Comparatives and Superlatives: Talking about what's Good, Better and Best

Understanding Comparatives and Superlatives

Now let’s take a breather and go to something easier and more fun! Let’s talk about the best band of all time, who is the oldest person in your class, and how your friend’s car compares with yours. You can compare things just as easily in Spanish as you can in English.

You should already be familiar with the concept of good, better, and best. When you’re talking about one thing, it’s good. When you’re comparing it to something else, it’s better. When you say that it is better than anything else, it’s the best.

If you understand this, you already know what a comparative and a superlative are.

-Words that compare one thing to another (e.g., better, older) are called comparatives.

- Words that put something at the top or bottom of the class, so to speak, (e.g., best, oldest) are called superlatives.

Below are some common comparatives and superlatives in Spanish. Look at the table and follow each word from left to right.

Adjective
Translation
Comparative
Translation
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bueno
good
mejor que
better
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malo
bad
peor que
worse
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viejo
old
mayor que
older
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joven
young
menor que
younger
Adjective
Translation
Superlative
Translation
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bueno
good
el / la mejor
the best
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malo
bad
el / la peor
the worst
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viejo
old
el / la mayor
the oldest
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joven
young
el / la menor
the youngest

(You should also know that bien and mal share the same construction as bueno and malo.)

Let’s say that you want to talk about your favorite soccer team.

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Mi equipo de fútbol favorito es muy bueno.
My favorite soccer team is very good.

Say that you want to claim that your favorite soccer team is better than your friend’s.

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Mi equipo de fútbol favorito es mejor que el tuyo.
My favorite soccer team is better than yours.

Now, say that you want to boast that your soccer team is the best of all!

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¡Mi equipo de fútbol es el mejor!
My soccer team is the best!

For Better or for Worse: MEJOR QUE and PEOR QUE

When you want to compare the age (older, younger) or quality (better, best) of two things, you will use the comparative form of the adjective plus than. For example:

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mejor que
better than
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peor que
worse than
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mayor que
older than
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menor que
younger than

If you want to say, for example, that your sister is older than you are, you will say, “Mi hermana es mayor que mí.”

Por ejemplo:

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El hermano de Juan es mayor que él.
Juan’s brother is older than him.
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El sombrero negro es mejor que el sombrero blanco.
The black hat is better than the white hat.
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La primera banda fue mejor que la segunda.
The first band was better than the second.

The Best of All: LA MEJOR

If you want to say that your sister is the oldest in your family, you will simply add the article “the” to the comparative form of the adjective. The sentence becomes: “Mi hermana es la mayor.”

Por ejemplo:

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Él es el mejor cantante del mundo.
He is the best singer in the world.
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Ella es la peor estudiante de la clase.
She is the worst student in the class.
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La señora es la mayor del barrio.
The lady is the oldest in the neighborhood.
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Margarita es la hija menor.
Margaret is the youngest daughter.

You will notice that the word de is often used with superlatives. When used after a superlative, de can mean “in” or “of.”

Por ejemplo:

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El jugador es el mejor de todos.
The player is the best of all.
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Lupe es la mejor trabajadora del grupo.
Lupe is the best worker in the group.

Notice that in the second example, de has combined with el to form del. This is identical to the formation of al from a and el. Anytime you see de and el together, remember:

de + el = del

The Most of All: MÁS DE

You can also form superlatives by talking about the strongest, coolest, fastest thing of all. Whereas you form these superlatives in English by adding an –est to the end of the adjective or adverb, you form them in Spanish by using the word más instead.

Más means most. If you wish to talk about “the hottest day of the summer” in Spanish, you’ll have to say “the day most hot of the summer.” Sound strange?

Remember that in English, not all adjectives can be transformed with an –est ending. You can’t say “beautifulest” or “expensivest”! In those cases, you form the superlative just as it is done in Spanish: you talk about the “most beautiful” or the “most expensive.”

That’s exactly how it’s done in Spanish. All other superlatives will be formed using the sentence construction below.

noun + “más” + adjective or adverb + “de” + noun


In Spanish, then, the phrase “the hottest day of the summer” will become:

el día + más + caluroso + del + verano

Por ejemplo:

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Hoy es el día más caluroso del verano.
Today is the hottest day of the summer.
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La primavera es la estación más lluviosa en mi región.
The spring is the wettest season in my region.
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Los matadores profesionales solo usan los toros más fuertes de España.
Professional bullfighters only use the strongest bulls in Spain.
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Estas son las flores más hermosas de mi jardín.
These are the most beautiful flowers of my garden.
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Juan tiene la guitarra más cara del grupo.
John has the most expensive guitar in the group.

Super Cool: The Ending -ísimo

In Spanish, there’s another way of expressing how something is just the “most-est.” You can intensify the meaning of any adjective by adding the ending -ísimo.

This is the English equivalent adding a “very” or “super” before the adjective.

Por ejemplo:

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La comida está riquísima.
The food is super delicious.
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Estás bellísima, mi hija.
You’re gorgeous, my daughter.
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El atleta corrió rapidísimo en la competencia.
The athlete ran super fast in the competition.
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La noche estuvo heladísima.
The night was super cold.

Some More Comparisons: MÁS QUE and MENOS QUE

Other comparisons you will make will be of the greater and lesser sort. In other words, you will say that something has more or less of a quality than the other thing. For example,

• Julie has more pens than Matt.
• San Francisco has fewer people than Los Angeles.
• When it comes to shoes, Annette has more than her sister.

Notice that the words “more” and “less” are followed by a “than.” In Spanish, it’s just the same, but instead of talking about “more than” you will talk about más que.

más que = more (or greater) than
menos que = less (or fewer) than

Por ejemplo:

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Ricardo es más inteligente que José.
Richard is more intelligent than Joe.
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Elena tiene menos dinero que Nadia.
Ellen has less money than Nadia.
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Javier es más fuerte que su hermano.
Javier is stronger than his brother.
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Pedro come menos que Miguel.
Peter eats less than Michael.
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El pasaje de tren cuesta menos que el de avion.
The train ticket costs less than the airplane ticket.

Expressing How Things are Alike: TAN COMO and TANTO COMO

You can also use comparatives to describe how similar two things are. For example, you might wish to say:

• You’re as nice as your sister.
• I have as many toys as you.

Expressions like tan … como and tanto … como help you do that.

When you compare two things that are similar in English, you often use as … as, whether or not the word that the two things have in common is a noun, adjective, or adverb. In Spanish, however, there is a distinction.

- Use tan … como for “as … as” when the characteristic in common is an adjective or adverb.

- Use tanto … como for “as many … as” or “as much … as,” when the characteristic in common is a noun.

Go back and look at the sample sentences in English above. Can you guess which would use tan … como and which would use tanto … como?

• Eres tan amable como tu hermana. (“nice” is an adjective)
• Tengo tantos juguetes como tú. (“toys” is a noun)

Remember that the word tanto must reflect the gender and quantity of the noun it describes.

• Tengo tanto dinero como él.
• Ella tiene tantos zapatos como su amiga.
• Nosotros tenemos tanta comida como los otros.
• Ustedes tienen tantas cosas como nosotros.

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Tu auto es tan lento como un caracol.
Your car is as slow as a snail. ("slow" is an adjective)
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Tenemos tantas vacas como ovejas.
We have as many cows as sheep. ("cows" is a noun)
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Carlos es tan guapo como su hermano.
Charles is as handsome as his brother. ("handsome" is an adjective)
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Tú tienes tantas ideas como yo.
You have as many ideas as I do. ("ideas" is a noun)

In the next section we’ll work on Spanish Conjunctions: If, Ands, Buts.

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