In English, saying "I love you" for the first time is what we say when we fall in love with someone and it shows that we want to build a further relationship. In Chinese and Japanese, "I like you" really means something similar. Does "I like you" in English more or less the same if said to an opposite gender, or just a way to show friendliness?

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    What is the difference between liking and loving? : To summarise, Love is unconditional, wholesome and subconscious, while Like is usually conditional, very specific and conscious. quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-liking-and-loving-1
    – user66974
    Aug 26, 2016 at 16:10
  • @josh61 I was asking about the meaning when said for the first time -- does it show an intent to build further relationship?
    – xuhdev
    Aug 26, 2016 at 16:13
  • It can be used that way, but it does not necessarily imply a possible future relationship.
    – user66974
    Aug 26, 2016 at 16:14
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    @Josh61 Lots of people could give you lots of differing definitions of love. It's really kind of a problem with the English language that we have this one concept of "love" that other cultures separate into multiple concepts.
    – Devsman
    Aug 26, 2016 at 18:56
  • I know, at least for Japanese, there's a cultural thing where you can't start dating until you "profess your love." This usually includes the phrase suki which has a closer meaning "like" than "love," but is often translated interchangeably. There's another phrase, ai shite ru yo, which is a very strong way to profess "love," and is not used lightly.
    – VampDuc
    Aug 26, 2016 at 20:57

4 Answers 4


"I like you" can mean many things. A few of many possible examples I could provide:

  • I might say to someone, "I like @SEUser." What does that mean? Well, I don't know @SEUser personally, so what I mean to say is "I admire the quality of @SEUser's questions, answers, and comments on ELU SE."

  • I might be having some work done on my house and say to the service provider, "I like you." Well, again, I don't know the service provider personally, so what I mean to say is "I like the way you do business. You do quality work at a reasonable price. It's a pleasure to work with you."

  • I might say to a coworker, "I like you." While in this case I do know the other person personally, what I mean to say is "I like the way your brain works. I like your work ethic. We make a good team."

  • When it comes to more personal relationships, I might say to someone who has attracted my attention (e.g., psychologically or physically), "I like you." What I mean to say is "You appeal to me personally. I'd like to get to know you better. I might like to have a personal relationship with you." In general, my saying "I like you" would not mean "I love you" in the sense that I'd like to spend the rest of my life with you. That said, the relationship could evolve, or not, from one of "I like you" to one of "I love you"; there are no guarantees. "I like you" does not carry the high degree of commitment of "I love you".

"I like you" clearly involves multiple nuances.


Liking someone is not as serious as loving someone. You can really like someone and want to build a further relationship before loving them. At the same time you can fall head over heels in love. Love is more deeper and emotional than "like", in English you usually wouldn't tell some one you love them too soon into a relationship because it is often thought of as an emotion that takes time to develop.


I don't use "I like you" as a statement of intention. For me it simply means I value someone as a person. Sometimes that does mean I want to get to know them better or have a more intimate relationship, but that's an inference you may draw from my attitudes, it's not included in the meaning of my original comment. Another way I commonly use it is to reassure people I view as being socially anxious, who may be worried about whether other people enjoy their company or not. Such people, of course, can be of any gender.

I phrased that all in terms of myself, and my usage, because the truth is that many people – on regional, cultural, or other divisions – use "like" and "love" and all the associated words in different ways, to mean different things. To some extent, this is twofold inevitable:

  • the kinds of personal relationships that (say) teenagers and young adults tend to have are different from the kinds of relationships that people in their fifties have, and often each group will re-use the same words in ways that are useful to them in their environment and that they can relate to,
  • since personal relationships involve emotional risk, there's often a benefit to using deliberately ambiguous terms, so that you can maintain plausible deniability if your intentions don't play out as you hoped.

Generally it's not reliable to determine someone's romantic intentions by which phrases they use in isolation. Even "I love you" can vary by context, and I have opposite-sex friends to whom I'd feel comfortable saying that, knowing that we've built up sufficient context between us that they'll interpret it as I intend it (unromantically).

Or in other words: if you really want to know how someone feels, you have almost no choice but to just ask them.


Yes, it does show an intent to be in a relationship with the other person. However, it is not as meaningful as saying "I love you."

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    I think OP means that if you say "I like you" is the first step before saying "I love you".
    – user66974
    Aug 26, 2016 at 16:17
  • @Josh61 That's what I'm trying to say.
    – 54 69 6D
    Aug 26, 2016 at 16:19
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    Be aware that "I like you" can mean a lot of other things in English besides "I want to start a romantic relationhship with you". Aug 26, 2016 at 17:33
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    I realize that this answer is not really citeable but I don't agree that saying you like someone is showing intent to be in a relationship with someone. Aug 26, 2016 at 17:59
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    Talking about the words alone, xxxxxx seems largely correct but "intent" or the OP's "want" seem rather strong here. My caveat is, we might use the same words, tone, open smile and firm hand-shake when we know very well there is little or no chance of ever meeting again. Does that not indicate willingness or acceptance, rather than intent? If this is about intonation too, then so long as it's not sarcastic "I like you" could mean almost anything positive, from a simple statement of acknowledgement or appreciation to, yes, the first step towards a declaration of undying love. Sep 4, 2016 at 16:53

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