comparatives in spanish

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 in Spanish

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:

  1. More -> más
  2. Less -> menos
  3. Equal -> igual

Comparatives in Spanish

comparatives in spanish

Comparative adjectives in English can be formed in two ways:

  1. By adding –er to the end of the adjective.

Hungry -> hungrier

  1. By inserting the word ‘more’ before the adjective.

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)

Example:

  • Diego es más simpático que Eduardo. -> Diego is funnier than Eduardo.
  • Julia es más bonita que Laura. -> Julia is prettier than Laura.
  • Los plátanos son más dulces que las manzanas. -> The bananas are sweeter than the apples.

Adjective Agreement in Comparisons

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. 

Example:

  • Laura es más simpática que Eduardo.
  • Laura y Carmen son más simpáticas que Eduardo.
  • Laura y Diego son más simpáticos que Eduardo.

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:

  • Inteligente -> Smart
  • Interesante -> Interesting
  • Idealista -> Idealistic
  • Entusiasta -> Enthusiastic
  • Verde -> Green
  • Azul -> Blue
  • Gris -> Grey
  • Grande -> Big/Large
  • Amable -> Nice
  • Fácil -> Easy
  • Feliz -> Happy
  • Joven -> Young
  • Exterior -> Exterior/Outdoor

Example:

  • Andrés es menos inteligente que Carlos. -> Andrés is less intelligent than Carlos.
  • Tomasina es menos inteligente que Ana. -> Tomasina is less intelligent than Ana.
  • Los elefantes son menos inteligentes que las ratas. -> The elephants are less intelligent than the rats.
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Comparisons of Equality

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)

Example:

  • La Torre Eiffel es tan alta como el edicio más alto de mi ciudad natal. ->The Eiffel Tower is as tall as the tallest building in my hometown.
  • Mi perro es tan ágil como una gacela. -> My dog is as agile as a gazelle.

  In addition, you could use the following expressions:

  1. Same as -> lo mismo que
  2. Equal to -> igual a
  3. Equivalent to -> equivalente a
  4. Identical to -> idéntico/a a
  5. Similar to -> similar a
  6. As much as -> tanto como

Example:

  • Una fortaleza es lo mismo que una ciudad fortificada. -> A fortress is the same as a fortified city.
  • Esa chamarra es igual a la mía. -> That jacket is equal to mine.
  • Tres retardos son equivalentes a una falta. -> Three retardments are equivalent to an absence.
  • La dieta del chimpancé es similar a la dieta del orangután. -> The chimpancee’s diet is similar to the orangutan’s.
  • ¿Me quieres tanto como yo a ti? -> Do you love me as much as I love you?

You can add a NO to make it a negative:

  • La milanesa no es lo mismo que la arrachera. -> The milanesa is not the same as the arrachera.
superlatives in spanish

Spanish Superlatives

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:

  • La comida está riquísima. -> The food is truly delicious.
  • Estás guapísimo. -> You are really handsome.

Spanish superlatives are classified as follows:

  1. Absolut: used to express the maximum degree.
  2. Regular: just add the suffix –ísimo to the root 

Example:

Alto -> altísimo(tall -> tallest)

The suffix should agree in gender and number:

ísimo/ísima/ísimos/ísimas

  • Irregular: these have their own form so you must memorize and practice them.

Example:

Pobre -> paupérrimo (poor -> poorest)

  1. Relative: used to denote the maximum quality of a subject compared to a group. It is constructed with the preposition ‘de’ (of).

Example:

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:

  • The best -> mejor -> el mejor/la mejor/las mejores/los mejores
  • The worst -> peor -> el peor/la peor/las peores/los peores

Example:

  • Las quesadillas de Doña Gloria son las más baratas de la ciudad. -> Doña Gloria’s quesadillas are the cheapest of the city.
  • La comida de mi abuela es la mejor del mundo. -> My grandma’s food is the best in the world.
  • El Bugatti Veyron Super Sport es el auto más veloz de Italia. -> The Bugatti Veyron Super Sport is the fastest car in Italy. 
  • Los estados del centro fueron los menos afectados del país por el huracán. -> The central states were the least affected by the hurracane.
comparisons in spanish

Lastly, here is a list of the most common irregular comparatives and their superlatives:

ADJECTIVE/ADVERB COMPARATIVE SUPERLATIVE
Good Bueno Better Mejor Best Buenísimo
Bad Malo Worse Peor Worst Malísimo
Small Pequeño/chico Smaller Menor Smallest Pequeñísimo
Big Grande Bigger Mayor Biggest Grandísimo
Old Viejo Older Mayor Oldest Viejísimo
Young Joven Younger Menor Youngest Jovencísimo

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:

INCORRECT:

  • Eso es lo más peor que me podría pasar.

CORRECT:

  • Eso es lo peor que me podría pasar.
  • Eso es lo más malo que me podría pasar.

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