Te Quiero vs Te Amo: How to Say I Love You in Spanish

I love you in Spanish: Te quiero vs Te amo

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Love is everywhere. In songs, in books and, of course, in everyday life. Expressing the affection we feel is essential in any language, and of course Spanish is no exception. But is saying I love you in Spanish the same as in English? Let’s see here, as we explore our two options: te quiero vs te amo.

That’s right! There are actually two ways to say I love you in Spanish: te quiero and te amo. They are very similar in essence, though their use will depend on the context, the intention of the speaker, and who’s being addressed. In this post we’ll not only show how to choose between te amo and te quiero in Spanish, we will also introduce several other sweet ways to express love in Spanish.

Let’s get started!

To Love in Spanish: Querer and Amar

Saying I love you is the ultimate expression of love, and saying it to someone carries a lot of weight. To lighten it a bit, sometimes you might use I like you a lot instead, and that’s kind of what happens with the verbs querer and amar in Spanish. Although both verbs can be translated to love in Spanish, amar is more intense, while querer is a bit softer. Using querer is a safer option, so te quiero could also be translated as I like you a lot in some contexts, especially romantic ones.

How to say I love you in Spanish

So how do you say I love you in Spanish? Let’s look first at the grammatical basics of our two expressions: we just conjugate querer or amar and precede it with the appropriate direct object pronoun.

The yo conjugation for each is yo quiero and yo amo. If the direct object of this love is you, the pronoun is te. Hence, we get either te quiero or te amo to say I love you in Spanish.

If you want to aim that love at someone else, you just switch out the object pronoun. For a deeper explanation on these, check out our full post on direct object pronouns. For now, here’s our table of direct object pronouns in Spanish and English:

Subject pronouns: Spanish Direct object pronouns: Spanish Direct object pronouns: English
yo me me
te you
él, ella, usted lo, la him, her, it, you
nosotros, nosotras nos us
ellos, ellas, ustedes los, las them, you

For the rest of the conjugations of our two verbs, here are the querer and amar conjugation tables:

Subject Querer Amar
yo quiero amo
quieras amas
él, ella, usted quiere ama
nosotros, nosotras queremos amamos
ellos, ellas, ustedes quieran aman

As you can see, querer is an irregular verb. Notice the root change from que– to qui– in the present tense. This happens with all the pronouns except nosotros / nosotras. For other tenses, head over to our post on querer conjugation.

Amar, on the other hand, is a regular -ar verb, so it’s a smooth ride. In fact, amar is often even used as a sample verb when we teach regular verb conjugation! Of course it appears in our list of the top 44 -ar verbs in Spanish.

Now let’s see a few examples of love in Spanish using both verbs with different subjects and objects:

  • I love you, mom. – Te amo, mamá. – Te quiero, mamá.
  • Do you love me? – ¿Tú me amas? – ¿Tú me quieres?
  • She loves us – Ella nos ama. – Ella nos quiere.
  • We love him. – Nosotros lo amamos. – Nosotros lo queremos.

Now let’s take a look at each of these Spanish love words separately to see the difference between te quiero and te amo.

Te quiero in Spanish

A direct translation of te quiero is I want you in Spanish, but that’s not its true meaning when we’re talking about feelings. Instead, if you want to express your affection for someone, but without being too intense, te quiero is a safe option. It is a neutral and light way to express affection and care, without getting too romantic or intimate.

You can use te quiero in Spanish with close friends, with family members, and with a romantic partner with whom you are just starting things and developing feelings for. With the latter, te quiero can also be translated as I like you a lot in English. Of course, if all goes well, perhaps you’ll work your way up to using te amo with your romantic partner!

Let’s take a look:

  • You are the best friend in the world, Diana! I love you so much. – ¡Eres la mejor amiga del mundo, Diana! Te quiero mucho.
  • Happy birthday, Aunt Inés, I love you! – ¡Feliz cumpleaños, tía Inés, te quiero!
  • Thank you so much for the chocolates, Juan. I love you. – Thank you so much for the chocolates, Juan. I like you a lot. – Muchas gracias por los chocolates, Juan. Te quiero.

