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The words amar and querer according to RAE are synonyms; however, in Colombia, at least, amar is considered a stronger feeling, a highest level of love, if you can say that.

For example, I can tell a good friend of mine te quiero mucho but I never tell my daughter te quiero. I either tell her: te amo or te adoro. Conversely, I don't tell my good friend te amo

Another example: When you are starting a relationship with a girl, you start telling her te quiero and as time goes by and your feelings start to grow stronger, you start telling her te amo.

Regarding adorar, RAE does indicate that adorar is a stronger feeling than amar:

tr. Amar con extremo.

So my two questions are:

  1. In your country, the word amar is also considered a higher level of love (for lack of a better description) compared to querer?
  2. Assuming it does, how would you say te amo in English? (I only know I love you but I feel that it lacks something...)
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Related:… – jrdioko Jan 25 '12 at 15:47
@jrdioko Thanks, indeed related. This site didn't suggest it but I still think my question is somewhat different to the one you linked. – Icarus Jan 25 '12 at 15:53
up vote 5 down vote accepted

In connection to Laura's answer, I don't think that "amar" is nearly out of use in Spain. It does belong to a different register of speech, though, than "querer". For example, when I talk with my wife, I tell her "te quiero", but rarely (possibly never) "te amo". "Querer" belongs to colloquial speech, whereas "amar" belongs to a more poetic and cultivated register. "Nos amábamos de un modo inexplicable en aquellos días" is a sentence that employs "amar" with clear poetic connotations; you would probably find it in a novel or other literary work rather than hear it in the street.

So, in summary, and according to my experience, "amar" is alive and kicking in Spain, but not necessarily in everyday's colloquial language. This doesn't mean it's out of use.

With regard to "adorar", again, is a very strong word, and therefore is often used to convey extremely strong feelings or in a poetic or exaggerated setting. One can say colloquially "adoro las manzanas" to express that he/she loves apples a lot, and this usage is pretty common in Spain from my experience.

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Beyond the style aspect (colloquial vs poetic) would you consider amar as a stronger feeling than querer or not at all? – Icarus Jan 25 '12 at 16:28
@Icarus: If you are speaking colloquially, then "amar" would convey a stronger feeling than "querer", definitely. If, on the contrary, you were writing a piece of literature, than I'd say they are equivalent. What's more, in this case you probably wouldn't use "querer" at all but "amar" all the time. – CesarGon Jan 25 '12 at 16:32
@CesarGon: This may be the case in Spain, but it is totally wrong as a use of the word in Spanish. Every single couple I know from Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, and Colombia use "te amo" because they feel a very strong kind of love between each other. Also "adorar" even though your example is accurate some people, especially very religious ones, use it exclusively in reference to God. – Sergio Romero Apr 30 '12 at 21:37
@SergioRomero: That is fair enough. I made clear in my answer that I am speaking about Spanish in Spain. I am aware that language usage varies greatly across regions, so it may well be different elsewhere. No problem with that. – CesarGon Apr 30 '12 at 22:08

In Spain "amar" (at least in my area - Mallorca) is nearly out of use and we use "querer" for all the situations you proposed, if you want to emphasize you add "mucho" or "muchísimo"

  • Quiero mucho a mis hijos
  • Quiero a mis amigos

"Adorar" is used as "amar in extremo" but never seriously, always ironically or with sarcasm or joking.

  • "Te quiero, te adoro, te compro un loro" (I love you, I adore you, I'm buying you a parrot) it's a "usual" joke.

  • Another example could be someone after joking or beig clumsy or... "pero me quieres igual" (But you love me anyway) "Sí, te adoro" (Yes, I adore you).

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+1 @Laura Thanks. Let's see if other participants on this site confirm that amar is falling out of use in other regions of Spain. – Icarus Jan 25 '12 at 16:04
I also think that amar is not very used. You can hear it in films and such, but not in everyday use. Regarding adorar, I think it is used without an ironical tone, but it is not used much, either. In fact, I would say it's more usually used in the "gustar de algo extremadamente" meaning, rather than the "amar con extremo", or even, taking the second meaning of adorable (encantador), as encontrar adorable. – MikMik Jan 26 '12 at 9:52
@MikMik Maybe it's more regional than we think? If someone says to me "adoro las manzanas" it wouls sound strange or an enormous exageration... – Laura Jan 26 '12 at 18:36

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