Good, better, or best? Today we’re going to look at how to navigate Spanish comparatives and superlatives and learn how to use them appropriately.
Comparisons are appraisals that show a relationship of contrast between two or more nouns, be it places, animals, objects, concepts or people.
Grammatically speaking, they are commonly used to manifest one’s judgment or assessment of the particular qualities of the subject. Hence, a comparative construction is formed with an adjective and/or the adverb.
A comparison, in English as in Spanish, expresses three degrees: more, less or equal. That is, the quality of being more (greater in amount or degree), less (smaller amount or lower in rank and degree) or equivalent to something else.
Let’s go over the key words:
Comparative adjectives in English can be formed in two ways:
Hungry -> hungrier
Beautiful -> more beautiful
In contrast, Spanish only allows for the second option. There is no equivalent to the –er alternative. It is always done by placing the words ‘more’ or ‘less’ before the adjective.
Thus, a simple positive comparison such as “Ricardo is more intelligent than Gabriel” would translate to “Ricardo es más inteligente que Gabriel”.
To make a comparison of inequality (between two things that are different because of the level of any of their characteristics) you must use the adverbs más and menos.
The winning formulas that you need to memorize look like this:
MORE + ADJECTIVE + THAN
(more + fun + than)
MÁS + ADJECTIVE + QUE
(más + divertido + que)
LESS + ADJECTIVE + THAN
(less + fun + than)
MENOS + ADJECTIVE + QUE
(menos + divertido + que)
Notice how there is a concordance of gender and number. The adjective is modified to fit the noun, whether is singular or plural, and feminine or masculine.
In the first sentence, the subject ‘Diego’ is masculine and singular; therefore the adjective is ‘simpático’. In addition, notice how the verb ‘to be’ (ser) changes accordingly.
Some common adjectives work for both masculine and feminine nouns/pronouns, but these tend to be the exception to the rule.
Here are just a few:
To compare two things “that are the same” according to certain qualities or characteristics you use this formula:
AS + ADJECTIVE + AS
(as + tall + as)
TAN + ADJECTIVE + COMO
(tan + alto + como)
In addition, you could use the following expressions:
You can add a NO to make it a negative:
Now that you are familiarized with the format of comparisons in Castilian you will find that superlatives are relatively easy to grasp.
A superlative could be understood as an exaggerated form of an adjective or adverb, essentially a qualifier. These are some popular phrases that you may hear from Spanish speakers:
Spanish superlatives are classified as follows:
Alto -> altísimo(tall -> tallest)
The suffix should agree in gender and number:
Pobre -> paupérrimo (poor -> poorest)
Rosa es la mayor de sus hermanas. -> Rosa is the oldest of her sisters.
Keeping this in mind is crucial because nailing it will really elevate your Spanish game and make you sound like a native speaker!
Read outloud and practice:
Lastly, here is a list of the most common irregular comparatives and their superlatives:
And as a final point, consider the sentence “That would be the worst that could happen to me”. How would you translate it? Think of your answer and spot the mistake:
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