How to talk about love in three sign languages

I love writing about sign languages from all around the world, but sometimes the written word isn’t the easiest way to convey what a sign looks like.

Recently, I went looking for videos of signs that appear in my story Reading the Signs, which features Dutch Sign Language (Nederlandse Gebarentaal or NGt), and my story What Marriage Is Aboutwhich features German Sign Language (Deutsche Gebärdensprache or DGS) so I could share them with you.


Dutch Sign Language

Dutch Sign Language: “I love you”

German Sign Language

German Sign Language: love (noun)


German Sign Language: love (verb)


German Sign Language: “I love you”—another way

American Sign Language

American Sign Language: “fall in love”

ASL sign for fall in love

American Sign Language: “I love you”

This uses three signs: The one for I or me, the one for love, and the one for you.

ASL signs for I love you

American Sign Language: “I love you”—another way

This sign is also called the “ILY sign” because it combines the handshapes of fingerspelled American Sign Language letters I, L and Y. its roots are as an abbreviation of the written English phrase, I love you.

It has caught on in other countries throughout the world, including the Netherlands.

ASL ILY sign, a one-yanded sign that means I love you

I also recommend checking out GIPHY’s huge library of ASL signs or Gallaudet University’s free online library of basic ASL. For a deeper dive into ASL online, Lifeprint, SignSchool, Handspeak are good resources.

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