Mind your language

Why I hate ‘I love that…’

Maybe it’s turning into standard usage. But it still makes me squirm

1 August 2015

9:00 AM

1 August 2015

9:00 AM

I had never heard the Country (Red Dirt) singer Wade Bowen before, although his latest album Hold my Beer (Vol 1) has already sold 14,000 copies. On an earlier album, he provided textbook examples of two constructions that I find increasingly annoying, and one that seems fine.

‘I love it that you’re my girl,’ sang Wade. ‘I love that I’m your man.’ I didn’t care for either of those declarations one bit. ‘I love it when you take my hand,’ he added. I didn’t mind that at all.

This business of I love that… is on the rise. I heard Fi Glover say it on Radio 4, and someone in one of those rather unsatisfactory internet discussions about grammar wrote, quite spontaneously: ‘Jane, I love that you mention how English is a living language.’

You and I, I take it, would say, ‘Jane, I love you mentioning’, or, if we felt that mentioning was a good, solid, beefy gerund, we might make it, ‘Jane, I love your mentioning’. Thus we’d reach for a noun or the equivalent as the object of the verb love. ‘Beggars love brawling,/ And wretches love wrawling,’ as it says in A Mery and Pleasant Prognostication, a book from the 1570s which doesn’t sound all that mery. An alternative would be to make the object of love an infinitive: Beggars love to brawl.

This same appetite for a noun or pronoun as object for the verb love gives rise to Mr Bowen’s alternative: ‘I love it that you’re my girl.’ This is halfway to orthodoxy, for it is quite idiomatic to say: ‘I love it when you smile.’ Another way of supplying a noun as object is to insert the fact: ‘I love the fact that you’re my girl.’

The use of a ‘that’ clause as an object is, I must admit, recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary from the 18th century. The earliest example smells foreign: ‘ I love that Erastus should thus love me.’ It translates Molière’s ‘aimé-je fort qu’Éraste m’aime.’ In the 21st century the construction has become part of a native speaker’s repertoire. Foreign students of English are assured that it is valid. Perhaps it is becoming so, but it makes me squirm.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments
  • rolandfleming

    I believe that this is nonsense.
    I hope that your thesis generalises to words other than ‘love’.
    I suspect that it may not.
    I fear that I may not be qualified to explain why.
    But I do love that ‘I love the fact that you’re my girl’ strikes you as a remedy for the lyric’s principal shortcomings.

    • Ivan Ewan

      I believe this is nonsense.
      I hope your thesis generalises to words other than ‘love’.
      I suspect it may not.
      I fear I may not be qualified to explain why.

      I love you’re my girl.

      I believe that answers your counter-argument.

      • rolandfleming

        You’re right! Can you explain why?


  • Mr.Johnson Brown

    How to Fix a Broken Relationship” My name is Mr.Johnson Brown from France and I am a 59 years old. I was married to Mrs.Helen Baines Johnson and I’m happily married to a lovely and caring wife,with two kids.A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my wife.so terrible that she took the case to court for a divorce.she said that she never wanted to stay with me again,and that she didn’t love me anymore.So she packed out of my house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get her back,after much begging,but all to no avail.and she confirmed it that she has made her decision,and she never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my wife.So i explained every thing to her,so she told me that the only way i can get my wife back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for her too.So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow her advice. Then she gave me the email address of the spell caster whom she visited.{salvationlovetemple@gmail.com}. So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address she gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my wife back the next day.What an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my wife who didn’t call me for the past seven {7}months,gave me a call to inform me that she was coming back.So Amazing!! So that was how she came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and she apologized for her mistake,and for the pain she caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster. So, i will advice you out there if you are in any condition like this,or you have any problem related to “bringing your ex back. So thanks to the Dr Sam for bringing back my wife,and brought great joy to my family once again. salvationlovetemple@gmail.com, Thanks..,,