How to Say ‘I Love You’ In Venda, Shona, Xhosa and Other Major Tribes in South Africa

Expressing emotions can be very difficult for some people even though love is a very integral part of human relationships. Whether in a familial or spousal relationship, saying ‘I love you is one way to strengthen the bond and it can be said in different languages. South Africa remains one of the most populous countries in Africa and like other nations, there are lots of indigenous languages in the country and 11 of these languages have been made the official language. Expressing emotions and saying “I love you” can resonate better when it is said in one’s mother tongue. Here are different ways to say “I love you” in South African languages.

South African Languages Are Diverse

South Africa is another multilingual society with about thirty-four (34) historically established languages. Thirty (30) of these languages are active and four (4) are already extinct. For several centuries South Africa’s official languages were European languages – English, Dutch, and Afrikaans, even though these languages were spoken by a low percentage of the people. The African languages that were spoken by about 80% of the people, were ignored. The year 1996 brought about a change with the new South African Constitution which gave official protection to all major indigenous languages.

According to the constitution, the recognized 11 official languages are English, isiZulu, Sepedi or Sesotho sa Leboa, Xitsonga, Sesotho, siSwati, Tshivenda, Afrikaans, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, and Setswana.

According to research, IsiZulu has the highest number of speakers in South Africa as it is spoken by 23% of the population which is about a quarter of the South African population. isiXhosa has the second-largest speakers after IsiZulu as it is spoken by 16% of the South African population. Afrikaans is spoken by about 13.5%, English 10%, and Sesotho sa Leboa 9%. Setswana and Sesotho are both spoken by roughly 8% of the population in SouthAfrica, while Xitsonga is spoken by about 4.5%, siSwati and Tshivenda on the other hand both have 2.5%, and isiNdebele cover only 2%. Despite the varying differences in the number of speakers, the South African constitution has given these languages equal rights and opportunities to be developed which has, in turn, added lots of prestige to the language and the people.

How To Say “I Love You” in South African Languages

There is no gainsaying the fact that love is an important aspect of life. Love makes the world go round and it is important to tell our loved ones how important they are to us and how much we love them. Here is how to say I love you in the eleven official South African languages.

“I Love You” Is How To Say I Love You In English

Even though most people consider English a foreign language, it is the language of the media and is spoken by a large number of people, especially as a second language. The language has been accorded so much prestige that some might prefer to communicate in English to the detriment of their indigenous languages. And in a country with several languages, some people prefer to communicate in a language which they deem ‘neutral’. So, if you aren’t sure about how to say I love you in South African languages, a simple I Love You in English is fine.

“Ek is lief vir jou” or “Ek het jou lief” Is How To Say I Love You In Afrikaans

For a long time, Afrikaans was considered a dialect of Dutch called “Cape Dutch” until it was recognized as a language in 1925. It is the third most spoken language in South Africa and it evolved mainly from Dutch, and then French, Malay, Khoi Khoi, and other languages.
For the Afrikaans, the word ‘love’ translates to ‘liefde’. Like most languages, depending on the context and usage, this might change or metamorphose into different words. Considering the sentence ‘I love you’ which translates to ‘Ek is lief vir jou’ or ‘Ek het jou lief’ in Afrikaans, the word love isn’t used in the same manner. Even though these two expressions mean the same thing, the second one is more dramatic while the first sounds more natural.

Other phrases used to express love in Afrikaans include ‘Liefie’ or ‘Lief vir jou’ which can be interpreted as ‘sweetheart’, ‘love you’, ‘lovey’, ‘darling’, ‘dearie’, and so on. Depending on who is saying ‘I love you ‘, the response can either be ‘Dankie!’ Which means ‘Thank you’ or expressing your feelings any other way. Here are some other possible responses.
‘Woorde Kan nie my liefde vir jou beskryf nie’ which means ‘Words cannot describe my love for you.’ ‘Jy is my sonskyn, my liefde’- ‘You are my sunshine, my love.’ ‘Ek dink aan jou as meer as ‘nvriend’ – ‘I think of you as more than a friend’ ‘Jy beteken so baie vir my’- ‘You mean so much to me.’ ‘Ek will saam jou wees vir ewig’ – ‘I want to be with you forever.’

how to say i love you in south african languages
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“Ngiyakuthanda” Is How To Say I Love You In isiZulu

IsiZulu is a South African language predominantly spoken in KwaZulu-Natal. It is understood by at least fifty percent of the South African population. One thing about saying ‘I Love You’ in South African languages is that one has to observe the rules of the particular language. For example, in the Zulu language, the word ‘love’ as a noun has a different interpretation when it’s a verb. So, the context and grammatical function have a role to play in interpretation.

