There are many ways to express affection to a person that you care about. If you’re planning on a romantic rendezvous in Latin America or Spain — or if you just know a Spanish speaker and want to express love in their language, —you will want to know how to say “I love you” in Spanish.
While in English the most common expression is “I love you,” in Spanish there are two main ways of expressing the same feeling: te quiero and te amo. But keep in mind that te quiero and te amo don’t mean exactly the same thing!
In this article, we will explain the differences between te quiero and te amo, and teach you different ways to express affection and say “I love you” in Spanish in different contexts.
I Love You in Spanish at a Glance
All of the ways to say I Love You in Spanish
Te quiero is one of the most common expressions in Spanish to express affection for someone. Although the verb querer means “to want,” in this context it means “to love.”
But keep this in mind: te quiero expresses a lower degree of affection than te amo. If you say te quiero to someone, you are telling that person that you value them and you like them very much. Sometimes, it could be a translation for “I care about you.” That is the principal difference between te quiero and te amo.
So… when is it appropriate to te quiero to someone? You can use this expression with your friends or your family. You can even say te quiero to someone with whom you have been involved romantically for a short time; it works as the precursor to te amo.
An answer to Te quiero could be: Yo también (“Me too”) or Yo también te quiero (“I care about you too”). Let’s see an example:
- Te quiero, Luis. – I love you, Luis.
- Yo también te quiero, Juan. – I love you too, Juan.
You can also add an adverb of quantity after the phrase te quiero, to indicate a higher intensity or degree of affection. So, you could say: te quiero mucho (“I love you very much”) or even te quiero muchísimo (“I love you so much!”). You can also say te quiero un montón (“I love you a lot”). Let’s see an example:
- Gracias por todo. ¡Te quiero mucho! – Thanks for everything. I love you very much!
- De nada. Yo también te quiero mucho. – You’re welcome. I love you very much too.
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We have already learned in what contexts it is appropriate to say te quiero. Now, let’s see when it is appropriate to use the phrase te amo .
The verb amar means “to love”, and te amo is the literal translation of “I love you”, so it has a romantic connotation. You can use te amo with your partner, especially if you are in a serious relationship.
The most common reply to te amo (if the person loves you back!) is Yo también (“Me too”), or Yo también te amo (“I love you too”). Another possible answer could be ¡Yo más! (“I love you even more”). Let’s see an example:
- Eres el amor de mi vida, ¡Te amo! – You are the love of my life, I love you!
- ¡Yo te amo más! – I love you even more!
Although it is an expression that you would say with your partner, it doesn’t mean that you can’t use it with other people. You can also say te amo to your children, your parents, your siblings, your grandparents, and any other close relative.
- ¡Feliz Día de la Madre, mamá, te amo! – Happy Mother’s Day, mom! I love you!
- Gracias, hijo. Yo también. – Thanks, son. I love you too
In the Spanish-speaking world, it is also common to say te amo to your very close friends:
- Eres mi mejor amiga, Mariana. ¡Te amo! – You are my best friend, Mariana. I love you!
- ¡Yo también te amo, Luisa! – I love you too, Luisa!
As with te quiero, there are variants of te amo. You can use adverbs of quantity after saying te amo. If you are deeply in love with someone, you can say te amo mucho (“I love you very much”), te amo muchísimo (“I love you so much”) or even te amo con todo mi corazón (“I love you with all my heart”).
- Te amo con todo mi corazón, Julieta. – I love you with all my heart, Julieta.
- Yo te amo más, Francisco. – I love you more, Francisco.
For more te amo practice, listen to love songs. Here’s a Billie Eilish song – “I Love You” – that was translated into Spanish. It is nice and slow and easy to follow for beginner Spanish Students!
As we have seen, te quiero and te amo are the most common ways to say “I love you” in Spanish and, although they both express love, they present subtle differences. However, there are many other ways to express affection to someone. Te aprecio is one of them.
