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I was talking to my Italian professoressa and we were basically discussing how couples in Italy interact. Raised in Italy, she insisted that the phrase Ti amo is actually very uncommon in Italy and that people do not really say that specific phrase out loud.

When I questioned an Italian friend for an alternative, he emphasized upon the commonality of the phrase Ti voglio bene while another friend said he has heard the phrase Il mio amore per te è forte.

With Italy being a very romantic country, along with Italian being a Romance language, I know there must be plenty of ways to express love. Thus, what I want to figure out is, what is the most universally accepted way to infer the phrase I love you in Italian?

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    Probably what your teacher meant is that the verb amare is used in Italian in far less situations than “to love” in English. The former is strictly used for serious romantic relationships, while the latter, I believe, may be used also for relatives (and perhaps even best friends?). Ti voglio bene is more usual in these cases (and a bit friendzoning between potential romantic partners). Il mio amore per te è forte, on the other hand, while grammatically correct is not a standard phrase, but one of many possible nice things one might want to say. – DaG Apr 15 '16 at 7:46
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    @DaG Just a minor note: while it's true that Ti amo is strictly used for serious romantic relationships, the verb amare in general is commonly used also for a few other types of close relationships, f.ex. it would be very normal to hear La mamma ama i suoi figli. – SantiBailors Apr 15 '16 at 11:03
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    @SantiBailors: You're perfectly right, and there is even a (growing?) trend to use amare for more mundane objects, as in Amo il mio lavoro (I love my job), or a food, or a singer etc. – DaG Apr 15 '16 at 12:32
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    @DaG Good point, now that you mention that I realize that I too have noticed that growing trend; it's probably a reflection of the growing influence that English is having on Italian through the younger generations. – SantiBailors Apr 15 '16 at 12:36
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    Different ages and different areas of Italy would have different attitudes towards the "ti amo". For what's worth, you have to consider the difference between "ti amo" and "ti voglio bene" a bit as the same difference that there is between "Im in love with u" and "I love you", even in English saying "in love with u" is much less common than "love you"... The teacher I had in high school, back in the day, used to say that out of context and put it in order of strenght was: being in love > loving > being fond of > liking – Erik vanDoren Apr 15 '16 at 13:51
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I use ti amo a lot, even with additions that intensify the claim. However, it isn't the exact translation of I love you de facto, as it is a real intense claim. Ti voglio bene is a claim you could use more often and even in public joking with your friends, when your partner says some harsh remark that really makes you proud, for example.

DaG accurately explained that you can use ti voglio bene for relatives and intimate friends as well, while il mio amore per te è forte is a sentence you'll never hear. You'll probably find it in a grammar book as an example, as it is very unnatural and forced.

I wanted to add the precise meaning of the two expressions. Even if both things are translated to I love you in English, ti voglio bene means you feel for that person, hope the best for him/her and feel really sorry when something bad happens to him/her. It's like an empathic issue. Ti amo adds, to a more intense version of all this, most probably a physical attraction as well, and very likely a sexual desire. It is, again, something you would say to your partner when looking him/her intensely straight in the eyes, before kissing him/her, or when making peace after a minor, or even intense, bicker, to remind that despite some little differences you may have, way bigger feelings unite the two of you, and those can't be mined by tiny things.

Finally, il mio amore per te è forte translates to "my love to you is strong". How natural is it in English?

  • If one was confessing their love for another person for the first time, would he or she still use ti voglio bene or is it justified to use ti amo – Digital Veer Apr 16 '16 at 1:16
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    I think ti amo would be more appropriated, even if a little bit cliched. Being ti voglio bene less intense, I feel like using it to confess one's feelings for the first time would lead to the receiver not fully understanding them, and taking it more as an affection than true love. – Jeffrey Lebowski Apr 16 '16 at 8:07
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She's right, at least for my generation (currently aged 40). Ti amo is too strong and too ruined by thousands of movies. Like eating too much sugar makes you tired of it. In fact, to an Italian it would sound fake even in a context when you actually mean it.

We use more elaborate phrasings, like ti voglio bene but not only (it's really the most basic one), or funny nicknames, to convey our affection. For example, we tend to use possessive, like sei il mio amore, or sei la mia stella

  • Benvenuto su Italian.SE! – Charo Apr 20 '16 at 16:32

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