Using 'Grande'

Spanish Adjective Usually Means 'Big' or 'Great'

Volcano Arenal
El volcán Arenal de Costa Rica es grande. (Costa Rica's Arenal Volcano is large.). Arden/Creative Commons.

Grande is among the most common adjectives of Spanish and one of the first to be learned by students.

Grande Meaning 'Large' or 'Big'

The most common meaning of grande is simply "big" or "large":

  • Viven en una casa grande. (They live in a large house.)
  • Mi nieta tiene las manos grandes como su padre. (My granddaughter has big hands like her father.)
  • ¿Sabes cuál es la ciudad más grande del país? (Do you know which city is the country's largest?)
  • Madrid es una ciudad grande. (Madrid is a large city.)
  • El cañón más grande del Sistema Solar está en Marte. (The biggest canyon in the solar system is on Mars.)
  • El estadio más grande de tenis del mundo ya tiene techo retráctil. (The world's largest tennis stadium now has a retractable roof.)

In context, grande can also refer specifically to height, rather than size per se:

  • Era un hombre grande y flaco. (He was a tall and lean man.)
  • En baloncesto un jugador grande y bueno siempre será mejor para el equipo que uno bajo y bueno. (In basketball, a tall, good player will always be better for the team than a short, good player.)

Like the English word "big," grande can refer to being an adult as contrasted with being child, or to being older:

  • Cuando sea grande voy a ser dentista. (When I'm bigger/older, I'm going to be a dentist.)
  • Cautivó el corazón de grandes y chicos. (She captivated the hearts of the old and the young.)
  • Es mi hermana grande. (She's my big/older sister.)
  • Estoy muy grande para jugar este juego. (I'm too old for playing this game.)

Grande Referring to Greatness

Especially when it comes before the noun, grande can refer to someone or something being notable. It is often then the equivalent of "great." Note than when grande comes before a singular noun, it is shortened to gran:

  • Mi madre dijo que Gerald Ford fue un gran presidente. (My mother said Gerald Ford was a great president.)
  • Fue una gran película ignorada por la prensa. (It was a great film ignored by the press.)
  • Unos dicen que el calamiento global es la gran mentira de nuestro día. (Some say global warming is the great lie of our day.)
  • I (The players try to leave the casino with the greatest reward possible.)
  • No hay grandes diferencias entre realidad y ficción, ni entre lo verdadero y lo falso. (That are no huge differences between reality and fiction, nor between truth and falsehood.)

Other Meanings of Grande

Grande can refer to the larger metropolitan area of a city:

  • La pesca comercial proporciona alrededor de 10.000 empleos en el gran Seattle. (Commercial fishing employs about 10,000 workers in the Seattle area.)
  • La gran Roma está llena de arcos de triunfo. (Greater Rome is full of triumphal arches.)

When it doesn't refer to size, grande usually refers to intensity:

  • Es con gran tristeza que anunciamos el fallecimiento de nuestro querido amigo. (It is with deep sorrow that we announce the death of our dear friend.)
  • Es una felicidad grande que Angelina piense en mí. (It's a great delight that Angelina is thinking about me.)
  • Puedes ajustar las ventanas pero con gran dificultad. (You can adjust the windows, but with much difficulty.)
  • Era la primera nevada grande en diez años. (It was the first heavy snowfall in 10 years.)

Grande in Phrases

Grande is also used in various phrases:

  • a lo grande — on a big scale: Si piensas a lo grande, puedes hacerlo a lo grande. (If you think big, you can do big.)
  • en grande — on a big scale: Alajuela celebra en grande la gesta heroica de Juan Santamaría. (Alajuela celebrates on a grande scale the heroic achievement of Juan Santamaría.
  • grandes mentes, grandes pensadores — great minds, great thinkers: Las grandes mentes piensan igual. (Great minds think alike.)
  • el hueso grande — the capitate bone (of the hand): El hueso grande es el único entre todos los del carpo que puede dislocarse. (The capitate bone is the only one among all those of the carpus that can be dislocated.)
  • la semana grande — the final week of Lent: El periodo de los siete días antes de la Pascua denominamos la semana grande.) (The seven-day period before Easter makes up the final week of Lent. Semana Grande can also refer to a week in August, known as Aste Nagusia, that is celebrated in northern Spain.)