Difference Between “Te Quiero” and “Te Amo”

June 1st, 2005 9 minutes reading time.


I’ll try to make it clear for native english speakers what “Te Quiero” and “Te Amo” means when someone who feels either or both about you are telling you this things, and they probably feel scared of you not knowing exactly what it means, and so you don’t get the wrong idea.

Let’s start by the literal translations of each phrase:

Te Quiero = I Want You
Te Amo = I Love You

In spanish saying “I want you” (literally translated as in wanting something) means that you
appreciate the person, you care about the person. If you want to tell somebody that you “Want her/him”
in a sexual way, you tell them “Te Deseo”, which is like “I desire you”.

There are certain levels of intensity in this feeling and it can apply to different types of persons:

- For a friend
– For a family member
– For your girlfriend, boyfriend
– For a pet
– For someone you don’t know but you admire, like a writer, artist, singer.

So let’s talk about intensity on this feeling, let’s put a scale from 1 to 10, where 10 is the highest expression of the “Te Quiero” (We’ll talk about “Te Amo” later)

1-3 -> You feel something dear but very simple for the other. Like when you meet a person a couple of times, you might be able to give them a hug, or a kiss in the cheek, you might even let them stay in your house if they didn’t have a place to spend the night, but very friendly…

4-7 -> For a friend, maybe a good classmate that you know, but you won’t fully trust, for a family member, maybe this is what you feel for a cousin you have fun with, but you’re ok if you don’t see them in years, you don’t miss them or anything.

8-10 -> A very dear cousin, A very trusted friend (but not the best), a good one though. As for a girlfriend, you might be starting to fall in love with the person, maybe you get bubbles/butterflies in your stomach in certain ocassions, you miss this person, you´re not sure you love them.

So you see, Te quiero can mean a lot of things, it will always depend on the context, the person, and the intensity that the person says. Someone will probably tell you “Te quiero” in different ocassions and they can mean totally different things, just try to see the context. It could be a Quick Te quiero before hanging up on the phone or saying good bye, that’s like a 4-7 te quiero. But if you’re on a more intimate moment, you can say this to that person you care about so much, without stepping in the deep waters of love, which I ‘ll talk about later.


Love – Amor

Love is Love, and of course there are many different kinds of love.
You can Love your career, meaning you enjoy it like no other activity and it’s very important in your life. Love in spanish is a feeling that makes you prioritize people, things, habits, etc. on top of everything else.

When you say “Te Amo” or you hear it from somebody who really knows its meaning, it’s a big deal (at least for me), saying “Te Amo” is very different than saying “Me estoy enamorando de ti” (“I’m falling for you”) which would be a “Te quiero” on a 9-10 level, this means that the other person is starting to melt your heart, you feel a bit vulnerable, but you are still playing your game rationally.

Te Amo on its highest intensity, is this feeling where you totally feel devoted to the other person, where no matter what you won’t find any flaws, where you can be sitting next to the most beautiful person in the world, and you don’t care, where you wouldn’t change that person for nothing or nobody else, where you would move to another country and leave it all, where you would die for the other. This is the irrational love, the ultimate drug.

Te Amo can also be less irrational, maybe this is the kind of love you feel for your mother or father, or for your couple, it can be rational if you love yourself, and specially if the other person loves you back since you’ll both watch over each other, this is the best kind of love that you can have, where you are totally free, and you can let the other person be free, you know they love you, and you love them, nothing can go wrong, you know them and they know you like the palm of the hand, total trust.

There’s probably a thin line between Te Quiero on level 10, and Te amo, on this line you’re afraid to say the words cause you might be in deep trouble if the other person doesn’t feel the same way about you. Still on a Te Quiero Level 8-10 (Starting to fall in love, or almost there) you feel totally alive, music sounds better, it reminds you of that person, little details make you think about that person, you might dream about them a lot if you haven’t seen them in a while, you feel this uncontainable happiness when you’re next to them for no reason, you can’t take your eyes off of them, you could hold them forever, and when you make love it gets better and better everytime, you certainly can stay with them in bed holding each other, and it doesn’t matter if your day wasn’t ok, cause you have the other person to lean on, they will make you forget the bad things, you will plan many things to do with them, and daydream about the future with them, but all this could fade in weeks and the magic won’t be there anymore, in this case you were probably having a false alarm of love… sad, but happens, although if you get to this point without getting bored of the person, and you don’t have any complains about the other person revolving in your head, then this is definetively falling in love, a legitimate “Te Quiero” on level 8-10. To get to a 8-10, I’ve seen that there have to be certain variables set:

-> Legitimate Phisical Attraction (To go from Te Quiero Level 1-6). You must truly like the person phisically to start a relationship that won’t have stumbles in the future. At least for me it works this way. If there’s something I don’t like phisically about the person, I always end up looking for it in somebody else, even if its just in my mind, this will affect decisions and behaviour in the future, specially if its something intimate.
-> Getting along. If there are things you don’t agree you can both negotiate and truly see the other person’s perspective
-> Intellectual Satisfaction. Being mutually/truly satisfied intelectually. (although you could be conformist with someone who is not to your level, but it helps a lot to be on the same level, or have someone smarter than you so you admire them)
-> Affection/Attention Ratio. Give and Receive the right amount of attention and affection (Enough to feel “Querido” and not overwhelmed or annoyed, being able to be free, and breath)
-> Person Appropiate for you. You don’t see anything wrong with the other person, you don’t think they have bad habits that aren’t appropiate for a relationship, or something more serious for the future. In fact you find little details in their behaviour as signs that they are the right person for you.

I might be forgetting some variables here, but I think those are a good foundation for a healthy relationship where you won’t be looking for anybody else, cause the other person is giving you what you need.

In Spanish, one way to tell somebody that you want to be friends and not a couple anymore is saying
“No te amo, pero te quiero”, this is like I don’t love you, but I “Te Quiero” on a level 4-7, enough to be very good friends, you’ll be dear to me, but I won’t ever get to a higher level than that… so you see, Te Quiero doesn’t have to be that big of a deal, it’s all in the context.

So, I hope you get lots of “Te Quieros” and “Te Amos”, each on the right moment.
Don’t wear them out, and if you’re totally sure that you love somebody, like you would probably die if the died tomorrow, don’t waste another second and tell them “Te Amo”.

2 Responses to “Difference Between “Te Quiero” and “Te Amo””

  1. Luca Says:

    WOW! Great explanations, and very usefull as well !! Thanks a lot !!

  2. Chrissy Says:

    I’ve been reading different responces to this question for the last hour and yours was by far the best! It’s hard for someone who speaks english as their main language to not only speak spanish but to understand what they are saying. You just gave me my understanding!

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