Valentine’s Day is this weekend and, as you get ready to tell your loved ones how much you care about them, be sure you’re using the right term of affection! In English, we have it pretty easy. “I love you,” can be used in a serious sense to our significant others, to our families and close friends, and even playfully on a child’s Valentine’s Day treat. But in Spanish, it’s not so simple.

Believe it or not, it can be tricky to translate terms of affection in some languages. In Spanish, there are different expressions that mean, “I love you,” each falling on a different spot of the love spectrum. The two most popular are, “Te Amo” and “Te Quiero.” Both translate to mean, “I love you,” but they do not share the same context. One is extremely serious and romantic in nature, while and the other is more casual.

When to Use Te Amo vs Te Quiero
Yet another reason why you can’t pop it into Google Translate…
It will translate both phrases to, “I love you,” but they are not the same.

How do you know which one to use? (Better question: How does an automatic translation tool, like Google Translate, know when to use which one?)

Te Quiero

Literally translated to, “I want you,” te quiero is most appropriate for expressing love to family, close friends, or significant others. Breaking it down even further, “querer” is like saying friends, cousins – hence the less romantic nature of this phrase.

When to use it:

  • Good or close friends
  • Significant other (girlfriend/boyfriend)
  • Extended family

Te Amo

This phrase translates to, “I love you.” This is not something you’d say to a long-time friend or a 2nd cousin. Saying te amo is much more romantic and affectionate, and should be reserved for serious relationships and immediate family members.

When to use it:

  • Spouse
  • Immediate family

Correct Phrasing Is Important

These are just two of the more common ways to express your love in Spanish this Valentine’s Day. Even from this seemingly simple phrase, it’s easy to see how something more complex, like a business translation, should not be left up to an online tool or “a neighbor who knows Spanish.”

If you type, “I love you” into Google Translate, chances are you may not get the phrase that correctly gauges the level of love you’re wishing to express.

Spanish Translation for Businesses

“Te Amo” versus “Te Quiero” is just one example of the subtle intricacies of the Spanish language, and how important cultural nuances and contextual cues are to communicating your message properly.

To learn more about how professional Spanish translation services can help you, please send us a message using the form in the sidebar. One of our translators will be in touch with you shortly!

Elsa Jimenez is a native Spanish speaker who was born and raised in a Hispanic country. She is an accomplished lawyer and translator who has been living and working in the U.S. for many years and is also a member of the American Translators Association.

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