Learning Spanish For Members

'Te amo' or 'te quiero'? How to say I love you properly in Spanish

Alex Dunham
Alex Dunham - [email protected]
'Te amo' or 'te quiero'? How to say I love you properly in Spanish
Even though 'te amo' means 'I love you' in Spanish, these words are hardly uttered in Spain. Photo: Felipe Galvan/Unsplash

It’s not as simple as Google Translating ‘I love you’ if you want to express your feelings to a Spaniard. These tips explain how to correctly say that you like or love someone (whether it’s meant in the romantic sense or not).


Spaniards are known for being more open to expressing their emotions than most other Europeans. 

They’re more touchy-feely and they won’t hold back when telling someone that they're fond of them (or not). 

But despite wearing their hearts on their sleeves, there are certain ‘rules’ in Spain when it comes to expressing one’s feelings with the correct words.

The verb ‘to love’ in Spanish can either be amar or querer.

Amar only means to love, whereas querer can mean to love or to want.

Amar also tends to apply just to romantic relationships, in the sense of expressing your love to a partner, whereas querer in theory is more suited for other family members such as parents or children, or friends, pets etc 

But even when it comes to declaring your love to that special person, te amo is rarely used in Spain. 

It has connotations of intense passion and romanticism, so it can often come across as being a bit over the top, too strong almost. 

In fact, it conjures up images of cheesy Latin American soaps for Spaniards, as te amo is used far more in the romantic sense in Spanish-speaking countries across the pond.


Therefore, when in Spain, the safest bet when telling someone that you love them - regardless of whether it’s your best friend, your father or your fiancée - is to say te quiero.

Te amo can be suitable to use in your wedding vows in Spain, or if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t mind expressing very loaded feelings of love to someone, but anything else and you might get some weird looks. 

Even saying estoy enamorado/a de ti (I’m in love with you) will probably mean the recipient is less taken aback than saying te amo

You may be thinking ‘what about if I want to say that I love something, not someone?’. In this case, it’s better to say me encanta or me gusta mucho


If you want to say that you like someone in the romantic or physical sense, without resorting to saying that you love them, you can use the word gustar (to like), as in me gustas (I like you).

And if it’s non-romantic but you like the person’s character, you say caer bien, as in me caes bien

So there you have it, whilst the word ‘love’ is thrown around all the time in English without it being taken too seriously, in Castillian Spanish it’s better to play it safe with te quiero rather than te amo

Now, a quick recap.


I adore you - Te amo

Te amo, Lucía. Eres el amor de mi vida. 

I adore you, Lucy. You’re the love of my life.


I love you - Te quiero

Te quiero mucho, mamá. 

I love you loads, mum. 


I’m in love with you - Estoy enamorado/a de ti

Tengo que confesarte que estoy enamorado de ti.

I’ve got to confess, I’m in love with you.


I love something - Me encanta or me gusta mucho

¡Me encanta tu nuevo corte de pelo!

I love your new haircut!


I like you (romantic or physical) - Me gustas

Me gustas. ¿Quieres quedar conmigo otro día?

I like you. Want to meet up with me another day?


I like you (non-romantic) - Me caes bien

Me caes bien, tía. Con mucho gusto te ayudo.

I like you, mate. Happy to help. 


I like something - Me gusta

Me gusta levantarme temprano.

I like to wake up early.


READ ALSO: Monkeys and good uncles - The many ways to call someone hot in Spanish


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