Te Quiero vs Te Amo: How They're Different [+ Examples]

  • Jada Lòpez
    Written byJada Lòpez
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Te Quiero vs Te Amo: How They're Different [+ Examples]

Want to tell someone you love them in Spanish?

There are two very common expressions used to say this to someone in Spanish.

Te Quiero vs Te Amo:

  1. Te amo (literal translation: “I love you”)
  2. Te quiero (literal translation: “You I want”)

Need a thorough explanation on when to use these two expressions?

Keep reading for a full guide on the correct usage of these two phrases.

What does te quiero mean?

If you missed it, even though te quiero translates word for word to English as “you I want”, it also means “I love you”.

This phrase features the indirect pronoun te and the first-person present tense conjugated verb quiero.

To use the phrase te quiero, you should first learn how to conjugate the verb querer.

How should you conjugate the verb querer?

To conjugate the verb querer, remember that this verb is irregular, meaning the endings of the verb are not the only part that changes for each pronoun (the subject of the sentence).

Here are the verb conjugations of querer you should try to remember when using the phrase te quiero.

English pronoun Spanish pronoun Conjugated verb querer
I Yo Quiero
You Quieres
He/She/It Él/Ella/Usted Quiere
We Nosotros Queremos
You Vosotros Queréis
They Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes Quieren

When should you use te quiero?

The best moment to use te quiero is when you want to verbally express that you love someone without being gushing or overly effusive.

Te quiero is a less intense “I love you”, so if you’re in a new relationship and want to say that you love your new boyfriend or girlfriend, you can use te quiero.

Other situations where you can use te quiero include with your extended family or (in some contexts) with very close friends, as it’s not as romantic as certain other phrases.

What is the formula for using te quiero?

The formula for using te quiero is to use an indirect pronoun before the conjugated verb querer - (indirect pronoun + present tense conjugated verb querer).

For example, if you wanted to say “she loves him”, you would use the above formula but change the subject of the sentence:

Listen to audio

Le quiere.

She loves him.

Check out my article on Spanish pronouns to become an expert at making different people the indirect subject of your sentences.

How do you say te quiero in the past tense?

If you want to say te quiero in the past tense, the formula is the same as the one provided above, but you should use the imperfect past tense when you conjugate the verb querer.

To say “I loved you” in Spanish, you should use te quería.

How do you conjugate the verb querer in the past tense?

There may be circumstances when you want to say someone other than yourself loved someone. In this case, you will have to conjugate the verb querer differently.

Check out the table below to find out how to conjugate the verb querer in the imperfect past tense.

English pronoun Spanish pronoun Conjugated verb querer
I Yo Quería
You Querías
He/She/It Él/Ella/Usted Quería
We Nosotros Queríamos
You (all) Vosotros Queríais
They Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes Querían

If you wanted to say “they loved her” or “they used to love her”, you can say ellos la querían or la querían, as you can omit the pronoun when you’re not emphasising the subject of the sentence.

Usage examples of te quiero to help you understand how to use it

Let’s now look at five usage examples of te quiero to understand how to use it.

1. Te quiero mucho - with a partner

Te quiero mucho means “I love you very much”. You may use this in several contexts, from settling an argument to expressing how much you love someone despite your differences.

Listen to audio

Eres raro, de verdad… Pero, te quiero mucho.

You're really weird… but I love you a lot.

2. Te quiero - with children

You can use te quiero when you want to tell your children you love them.

Whether you’re telling them off but want to remind them you love them or show that you’re proud of them, this phrase is ideal.

Listen to audio

Te quiero, pero tienes que recoger tú habitación.

I love you, but you have to tidy up your room.

3. Te quiero - with parents

If you want to tell your mum or dad you love them, you can use te quiero, or os quiero.

Use te quiero if you’re just talking to one of your parents. Use os quiero if you’re talking to your mum and your dad.

Listen to audio

Os quiero mucho. Gracias por ayudarme.

I love you a lot. Thanks for helping me.

What does te amo mean?

Te amo is a phrase that means “I love you” in Spanish but is stronger than te quiero.

This phrase also features the indirect pronoun te and a verb in the present tense amo.

If you want to use the phrase te amo effortlessly, you’ll need to consider how to conjugate the verb amar.

How do you conjugate the verb amar?

English pronoun Spanish pronoun Conjugated verb amar
I Yo Amo
You Amas
He/She/It Él/Ella/Usted Ama
We Nosotros Amamos
You (all) Vosotros Amáis
They Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes Aman

What is the formula for using te amo?

The formula you might try to remember for using te amo is to use an indirect pronoun before the conjugated verb amar - (indirect pronoun + present tense conjugated verb amar).

For example, if you wanted to say they love him, you would use the above formula but change the subjects of the sentence:

Listen to audio

Le quieren.

They love him.

What is the past tense of te amo?

The past tense of the phrase te amo is te amaba.

If you’re curious to know how to make different people the subject of your sentence, remember that you have to modify the verb amar and conjugate it in the imperfect past tense.

How do you conjugate the verb amar in the past tense?

Check the table below to learn how to conjugate the verb amar in the imperfect past tense.

English pronoun Spanish pronoun Conjugated verb amar
I Yo Amaba
You Amabas
He/She/It Él/Ella/Usted Amaba
We Nosotros Amábamos
You (all) Vosotros Amabais
They Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes Amaban

Usage examples of te amo to help you understand how to use it

Let’s now consider two examples of the phrase te amo in different contexts so you can see how to use it.

1. Te amo muchísimo (feigning dramatic love)

Te amo muchísimo means “I love you so very much”.

In soap operas or telenovelas, characters will use this phrase to express how much they love their fictional partner. In the same way, if you’re faking dramatic love or being ironic, you might use te amo muchísimo too.

Listen to audio

Te amo muchísimo. ¡Gracias, mi amor, mi media naranja, mi corazón! ¡Hombre, era una broma!

I love you so much. Thank you, my love, my soul mate, my heart! Mate, it was a joke!

2. Te amo (serious outpouring of affection)

It may be the case that you’re planning on proposing to your partner. In that case, it may be time to use the phrase te amo.

Listen to audio

Te amo, Lucía. ¿Te casarás conmigo?

I love you, Lucía. Will you marry me?

Can you use the verb amar for other things?

Yes, it’s possible to use the verb amar for other things - but in Latin American Spanish only (otherwise, it sounds weird). For instance, you may want to say that you love a particular hobby or sport.

Alternatively, someone may love cooking or reading books; in that case, you can say Lucía ama cocinar y leer.

But, if you’re in Spain, you won’t hear people using the verb amar to express their enthusiasm for certain hobbies. Instead, people use the verb encantar.

For example, a tennis player might say: A mi me encanta jugar al tenis tres veces por semana.

How is te quiero different from te amo?

Since there’s a very subtle difference between te quiero and te amo, it can be difficult to distinguish between them, but the intensity of the phrase is the main difference.

You can use te amo when speaking with a romantic partner, but even then, it may sound quite dramatic, as you’ll hear it frequently in telenovelas such as Acacias 38.

Use te amo and te quiero to express your love

If you need to express your love to someone, you now know whether you should use te amo or te quiero.

Hopefully it’s clear which term to choose in which context.

Use te amo (“I love you”) or te quiero (“I want you”) confidently and express your love the right way.


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Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
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