Te Quiero or Te Amo? Picking the Right Words for Your Valentine

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and if your Latino Heat is bursting into flames to tell that significant other how you feel, then Payazaro understands. But not all Papi Chulos and Sexi Mamis know when to use “Te Quiero” over “Te Amo” and vice versa. To the untrained ear, both words are viewed as synonyms and used freely and interchangeably. A true Latino lover knows that to mix both up is a big mistake for there are significant differences that can determine a sexy-hot-juicy passionate kiss or a totally awkward moment. Unless of course, we’re talking about two completely sexually deprived and desperate people who skipped the romance and went straight to business 🙂 .

Te quiero expresses affection between friends, lovers, relatives, animals…anything! In English, it literally translates into “I like you”. Yes, a very stale way to express your dying love to the Valentine you want to compliment. Though some people use it to mean “I love you”, saying te quiero is the best option if you want to play it safe. It is a great way to verbally express feelings of affection without overstepping boundaries and expectations of love.

Te amo can make a woman’s heart skip a beat. Either because she’s been waiting to hear those words for a long time or because you have officially made things awkward and have scared the shit out of her…sometimes literally. Te amo is stronger and denotes more of a romantic meaning. Although Te amo translates into “I love you,” for some people it’s like telling them that you are in love. Not a good choice if you’ve only been on a couple of dates. But then again, some women read into this way more than men do and if she’s feeling you, a te quiero may be heartbreaking. So if she starts crying, hurry up and open up the box of chocolates! I know, so complicated but that’s why I had to write this post. You are welcome.

It is interesting to note how “I love you” has been watered down in English. The phrase gets thrown around and people have become desensitized to its powerful effect. For example, Payazaro has been told he is loved by friends of the same sex and as homoerotic as that sounds, it seriously felt like a “te quiero”. Nevermind that I call one of these friends “wifey”, that’s just a special term of endearment between the two of us. Yea, umm, back to my point…

I’m curious what your thoughts are on these phrases and when to use them. Even if you’re not Latino, a Papi Chulo or even speak a word of Spanish. Take care and best of luck on the big V-Day.

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8 thoughts on “Te Quiero or Te Amo? Picking the Right Words for Your Valentine”

  1. Another common mix-up of this nature could be when you are trying to say to someone you think of as just a friend that, “I like you.” A Spanish Language Learner may over generalize their basic knowledge of the translation of the word “like” and say, “me gustas.” This, however, would be sending the totally wrong message because, at least in Spain and I assume is true of other Latin American countries, this would be saying, “you please me” or “I like like you” if you want to think about it like a middle schooler. And if very confused they may even say,”te gusto” which might really confuse this friend because in actuality you would be telling the person you are trying to simply put in the friend category that, “you like like me!” Careful friends…direct translations can bite you in the butt when it comes to showing your love and affection.
    Also, if you are really going for the “literal English translation” of “te quiero” one could also argue it means “I want you.”
    Anyway, using the linguistically and socially correct translation…te quiero amigo!

  2. Te quiero means “I like you,” “I want you,” or, in a frivolous way, “I love you.” It does not impart deep emotion, as in “I love you.”

    If you want to tell a person that you are passionately devoted to him or her, you should say “Te amo.”

    “Te amo” isn’t about skipping down the lane, holding hands. It’s about identifying with that person in the sense that you two are forever one.

  3. Because of its intimacy, “Te Amo” is used quite sparingly in Spanish-speaking cultures. Saying “Te Amo” is committing yourself to the other person.

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