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I've been... seeing this girl for about half a year. We're not officially together, but we're pretty playful and there's a lot of flirting. We like each other..

She speaks fluent english but is a native spanish-speaker. Tonight she was pretty drunk and chatting with me on facebook, and right before going to bed she says (quote):

Her: Teqyeiiei:)
Her: Te quiero :+
Her: :)

Ummm what does this mean? I know it can kinda mean "I love you," but given where we're currently at that really doesn't make sense in the way it would if said in English. How should I take this? :\

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3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

There is a spectrum of attraction and affection, which of course exists in both English and Spanish. How one expresses their level of affection and attraction along the spectrum is a difficult thing to pin-point in any language, and often subject to interpretation, body language, and other clues. But generally speaking, I think it's fairly safe to say that Spanish is a bit more precise than English in this regard.

In general, the progression seems to be, in English:

  • I like you.
  • I love you.

In Spanish:

  • Me caes bien.
  • Me gustas.
  • Te quiero.
  • Te amo.

So clearly, Spanish has a higher resolution in this regard, which makes translating difficult. But it needn't make understanding difficult. We compensate for this weakness of the English language by adding a lot of extra context. If we want to say "Me caes bien" in English, we do this by adding a lot of extra (and often clumsy) words, or by completely rephrasing, to get away from the ambiguous "I like you", and a possible romantic mis-interpretation:

  • I like you, as a friend.
  • You are a great friend.
  • You are a great person.
  • I enjoy spending time with you.

When we're more squarely in the "romantic" realm, a simple "I like you" is more common in English.

Then somewhere between "I like you" and "I love you" is a big grey area in English, which is largely covered in Spanish with "Te quiero." In English, the moral equivalent to "Te quiero" would be things like:

  • Love ya!
  • ILY. (Acronym for "I Love You", but very informal)
  • I love you. -- But in contexts, situations, or said with a tone which indicates a playful/less serious intention.

And finally, "I love you", complete with all the commitment issues between partners, or as you might say to your mother, is "Te amo" in Spanish.

It's important to note that in both languages, it's acceptable and common to use the "lesser" phrases even between people who are more familiar. As an example, just because I love my mother, doesn't mean I couldn't tell my mother "Love ya!" as I'm walking out the door. And just because I might say "Te amo" to my wife doesn't mean I couldn't also say "Te quiero" or "Me gustas mucho", when the situation called for it.

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Thanks for the detailed explanation :) –  nzifnab Dec 27 '13 at 20:06
    
When you hear "I like you, as a friend" from a girl, something is wrong. You never wanna hear that :-) –  Tomas Jan 14 at 14:37
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@Tomas: I dunno... there have been times when hearing that would have been a great relief :) –  Flimzy Jan 14 at 17:47
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I translate like:

Her: Teqyeiiei:) ===> Drunk effect when texting
Her: Te quiero :+ ===> Te quiere y quiere hacértelo saber, 
                       I like you...but is an incomplete translation
                       También se usa mucho cuando quieres despedirte 
                       cariñosamente.
                       Also used a lot when you want to say goodbye affectionately
Her: :) ===> Happy face... means good night

The problem with this phrase is in english we use I love you for everything unlike spanish.

I recomend listen a Jose Jose's song Amar y querer

In spanish querer does not mean the same as amar.

En español querer no significa lo mismo que amar

In your context I vote for this used a lot when you want to say goodbye affectionately

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Thaaaat makes a lot more sense, thanks! –  nzifnab Dec 21 '13 at 9:27
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you can sleep now easy...lol –  Emilio Gort Dec 21 '13 at 9:33
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Now the question is... why did she choose to say it in spanish when she knows I hardly know any hahaha –  nzifnab Dec 21 '13 at 9:41
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@nzifnab She said so in Spanish because when one is utterly drunk uses to use mother tongue. Do not worry. –  Envite Dec 21 '13 at 10:54
    
Personally, I only say "Te quiero" to my boyfriend and my family members. If I want to say goodbye affectionatelly I say "Un beso", "Besos", ":*" or something like that, but never "Te quiero". I know that this depends on the person completely, but just to keep in mind. –  itziki May 14 at 9:14
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In South America:

"Te amo" -> "I love you"

You can use this in a serious relationship, or where you really felt in love. Also you can use it with family members.

"Te quiero" -> "I love you"

It is not used in a serious context and is used as "Te amo" but with less intensity. You can use this for pretty close friends, girlfriend, family members, pets.

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