Irish Language Blog

Saying “I Love You” in Irish (without the verb “to love”) Posted by on Oct 6, 2011 in Irish Language, Uncategorized

le Róislín

How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways, but, at least for Irish, not the verbs.

No verbs, hunh?  What’s all that about?

One of the first steps for learning Latin, at least when I was in school, was learning to conjugate the verb “to love” – amo, amas (I love, you love), and all that.  Scouring the Internet for more examples, I see a lot of samples, some derived from the well-known Latin verb, others not, but all of which (that I find) include a verb: Ti amo, je t’aime, te quiero, ich liebe dich, etc.

And it’s not that the Irish are remiss in discussing love — far from it.  Plenty of people are asking, and getting answers to the question, “How do you say ‘I love you’ in Irish?”  It’s just that in most cases, no verbs are involved, or if they are, it’s just the verb “to be,” not the actual verb “to love.”  So what are they saying instead?

Here are some of the most popular phrases:

Mo ghrá thú, you (are) my love, lit. my love you (no verb)

Tusa mo ghrá, you (are) my love, lit. you yourself my love (no verb)

Is tú mo ghrá, you are my love, using the linking verb “is,” not the verb “to love.”  Don’t be misled by the apparent similarity of the Irish verb “is” [say: iss] and the English verb “is” [say: iz]; in this case, the Irish verb “is” will be translated as “are,” due to the idiosyncrasies of the English verb “to be.”

Grá mo chroí thú, you (are) (the) love (of) my heart, lit. love (of) my heart you

In a previous blog, I discussed where you’re most likely to find the verb “to love,” with its various forms, mostly in religious or formal contexts.  These forms include:

gráigh, the command form, for whatever application you may find for that!

ag grá, “loving,” but, at least in my experience, not a very typical expression, unless McDonald’s gets a hold of it for their “loving it” ad campaign

a ghrá, to love, but again, at least in my experience, it would be more typical to say something like “grá a bheith agat do …”, i.e. to have love for, lit. love to be at you for … or “grá a thabhairt do …,” to give love to ; key point is that “to love,” as such, isn’t used as much as the more circuitous phrases like “Ní foláir duit grá a thabhairt do do chomharsa mar thú féin” (You should / ought to love your neighbor as yourself)

gráite, used more in the sense of “devoted to” than regarding romantic love, as in “gráite do d’obair,” devoted to your work).

We’ll probably visit this topic again next February, but meanwhile, más amhlaidh gur thit tú i ngrá le déanaí (if you fell in love recently), you’ve got a little more vocabulary to work with.  SGF, Róislín

Gluais: amhlaidh, thus; comharsa, neighbor; do, to/for; do, your; do do, to your/for your; le déanaí, recently; thit, fell

For more on this topic, please see my earlier blog “An Briathar ‘Gráigh!’ (Love!) i nGaeilge”: (14 Feabhra 2011).  The blogs before and after it may also be of interest:

17 Feabhra 2011:

12 Feabhra 2011:

9 Feabhra 2011:


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  1. Karen:

    I’d use – Tá grá agam duit – if I was saying I love you in Irish. Lit – I have love for you.

  2. róislín:

    Sin dóigh eile, cinnte, a Karen. GRMA as scríobh. – Róislín

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