Comparisons of Equality in Spanish

Using 'Tan' and 'Tanto'

a sculpture of a question mark

Martin Pettitt / Creative Commons

In Spanish, there are a number of ways to indicate that two people or things are equal in a certain way. These are known as comparisons of inequality. Probably the most common method is to use the phrase "tan...como," where the ellipsis is replaced by an adjective, adverb, or noun. The phrase is the equivalent of the English phrase "as...as."

Comparisons Using Adjectives

  • Diego es tan alto como Pedro. (James is as tall as Peter.)
  • Eres tan inteligente como cualquier hombre. (You are as intelligent as any man.)
  • Cervantes es tan conocido como Shakespeare. (Cervantes is as well-known as Shakespeare.)
  • No estoy tan feliz como me gustaría. (I am not as happy as I would like to be.)

Notice how these examples are similar in idea to expressions of inequality: "Diego es más alto que Pedro." (James is taller than Peter.)

Comparisons Using Adverbs

The examples above feature comparisons using adjectives. However, comparisons of equality using tan work similarly when adverbs are used to indicate the way by which things are done:

  • La cerveza puede afectarle tan rápidamente como el vino. (Beer can affect you as quickly as wine.)
  • Las infopistas transformarán nuestra cultura tan poderosamente como la imprenta de Gutenberg transformó los tiempos medievales. (The information highway will transform our culture as powerfully as Gutenberg's printing press transformed medieval times.)

Comparisons Using Nouns

A similar sentence structure is used when a noun is used in the comparison. In such cases, however, a form of tanto—an adjective—is used. It must agree in number and gender with the noun referred to:

  • El país exporta tantos dólares como importa. (The country exports as many dollars as it imports.)
  • La experiencia tiene tanta importancia como el conocimiento de libros. (Experience has as much importance as book knowledge.)
  • Nada tiene tanto éxito como él. (Nobody has as much success as he.)
  • No tengo tantas preguntas como antes. (I don't have as many questions as before.)

'As Much As'

The similar construction of tanto como can also be used to mean "as much as." Note that this form of tanto is an invariable adverb; it doesn't change form to agree with words around it:

  • Nadie había hecho tanto como mi padre. (No one has done as much as my father.)
  • Dormir poco disminuye el rendimiento tanto como el alcohol. (Lack of sleep reduces performance as much as alcohol.)
  • Tienen un lado bueno tanto como uno malo. (They have a good side as much as a bad side.)