Ever wondered how Norwegians talk about things and people they love? I guess not!
Well, in English it's quite easy, you've got one singel verb for it: "to love". That's it. And of course "to like", "to adore", to "worship" etc., but that's not cmpletely the same thing (and there are synonyms for that in Norwegian already).
So, let's talk about love, shall we?
When you think about it, you've got different kinds of love. The love you feel for your friends, for your favorite activities, your boyfriend/girlfriend, your child(ren) and your husband/wife... it's not excactly the same kind of love. At least not if you ask a Norwegian!
To my husband, I would rather say "jeg elsker deg" (I love you) while to my best friends, I would rather say "jeg er glad i deg" (I love you; or literally "I'm glad in you", but that translation does not accurately translate the strong feelings behind this expression!).
So, where does the limit go between "å elske noen" (to love someone) and "å være glad i noen" (to love someone)?
Well, the expression "å elske" is for instance used for the love of your life (in other words, if your boyfriend/girlfriend start telling you "jeg elsker deg", it means that he/she might be thinking of marrying you some day!). In other words: it's serious!! You can also use it for your kid(s) and for the activities you LOVE to do ("jeg elsker å strikke" = I love to knit).
The expression "jeg er glad i deg" - since you can't say "jeg elsker deg" to a friend - can have the same kind of strength as a "jeg elsker deg", it's just that it's not considered as the same kind of love.
I guess you use "jeg elsker deg" when the person is considered as a part of you, that you have a (chosen) family bond. You chose to marry someone (and become a part of his/her family), and you chose to get kids with that person (who thereby become a part of your family as well).
Of course, not everybody uses these expressions as strictly as that. I know that teenage girls have a thing for saying that they "elsker" their friends. And some people would say this also to other family members than their husband/wife and children (but I don't think this is very common).
What you should know is that - in a couple - going from a "jeg er glad i deg" to a "jeg elsker deg" is a big deal! It's a big deal because you risk that the person won't return your "jeg elsker deg", or maybe not mean it when he/she says it. So, if you're in a couple with a Norwegian, you should know how important the difference between the two really is!
By the way "å elske" can also mean "to make love", so yeah, there's also this sensual aspect to it... "De elsker" means "they make love". "De elsker med hverandre" (they make love to eachother) is not the same thing as a simple "de elsker hverandre" (they love eachother) ;)
Let's go back to "å være glad i". Apart from friends and family, you can also use this about activities you love/like (here the feelings are not as strong as in "å elske"), for instance: "jeg er glad i å sykle" (I love bicycling).
Hope this didn't get to complicated for you! And I hope that you feel more confident about using the two expressions now than you were before :)
Wish you a pleasant day :) And if you have any questions, feel free to ask!
Talk to you soon! Snakkes snart! :)