When it’s a noun, the word ‘love’ translates to ‘Uthando’ and when it’s a verb, it’s ‘Thanda’. The word ‘Thanda’ also means ‘value’, ‘like’, ‘admire’, and ‘wish’. Other Zulu words that mean ‘love’ include ‘fisa’, ‘Cecezelela’, ‘ukuthanda’. To Say ‘I love you’ in Zulu, you can say ‘Ngiyakuthanda’. One can respond to ‘Ngiyakuthanda’ which means ‘I love you’ by saying ‘Thank you’ which is ‘Ngiyabonga’ in Zulu. One can also say ‘Ngiyakuthanda Nawe’ which means ‘I love you too’ or ‘Ngiyakuthanda ngayo Yonke inhliziyo yami’ meaning ‘I love you with all my heart’.

“Ndiyakuthanda” Is How To Say I Love You In isiXhosa

Xhosa is a Bantu South African language with origins from Eastern Cape, Western Cape, NorthernCape, and free state. The language is very unique and complex and it is one that is characterized by clicking sounds, which reflects in ‘c’, ‘q’, and ‘X’.

In Xhosa, the word ‘love’ is said as ‘Uthando’, the translation of the expression ‘I love you’ in Xhosa is ‘Ndiyakuthanda’. One can respond to this by saying ‘I love you too’ which translates to ‘Nam Ndiyakuthanda’.

Other romantic expressions in Xhosa includes: ‘Ndikuthanda kakhulu’ which means ‘I love you so much,’ ‘Ndikuthanda gqitha’ which means ‘I love you very much,’ ‘Ndikuthanda ngaphezu kokuba amazwi angathetha’ means ‘I love you more words can say’ and ‘Isithandwa’ which means ‘sweetheart’ or ‘darling’. If the intent is to say thank you, then it’s ‘Ndiyabulela (kakhulu) or Enkosi (kakhulu)’ in Xhosa.

“Ndza ku rhandza” Is How To Say I Love You In Xitsonga

The language Xitsonga is spoken by the Batsonga or Shangaans people who mostly reside in the Limpopo Lowveld area. When you want to express your deepest affectionate feelings to someone in the Tsonga language, you say ‘Ndza ku rhandza’ which means ‘I love you’. The word ‘love’ in Tsonga is ‘Rhandza’. When you are told this, you can respond by saying ‘Na mina ndza ku rhandza’ which means ‘I love you too’.’Ndza ku rhandza muhlekisani wa mina’ which means “I love you my beloved”. You can also respond by saying ‘Thank you or Thank you very much’ which are both said as ‘Ndzi khense ngopfu’, ‘Ndza nkhensa’, or ‘Inkomu swinene’.

“Ngyakutsandza” or “Ngiyakutsandza” Is How To Say I Love You In siSwati

siSwati originated from Swaziland and is mostly spoken by a small percentage of people in Mpumalanga. This language has a lot of similarities with the Venda language. To say ‘I love you in siSwati, you say ‘Ngiyakutsandza’. To say ‘I want you’, you say ‘Ngiyakufuna’ or ‘Ngiyakukhanuka’. If you intend to Thank whoever professes his/her love to you, you say ‘Ngiyabonga’ and the typical response to ‘Thank you’ is ‘Wemukelekile’.

“Ke a go rata” Is How To Say I Love You In Sepedi

This South African language, is also called Northern Sotho. It is the language of the Pedi people of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. This language has a lot of similarities with Sesotho and Setswana. So saying ‘I Love You’ in these languages is very similar. Even though these languages share several similar features, there are still enough differences in them to make each stand alone as a separate language. To say ‘I love you’ in Sepedi, you say ‘Ke a go rata’. Asides from saying ‘I love you too’, If you want to thank whoever is loving you, can say ‘Ke a leboga’ which means ‘Thank you’.

“Kea u rata” or “Ke a go rata” Is How To Say I Love You In Sesotho or Southern Sotho

Sesotho or Southern Sotho originated from the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho.
In this South African language, the word ‘love’ translates to ‘rata’, ‘lerato’ or ‘marato’. Speakers of the language prefer to use the word ‘rata’ in sentences because it flows naturally so ‘I love you in Sesotho translates to ‘Ke a go rata’ or ‘Kea u rata’. Moreover, this expression can also mean ‘I like you’ which means it can be used in the romantic and platonic sense.

