Alternatives for the Spanish Word ‘Muy’

Common adverb is easy to overuse

Beach near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Las playas de Puerto Vallarta son muy hermosas. (Puerto Vallarta beaches are very beautiful.). Westend61 / Getty Images

"Very" is one of most overused words in English. In fact, there are editors and teachers who routinely eliminate each "very" they come across because the word that has become so routine that it can often be left out without much change in meaning.

Similarly, the Spanish equivalent, muy, is easy to overuse, especially for beginning Spanish students who don't know many alternatives. Next time you're thinking of using muy in something you're writing, consider the following alternatives. Note that with most, if not all, examples, the Spanish word could be translated ​to English in multiple ways.

Using the Suffix -ísimo for ‘Very’

The suffix -ísimo is probably the most common alternative to muy. Sometimes a type of superlative, -ísimo and its plural or feminine forms are added to the end of an adjective that ends in a consonant. So the modified form of azul (blue) is azulísimo (very blue). If the adjective ends in a vowel, which accounts for most adjectives, the vowel is dropped first. So the modified form of feo (ugly) is feísimo (very ugly), and caro (expensive) becomes carísimo (very expensive).

In a few cases, a spelling change is needed for pronunciation reasons. For example, if the final consonant is a z, the z changes to c. So the modified form of feliz (happy) is felicísimo (very happy). Some examples:

  • Está alegrísima en saber que sus padres tienen salud. (She is very happy to know that her parents are healthy.)
  • Pocas horas antes teníamos un debilísimo frente frío. (A few hours earlier we had a very weak cold front.)
  • Mi madre tiene tristísimos recuerdos de la ciudad. (My mother had very sad memories of the city.)
  • Me parece patetiquísimo que me mientas todo el tiempo. (It seems very pathetic to me that you are lying to me all the time. Note the spelling change from the unmodified adjective patétetico.)
  • Era una casa de cinco dormitorios, con piscina azulísima en medio de un césped verdísimo. (It was a home with five bedrooms and a very blue swimming pool in the middle of a very green lawn.)

The suffix -ísimo can also be used with some adverbs:

  • ¡Esperemos llegar prontísimo! (I hope we arrive very soon!)
  • Tengo que comer rapidísimo porque para ir a mi clase. (I have to eat very quickly in order to go to my class.)
  • He formateado el ordenador y funciona lentísimo. (I formatted my computer and it is running very slowly.)

Prefixes Meaning ‘Very’

The prefixes archi-, super-, and requete- are used sometimes, most often in informal speech.

  • El senador es archiconservativo. (The senator is very conservative. Note that this prefix doesn't necessarily have the negative connotation that "arch-" does in English. One common archi- word is archipopular for someone or something extremely popular.)
  • Mi novio es superguapo. (My boyfriend is very good-looking. Super is also often used by itself, rather than as a prefix, in much the same way as "super" can be.)
  • Este pastel es requetebueno. (This cake is very good.)

Using Bien to Mean ‘Very’

Usually translated as the adverb "well," bien is sometimes used as a mild form of "very," usually with a positive connotation. Sometimes the closest English equivalent is "pretty" as in "he's pretty happy," está bien feliz. Other examples:

  • La mejor hora es bien temprano en la mañana. (The best time is fairly early in the morning.)
  • Eso es bien tonto. (That's quite silly.)
  • Quisiera un té bien caliente. (I'd like a nice warm tea.)

Using the Adverbs Sumamente and Extremadamente

Sumamente is stronger than "very" and can be translated as "extremely" or "highly."

  • Fue sumamente exitosa la campaña de desobediencia civil. (The civil-disobedience campaign was extremely successful.)
  • Sus niñas son sumamente inteligentes. (Her daughters are highly intelligent.)

A synonym for sumamente is extremadamente:

  • El hotel tiene un baño extremadamente pequeño. (The hotel has an extremely small bathroom.)
  • Me siento extremadamente feliz que encontré la parada de bus. (I'm extremely happy that I found the bus stop.)

Tan

Tan is an adverb most often used in phrases such as tan rica como yo (as rich as I am), but it can also stand alone without the como, when it usually is translated as "so."

  • Tus abuelos son tan cariñosos. (Your grandparents are so caring.)
  • El carro es tan hermoso. (The car is so beautiful.)

Tan is used this way most often in exclamatory sentences:

  • ¡Qué día tan terrible! (What an awful, terrible day!)
  • ¡Qué estudiante tan inteligente! (That student is so intelligent!)

Key Takeaways

  • The Spanish adverb muy is the most common way of saying "very."
  • The suffix -ísimo can often be used to increase the intensity of adverbs and adjectives.
  • Prefixes used to mean "very" include archi-, super-, and requete-.