Comparatives and Superlatives in Spanish

       

Comparatives

When writing or talking it is often useful to compare one thing to something else in order to get a point across. This comparison generally takes one of two forms: a comparison of inequality (e.g. "the student is smarter than his teacher") or a comparison of equality (e.g. "Ronaldo is as fast as a cheetah").

Unequal Comparisons

Unequal Comparisons with Adjectives

In English, we typically add "-er" to an adjective and combine it with the word "than" to make unequal comparisons. In Spanish, however, we can't just add "-er" to an adjective. Instead we need to use the word más in front of our adjective. And instead of "than" we'll use que.

El estudiante es más inteligente que su maestro.
The student is smarter than his teacher.

So our Spanish formula looks like this:

más + adjective + que

Some more examples:

Juana es más alta que Rigoberta.
Juana is taller than Rigoberta.

El libro es más largo que la Biblia.
The book is longer than the Bible.

Unequal Comparisons with Nouns and Adverbs

But we don't need to limit ourselves to adjectives. We can apply this formula to adverbs and nouns as well:

más + adverb + que
más + noun + que

Some adverb examples:

Alberto trabaja más rápidamente que Ramón.
Alberto works more quickly than Ramón.

Consuelo conduce más cuidadosamente que Sabrina.
Consuelo drives more cautiously than Sabrina.

Some noun examples:

Isabel tiene más dinero que Óscar.
Isabel has more money than Óscar.

Hay más días en diciembre que en febrero.
There are more days in December than in February.

Unequal Comparisons with Verbs

We can also use a similar construction to make unequal comparisons based on verbs:

verb + más que

Some verb examples:

Paulo estudia más que Jorge.
Paulo studies more than Jorge.

Mi perro ladra más que tu perro.
My dog barks more than your dog.

We don't need to limit ourselves to saying más, we can also use menos.

El álgebra es menos interesante que la química.
Algebra is less interesting than chemistry.

El Sr. Lopez habla menos claramente que el Sr. Gutierrez.
Mr. Lopez speaks less clearly than Mr. Gutierrez.

Raquel tiene menos amigas que Alegría.
Raquel has less (fewer) friends than Alegría.

Pepe corre menos que Rafael.
Pepe runs less than Rafael.

Irregular Unequal Comparisons

As always, we do have some exceptions to using the formula. There are some "irregular" adjectives when making comparisons.

adjective:

use:

don't use:

better
worse
younger
older

mejor
peor
menor
mayor

más bueno
más malo
más joven / más pequeno
más viejo / más grande

And there are some irregular adverbs as well:

adverb:

use:

don't use:

better
worse

mejor
peor

más bien
más mal

Some examples:

Mis notas son buenas pero las tuyas son mejores.
My grades are good but your grades are better.

Elisa jugó mal pero Pilar jugó peor.
Elisa played poorly but Pilar played worse.

Unequal Comparisons with Numbers

When we compare nouns with numbers, we switch the que to a de. Some examples:

La biblioteca tiene más de 10.000 libros.
The library has more than 10,000 books.

¡Carmen dice que tiene más de 60 zapatos!
Carmen says that she has more than 60 shoes!

El quiosco vende menos de diez revistas diferentes.
The newsstand sells less than ten different magazines.

Equal Comparisons

Equal Comparisons with Adjectives

When making equal comparisons in English we use the formula "as" + adjective + "as." In Spanish the formula is a little different:

tan + adjective + como

Some examples:

Juana es tan alta como Rigoberta.
Juana as tall as Rigoberta.

El libro es tan largo como la Biblia.
The book is as long as the Bible.

Equal Comparisons with Adverbs

Once again we don't need to limit ourselves to adjectives. We can also use adverbs:

tan + adverb + como

Some adverb examples:

Alberto trabaja tan rápidamente como Ramón.
Alberto works as quickly as Ramón.

Consuelo conduce tan cuidadosamente como Sabrina.
Consuelo drives as cautiously as Sabrina.

Equal Comparisons with Nouns

So what do we do with nouns? Well, the formula is similar, but now instead of tan we use the word "tanto":

tanto + noun + como

For example:

Isabel tiene tanto dinero como Óscar.
Isabel has as much money as Óscar.

This is only part of the story however, because "tanto" is functioning as an adjective and as such it needs to agree in gender and in number with the noun that it modifies. So our full range of possibilities looks like this:

tanto + masculine singular noun + como
tantos + masculine plural noun + como
tanta + feminine singular noun + como
tantas + feminine plural noun + como

Note: The translation of tanto, tantos, tanta or tantas is "as much" or "as many."

