To Love in Spanish – Te amo vs Te quiero


Even though ‘amar’ and ‘querer’ are used to express affection to someone else, their meaning is slightly different, therefore, we cannot use them in any situation and with anyone. For this reason, new Spanish speakers may get confused when trying to say ‘I love you’ to their families, friends or partner. 

So what’s the difference between ‘amar’ and ‘querer’? ‘Te amo’ and ‘te quiero’ express affection for someone else. Although in this context, both verbs are translated as ‘to love’, amar has a greater and deeper degree of affection than querer. Querer is also used to talk about desires (to want).

Depending on the context, these Spanish verbs may be translated as ‘to love’. However, you need to learn their nuances in meaning so you can apply them properly. In this article, we’re going to discuss the difference between ‘amar’ and ‘querer’ as well as some of their most common uses. On top of this, we’ll talk about the people with whom you can use each one of these verbs. Hopefully, by the end of it, you will be able to use ‘amar’ and ‘querer’ correctly.

What’s the difference between ‘amar’ and ‘querer’?

When referring to a person, both ‘amar’ and ‘querer’ are the Spanish translation for ‘to love’. Even though their meaning may seem the same, in Spanish, we don’t use ‘amar’ and ‘querer’ with all people and in all situations. 

Amar is the direct translation of ‘to love’ and it’s used to express the greatest and deepest degree of affection. As a result, we use them in meaningful relationships or with very special people. 

Isabel ama muchísimo a su esposo Isabel loves her husband very much

Querer is the ‘light’ version of ‘amar’. In other words, ‘te quiero’ is also a phrase that expresses affection; however, it doesn’t have such a romantic or intimate connotation. 

Isabel quiere mucho a sus amigos Isabel loves her friends

‘Querer’ is also used to talk about your desires which can be either activities, events, objectives or objects. In this case, this Spanish verb would be translated as ‘to want’.

Isabel quiere viajar a Europa el próximo año Isabel wants to travel to Europe next year

Quiero una rebanada de pastel y una taza de café I want a piece of cake and a cup of coffee

In the following sections, we’ll discuss in-depth the different uses of ‘amar’ and ‘querer’ and we’ll tell you with whom it’s more common to use one or the other. 

Amar in Spanish – Meaning and Uses

‘Amar’ is the direct translation of ‘to love’ and just as the English verb, it has different uses in Spanish. Here are some of the most common ones. 

Amar: showing affection to someone else

As mentioned before, amar is one of the verbs that we use to express our affection for someone else. This Spanish verb is reserved for demonstrating the greatest and deepest love, as a result, it can be considered very intimate. There are two grammar structures that you can follow to use ‘amar’ in Spanish:

Indirect pronoun + amar (conjugated)

Te amo I love you

¿Me amas? Do you love me?

Mi hermana y mi cuñado se aman My brother and my sister-in-law love each other

You can also add some adverbs to make your phrase a little bit stronger. For instance:

If instead, you wanted to express that a friend loves someone, you’ll need to make some adjustments to the structure. Be aware that even though the English translation remains the same, in Spanish, we need to add a preposition

Person + amar (conjugated) + a + person 2

With whom you’ll use amar:

  • Your partner (as long as you are in love).
  • Family members (in this case, using ‘amar’ o ‘querer’ will depend on each family preferences). 

Amar: talking about things that you like very much

In some Latin American countries (Colombia, México, Costa Rica, Guatemala), ‘amar’ is also used to express that you like something strongly. For example:

Amé la película que vimos el viernes I loved the movie that we watched on Friday

Fernando fue a Roma y amó todos los museos que visitó Fernando visited Rome and loved all the museums that he visited

Mis amigos y yo amamos estudiar español My friends and I love to study Spanish

Even though in English these examples are correct and can be used in formal and informal contexts, in Spanish, this use of amar is quite informal. Additionally, you also need to pay attention to be sure that the Spanish country you’re in uses amar this way. 

For countries like Spain and Argentina, the previous examples sound unnatural because they consider that you cannot have such deep feelings for an object. If you want to play it safe and use standard Spanish, you should say something like this:

Andamos cansados por haber caminado tanto We’re tired because we walked a lot

Me encantó la película que vimos el viernes I loved the movie that we watched on Friday

Fernando fue a Roma y le encantaron todos los museos que visitó Fernando visited Rome and loved all the museums that he visited

A mis amigos y a mí nos encanta estudiar español My friends and I love to study Spanish

Be aware that in Spanish we have different verbs for the word ‘to love’ and choosing one or the other will depend on both your degree of affection and the person/object you’re referring to. In this case, encantar is the correct choice for using standard Spanish: remember that ‘amar’ as a synonym of liking an object is only used in some countries. 

