In Spanish, Te amo (I love you) has more romantic feeling than saying Te quiero.

The last one is used as a friendly way of saying I love you, but without romantic purposes.

However, if translated to English (Te quiero), the expression would be I want you, which doesn't have the same meaning as the spanish expression.

Is there an expression for saying you love someone, but as a friendly way?

Some translations occur to me, including I like you, or I care about you, but I still think the meaning is not the same (maybe I'm wrong).

Examples would be saying it to a close friend, family member or pet, which shows affection, but not romantic feelings.

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    For a family member or pet, we still say "I love you", and no romantic interest is implied or inferred. However, you would not, for example, say it to a close friend.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 12:31
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    It doesn't get a whole lot friendlier than "I love you."
    – Robusto
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 13:34
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    @DanBron. Apparently, the rule is that you can say I love you to a friend, as long as you add one extra word: I love you, man. I have never tried this myself.
    – TRiG
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 19:20
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    Welcome to the nightmare of a language that only has one word for a wide variety of important sentiments. In casual settings among same-gender people, "I love you, no homo" is something people actually say. Jokingly, but it highlights the lack of word variety. For opposite genders you just mostly just have to hope it's clear through body language and circumstances or, more reliably, just avoid saying it at all if there's any doubt as to its interpretation.
    – JamieB
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 21:49
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    Just as a side note for any non-native speakers who are unaware. In English the phrase I want you is almost always intended sexually. Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 16:59

14 Answers 14


If you drop the 'I' it becomes less one-on-one - 'Love You' suggests a generic love for a person - like a rock band or an actress - 'We love you Paul' isn't a personal love, or the hippy 'free love' of the 1960's - 'Luvin' You Man', would go from Brother to Brother, regardless of skin color or religion beliefs. One may love the Lord in a passive way, and the Lord may love you back, but this has no method for determining the nature of the love, probably spiritual. Jesus Loves You, and I hope he will leave it at that.

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    People often use 'love you' at the end of say phonecalls to relatives. The 'I' definitely makes it more 'romantic'.
    – immutabl
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:44
  • Agree. In fact, rephrasing the sentiment into a simple compliment or statement of endearment works even better. "You're so dear to me." It's the emphasis on "I" that makes it lean toward romantic interest. I suppose this is a difference in how conjugation works between English and "romance languages." English requires the use of the subject pronoun, where the romance languages have the option of leaving it off and implying it through verb conjugation. This gives those languages an ability to be more conservative in expressing a feeling. Does "Yo te quiero" imply romance? I bet it does.
    – Calphool
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 18:59
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    Love(d) you(r answer)
    – ave
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 21:55
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    agree. removing the 'I' somehow reduces the sincerity and makes it less formal. Similar to removing 'You', when commanding ('Carry me' instead you 'You carry me'). while I agree with this answer, I feel the use of 'love you' is truly for departing salutations, and wouldn't fit in other situations. In the end, I feel it is best, outside of salutations, to qualify the affinity ("love you like a...").
    – 1c1cle
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 3:27
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    Mati, be very careful with this. When a man and a woman meet and start interacting, maybe go out or talk once or twice, if one ends a conversation or a text with "luv' ya" it very much means something. When you talk to your cat, male friends, etc, say anything. But be very very careful using "love" when you are talking to a woman (particularly since you are spanish -- English-speaking girls love guys with accents :) ) Even if you say "I love your clothes" or "I love your record collection" it is often meant to be a first small step in, uh, well there are about three more steps.
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 4:13

I often tell friends both male and female that I love them; I don't think it's necessary to diminish the sentiment with flippant phrasing just because it's not romantic love. We don't do this for our family members, and they don't assume we mean we love them in a romantic way. I say trust in the existing context of your relationship; it isn't necessary to quantify or confine it in a single statement.

If you're concerned about the message being misconstrued though, you could add a qualifier, for example: "I love you like a sister" or "I love you like a brother". That would make the nature of the affection clear.

