Irregular Comparative Adjectives 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 we talk about adjectives and the structures we use to make comparisons. We focus on those adjectives that do not follow the general rule. By learning them you will be able to make descriptions and express opinions.

What Is An Adjective?

Life and language would be pretty boring without adjectives. Adjectives are words that accompany nouns and describe, modify, or classify them. They provide more information about the things or people they refer to like color, shape, size, material, or subjective information.

To check you know what an adjective is, read the following sentence and find the adjectives. How many are there?

  • El pastel de frutas rojas está más rico que el de chocolate blanco, aunque mi hermano dice que el pastel de calabaza es mejor. ('The red berry cake is tastier than the white chocolate one, although my brother says the pumpkin cake is better'.)

El pastel de frutas rojas = The red berry cake
redberries

How many could you find? If you found 4 adjectives, you got it right! Rojas, rico, blanco and mejor are adjectives.

But what else can you notice?

Number & Gender

While in English adjectives don't change, in Spanish, they must agree in both number and gender with the nouns they modify. So, we say:

  • el chocolate blanco ('white chocolate') but los sobres blancos ('the white envelopes').

In the same way, if the noun is feminine, the adjective will be as well:

  • la chaqueta roja ('the red jacket') / las frutas rojas ('the red berries').

Adjective Order

When a sentence contains more than one adjective, in English there is a fixed ordering in their enumeration, but the Spanish language is quite free in that sense. Compare:

  • English: 'A delicious Belgian chocolate cake' (works) vs. 'A chocolate Belgian delicious cake.' (doesn't work)
  • Spanish: Delicioso pastel de chocolate belga (works) vs. Pastel de chocolate belga delicioso. (also works)

Let's summarize the basics you need to know about adjectives:

  • Adjectives agree in both number (singular or plural) and gender (masculine or feminine) with the nouns.
  • If there are two or more adjectives in a sentence, the order is irrelevant.

Making Comparisons in Spanish

There are three ways of making comparisons in Spanish - superiority, inferiority and equality.

Superiority

When we want to indicate that two things are not equal, but one has more of a quality than the other, we use más + adjective + que.

  • Luis es más alto que su hermano. ('Luis is taller than his brother'.)

Inferiority

To indicate that two things are not equal, but one has less of a quality than the other, use menos + adjective + que.

  • La comida rápida es menos saludable que la casera. ('Fast food is less healthy than homemade food'.)

Equality

If you want to express that two things are equal, use tan + adjective + como.

  • Esta blusa es tan barata como aquella. ('This blouse is as cheap as that one'.)

Irregular Comparative Adjectives

There are a few adjectives which do not follow the previous rules in superiority and inferiority comparisons, so you will have to memorize their irregular forms. The good news is that there are only four of them!

These irregular adjectives:

  • do NOT require the words más or menos, but only que.
  • do NOT need to agree in number or gender.

Take a look at the irregular comparatives in the table below.

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