In Italy, you have two options to say "I love you", I'll try to translate them the best I can:

  • I love you (Ti amo.)
  • I want you to be ok (Ti voglio bene.)

The fact is that in English, both ti amo and ti voglio bene are translated as I love you. But in Italian, there are lot of differences:

  • I love you is used to express love for another person which is, or you want her/him to be, your girlfriend/boyfriend.

  • I want you to be ok is used to express still something love-related but just a little bit less love-related (It's hard to say it). I want you to be OK is used by parents to their sons/daughters or vice versa or by a friend to another friend.

I do watch some TV shows in English and I find that sometimes two friends tell each other I love you and they just go back to their jobs (= I want you to be ok) and sometimes one of them says I love you and the other understands that he/she wants her/him to be his/her girlfriend/boyfriend and that it's love-related (= I love you). Why?

  • 9
    "Ti voglio bene" seems more like "I care about you" or "I care for you" to my ear, since it's literally "I wish you well".
    – Jon Purdy
    Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 15:35
  • 2
    Yes, but it is used (or at least i do) like a little bit less than "I love you" which implies the presence of the love. "Ti voglio bene" is more for friendship.
    – Shoe
    Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 19:43
  • 3
    Jon Purdy is correct; the translation for ti voglio bene is I care of you. I want you to be OK is quite different.
    – apaderno
    Commented Jan 26, 2011 at 16:37
  • People in love can say to each other; ti amo, ti voglio bene, which can be abbreviated to TVB, and ti voglio tanto bene. Admittedly a parent might prefer to say to his/her child, ti voglio bene rather than ti amo. But otherwise there is no reason why lovers cannot say either.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 21:24
  • 1
    @Jeffrey OMG and LOL "ti voglio un "kasino" di bene"! :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 23:26

2 Answers 2


In English there are two expressions that partly overlap:

I love you


I'm in love with you

The second one means romantic love, while the first one can be used for any kind of affection, including romantic.

The first is usually used for both, the second is mostly used when you want to clarify what kind of love you are talking about. Often that is not necessary as it's evident from the situation.

So, it's correct that I love you can be used for both Italian expressions. The expression I'm in love with you translates into Ti amo.

  • -1 I'm in love with you in Italian is:**sono innamorato di te**. forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=611847
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 21:31
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA: Read the question to understand the answer.
    – Guffa
    Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 21:44
  • I down-voted your translation. It is inaccurate to say: Ti amo is the English "I'm in love with you". I speak Italian and I was married to an Italian man; I know the difference between the two expressions: ti amo and sono innamorata ! :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 21:52
  • @Mari-LouA: I'm sure that you do, but that's not what the question is about. Read the question to unserstand the answer.
    – Guffa
    Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 22:10
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    Yes, I agree that the two expressions you listed are commonly used as terms of affection. Yes, I agree on their difference of usage. Your translation of the latter is, however, inaccurate. In fact, I strongly disagree with the OP's translation of "Ti voglio bene" as: "I want you to be OK". It's not that, it's "voglio che stai bene" which is similar but not identical. I have read the question and obviously I am missing something if you insist on my reading it again. So why not tell me where I am mistaken?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 22:18

I think this is related to the context between the two people. If a friend says "I love you" it is understood to mean that they care for you and want the best for you, but not in a romantic way. I don't think people say "I love you" to someone as a way to start a romantic relationship. Typically, those words are said much later when one is already in a relationship. Also, the way in which the words are said ("tone") and the speaker's facial expression when speaking will also allow the hearer to determine what it meant. That's not to say that there are never misunderstandings of course. If friends are not comfortable saying "I love you", they may say "All the best", "I'm thinking of you", "Take care" or "Keep well". These phrases may, however, also be used by people who are not necessarily close friends.

  • it's more usual to suggest spelling or grammar corrections in comments, not answers.
    – MT_Head
    Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 6:06

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