Te amo in Spanish

Telling someone te amo is a big deal, and something that can’t be thrown around lightly. We use te amo when there is a deep bond and attachment. You need to be careful because te amo may imply intimate undertones, so if you feel unsure between te amo vs te quiero, it’s always best to opt for te quiero instead.

We use te amo with family members with whom we have a strong bond, especially those closest to us such as parents, children and siblings, although it is not limited to these. You can also use it with a romantic partner for whom you have deep feelings and not just something casual.

Saying te amo to a partner for the first time instead of te quiero is the same as saying I love you in English for the first time, so be careful.

It is not very common to use te amo among friends, because it could be misinterpreted as romantic. It is definitely better to just say te quiero with friends.

Let’s take a look:

  • Happy Mother’s Day! I love you so much, Mom. – ¡Feliz día de la madre! Te amo mucho, mamá.
  • I love you, Grandma. I’ll call you tomorrow. – Te amo, abuela. Te llamo mañana.
  • Happy anniversary, my dear. I love you. – Feliz aniversario, querida. Te amo.

Alternatives to I love you in Spanish

Now that we covered the difference between te quiero and te amo in Spanish, let’s take the opportunity to learn other ways to say I love you in Spanish. We’ll start with some other verbs that are also used to express love in Spanish: gustar, encantar, and adorar.


To like

Before te quiero or te amo, usually comes me gustas, at least when it comes to people. When we are physically or intellectually attracted to someone, we express it with gustar. We can also use it to talk about other things that appeal to us, but our focus here is solely on people.

The full phrase for I like you in Spanish using gustar is a mí me gustas tú. This construction is different than most Spanish verbs, so for a full explanation check out our post on how to use gustar in Spanish. In the meantime, here are a couple of examples:

  • I really like you, would you like to go out with me? – Me gustas mucho, ¿te gustaría salir conmigo?
  • I think Luis likes me, could you ask him? – Creo que le gusto a Luis, ¿podrías preguntarle?


To love, To be enchanted

Encantar is a stronger feeling than gustar on the love scale. When something or someone amazes us, or pleases us, or we like them so much that it makes us feel enchanted, we use encantar.

  • You are very beautiful. I love you. – Eres muy hermosa. Me encantas.
  • I love your smile so much. – Me encanta tanto tu sonrisa.


To adore, To love

Adorar is a little more intense than the previous ones. It is a way of expressing that someone is extremely special to you and the affection you feel for them is very deep.

  • You’re perfect for me, I love you. – Eres perfecto para mí, te adoro.
  • My sister loves her husband. – Mi hermana adora a su esposo.

Romantic Spanish Phrases

Since we’re getting pretty sweet on love, why don’t we spice it up with some terms of endearment in Spanish? For a full rundown, take a look at our post on Spanish pickup lines for flirting so you can be as smooth as silk when it comes to romance.

For now, here’s an essential list of some of the most common and lovey pet names for couples in Spanish to use alongside te quiero or te amo. If you’d like a more comprehensive list, go to our post on Spanish terms of endearment.

Terms of endearment: Spanish Terms of endearment: English
Mi amor, Mi amorcito My love
Mi vida My life
Mi corazón, Mi corazoncito My heart
Mi cielo, Mi cielito My sky, My heaven
Mi rey, Mi reina My king, My queen


Well done! Now you know the difference between the different Spanish I love you phrases. Let’s do a little review before we go.

Most importantly, we saw that there are two ways to say I love you in Spanish depending on the intensity, context and intention: te quiero vs te amo. Te quiero is a lighter form that can be used with friends, family, and romantic partners for whom we are developing feelings. Te amo, on the other hand, is a more intense and intimate form that expresses a profound bond. Therefore, te amo is best used just with your immediate family, and with romantic partners you’re in love with.

We also saw the grammar behind these two phrases, allowing you to use querer and amar to talk about love between different subjects and direct objects.

In addition, we saw a few other verbs that are also used to express affection in Spanish: gustar, encantar, and adorar. Finally, we saw some Spanish terms of endearment that will give some extra loviness when you say I love you in Spanish to that special person. Throughout, we pointed to our other detailed posts for even more info on all the topics we’ve covered here.

We hope you found this information helpful. Now spread the love by sharing this post, and see you in the next one!


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