Person walking past orange wall with the wrod "good" painted on it

What’s the Difference Between Bien vs. Bueno?

Do you “cook good” or are you “well at cooking?”

If those phrases make you cringe, then you should know that you can mix up these words in Spanish as well.

The Spanish words bien, bueno and buen have similar meaning (good/well), but are used in different situations.

This post will tell you once and for all when and how you should use bien, bueno, and buen in Spanish like a native!

Contents

The Difference Between Bien vs. Bueno

Simply put, bien is an adverb that is translated as “well.” On the other hand, bueno is an adjective that can be generally translated as “good.” 

Even though these two words have completely different functions in the sentence, they are very often mistranslated or misused, both in Spanish and English, leading to many incorrect sentences as a result.

However, learning the difference isn’t as tricky as you may think:

Here are some examples of the way bien is used.

Mi primo no se siente muy bien. (My cousin is not feeling very well.)

Hazlo bien o no lo hagas. (Do it properly [well] or don’t do it at all.)

And here are some examples of the way bueno is used.

Juan es un niño muy bueno. (Juan is a very good boy.)

Fumar no es bueno para tu salud. (Smoking is not good for your health.)

Uses of  Bien

Although bien is often translated as “well,” it can also be translated to  “very,” “properly” and “fine.”

It’s an adverb, and as such, it can be used to modify a verb, adjective or another adverb. You may also see bien on its own to form a sentence.

Here are the main uses of bien:

1. To answer ¿Cómo estás? and ¿Cómo te va? questions.

¿Cómo estás? (How are you?)
Bien, gracias, ¿y tú? (Fine, thanks, and you?)

2. To talk about your health.

María no se siente muy bien hoy. (María is not feeling very well today.)

Ya estoy bien, pero los últimos meses han sido muy duros. (I’m fine now, but the last few months have been very hard.)

Note that in this context when talking about health, bien can also be used with the verbs sentirse (to feel) or encontrarse (to be/find yourself).

3. To emphasize the adjective in a sentence.

If you add the adverb bien in front of an adjective, you emphasize it:

El examen estuvo bien difícil. (The exam was so difficult.)

Esta sandía está bien jugosa. (This watermelon is really juicy.)

4. When something is done correctly/properly.

¡Qué bien cocinas, Alejandro! (Alejandro, you cook so well!)

Has entendido la lección muy bien. (You have understood the lesson very well.)

5. When something works or does not work as it should.

Creo que mi ordenador no funciona bien. (I think my computer is not working properly.)

Esta mañana estaba trabajando bien. (This morning it was working correctly/fine.)

6. When the answer to a question is okay, sure, fine or all right.

Nos vemos a las cinco en el parque. (See you at five p.m. in the park.)
Bien. (Okay.)

7. To say “Yahoo!” or “Great!”

Has ganado un osito de peluche, ¡Bien! (You have won a teddy bear, yahoo!)

¡Qué bien! Ya he terminado los deberes. (Great! I have finished my homework.)

Examples of Bien

Uses of  Bueno Buen

Bueno is the adjectival counterpart of the word bien, and as such, it behaves very differently.

For starters, bueno has four forms that always have to agree in gender and number with the noun it refers to:

Although the first meaning for bueno you will see in the dictionary is “good,” it can also mean “tasty,” “useful,” “beneficial” and even “hello!”

Here are the main uses of bueno/buen:

1. When someone behaves well.

Andrés es un buen estudiante. (Andrés is a good student.)

Mi hijo es un niño muy bueno. (My son is a very good kid.)

2. When a person fulfills their duty correctly.

María es muy buena madre. (María is a very good mother.)

Él es bueno en su trabajo. (He is good at his job.)

Mis hermanas son buenos jugando fútbol. (My sisters are good at playing soccer.)

3. When something is beneficial for you.

Fumar no es bueno para la salud. (Smoking is not good for your health.)

Hacer ejercicio es muy bueno. (Exercising is very good/beneficial.)

4. When something is useful or practical.

Es un libro muy bueno. (It is a very good book.)

Creo que es una buena impresora. (I think it is a good printer.)

5. When the quality of an object is high.

Es un coche muy bueno. (It is a very good car.)

Necesito un buen sofá. (I need a good sofa.)

6. When something is tasty.

Estas hamburguesas están muy buenas. (These hamburgers are really tasty.)

7. When someone is attractive.

Whether you decide to use it or not is up to you, but remember this is very informal.

Lukas está muy bueno. (Lukas is very hot.)

8. When the answer to a question is okay, sure, fine or all right.

This is the only situation in which you can use bien and bueno interchangeably and no one will bat an eye.

I am including the same example I used with bien so you can see for yourself there is actually no difference:

Nos vemos a las cinco en el parque. (See you at five p.m. in the park.) — Bueno. (Okay.)

Bueno vs. Buen

Bueno and buen are actually two facets of the same word. 

Their meaning is identical, but their position in the sentence is different.

Bueno is used after a masculine singular noun, but this word also has the possibility of appearing in front of the same masculine singular nouns. In this case, bueno has to lose its final -o in order to be able to be in that position:

Es un niño muy bueno. (He is a very good child.) → Es un muy buen niño. (He is a very good child.)

Es un melón bueno. (It is a tasty melon.) → Es un buen melón. (It is a tasty melon.)

The best way to learn how these words differ is to hear them being used in different contexts, like when talking to Spanish speakers or watching Spanish videos. 

Another great option to master these tricky words is FluentU, which teaches Spanish through authentic videos.

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Examples of Bueno

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Say Qué Bien or Qué Bueno?

Both qué bien and qué bueno can be used to express satisfaction or approval about how something is done or how a situation turns out:

Aprobé mi examen. — ¡Qué bien! (I passed my exam. —Great!)

Aprobé mi examen. — ¡Qué bueno! (I passed my exam. —I’m glad!)

Just note that qué bien is more commonly used, so you may hear it more often than qué bueno.

Should I Say Muy Bien or Muy Bueno?

Muy bien is typically used to express approval or satisfaction about how something is done or how a situation has turned out, indicating that it was done well or satisfactorily:

Muy bien, eso es todo por hoy. (All right, that’s everything for today.)

On the other hand, muy bueno describes something as being very good or pleasant in quality. So, if you want to praise someone’s performance or acknowledge a job well done, muy bien would be more appropriate. However, if you’re commenting on the quality or desirability of something, such as food or a product, muy bueno would be the better choice.

Este platillo está muy bueno. (This dish is really good.)

 

Everything is going to be bien if you study these two words properly.

And as they say, todo lo bueno se acaba (all good things must come to an end), so see you in the next post!

And One More Thing…

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