We present a scanning acoustic force microscope (SAFM) for the study of surface acoustic wave (SAW) phenomena on the submicron lateral scale. Until now, SAWs with in-plane oscillation components could only be studied effectively via nonvanishing out-of-plane oscillation contributions. By operating the microscope in lateral force mode, where both bending and torsion of the cantilever are detected, additional amplitude-dependent signals are found, which are due to the interaction with purely in-plane polarized surface oscillations. To demonstrate the capabilities of this type of SAFM, Love waves were studied on the surface of layers deposited on ST-cut quartz with SAW propagation perpendicular to the crystal X-axis. The phase velocity of the wave as well as the amplitude of a standing wave field was measured and compared to calculated values. © 1998 American Institute of Physics.