Using 'Grande'

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.

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.)
  • 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.)

Grande can also refer specifically to height, rather than size per se: 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.)

In context, grande can refer to being an adult as contrasted with being child (as "big" can be in English), 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.)

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:

  • Gorbachov dijo que Ronald Reagan fue un gran presidente. (Gorbachev said Ronald Reagan 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.)
  • 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.)

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 is also used in various phrases:

  • a lo grande — on a large scale
  • en grande — as a whole
  • grandes mentes, grandes pensadores — great minds
  • el gran mundo — the upper social class
  • el hueso grande — the capitate bone (of the hand)
  • la semana grande — the final week of Lent, from Palm Sunday to Easter
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Your Citation
Erichsen, Gerald. "Using 'Grande'." ThoughtCo, Mar. 2, 2017, thoughtco.com/how-to-use-grande-3079096. Erichsen, Gerald. (2017, March 2). Using 'Grande'. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-use-grande-3079096 Erichsen, Gerald. "Using 'Grande'." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-use-grande-3079096 (accessed January 17, 2018).