Does the verb "любить" mean to love or to like? I know it can be used for both, but which is more common and acceptable?

4 Answers 4


Both. When it refers to the people who are dear to you, e. g. your girl, wife, you parents, then it means 'love'. This can even be said about your pet:

Я люблю тебя! - I love you!

Я люблю своего кота. - I love my cat.

When it refers to different animals, which are not your pets, or to non-living things, then it means 'like', but can also be translated as 'love' if you like that very much:

Я люблю кошек. - I like cats. (I love cats.)

Я люблю шоколад. - I like chocolate. (I love chocolate.)

There is another common verb, нравиться, which is used in this second meaning, but it can also refer to the people you like:

Мне нравится шоколад. - I like chocolate.

Мне нравится Сергей. - I like Sergej.


It depends on the context.

  • used for a specific person (animal), it means "love"
  • used with generic groups of people (animals), it means "like"
  • used with generic things or activities, it means "like"
  • "не любить" is extremely common to express "not liking" some type of activity/ things/ people
  • to express you opinion ("I was in the Cafe 67 last night, quite liked the coffee"), do not use perfective полюбить with these things, no matter generic or specific. Use "понравиться" instead.

With people: любить is to love; "I like" is мне нравится (for both romantic and "as a person" liking).

With things, activities, etc.: любить is the general equivalent of "to like", and it's more or less interchangeable with мне нравится; occasionally the latter is preferable (with books and works of art, for example). As for "to love" as in "I love skiing" (gummy bears, Tolkien, etc.), I usually translate it as обожать, but there are options, down to the most basic очень люблю.


"Люблю" means "like" more often, because true love is rare in nature.

You can say "любить" any time you say "like" in English, you are not required to say "нравиться". The only exception is personal relationships: if you say "люблю" to potential partner, it will mean "love".

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