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    Perhaps you do, but I'm guessing by your profile picture that you're female. Males do not do this- well, qualifier; straight males do not do this. In the same way that men are not socially permitted to cry, we are not allowed to say we love people. While it's relatively common for girls to say to their friends that they love those friends, it is very uncommon the other way round. Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 4:32
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    @ParthianShot I think you have bundled 3.5 billion men into one here :) Even in the US and UK I would say it is all in the context and tone of how you say it.
    – Simd
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 10:49
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    @Lembik There are very, very few contexts where it makes any kind of sense, but there are plenty of contexts where it would be very inappropriate, awkward, or uncomfortable. And I'm only speaking for men in Western, English-speaking countries. The only guys I know who are constantly telling people they love them are either gay or affecting a gay accent and affectations for business reasons. Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 22:48

If you qualify the meaning further, you can use the "I love you" such as "You are decent person. I love you, bro". Also, if you are addressing to a group of friends you can say "I love you guys"

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    This is very interesting. However, those examples aim to same gender audience. What would be the I love you, bro equivalent to a female close friend? Thank you for your answer Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 14:07
  • You could use I love you, sis. But that sounds strange to me, I would prefer to say, I love you like a sister. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 17:13
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    @DoubleDouble That's rather awkward and formal. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 17:34
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    @LightnessRacesInOrbit If its just being thrown in with a casual conversation, or as a response to something, I would agree. I was thinking more of starting a conversation along those lines for some reason. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 18:04
  • Using "bro" is what immediately came to mind. I think you can even get away with saying this to a female friend (as a male) depending on the situation, though it's more likely to not be taken seriously. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 18:54

The meaning is as much about context and delivery as it is about wording. A sing-songy "Love ya!" as you're saying goodbye for the day can't be taken romantically. On the other hand, being physically close, locking eyes, and saying "I love you." with gravitas is difficult to take any way other than as a romantic gesture. John Mark Perry's answer, suggesting to drop the leading "I" to reduce personal connection, helps a lot to reduce the intensity of the phrase. It's not necessary, however: my friends and I say "I love you" to each other quite often, but in contexts and tones that are always appropriate to the nature of our relationships.



  • I am very fond of you

Be aware that in some cultures (Britain, US for example) non-romantic expressions such as "I like you" and "I am fond of you" can be used as ways to flirt or make romantic overtures, while making rejection less embarrassing.

I really like Jean's answer, and I also think your own translation of I care about you holds a lot of the (emotional attachment) meaning of "love" without implying romance.

Update I deleted the following section after comments by @MatiCicero and @ErikKowal. Mati explained that 'Te quiero' has more a meaning of non-romantic emotional attachment (fondness) rather than admiration, appreciation or finding someone agreeable or pleasing.

I found the Oxford Thesaurus entry for fond quite disappointing, as many of the suggestions were romantic, but there are a couple of interesting synonyms for like:

  • I think well of you (not as strong as love)
  • I hold you in high regard (a little formal and old-fashioned)
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    I suspect that most people would also regard "I think well of you" as rather formal and old-fashioned, not to say ambiguous: it can simply be an expression of general approval for the virtuousness of someone's character or moral behaviour that (depending on the context) may lack any connotations of emotional intimacy.
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 8:36

The best way I've come across for this sort of thing is phrases in the form "You're a" or "You're" .

For example:

  • "You're a good friend."
  • "You're awesome dude."
  • "You're a great guy."
  • "You're a real pal."

There are a few reasons why phrases like this tend to work well as a good expression of friendship. Firstly in the phrase "I love you" there are specifically two people involved, 'I' and 'you', which makes the sentence very personal. By focusing on just the other person instead, the sentence becomes slightly more impersonal, but retains the implied respect. Secondly, the 'love' is the subject of the sentence, which means it's also the part that gets the focus. By redirecting the subject of the sentence from 'love' to a good quality of the friend, it shows that there's a form of bond or admiration but avoids the other connotations of 'love'.

Things do vary between cultures though, in some places people would be perfectly comfortable with 'love' being used in a friendly way, but in some places (i.e. areas of Britain) it would be considered strange or awkward. As a rule of thumb it is best to avoid using 'love' in a friendly way until someone else does.


"Love" is a particularly widely-used word in the English language - to the point where in some areas it has lots its significance as a term of affection.

"I love you" would probably not go out of place when in the company of a very good friend, even one that you could be interested in romantically (and incidentally, "I want you" would definitely be a much more intense and forward way of saying you're romantically interested in a person).

If you want an alternative to instead express your approval of a person in a much less forward way, "I like you" works, though it'd be considered somewhat weak and non-commital. But you would be understood, and it's not likely that a person would take offense to this.

