"In love" is a pretty common term, but I've always found its usage ambiguous. When referring to people, if someone says "I am/was in love with..." does it mean you are in a relationship where the love is reciprocated, or can it also mean that it is not (in the case of infatuation or unrequited love?) I know that if you say it about a non-person like "I'm in love with that movie" it just means you love it a lot. But I'm not certain if the same applies when talking about people.

I realize it COULD mean both, but if you were to say this to someone, what would most people interpret it as?

  • People would not immediately think “relationship” – Jim Jun 7 '17 at 1:35
  • "In a relationship" is a deliberately vague term. "In love" not a lot more specific, but it's not dodging the question as much. However, as you observe, "in love" has a number of other senses, and it's not always easy to tell which sense is intended. – Hot Licks Jun 7 '17 at 1:35
  • Similar, but doesn't have the answer: Being in love with someone – sumelic Jun 7 '17 at 1:51
  • There are a variety of possible interpretations which could be made of the bare phrase, "in love". Which one would apply in any specific case would depend entirely on the context. – Robin Hamilton Jun 7 '17 at 2:38
  • As another example, there's a difference between "We're in love", which means it's mutual, and "I'm in love with ...", which does not imply that it's reciprocated. – Barmar Jun 7 '17 at 5:40

They convey different things.

I'm in love with Betty.

I have feelings for her. Betty's state of mind is not addressed here.

You could infer that I have intentionally omitted Betty's state of mind, because I am indicating that she does not love me back. However, that is an inference, and not directly stated.
It's possible that Betty loves me, or doesn't love me. You can't know that. All you can know is that I love Betty.

Betty and I are in love with each other.

In this case, I am expressing that Betty loves me back.

However, this still does not mean that Betty and I are in a relationship. Maybe we're both married to other people, even though we have now fallen in love with each other.

This sentence could at best imply that Betty and me want to be in a relationship. Although even that is not a guarantee.

You could potentially infer from this statement that Betty and I are currently not in a relationship (yet). But again, the statement is true regardless of whether we are in a relationship or not.

Betty and I are in a relationship
Betty and I are dating
Betty and I are together

These sentences do explicitly state that Betty and I are in a relationship. Now, it is no longer implied; but stated directly.

However, this does not inherently mean that Betty and I are in love with each other. You'd assume that being in a relationship means that you love each other, but it's not inherently required.


To give you an easier example, compare these two sentences:

I work in healthcare
I like working in healthcare.

While you would expect someone to like the work they do, that is not automatically the case.

It's perfectly possible for someone to work in healthcare and hate their job; or to like working in healthcare without currently working in a healthcare profession.


When interpreting these statements at face value, none of these are interchangeable. They all state different things.

From context, it is possible for intentional implications (or wrong inferences) to add meaning. However, that is specific to the context in which it is said; I can't accurately comment on that based on your question as it is currently phrased.

  • 1
    "you would expect someone to like the work they do" [citation needed] – AndyT Jun 7 '17 at 9:18

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