài shàng) - fall in love
  • 我爱上他了 (wǒ ài shàng tā le) - I fell in love with him.
  • 我爱上他吗了吗 (wǒ ài shàng tā le ma) - Am I falling in love with him?
  • 白头偕老 (bái tóu xié lǎo) - grow old together (lit. "white head grow old")
  • 我爱你,爱着你,就像老鼠爱大米 (wǒ ài nǐ, ài zhe nǐ, jiù xiàng lǎo shǔ ài dà mǐ) - I love you like mice love rice.

When we teach the character for love in Unit 15, Lesson 2 of our Chinese Character Course, we use this cute image of a guy holding an umbrella over a his girlfriend, to help you remember it:

Just like English, 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ) has the same word order, grammar... even the same number of syllables!

In English we say that someone "falls" in love.  But in Chinese we use the character 上 (shàng), which is usually a directional component meaning "up".   In Chinese, when you are "falling in love" you 爱上 (ài shàng)

[TIP]: Watch this video, and Yangyang will teach you the most famous Chinese love song ever, ”The Moon Represents My Heart - 越代表我的心"

In one of the lessons from our Upper Intermediate Conversational Course, my mom and dad talk about their hopes for the future, and my mom uses this 成语 (chéng yǔ): 白头偕老 (bái tóu xié lǎo).

白头偕老 (bái tóu xié lǎo) literally is "white head grow old".  It means you will grow old together until your hair turns white.  Romantic, right?
One of the most famous ways to express how much you love someone comes from a Chinese pop song.

Another very romantic (and culturally insightful!) way to say you love someone is, "我爱你,爱着你,就像老鼠爱大米 (wǒ ài nǐ, ài zhe nǐ, jiù xiàng lǎo shǔ ài dà mǐ) - I love you like mice love rice."  

This comes from a famous Chinese song called "老鼠爱大米 (lǎo shǔ ài dà mǐ) - Mouse Love Rice":

You can learn the words to this song in Mandarin and English on this post from our blog.

[TIP]: Looking for love in the Middle Kingdom?  Learn these "5 Useful Words that Describe the Dating Scene in China" and you'll have a better understanding of the playing field!

Not Interested

  • 只做朋友 (zhǐ zuò péng yǒu) - just be friends
  • 我们只做朋友吧 (wǒ men zhǐ zuò péng yǒu ba) - let's just be friends.
  • 发好人卡 (fā hǎo rén kǎ) - give a "good person" card
  • 她给我发好人卡了 (tā gěi wǒ fā hǎo rén kǎ le) - She gave me a 'good person card'."
  • 肉麻 (ròu má) - sappy, overly-romantic (lit. flesh tingling)

Just like in English, you can turn reject someone's romantic overture with a simple, ""Let's just be friends: 我们只做朋友吧 (wǒ men zhǐ zuò péng yǒu ba).

In Chinese though, there's a unique way of saying a woman just wants to be friends:  发好人卡 (fā hǎo rén kǎ).  This expression is the kind of common phrase everyone knows in China, but you'd never find in a textbook or with a translator!

肉麻 (ròu má) is a great Chinese word for cheesy, sappy, romantic stuff, , which literally means "flesh tingles".  

Words to Describe Relationships

  • 感情 (gǎn qíng) - relationship
  • 他们的感情很好 (tā men de gǎn qíng hěn hǎo) - Their relationship is very good.
  • 谈恋爱 (tán liàn ài) - dating
  • 他们在谈恋爱 (tā men zài tán liàn ài) - They are dating"
  • 在一起 (zài yì qǐ) - together
  • 他们在一起很久了 (tā men zài yì qǐ hěn jiǔ le) - They've been together a long time!
  • 分手 (fēn shǒu) - break up
  • 他们分手了 (tā men fēn shǒu le) - They broke up.

If you try to Google Translate "relationship", you'll get 关系 (guān xi).  While the concept of 关系 (guān xi) is hugely important in Chinese culture, it's not the word you would use when describing a romantic relationship.  Instead,  use the word 感情 (gǎn qíng).  

The characters in 谈恋爱 (tán liàn ài), are actually pretty interesting.  The character 谈 (tán) usually indicates talking with someone or about something.  It's like the word for "dating" in Chinese has something to do with "talking love".

[TIP]: Why do some Chinese women like to date western men?  Read about "5 Things Chinese Women Love About Western Men" for real insights from Chinese women with western partners.

If you are asking someone to be your boyfriend or girlfriend, or get married, you might think to use the word 要 (yào).  Do you "want" to be my girlfriend?

But in Chinese, the more common way to ask someone uses the word 愿意 (yuàn yì), which means "willing."  

You could ask someone to be your girlfriend by saying, "你愿意做我的女朋友吗 (nǐ yuàn yì zuò wǒ de nǚ péng you ma) - lit. Are you willing to be my girlfriend?"

You can also use 愿意 (yuàn yì) when asking a woman to marry you by saying, "你愿意嫁给我吗 (nǐ yuàn yì jià gěi wǒ ma) - lit. Are you willing to marry me?" 

[TIP]: If you're attending a Chinese wedding, go prepared by first reading our post, "Chinese Weddings: How to be a Great Guest"

Words to Call Your Partner

  • 男朋友 (nán péng you) - boyfriend
  • 女朋友  (nǚ péng you) - girlfriend
  • 宝贝 (bǎo bèi) - baby
  • 老公 (lǎo gōng) - husband
  • 老婆 (lǎo pó) - wife
  • 爱人 (ài rén) - spouse

"Friend" in Mandarin is 朋友 (péng you).  So you might (correctly) guess that "boyfriend" you just add 男 (nán) and for girlfriend you just add 女 (nǚ).

*** NOTE: If you are trying to type the Chinese character 女 (nǚ) using a pinyin input keyboard, type "nv" instead of "nu"! ***

When you say 男朋友 (nán péng you) or 女朋友 (nǚ péng you), it's clear you are talking about someone you are romantically involved with.  

If you just trying to specify that your friend is a boy or girl, and you're not in a romantic relationship with the person, you can say:

  • 女性朋友 (nǚ xìng péng you)
  • 女生朋友 (nǚ shēng péng you)

You probably learned that husband is 先生 (xiān sheng) and wife is 太太 (tài tai).  But these are pretty formal terms!  It's much more common for someone to use the word 老公 (lǎo gōng) for husband and 老婆 (lǎo pó) for wife.

But actually, these terms aren't just limited to married couples.  Like Jason's story from the hangout, couples who are dating will use 老公 (lǎo gōng) and 老婆 (lǎo pó) all the time as an affectionate way to show how close you are.

The word 爱人 (ài rén) uses the character 爱 (ài) - which we said means "love" - so you might think that 爱人 (ài rén) means "lover."  In fact, if you Google Translate 爱人 (ài rén), it will say "lover."

But this word does not mean "lover"... it is actually a pretty unemotional term for your spouse.  It's another example of how important it is to get clear explanations when you are learning a language!

[TIP]: Awareness of cultural differences is really important when you are dating.  Check out this blog post "What to Expect When Dating a Chinese Guy" to get a better understanding of how many Chinese people approach relationships

We hope you liked this hangout, and now can express your feelings of love in Mandarin Chinese!

Share your stories of how Mandarin Chinese brought you closer to someone you love in the comments below!

More fun Hangouts with Yoyo Chinese:

[LIVE]: How to Read a Chinese Menu 101:


[LIVE]: How Chinese People ACTUALLY Speak:


[LIVE]: 5 Chinese Words with No English Translations


[LIVE] Differences Between Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese Mandarin: