In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about Spanish comparatives.
Specifically, you’ll discover how to master comparatives in Spanish by avoiding a few of the most common mistakes that English natives make with these Spanish phrases.
We’ll start by looking at the four main structures for making comparisons in Spanish, then we’ll dive into some common errors with the Spanish comparatives mayor, menor, mejor, and peor, plus we’ll look at how to think about the words lo, más and mucho with comparisons.
The 4 types of comparisons in Spanish
In Spanish, there are four basic ways to make a comparison:
- Comparatives of superiority
- Superlatives of superiority
- Comparatives of inferiority
- Superlatives of inferiority
The difference between a comparative and superlative is that a comparative allows you to compare two things, while a superlative allows you to compare one thing to a group.
In addition, a comparison of superiority allows you to say that something is ‘bigger’, ‘taller’, or ‘faster’. Whereas, a comparison of inferiority allows you to say that something is ‘less big’, ‘less tall’, or ‘less fast’.
Noting, of course, that it sounds more natural to say ‘slower’ than ‘less fast’ in English, this is also true for the equivalent Spanish comparatives of inferiority.
Here are the structures in Spanish that allow you to make the four different types of comparisons:
|Comparativo de superioridad||…más + adjetivo (+ que)…|
|Superlativo de superioridad||…el / la / los / las (+nombre) + más + adjetivo (+ de)…|
|Comparativo de inferioridad||…menos + adjetivo (+ que)…|
|Superlativo de inferioridad||…el / la / los / las (+nombre) + menos + adjetivo (+ de)…|
In the next few sections, we’ll look at how to use each of these in a Spanish sentence.
As an aside, in contrast to comparisons of superiority or inferiority, if you want to make a comparison of equality, you’ll instead need to use a sentence with tan vs tanto.
How to make comparisons in Spanish – Comparatives of superiority
Before we look at all of the different structures, let’s start by paying close attention to the first few examples using comparatives of superiority.
See if you can spot the important difference between these two examples:
English: Usain Bolt is faster than Asafa Powell.
Español: Usain Bolt es más rápido que Asafa Powell.
English: Shakira is more popular than Ricky Martin.
Español: Shakira es más popular que Ricky Martin.
In English, we can make comparisons with words like ‘faster’, ‘taller’, ‘stronger’.
But, there are some situations where we don’t have an adjective that ends in ‘er’. For example, when comparing popularity, we need to say “more popular” (and not ‘popularer’).
Moreover, we also have superlatives in English such as ‘fastest’, ‘tallest’ and ‘strongest’. But, again, with popularity, we need to say “most popular” (and not ‘popularest’).
In Spanish, there are only a handful of irregular comparatives that match that behaviour of words such ‘faster’, ‘taller’, ‘stronger’. We’ll cover those in the section on irregular comparatives below.
For now, simply note that the majority of comparatives in Spanish behave like the comparatives in English such as ‘popular’, e.g. “más popular“.
How to use superlatives of superiority
When making superlative statements of superiority we need the structure from above (…el / la / los / las (+nombre) + más + adjetivo (+ de)…).
Now we are saying that someone or something is “the most … of ….”. In other words, we need to compare one thing to a group.
Here are some examples:
English: My brother is the tallest student in the school.
Español: Mi hermano es el estudiante más alto de la escuela.
English: She is the smartest analyst in the industry.
Español: Ella es la analista más inteligente de la industria.
English: What is the most important task we need to finish this week?
Español: ¿Cuál es la tarea más importante que tenemos que terminar esta semana?
Note the structure and word order of these examples. In English, we say “the most important task”, in Spanish we need to say “la tarea más importante“.
Also, with this last example, we have left out the ‘de‘ because it is optional, but note there is still an implied group (e.g. the most important task of a group of tasks).
How to use comparatives of inferiority
As I mentioned earlier, comparisons of inferiority such ‘less fast’ and ‘less tall’ aren’t common in English or Spanish.
But, you may still need to make a comparison of inferiority from time to time.
Here are a few examples:
English: My current apartment is less noisy than my last one.
Español: Mi apartamento actual es menos ruidoso que el último.
English: This song is less difficult to play than the other one.
Español: Esta canción es menos difícil de tocar que la otra.
English: The flavours in this soup are less intense and I prefer it that way.
Español: Los sabores de esta sopa son menos intensos y yo lo prefiero así.
How to use superlatives of inferiority
With superlatives of inferiority, we are saying that someone or something is “the least … of …”.
Here, a few examples with superlatives of inferiority:
English: I am the least strong athlete in the gym.
Español: Soy el atleta menos fuerte del gimnasio.
English: This is the least expensive gift that I’m going to buy for Christmas.