  • If you said "I really like you", depending on the tone it could convey the meaning that "I'm not really interested in you romantically" and perhaps not interested in you at all. I don't think we should substitute love for like they are very different.
    – kns98
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 16:48
  • @kns98 That's why I point out that it comes off as non-commital. The reason is it implies that "Love" is not an option. English is...notoriously extreme when it comes to this concept.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 17:07

I agree one can say "I love you" to a pet or family member (relative) without meaning anything romantic. You could also say "I love you" to a friend, including a close friend without meaning anything romantic. One assumes that friends, especially when romantic feelings could arise or even be present within at least person, talk about the status of their relationship using more than three words.

In addition, one can say "I love me some Jennifer", for example, to express a friendly, nonromantic love to a friend, including when romantic feelings may exist. Some may consider this usage kind of slangy. (But then a lot of friendships among Americans are slangy and superficial.) Saying "I care about you", on the other hand, is a good way of avoiding saying "I love you" to a friend, including when romantic feelings may be present.

  • "(But then a lot of friendships among Americans are slangy and superficial.)" They seem to prefer it that way: perhaps it's an adaptation to all that aspirational social and geographical mobility, which involves many relationships tending to be transactionally-based rather than being founded on a perception of commonality or natural affinity.
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 8:46

If you are simply stating your feelings, I would use, "I love you like a (brother/sister)". Or, "I love you like the (brother/sister) I've never had."

It might be more wordy than Te quiero, but it clearly gets the emotion across that you love them like a member of your own family rather than romantically, if you are worried that I love you will sound romantic. Which, by itself, is fine - if they are a close friend they should understand what you mean.

  • I love you, (bro/sis) is a shortened and more casual form which is better for expressing your feeling of fondness/friendship at that moment (say your friend gave you an awesome gift) or as a parting. The I is optional, and you could use the slang ya instead of you.

love ya, bro

  • I thought I'd add as a comment that in my area, (Midwest U.S.), it would be strange to end a conversation with a friend with love ya, bro. I think this is more due to the American culture and there being a social expectation that males are "manly" and don't need to express "fond" emotions - but that is a gender stereotype and shouldn't stop anyone from doing so. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 17:51

In English, the best is

I love you like chocolate.


The problem is the word "love" (like many words) quite simply has a number of (utterly unrelated) meanings .. about three distinct meanings, I believe. SO, you can use an example sentence to show what you mean. If you say "I love you like Juliet loved Romeo" it is then fairly clear. Conversely if you "love" them like you "love chocolate chip" that is also clear.

  • love is an anagram of 'vole'
    – JMP
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 10:57
  • I cant say I want to do the same things to my friends as I would like to do to chocolate...
    – clathratus
    Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 2:07

For American men in a certain age range (say, 25-50) "I love you, man" is a common way to express an explicitly non-romantic brotherly love. The expression was popularized by a television commercial circa early 2000s, and is nearly always used in a joking or ironic way that helps neutralize the emotional riskiness of the statement (the generic identifier "man" also serves to depersonalize the intimacy).

For a while the phrase "no homo" was used among a smaller, younger subculture to explicitly disclaim any homosexual intentions attached to expressions of affection between friends of the same gender --that usage seems to be fading, perhaps because it seems homophobic.

I'm not personally aware of similar constructions to be used specifically between female friends, or in cross-gender friendships --maybe those awaken fewer anxieties.

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    Regarding "no homo", you can always toss in "no hetero" ("I love you, no hetero") with an opposite-sex friend to make your (lack of) intentions clear and poke fun at homophobia at the same time. Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 7:05

I would just use "I love you" and leave it up to context. Don't be squeamish. Your intentions will be carried over automatically. If you want to do it on social media use can use the I <3 you. People will know where you are coming from.


The short answer is no - there's no separate expression for it. As others have said, it's generally left up to tone and context, so knowing what to say and how to say it it just something you come to feel.

"I love you", said deadpan, is unmistakably romantic. But modifiers can make the statement more casual and platonic. "Love you man" or "love you bro" isn't uncommon between close male friends. And "love you!", with a certain inflection, is normal between female friends, some mixed friends, and family.

There's been some suggestions about other words you could use, but the same thing applies, and if not certain on usage I would stay away. Openly expressing affection in that one-on-one tone - sayings such as "I like you" or "I really care about you" - would usually imply a potential romance.


An unromanticized version yet unmentioned:

I’ve got love for you.

I’ve also heard/said “mad love”, which is a slangy, regional way of indicating non-romantic love.

They can be fruitfully combined:

(I’ve) got mad love for you, bro!

The term can also be used on its own as a farewell:

See ya! Mad love!

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