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Degrees of Love

In Italian there are different ways of saying "I love you." Romantic love is expressed with the verb amare (to love). Ti amo (I love you) is what a person will use when he or she is quite serious about a romantic relationship. But to express the kind of amore (love) parents have for their children (and vice versa), as in the following example from a video on essere madre (being a mother, or "motherhood"), an important phrasal verb to go for is voler bene (to care about, to care for). 


A mia madre invece vorrei dire...

To my mother, on the other hand, I'd like to say...

ti voglio bene! Un bacio!

I love you! A kiss!

Captions 30-40, Essere... - madre

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While English speakers may send love at the close of a letter to a friend or loved one, Italians will more likely send kisses and hugs, both in writing and verbally, as in the previous example. Here are some variations:

un bacio (a kiss)
un bacione (a big kiss)
baci (kisses)
un abbraccio (a hug, an embrace)

If you really like someone, but are not in love, or just not ready to say ti amo, then voler bene can be used to mean "to be very fond."

Look at the lesson I like it - Mi piace to integrate even more degrees of affetto (affection) using the verb piacere (to please) and the adjective simpatico (likeable, nice).

When falling in love, Italians have a reflexive verb all ready: innamorarsi (to become, or fall, in love). Once having fallen in love, a man is innamorato and a woman is innamorata. Note that the preposition is di (of), not con (with). 


Avevo capito che, in tutti questi anni, è stata innamorata di lui.

I'd figured out that, for all these years, she'd been in love with him.

E per trent'anni gli ha dato del Lei, ma ti rendi conto?

And for thirty years she addressed him formally, can you imagine that?

Captions 5-6, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva

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Two people may be molto innamorati (very much in love) and refer to each other as his or her amoroso. The noun form stays in the masculine, although the adjective form (much less common) changes according to gender and number.

To sum up some of the words having to do with love:


amore (love)
affetto (affection)
amoroso (beloved, sweetheart)


amare (to love)
voler bene a (to really care for)
innamorarsi (to fall in love)
piacere (to please)


innamorato (in love)
affezionato (attached to, fond of)
simpatico (likeable)
amoroso (affectionate, amorous)

Learning suggestion:
Look around you at home and outside, and try to choose the word that best expresses your affetto (affection) for the people intorno a te (surrounding you). 



Further reading:
Enjoy this lighthearted article about voler bene.

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