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I live by the border to Mexico. I have had this discussion frequently with Mexicanos on both sides of the border. "What is the difference between 'te quiero' and 'te amo'? No one seems to agree. I hear from some people that it is the same, while others tell me "te amo" is a much higher level of love. I have been also told that you say "te quiero" about objects and things and that "te amo" is for people. What is the difference?

  • Posted Dec 24, 2010
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  • I hear that "te amo" is for your spouse and "te quiero" is for everyone else. - christinefa Dec 24, 2010

8 Answers

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In Colombia, te quiero is used frequently between close friends. My contextual understanding is that you would not translate this as I love you as used in English, rather it seems to denote a strong feeling of care with no equivalent expression in English. Te amo, so far as I know, holds the same meaning here as does I love you used in a romantic context. I guess that it is also used in the familial way between parents and children.

I have close platonic female friends back home to whom I say I love you, they say the same to me and the platonic nature of that love is understood. I would not use te amo in the same way here and when discussing that with a close female friend to whom I say te quiero, I'm told that te amo would not be suitable. This is however not a closed issue for me and I too am keen to gain a better understanding.

I suppose that this highlights the multiple meanings of the word love and the ambiguity in its use.

Cheers, Alex

  • Dec 24, 2010
  • | Edited by afowen Dec 24, 2010
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  • Perhaps "I care for/about you", although not used often, could pass as an equivalent to "te quiero". It's similar to "I love you" but not as much weight - Goldie_Miel Dec 24, 2010
  • Maybe I should have said 'no equivalent commonly used expression' :-) - afowen Dec 24, 2010
  • lol, maybe - Goldie_Miel Dec 24, 2010
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afowen wrote:

But, to aid my understanding, is your reason for not saying it in Spanish the same for not saying it in English, or would you say there is a difference between the fundamental use of the phrase in both languages?

Generally speaking, one would never say "te amo" to a "regular" friend. I was speaking in general terms. However, under the "exceptions", there are certainly people in my life who are not my wife, that I can say "I love you". For example, my wife's sister and I usually exchange "I love you" and we both understand it for what it truly is. We have been very close friends for forty years, so the water runs deep. I tell my wife, family members and certain friends that I love them, and typically the words will always be "I love you".

I have several very close Hispanic friends, and I've never told any of them "Te amo". I do love them, and they know it, but I say "Te quiero". My wife is "mi amor" but my Hispanic friends are "mis amigos" whom I love very much. I think "te quiero" is more appropriate. I personally they they would think it inappropriate if I said "Te amo" to them. If I were speaking to them in English, I could say "I love you" and that would be ok, but with Spanish there is less ambiguity. That's my take on things. I'm not sure I've made any sense, but I hope so.

  • Dec 24, 2010
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  • Thanks Jack, all very clear. Alex - afowen Dec 24, 2010
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I would say that 'Te quiero' denotes more of a 'family love' when, 'Te amo' indicates more of an 'I love you' in the sense of a relationship.

  • Dec 24, 2010
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"Te quiero" is perfectly acceptable for friends and family. A mother that tells her child "te quiero" is definitely telling the child "I love you", but it's a bit different than when I might say "te queremos" to our very good friends (we love you), it carries more of a "you are very valuable/important in our lives and we appreciate you very much" kind of thing. One would never say "te amo" to a friend, unless they've changed from a friend to a lover, for example. Of course, there are exceptions.

  • Dec 24, 2010
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  • Would you not say I love you to a friend in English and therefore you would not in Spanish? If this is the case then maybe there are some to whom it would not be odd - reference my post above. - afowen Dec 24, 2010
  • That's why I said "there are exceptions". - Jack-OBrien Dec 24, 2010
  • But, to aid my understanding, is your reason for not saying it in Spanish the same for not saying it in English, or would you say there is a difference between the fundamental use of the phrase in both languages? - afowen Dec 24, 2010
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I think they both mean the same thing, "I love you", just different ways of saying it. As far as I know they are both widely used everywhere.

  • Dec 24, 2010
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what I know is Te quiero is use in Spain, while Te amo is in Latin America

  • Dec 24, 2010
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If I remember correctly, Heidita (one of the pro's here) said that "Te amo" is never used for friends. That said, I think "Te quiero" is acceptable for both friends and family - I suppose significant others, too - but "Te amo" is strictly for significant others smile HTH

  • Dec 24, 2010
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Wow! Great responses here. I'd like to say that it's not about concept or word meaning but strictly regarding usage. Some other examples: -"Te quiero" (Cuba) means I like you very much or I have feelings for you, still not reaching the level of love as to say I love you, that's why an average Cuban might say: "Te quiero pero no te amo". "Of course, "te amo" (Cuba) means I love you or I'm in love with you. Here, it's a matter of level or intensity. -On the other hand, "te quiero" (Spain) means both I like very much AND I love you, depending on the context. "Te amo" (Spain)-not used or rarely used, meaning I love you. Generally considered excessively literary or poetic, hence a little corny. An average Spaniard uses "te quiero", directly meaning "I love you" without any in-between levels. -In different areas / countries in the very large Spanish speaking world you'll get varied responses or feedback and will find several interpretations of "te amo / te quiero". There are places where "te amo" is romantic love and "te quiero" is reserved for friends and family. There are others where people use both in the same context.

  • Apr 23, 2017
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