Synonyms for Amar: ‘Adorar and Encantar’

In Spanish, when you learn how to use ‘amar’, you also need to learn some synonyms for this verb such as encantar and adorar. Just as ‘querer’ and ‘amar’, in some contexts, encantar is also a translation of ‘to love’. However, in Spanish, there are some nuances in meaning between these verbs which prevent us from using them interchangeably. Unlike ‘amar’, encantar doesn’t express affection, it expresses that you like something or someone strongly. 

When talking about objects or activities, adorar is also used to express that you like something very much. However, when referring to a person it would be translated as ‘to adore’. 

Me encantó el final de la película I loved the end of the movie

A Ramón le encanta su novia Ramón loves his girlfriend

Adoré el final de la película I loved the end of the movie

Ramón adora a su novia Ramon adores his girlfriend

Even though in some contexts, the three verbs are translated as ‘to love’, be aware of the situations we can apply them. Also, keep in mind that the conjugation of encantar doesn’t follow the same rules than ‘querer’, ‘amar’ and ‘adorar’.

Querer in Spanish – Meaning and Uses

When used as a way to express affection, ‘querer’ is translated as ‘to love’. Although in other languages you may not have these verbs, in Spanish, ‘querer’ is less strong or deep than ‘amar’. Therefore, we used it in more situations. Here are some examples. 

Te quiero mucho I love you very much

Juan quiere a Elisa Juan loves Elisa

Quiero mucho a mis papás y a mis hermanos I love my parents and brothers very much

Something that you need to keep in mind when using ‘querer’ is that it is rarely used as a synonym of ‘I want you’. This is due to the fact that ‘querer’ expresses feelings and affection while ‘I want you’ may be understood as a romantic or physical desire. 

With whom you’ll use querer:

  • Friends. 
  • Family members (as discussed earlier, this would depend on each family or person’s preferences. 
  • A recent relationship. 
  • The person you like (in this case, using ‘querer’ will let this person know that you have feelings for her or him).

Querer: talking about desires

Another common use of ‘querer’ is to talk about your desires, which can be objects, activities or objectives. In this case, this verb will follow its direct translation: ‘to want’. Here are some of the phrase structures you need to learn:

To talk about the activities/objectives you want to do

This is one of the most common ways to use ‘querer’ to talk about your desires, be aware that in the following structure you need two verbs and the second one is the verb that is going to express the activity you want to do. 

Querer (conjugated)  + verb in infinitive form

Quiero comer tacos y enchiladas I want to eat tacos and enchiladas

Nosotras queremos estudiar español We want to study Spanish

Quiero trotar 30 minutos diarios I want to jog 30 minutes daily

To talk about objects you desire.

Here are some examples and the phrase structure we use in Spanish when we want to talk about the object we want. Notice that sometimes the phrases may have other grammar elements such as articles and demonstrative adjectives. We do this when we want to be more specific about what we want. Here are some examples.   

Querer + noun

This structure is very common when ordering food and drinks. In this article, I’ll show you how to use querer, as well as other common phrases, to order your drinks in Spanish properly. 

Wrapping Up

In this article, we discussed the difference between ‘amar’ and ‘querer’. We learned that even though these verbs are translated as ‘to love’, in Spanish, they have some nuances in meaning.

Remember that ‘amar’ shows a greater and deeper affection than ‘querer’. As a result, we can say ‘te amo’ to our family or partner. We also discussed that ‘querer’ is used to talk about your desires. Now that you know the difference between these verbs, it’s time for you to apply them in their correct context. 

Related Questions:

How do you respond to ‘te quiero mucho’? If your response is going to express that you feel the same way, you can answer by saying Yo también (me too) or Yo también te quiero mucho (I love you too). However, if you don’t feel the same way you can say: Yo no (I don’t) which is a shorter way to say yo no te quiero (I don’t love you).

Does ‘Te quiero’ mean I want you? Even though ‘querer’ is the direct translation of ‘to want’, in Spanish, te quiero shows affection, as a result, it would be translated as ‘I love you’. If the phrase ‘I want you’ expresses a physical desire, in Spanish, we would say Te deseo.

What’s the difference between gustar, encantar and querer? ‘Gustar’ is used to talk about your likes and dislikes and they can be either activities, objects or people. ‘Encantar’ expresses that you like something or someone strongly and ‘querer’ is meant to talk about the things you desire. However, be aware that when talking about people, ‘querer’ expresses affection and, therefore, is translated as ‘I love you’.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

Recent Posts

Tell Me In Spanish