Using Comparative & Superlative Terms in Spanish

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  • 1:15 Comparatives of Inequality
  • 2:50 Comparatives of Equality
  • 5:13 Irregular Comparatives
  • 7:44 Superlatives
  • 9:12 Let's Practice!
  • 10:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Pablo Serna

Pablo has taught college Spanish at the University of Missouri and Central Methodist University, and has a master's degree in Spanish literature.

In this lesson, we'll learn about using comparatives and superlatives to provide descriptions about the level of quality of a person or thing. We'll also learn to use certain words and expressions that help us compare characteristics.

Comparatives and Superlatives in Spanish

In both English and Spanish we use comparatives and superlatives, which are words and expressions used to talk about the level of a particular quality of people or things. Some comparatives are more, less, and '-er' at the end of an adjective, like more comfortable, less interesting, taller, or as big as, and in Spanish, the adverbs más (more) and menos (less), as in más cómodo, menos interesante or tan grande como (as big as).

Now, when we compare a certain person or thing that has the most or the least of a quality, we use superlatives, like the most comfortable, the least interesting, or the tallest, or in Spanish, el más (the most) cómodo or el menos (the least) interesante. In Spanish, forms like '-er' or '-est' for short adjectives do not exist (más or menos are used).

Comparatives of Inequality in Sentences

Comparatives of inequality talk about two things that are different because of the level of any of their characteristics. In Spanish, we use the structure más or menos + adjective/adverb/noun + que. Let's see some examples:

  • Los boletos de avión son más caros (more expensive) que los tiquetes de bus (adjective (modifies the noun) = caro (expensive)).
  • Me levanto (I get up) más temprano que tú en las mañanas (adverb (modifies the verb) = temprano (early)).
  • Brasil tiene más personas que Perú (noun = personas (people)).

Also, you can use the structure: verb + más or menos + que to talk about a comparison of inequality, like Felipe viaja más que yo (Felipe travels more than I do). Notice that if we use a number or numerical expression, like veinte, cien, un millón, we need to change the word que for de: Carlos visitó más de cinco países en sus vacaciones.

Comparatives of Equality in Sentences

Comparatives of equality talk about how two things are the same according to a certain characteristic: The beach is really busy today; there are as many women as men today (La playa tiene tantos hombres como mujeres hoy). In Spanish, we use the construction tan + adjective or adverb + como or tant(o)(s)/tant(a)(s) + noun + como. Let's look at some examples:

  • Él es tan alto como ella (He is as tall as her).
  • Llegamos tan temprano como ellos (We arrived as early as they did).
  • Hace tanto calor como en el desierto (It is as hot here as it is in the desert).
  • Comimos tantos tacos como los demás (We ate as many tacos as the others).

If you look at the last example, you will see that the word tantos in this case is plural because it works as an adjective and agrees with the noun that is being modified: tacos. Tan and tanto can be used to emphasize something rather than modify it. Some examples are:

  • ¡Tus vacaciones son tan largas (Your vacation is so long)!
  • ¡Duermes tanto (You sleep so much)!
  • ¡Conoces tantas personas (You know so many people)!

One situation where tanto does not change to agree with the noun is when we use the construction: verb + tanto como. An example for this type of comparison of equality is Tú estudias tanto como yo (You study as much as I do).

Irregular Comparatives

There are some adjectives in Spanish that have irregular comparatives. That means that some adjectives need words that are very specific to describe certain characteristics and do not follow the simple rule of más/menos + que. Let's take a look at them:

Adjective Comparative
bueno(a) (good) mejor (better)
malo(a) (bad) peor (worse)
grande (big) mayor (bigger)
pequeño (small) menor (smaller)
joven (young) menor (younger)
viejo (old) mayor (older)

Let's see some examples:

  • En el desierto el calor es peor que en la playa (In the desert the heat is worse than the beach).
  • Yo soy menor que mi abuelo (I am younger than my grandfather).
  • La población (population) de los Estados Unidos es mayor que la de Haití (The population of the United States is bigger than Haiti's).
  • Mi madre es mayor que mi tía (My mom is older than my aunt).

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