Adjectives to Adverbs in Spanish

Instructor: Elena Sacramento Lechado

Elena has a PhD in linguistics from University of La Laguna (Spain). Currently, she teaches Spanish as a foreign language and creates teaching resources.

In this lesson, learn about adverbs and how they are formed in Spanish. Learning about adverbs will allow you to enrich your vocabulary and describe actions more accurately when you speak Spanish.

Adjectives vs. Adverbs

Ana is having lunch with her mom but she is not feeling very well. Her mom notices and asks her: ¿Qué te pasa? ('What's wrong?') Has comido poco. ('You haven't eaten much'.)

Ana: No me encuentro muy bien. ('I'm not feeling very well'.) Me duele mucho la cabeza y anoche no dormí demasiado. ('I've got a headache and I didn't sleep too much last night'), replies Ana.

Mother: ¡Pobre! Ve a descansar tranquilamente. ('Poor you! Go and have some rest peacefully'.) Más tarde te sentirás mejor. ('Later you'll feel better'), answers her mom.

Pay attention to the words in bold. They all have something in common. Can you tell?

All of them are adverbs, a class of words that complement adjectives, verbs or even other adverbs. Let's look at the difference between adjectives and adverbs first.

Adjectives are words that describe, modify or classify nouns, providing more specific information about the things or people they refer to. For example, in the phrase chocolate blanco, blanco ('white') is an adjective that describes a type of chocolate. Notice that, normally, adjectives follow the noun in Spanish.

Adverbs, on the other hand, are words that describe how an action occurs or modify an adjective. In the sentence Mi hermano llegó rápidamente ('My brother arrived quickly'), rápidamente is an adverb that tells us how the action took place.

Let's see how to recognize and form adverbs in Spanish.

Adverb Formation

Many Spanish adverbs end in the suffix -mente, so you will recognize or form them easily. However, there are other adverbs which are different and you will need to learn them by heart.

Adverbs Ending in -mente

This type of adverbs are formed by adding the suffix -mente to an adjective (the equivalent of '-ly' in English).

In order to do this we will ALWAYS take the feminine (and singular) form of the adjective. If there is an orthographic accent we will keep it in the same place. It sounds easy, right?

Here are some examples:

Adjective Adverb Pronunciation Translation
lento ('slow') lentamente LEHN-tah-MEHN-teh slowly
rápido ('fast, quick') rápidamente RAH-pee-dah-MEHN-teh quickly
aparente' ('apparent') aparentemente ah-pah-REHN-teh-MEHN-teh apparently
secreto ('secret') secretamente seh-KREH-tah-MEHN-teh secretly

Lentamente = slowly

Whereas adjectives must agree in both gender and number with the noun they accompany, adverbs are invariable, so they never change regardless of the context.

Also, for the sake of practicality, when two or more adverbs ended in -mente are used, we will only add the suffix to the last one. So, we would say:

Daniel trabaja rápida y eficientemente ('Daniel works quickly and efficiently'.)

Other Adverbs

There are adverbs which do not follow any rules, so we will just need to memorize them. These are words that refer to quantity, time, place or manner, for example.

The most frequent ones include:

Adverb Pronunciation Translation
poco POH-koh little
muy mwee very
mucho MOO-choh a lot
bastante bahs-TAHN-teh quite
demasiado deh-mah-SYAH-doh too
siempre SYEHM-preh always
nunca NOON-kah never
ahora ah-OH-rah now
temprano tehm-PRAH-noh early
tarde TAHR-deh late
aquí ah-KEE here
allí ah-YEE there
bien byehn well
mal mahl badly
  • All of these words, except for muy, can be placed at the end of the sentence, on their own, describing how the action occurs.
  • Muy, instead, is ALWAYS followed by an adjective, never on its own.
  • Bastante and demasiado can work in both ways. Note: If they are followed by nouns, they work as adjectives and admit agreement in gender and number. If not, they are adverbs and do NOT change.

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