Te aprecio (literally, “I appreciate you”) is an expression that you can say when you value and have a certain affection for someone. But keep in mind that te aprecio might sound a bit cold. For example, if someone says te amo to you, and you reply Yo te aprecio, it will definitely sound like you’re not that into them.
The best thing in these cases is to simply say te quiero or Me caes bien (which we will see in detail moving forward). Only use te aprecio if the context warrants it. For example, you can use this expression when talking about someone else. Let’s see an example:
- Yo aprecio mucho a Fernando. – I really appreciate Fernando.
- Ya lo sé. Yo también lo aprecio. – I know. I appreciate him too.
Te adoro means, literally, “I adore you”. If we analyze the verb adorar, we will find that it means “to honor”, but, in this context, adorar means “to worship.” This means that this phrase expresses a higher degree of affection than te quiero.
You can say te adoro, for example, to a friend with whom you have a high degree of affinity. Let’s see an example:
- Gracias por acompañarme, Carla. Te adoro; eres la mejor – Thanks for coming with me, Carla. I adore you; you are the best.
- Ni lo digas, Laura, eres mi mejor amiga. Sabes que también te adoro. – Don’t mention it, Laura, you are my best friend. You know that I adore you too.
In this context, the verb estimar means to respect someone, to care or to appreciate someone. Te estimo works as quite a respectful way to express love. You can say te estimo to someone in your work environment, for example. It expresses affection without crossing any lines
Remember that, if you are addressing someone in a formal context, the correct pronoun to use is usted instead of tú. In that case, a possible dialogue could be:
- Usted sabe que la estimo, señora González. – You know I appreciate you, Mrs. González.
- Yo también lo estimo mucho, Fernando; espero que sigamos trabajando juntos por muchos años más – I also appreciate you, Fernando; I hope we continue working together for many years.
Did you notice? Te estimo was changed to La estimo (for a woman) and Lo estimo (for a man).
Me caes bien
Caer means, literally, “to fall;” but caer bien means “to like,” “to hit it off” or “to get on well.” Me caes bien is a fairly common expression in Spanish-speaking countries. You can use this phrase with a person whom you have met recently and like already.
If you tell someone Me caes bien, they might answer ¡Tú también! (“You too!”), ¡Tú también me caes bien! (“I like you too!”), or simply ¡Y tú a mí! (“And I like you!”).
- La verdad es que me caes muy bien, José. – The truth is that I really like you, José.
- Y tú a mí, Sonia. – I like you too, Sonia.
So, Me caes bien is something you would say to someone to whom you still wouldn’t say te quiero, because te quiero implies a greater degree of affection; possibly after months or years of knowing the person.
In English, the most accurate translation to Me caes bien is “I like you”, but if we translate “I like you” back into Spanish, we’ll get a completely different meaning, which we will explain in the next section.
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Me gustas literally means “I like you”, but, as we just said, “I like you” doesn’t have the same meaning in Spanish and English. While, in English, we can say “I like you” to a friend or a person we just met and found nice, in Spanish, Me gustas has a romantic connotation.
In general, only say Me gustas to someone you are attracted to in a romantic way; it is a way to express that you have a little crush on them. If it’s more than a little crush, you can say Estoy enamorado de ti (“I’m in love with you”).
In short, if you like someone, you can tell them “Me caes bien.” If you like like someone, you can tell them Me gustas.
There are some variants of Me gustas. You can also say Gusto de ti. This is common in countries where the pronoun vos is used instead of tú, such as Argentina, Uruguay, and some regions of Colombia and Central America. So, in these cases, you need to change the pronoun tú to vos. Therefore, instead of saying Yo gusto de ti, you should say Yo gusto de vos.
In short, both te amo and te quiero express love and affection. Although none have romantic implications per se (you can also say te amo to a very close friend or family member, for example), they are both often used in romantic relationships; while other expressions such as te aprecio, te adoro, te estimo or Me caes bien work best in other contexts. It all really depends on how you feel about that person!