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What is the meaning of verbal emphasis in Spoken English? For example, the difference between the following three sentences and how emphasis changes the semantics?

  • I love you.
  • I love you.
  • I love you.
  • I love you very much.

Are there other ways of verbally emphasizing "I love you" to express different meanings?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I love you.

"It's me who loves you." This would be said in the context where you're contrasting with someone else:

"He likes you, but I love you!"

I love you.

You're emphasizing the fact that it's love, rather than anything else. This is also the emphasis you would use if you want to emphasize the whole sentence.

For example:

"I'm moving to South Africa!"
"What?! You can't! I love you!"

I love you.

It's you that I love. Again, contrasting with another person, but it's the loved person who's being contrasted now, not the one who is doing the loving.

"Of course there's no-one else. I love you, silly."

I love you very much.

Here you're just emphasizing the degree of the love.

Other ways of verbally emphasizing "I love you" to express different meanings

I can think of a couple:

I do love you.

This "do" is a common way of expressing emphasis. Read more in this answer.

I love you.

This can be a way of saying "I love you too" if it comes after "I love you".

"I love you."
"And I love you."

This emphasis could come after "Bob loves Tom" or something, it doesn't have to come after "I love you".

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To put it simply, verbal emphasis is the way of stretching a particular word or changing a pitch or volume in the sentence to emphasize it. Emphasizing a proper word may change the meaning of the sentence (download from the link).

I love you - It's me who loves you; nobody else does that
I love you - it's not just friendship or simply caring.
I love you - and nobody else
I love you very much - my love is more intense, high degree.

Good read here (it'll download an MS Word file and is not corrupt).

Are there other ways of verbally emphasizing "I love you" to express different meanings? - I think you covered every word in it, that's all! Bringing in other words would change the meaning then.

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1  
It's not always accomplished by stretching the word. Sometimes pitch or volume can indicate emphasis. –  starsplusplus Apr 29 at 12:03
    
@starsplusplus by stretching I meant all of them. When you stretch something, you change pitch/volume/intensity of that word. I used that as an umbrella term. Thanks anyway. Edited. –  Maulik V Apr 29 at 12:08
1  
@MaulikV I believe that "stretching a particular word" doesn't mean raising pitch or volume to many people. I might be wrong on that, but obviously I'm not alone. I think we can emphasis without having to stretch the emphasized word or syllable out. –  Damkerng T. Apr 29 at 12:14
    
@DamkerngT. Yes, I agree. I assumed "stretching a particular word" meant elongating it. I wouldn't have considered it an umbrella term to also include pitch or volume at all. –  starsplusplus Apr 29 at 12:22

Here, emphasis is being used to put things straight, to banish confusion. The thing emphasized is more important than the thing not emphasized, in a relationship of duality, or perhaps polarity. To illustrate:

  • I love you, not her, she just wants your money. Emphasis on the person who loves.
  • I love you, I don't just like you, darling I love you. Emphasis on the sentiment.
  • I love you, not him, you fool! Emphasis on the person loved.
  • I love you very much, even if I don't say it very often. Possibly tinged with guilt; compensating for not having said 'I love you' often enough.

Are there other ways of saying I love you...?

Yes. "Love you" can be heard between intimates as a way of saying goodbye.

"Honestly, I love you" means I don't love you but I want you to think I do. Etc.

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