Español: Este es el regalo menos caro que voy a comprar para Navidad.
English: This is the least interesting movie I have watched this year.
Español: Esta es la película menos interesante que he visto este año.
Irregular Comparatives in Spanish – Mayor, menor, mejor, & peor
In Spanish, there are irregulars comparatives that behave like the equivalent of the English comparatives ‘older’, ‘younger’, ‘better’ and ‘worse’.
Moreover, it is really important that you avoid phrases like “
más bueno“, “ más viejo” and “ más malo” when you are making comparisons because they will make your Spanish sound really unnatural.
Here is a table of all of the irregular comparatives in Spanish:
|Older||Viejo → Mayor|
|Younger||Joven → Menor|
|Better (adjective)||Bueno → Mejor|
|Better (adverb)||Bien → Mejor|
|Worse (adjective)||Malo → Peor|
|Worse (adverb)||Mal → Peor|
Here are some examples:
English: Laura speaks Spanish better than me.
Español: Laura habla español mejor que yo.
English: My mother is older than my father.
Español: Mi madre es mayor que mi padre.
English: Star Wars 5 is worse than Star Wars 6.
Español: La Guerra de las Galaxias 5 es peor que la Guerra de las Galaxias 6.
English: Miguel is the youngest of all of his friends.
Español: Miguel es el menor de todos sus amigos.
English: These are the best strawberries I have tasted in my life.
Español: Estas son las mejores fresas que he probado en mi vida.
One really important point to notice with this last example is that mejor has to come before the noun. This is an often-overlooked rule of Spanish adjective word order.
Más vs mucho – Common Errors with Spanish Comparatives
With comparisons in Spanish, the hardest part seems to be saying that something is “much better”, “much more interesting”, or someone is “much taller”, “much faster” etc.
From experience, this is where we hear the most number of mistakes made with students in our Spanish Classes.
So, when should we use más and when should we use mucho?
The answer is: we need to add mucho before of all of the previous phrases mentioned in this post.
So, if we have a regular comparative “más alto“, then if we want to say “much taller”, we need to say “mucho más alto“.
Conversely, if we have an irregular comparative mejor, then if we want to say “much better”, we need to say “mucho mejor“.
And, to emphasize this last point, you need to avoid “
más mejor“, “ más mayor” etc.
Here are a few examples:
English: I have a colleague that is much smarter than me.
Español: Tengo un compañero que es mucho más listo que yo.
English: The churros in Spain are much better than the churros in Australia.
Español: Los churros en España son mucho mejores que los churros en Australia.
English: His brother is much younger than him.
Español: Su hermano es mucho menor que él.
English: These two students are much taller than the rest of the class.
Español: Estos dos estudiantes son mucho más altos que el resto de la clase.
Notice with this last example that we say “mucho más altos” and not “
muchos más altos“.
When we are using mucho in this context it is modifying más, so you don’t need to match the number and gender of the noun like you would in a sentence such as “tengo muchas cosas“.
When to say ‘lo más…’
A question that comes up often with this topic is when to say “lo más” instead of “el más” or “la más“.
Similar to the other uses of lo, we can often think of lo as meaning ‘the thing’.
For example, if I was going to give a simple piece of advice about improving your Spanish, I could say:
English: The most important thing is to keep practising.
Español: Lo más importante es seguir practicando.
But, ‘the thing’ doesn’t always translate well into sentences with lo.
Another way to think of “lo más + adjetivo” is “that which is the most + adjective”. For example “lo más interesante” could be translated as “that which is the most interesting”.
Notice that now we are saying “that which is the most…” as opposed to “the most interesting book” or “the most interesting movie” or “the most interesting place” etc.
And, when we can’t say ‘book’, ‘movie’ or ‘place’, then we are going to need lo.
Here are some examples:
English: After years of injuries, she is now at the top of her sport.
Español: Después de años de lesiones, ahora está en lo más alto de su deporte.
English: This is the least nervous I’ve been before a race.
Español: Esto es lo menos nervioso que he estado antes de una carrera.
English: What was the most fun thing you did on your trip?
Español: ¿Qué fue lo más divertido que hiciste en tu viaje?
English: I’m going to live as close to work as possible.
Español: Voy a vivir lo más cerca posible del trabajo.
Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy,” but, I say not when you learning Spanish!!
Learning how to make comparisons can be a great way to boost your Spanish and improve your conversations. And, if can get all of the irregulars right, your Spanish will sound great.
Pick a few irregular comparatives from this post and try them out in your next Spanish conversation. For example, consider talking about a situation where something is “mucho mejor” than something else, or someone is “mucho más alto” than someone else.
How else can you use comparatives in Spanish?