Is the lieb in this sentence colloquial? Also I thought verbs at the end have to be conjugated to the infinitive form?

  • See the difference of liebhaben vs lieben. Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 11:44
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    Note that Ich hab' dich lieb, although on the surface it is sexually neutral and could be used by children and with respect to children, anyway, as soon as two non-genetically-related adults are involved, there is a strong tendency to see it sexually connotated. Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 13:18
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    @ChristianGeiselmann "Romantically connotated", rather. It doesn't really have anything to do with sex.
    – johnl
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 13:26

4 Answers 4


You encountered the separable verb liebhaben.

Separable verbs are composed of a prefix, in this case the adverb lieb, and a core, in this case the verb haben. When a separable verb is conjugated, then the prefix is separated from the core and moved to the final position of the clause:

  • Ich möchte dich liebhaben. (infinitive)
  • Ich hab(e) dich lieb. (conjugated)

Notice that the separated prefix lieb must not be confused with the verb lieben:

  • Ich möchte dich lieben.
  • Ich liebe dich.
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    Vielen dank, ich weiss nicht, dass es ein trennbare verb war.
    – Yozansen
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 13:25

The only verb in your sentence is hab, which would require an apostrophe in writing for omission of e at the end.

lieb is an adverb (see DWDS), just like gern at the same place would be (for which no corresponding verb exists, possibly clarifying something up).


Lieben would mean to cherish in this context. If you replace lieb with lieben then it would mean (directly translated): "I have you cherish". Lieb is the correct form in this sentence, you don't conjugated it.

The meaning of "Ich hab dich lieb" is not "I love you" its more like "I hold you dear".

  • So is the 'lieb' colloquial in the sense that the 'e' is dropped? Just like habe and hab? Is this then the formal way of saying it, 'Ich habe dich liebe' ?? Thanks.
    – Yozansen
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 12:01
  • @Yozansen No, not at all. There is no Ich hab' dich liebe in correct German. The sentence is simply Ich hab(e) dich lieb. The e in hab(e) is optional in so far as this sentence is used practically only in oral and informal communication and there you can omit the e without leaving the area of accepted expressions. Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 13:17

Well, it's true, that verbs at the end have to be conjugated to the infinitiv form:

Ich werde dich lieben.
I will love you.

But in "Ich hab dich lieb" is only one verb, and this occupies position #2. The word at the end of the sentence is an adverb. There is no correct verbatim translation of this German sentence into English. But if you try a word by word translation, you will get something like this:

I have you dear.
I have you nice.
I have you good.

(Of course the meaning is "I like you".)

"Dear", "nice" and "good" are all valid translations of "lieb", but non of them is a verb. They are all adverbs (in both languages).

The phase "jemanden lieb haben" means "to like someone" but is literally "to have someone dear/nice/good".

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