Some examples (notice which form of tanto is used):

Hay tantos días en julio como en agosto.
There are as many days in July as in August.

Raúl hace tanta tarea como Adolfo.
Raúl does as much homework as Adolfo.

Raquel tiene tantas amigas como Alegría.
Raquel has as many friends as Alegría.

Equal Comparisons with Verbs

We can make equal comparisons with verbs as well. Here's the formula:

verb + tanto como

And here are some verb examples:

Paulo estudia tanto como Jorge.
Paulo studies as much as Jorge.

Mi perro ladra tanto como tu perro.
My dog barks as much as your dog.

That takes care of comparisons. What else can we do?

Superlatives

Instead of comparing one thing to something else, we can also put it at the top or bottom of an entire category. (e.g. Mateo is the smartest. Mexico City is the biggest.). This is known as a "superlative."

In English to form a superlative, we usually add "-est" to an adjective. We need to do something very different in Spanish, however. We're going to start with an article and add más and an adjective:

Mateo es el más inteligente.
Mateo is the smartest.

La ciudad de México es la más grande.
Mexico City is the biggest.

The formula looks like this:

article + más + adjective

And we could also use menos in place of más:

Felipe es el menos inteligente.
Felipe is the least intelligent.

El Salvador es el menos grande.
El Salvador is the smallest (least big).

If we wanted to be more specific as to what we are talking about, we can include a noun with our article:

Mateo es el estudiante más inteligente.
Mateo is the smartest student.

La ciudad de México es la ciudad más grande.
Mexico City is the biggest city.

And finally, if we want to explain exactly what the group or category our superlative belongs to, we can follow up with a de and specifically state our group.

Mateo es el estudiante más inteligente de la clase.
Mateo is the smartest student in the class.

La ciudad de México es la ciudad más grande de las Américas.
Mexico City is the biggest city of the Americas.

If you're scoring at home, the formula now looks like this:

article + noun + más + adjective + de + group

Irregular Superlatives

We use the same irregular adjectives for superlatives as we do with comparatives.

adjective:

use:

don't use:

best
worst

mejor
peor

más bueno
más malo

Some examples:

Carlito es el mejor jugador del equipo.
Carlito is the best player on the team.

«Battlefield Earth» es la peor película que he visto.
"Battlefield Earth" is the worst movie I have seen.

Note: Contrary to the formula above, mejor and peor are usually placed in front of nouns.

Absolute Superlatives

Note: You can also use muy or sumamente to create an absolute superlative: Sancho es muy alto. / Sancho es sumamente alto.

There is another way to convey a superlative sense to something. To do so take your average, every day adjective, remove the "-o" and add "-ísimo" to it.

Mi amigo Sancho es alto.
My friend Sancho is tall.

Mi amigo Sancho es altísimo.
My friend Sancho is extremely tall.

As always, adjectives agree is gender and in number with the nouns they modify, so:

-o
-a
-os
-as




-ísimo
-ísima
-ísimos
-ísimas

For example:

Las actrices son guapas.
The actresses are beautiful.

Las actrices son guapísimas.
The actresses are very beautiful.

Of course not all adjectives end in a "-o" or "-a," and there are some spelling changes necessary to keep pronunciation consistent.

If the adjective you want to work with ends in "-le", remove the "le" and add "-ilísimo":

Mi amiga es amable.
My friend is nice.

Mi amiga es amabilísima.
My friend is the nicest.

If your adjective ends in "-co" or "-ca", change the "c" to a "qu":

Su padre es rico.
His dad is rich.

Su padre es riquísimo.
His dad is really rich.

If your adjective ends in "-go" or "ga", change the "g" to a "gu":

La película fue larga.
The movie was long.

La película fue larguísima.
The movie was incredibly long.

If your adjective ends in "-z", change the "z" to a "c":

El tigre es feroz.
The tiger is ferocious.

El tigre es ferocísimo.
The tiger is very ferocious.

Note: In some cases the prefix will also change: fortísimo (very strong), novísimo (brand new).

If your adjective ends in a consonant, just add the ending. If your adjective includes an accent,
drop the accent before adding the ending:

El español es fácil.
Spanish is easy.

El español es facilísimo.
Spanish is the easiest.

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