For emphasis, one can also say ‘I love you very much’ – ‘Ke u rata haholo’.
Responses to ‘I love you’ can include ‘le ‘na kea u rata’ which means ‘I love you too’ or ‘Ke a leboha’ which means ‘Thank you ‘ and then the person can respond with ‘You’re welcome’ which is ‘O amohetswe’ in Sesotho.

“Ke a go rata” Is How To Say I Love You In Setswana

The Setswana language is spoken by the Batswana people are who are predominantly from the northwestern parts of South Africa. Just like the Sesotho language, the word ‘love’ translates to ‘rata’ in Setswana, and this word can mean different things, it can mean ‘like’, ‘want’, ‘wish’, ‘will’ and other things. This can make it a little difficult for the listener to decipher what the speaker is trying to say which is why context is always important.

Moreover, the overuse of the word ‘rata’ in the Setswana language has created an impression that love isn’t taken seriously in this region, considering the way and frequency with which the word is thrown around. Either way, it is always important to understand the context so one isn’t misunderstood. To say ‘I love you very much’, you say ‘Ke go rata thata’ and ‘I love you’ is said as ‘Ke a go rata’. One can respond by saying ‘Le nna ke a go rata’ which means ‘I love you too’ or by saying ‘Thank you’ which means ‘Ke a leboha’ and then the person responds by saying ‘You are welcome’ which is ‘O amohetswe’ in Setswana

“Ngiyakuthanda” or “Diyakutha(n)da” Is How To Say I Love You In isiNdebele

The Ndebele people are known to live mainly around Mpumalanga and Limpopo which is where the Ndebele language is predominantly used, some of them can also be found in Gauteng. The Ndebele language calls the word ‘love’ ‘Thanda’, this word also means ‘like’. When referring to your love or fondness for a human being you say ‘Ngiyakuthanda’. When you are referring to your love for other things, you say ‘Ngiyathanda’. The Ndebele people are very serious-minded and the expression ‘Ngiyakuthanda’ carries lots of weight when said. The receiver of the compliment can say ‘Thank you’ which translates to ‘Diyalebuka’ and then the person responds by saying ‘You’re welcome’ meaning ‘Kulungile’.

“Ndi a ni funa” or “Ngiyakustandza” Is How To Say I Love You In Tshivenda

With a rough estimation of around 1.2 million speakers, Tshivenda is the spoken by Venda people in Mapungubwe, and Limpopo. The Venda people are said to be culturally close to the Shona people of Zimbabwe compared to any other South African group. One thing that should be noted is that even though there are different ways of saying I Love You in South African languages, the force of feeling behind those words resonates with everyone that it is said to. For Venda people, ‘love’ is translated as ‘Lufuno’ but ironically, this word doesn’t even feature literally in the translation of the expression ‘I love you’. To Say ‘I love you’ in Venda, one can either say ‘Ndi a ni funa’ or ‘Ngiyakustandza’.

Other ways of expressing one’s intimate feelings in the Venda language includes: ‘Ndi ni funa nga maanda’ which means ‘I love you so much,’ ‘Ndi ni funa zwithu zwothe’ which means ‘I love you more than anything,’ ‘Ndi do dzula ndi tshi ni funa’ which translates to ‘I will always love you.’ In Venda ‘Dingalambiluyanga’ means ‘My sweetheart’ and ‘Mufunwawanga’ translates to ‘My love’. In response, one can say ‘Thank you’ which is ‘Ndi a livhuwa’, ‘Ndo livhuwa’, ‘Ro livhuwa’ or ‘Ndo livhuwa nga maanda’.

How to Say “I Love You” in South African Sign Language (SASL)

Summary Of How To Say I Love You in Major South African Languages

  • English – ‘I Love You’
  • Afrikaans – ‘Ek is lief vir jou’ or ‘Ek het jou lief’
  • isiZulu – ‘Ngiyakuthanda’
  • isiXhosa – ‘Ndiyakuthanda’
  • Xitsonga – ‘Ndza ku rhandza’
  • siSwati – ‘Ngyakutsandza’ or ‘Ngiyakutsandza’
  • Sepedi -‘Ke a go rata’
  • Sesotho or Southern Sotho – ‘Kea u rata’ or ‘Ke a go rata’
  • Setswana – ‘Ke a go rata’
  • isiNdebele – ‘Ngiyakuthanda’ or ‘Diyakutha(n)da’
  • Tshivenda – ‘Ndi a ni funa’ or ‘Ngiyakustandza’
Feyisayo Oluokun
Feyisayo Oluokun
Feyisayo is a passionate writer, voracious reader and a lover of romance. She is interested in doing intensive research, traveling and exploring new things.


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