Using Spanish Verbs of Love and Desire

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How Do You Feel?

A Spanish Valentine card reads Te Amo for I love you and certainly it expresses romantic love, but it also expresses the kind of love that is bigger – such as that known in Greek as agape. The verb amar can also express filial love – Platonic love – and paternal and maternal love. Context, if known, will clear up the difference. Context, if not known, could cause unintended expectations.

Likewise, Te quiero means I love you and is the more generally used expression of romantic love. However, as anyone can tell by looking in a dictionary, the verb querer also means to want. So, in a very real and honest way, when one says Te quiero, he or she is expressing a romantic love – with its necessary ingredient of eros.

The verb desear is strictly a verb that expresses desire. If this verb is used in a romantic context, it is strictly being used in an erotic sense. Yet, when it is not used with a person as the object of the action, it simply means to want.

María, te deseo (Mary, I desire you). – Clearly an erotic overture.

Deseo una taza de chocolate (I’d like a cup of hot chocolate). – Obviously just a verb expressing want.

Expanding our horizons in the world of love and desire, the verb adorar is both religious and romantic. We can observe that the ancient Egyptians adored cats, for instance. In this context it means to worship and adore. The verb adorar is also used to express, hyperbolically, one’s romantic love, as in to cherish and adore:

Los antiguos egipcios adoraban los gatos (The ancient Egyptians worshipped cats).

¡No te imaginas cuánto te adoro! (You can’t imagine how much I adore you!)

Other verbs that refer to romantic love include enamorarse de which is the equivalent of to fall in love with, but it really means to be enamored of:

Juan se enamoró de María (John fell in love with Mary). Note that it literally says John became enamored of Mary.

The same verb gives us the adjective: enamorado, with all its other forms, feminine and plurals. The other expression related to this is estar enamorado/a de – to be in love with.

Juana está enamorada de Carlos (Juana is in love with Carlos).


  • Author’s more than 20 years experience teaching and translating Spanish.

This post is part of the series: Spanish Usage

The articles in this series deal with various questions about the right choice of word or phrase when English may have one or two structures but Spanish has more. They often deal with prepositional issues.

  1. Spanish Usage Questions: “Above”
  2. Using “Actual” and “Actually” in Spanish
  3. A Problem Preposition: The Ways “About” is Expressed in Spanish
  4. The Many Spanish Faces of the English Verb “to Agree”
  5. Spanish Usage Questions: Ways to say “Again”
  6. Expressing the Many Meanings of After
  7. Spanish Usage Questions: How to Say “Ahead”
  8. Spanish Usage Questions: “Anyone” and “Anybody”
  9. Using “Anyway…” in Spanish
  10. Let’s Learn About How to Talk About Appointments & Dating
  11. What Do You Use for “Around” in Spanish
  12. The Spanish Verbs Meaning “to Ask” are Many!
  13. Beware of False Cognates! How to Express “Attend,” “Assist,” and “Help”
  14. Are You “Cool” or “Cold”? Explore the Nuances in Spanish
  15. The Difference Between “Why” and “Because” in Spanish
  16. The Temporal and Spacial Meanings of “Before”: How to Get it Right in Spanish
  17. Don’t Be Left in the Dust! Learn to Express the Meanings of “Behind” in Spanish
  18. Get the Low Down on the Preposition “Below” and Say it Right in Spanish!
  19. Understand Saying “Help” in Spanish
  20. Translating “Beside” & “Besides” into Spanish: Interesting Solutions!
  21. Not all Meanings of “But” Are Equal!
  22. Expressing the Various Meanings of the Preposition “By” in Spanish
  23. What Can the English Word “Can” Mean and How to Get it Right in Spanish
  24. Spanish Usage Questions: “Corner”
  25. The Word “Country” in Spanish
  26. The Various Meanings of “Outweigh” in English and How to Express Them in Spanish
  27. Expressing the Idea of “Ownership” in Spanish
  28. How to Express “Time & Distance” in Spanish
  29. Treat, Try, Attempt, Deal with… In Spanish, You Probably Need “Tratar”
  30. Spanish Usage Questions: “Having Fun”
  31. Even a Word Like “Even” Has Many Counterparts in Spanish
  32. Don’t Go Wrong When You Look for Ways to Express “to fail”
  33. Do You Mean “Fair” Weather, a “Fair” Game or a “Fair” Complexion? Learn How to Say Them in Spanish!
  34. Love, Desire and Wanting – Spanish Style!
  35. Discover the Right Spanish Verbs for Taking, Holding, Grabbing… and More
  36. You Have Nothing to Fear Except Not Knowing How to Say “Fear” in Spanish!
  37. Spanish Equivalents of the Common English Word “Find”
  38. Discover the Various Meanings of “Middle” and How to Say Them in Spanish
  39. Not All Spanish Words Meaning “Worker” Are Created Equal