Comparisons of Inequality

Spanish for Beginners

El cielo de Cuba
Alexander Bonilla

Not only is it possible to describe someone as happy, it is also possible to describe that happiness in various degrees — happier, happier than someone, happiest, as happy as someone. In this lesson, we learn how to express the first two of those alternatives.

In English, we usually can make an adjective stronger by adding "-er" to the end (such as in "happier," "stronger" and "faster") or by using it with the word "more" (as in "more considerate" and "more intense").

In Spanish, there is no direct equivalent of "-er"; adjectives are made more intense by preceding them with más. For example:

  • María está más feliz. María is happier.
  • El cielo de Cuba es más azul. Cuba's sky is bluer.
  • Mis padres son más ricos. My parents are richer.
  • Compro unos libros más caros. I am buying some more expensive books.

Usually que is used when making a comparison:

  • Mi coche es más grande que tu coche. My car is bigger than your car.
  • Soy más alto que tú. I'm taller than you.
  • La casa es más blanca que la nieve. The house is whiter than the snow.

To indicate "less" rather than "more," use menos rather than más:

  • María está menos feliz. María is less happy.
  • El cielo de Chile es menos azul. Chile's sky is less blue.
  • La casa es menos blanca que la nieve. The house is less white than the snow.

Más and menos can be used with adverbs in the same way:

  • Corres más rápido que yo. You run faster than I.
  • Silvia habla menos claro que Ana. Silvia speaks less clearly than Ana.

Note that in the above examples, in English it would be very common to add a form of "to do" at the end of the comparison, such as "You run faster than I do" and "Silvia speaks less clearly than Ana does." However, the "do" or "does" should not be translated to Spanish.

There are a few words, all very common, that have their own comparative forms:

  • The comparative form of bueno (good) and its forms (buena, buenos and buenas) is mejor or mejores, translated as "better." Example: Eres mejor hombre que yo. You are a better man than I.
  • The comparative form of bien (well) is also mejor, again translated as "better." Example: Ella estudia mejor que tú. She studies better than you.
  • The comparative form of malo (bad) and its forms (mala, malos and malas) is peor or peores, translated as "worse." Example: Los remedios son peores que la enfermedad. The cures are worse than the illness.
  • The comparative form of mal (badly) is also peor, again translated as "worse." Example: Se siente peor que yo. He feels worse than I do.

Additionally, although más pequeño and más grande are often used for "smaller" and "bigger," respectively, menor and mayor are sometimes used. Mayor also is used to mean "older" when referring to people.

Note: Do not confuse comparisons of adjectives or adverbs with "more than" and "less than" in the following examples. Note that más de and menos de are used when referring to numbers.

  • Tengo más de 30 pesos. I have more than 30 pesos.
  • Mi hijo tiene menos de 20 años. My son is less than 20 years old.