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Spanish 101 Feliz día de San Valentín

02 | 05 | 2009

Spanish 101 Valentine's DayThe holiday known as St. Valentine's Day in the United States and Canada is sometimes referred to as el día de San Valentín in the Spanish-speaking world, but it also goes by descriptive names such as el día de los enamorados (the day for those in love) or el día del amor y la amistad (love and friendship day). However you celebrate the day, here are some words and phrases that will help you celebrate it in Spanish!

It has been said that most important three-word sentence in the English language is 'I love you.'

So…if you want to tell someone you love him or her in Spanish, do you say te amo or te quiero? Any good dictionary will tell you that either amar or querer (and even some other verbs such as desear [I want you!; lustful], gustar [I like you.] and encantar [more than just liking; enchanting; “this guy really makes me crazy!”) can be translated in some contexts as "to love." [Thank you to Tere for her help with the definitions in the above paragraph! :-D]

As with all language it depends on context as well as where in the Spanish-speaking world you are. In an appropriate context, neither te quiero nor te amo is likely to be misunderstand as a way of expressing love. But there can be some subtle differences:


Te quiero / Te amo:
Literally te quiero means "I want you," but how it is intended depends on the look in their eyes when they say it!
Te quiero is the most common way to express romantic love (and human affection in general) in the real world.
Te quiero is appropriate for any love — spouse, friend, parents, siblings.
Te amo, though it means literally "I love you," is more rarely used. I would say, only when you're feeling specially romantic.


I love you. I love strawberries. The score is love all. They made love. I would love to see you.


Does "love" mean the same thing in all of the above sentences? Obviously not. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that there are many words in Spanish that can be translated as "love." Use the verb amar or the noun amor to translate all the above sentences, and you'll sound foolish at best.
The idea that almost any word in one language can be translated into just one or two words in another language can lead to serious mistakes in vocabulary. Similarly, the fact that literally dozens of words can be used to translate even a simple word such as "love" is one thing that makes computerized translation so maddeningly undependable. Understanding context is one key to effective translation.


Here are some of the most important ways to say "love" in Spanish, but there are others. In the lists sometimes you will find alternative translations in parentheses following the Spanish word.

  • afición (enthusiasm): Tiene afición por las cosas de su tierra. She has a love for the things of her land.
  • amado (sweetheart) 
  • amante (lover) 
  • amorío (love affair) 
  • amiga / o (friend)
  • amistad (friendship) 
  • amor (pure love, romantic love) 
  • amor a primera vista (love at first sight) 
  • amor mío (my love) 
  • anillo de compromiso (Engagement ring)
  • argollas matrimoniales (Wedding rings)
  • aventura amorosa (love affair) 
  • boda (wedding)
  • canción de amor (love song) 
  • cariño (sweetheart) (cariño is used for either male or female)
  • carta de amor (love letter) 
  • cero (score in tennis): Cero a cero. Love all. 
  • Cupido (Cupid)
  • enamorado / a (In love)
  • enamorarse (to fall in love with): Me enamoré de una bruja. I fell in love with a witch.
  • estar enamorado (to be in love): Estoy enamorada de él. I am in love with him. 
  • luna de miel (Honeymoon)
  • me quiere, no me quiere (she loves me, she loves me not) 
  • mi amor (my love) 
  • novia (girlfriend or Bride)
  • novio (boyfriend or Groom)
  • padrino (best man)
  • pasión (passion, not necessarily romantic): Tiene una pasión por vivir, una pasión por saber. He has a love of living, a love of knowledge.
  • periquito (love bird or parakeet) 
  • por el amor de (for the love of): Por el amor de una rosa, el jardinero es servidor de mil espinas. For the love of a rose, the gardener is the servant of a thousand thorns.
  • por pura afición (for the pure love of it, just for the love of it): Toca el piano por pura afición. She plays the piano just for the love of it. 
  • querido (sweetheart) 
  • recuerdos (regards): Mándale recuerdos míos. Send him my love.

"Love" as a verb

  • amar (to love, to love romantically): Te amo. I love you. 
  • encantar (indicating strong like): Me encanta escribir. I love to write. 
  • gustar mucho (indicating strong like): Me gusta mucho este sofá. I love this sofa. 
  • querer (to love romantically, to want): Te quiero. I love you.

¡Me gusta mucho el Día de Valentin... yo espero que a usted también le guste!


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