You’re hanging out with a group of Spanish-speaking friends, and you’re feeling pretty confident in your language abilities.
You think: “Look at me, conjugating verbs correctly and using cool Spanish slang!”
Maybe you even throw in a joke or two, all in your non-native tongue.
All is going well, until a Spanish-speaking acquaintance hits you with this one: “Eres más chulo que un ocho.”
You’re… cooler than an eight?
“What?” You start to wonder, “Am I being complimented or insulted? Why is an eight cool? What’s happening?!”
The Spanish language is full of idioms, phrases, proverbs and double entendres. Learning them is an essential part of becoming fluent in Spanish.
And while it may seem intimidating to learn and use colloquial Spanish, your efforts will surely pay off. Once you start to memorize idiomatic phrases, you’ll hear them everywhere. And once you start to employ them in conversation, Spanish-speakers will no doubt be impressed!
Plus, learning idioms is a great way to practice grammar. Each of the ten idioms highlighted in this article contains an example of the Spanish comparative or superlative. Memorize a few of these phrases and you’ll never again forget the rules for making Spanish comparisons.
But first, a quick grammar review…
Everything You Need to Know About Spanish Comparative and Superlative Adjectives
Comparative and superlative adjectives describe relationships between two or more objects.
As you might guess, a comparative adjective compares two things. In the sentence “Fred is taller than his brother Michael,” the comparative adjective is the word “taller.”
A superlative adjective compares three or more things and takes the comparison to the highest degree. Fred might be taller than Michael, but James is the tallest of all three brothers. “Tallest” is a superlative adjective.
How do we make comparisons in Spanish?
This great post goes into all of the nitty-gritty details of making comparisons in Spanish, but here’s a quick overview:
Forming a comparative adjective in Spanish is very easy. Simply add the word más before a regular adjective! Feliz means “happy” and so más feliz means “happier.” Simple as that.
Here are some basic comparative sentences:
El sol es más grande que la luna. (The sun is bigger than the moon.)
Raúl está más contento que Miguel. (Raúl is happier than Michael.)
Las flores azules son más bonitas que las flores amarillas. (The blue flowers are prettier than the yellow flowers.)
How do we form superlative adjectives in Spanish?
Once we know how to make a comparative adjective, we’re only one step away from a superlative adjective.
Superlative adjectives follow this formula:
el/la/los/las/lo + más + adjective + (de…)
Let’s take the sentence, “Adriana is smarter than Gemma, but Sandra is the smartest girl in the class.” The first clause uses a comparative adjective, and the second clause uses a superlative adjective. We can translate the sentence as:
Adriana es más inteligente que Gemma, pero Sandra es la chica más inteligente de la clase.
We use the article lo to form a comparison with an undefined noun. For example, an English sentence like “Family is the most important thing,” or simply “Family is the most important,” could be translated as la familia es lo más importante.
Are there irregular comparative and superlative adjectives?
Yes, there are—and they’re very important to know! Here are some of the most common ones:
- Mejor (better/the best) and peor (worse/the worst)
- Mayor (older/the oldest) and menor (young/the youngest)
They’re irregular because they don’t use más and menos.
Now that we’ve got the basics down, let’s use some Spanish sayings to practice the comparative and superlative!
Where can I see examples of Spanish superlatives and comparatives?
Reading about it’s all fun and games but sometimes, you just need to see (or hear) a concept to really get it. You can find plenty of examples of comparatives and superlatives on FluentU.
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9 Spanish Sayings to Practice Comparative and Superlative Adjectives
1. Sale más caro el collar que el perro.
English translation: The collar costs more than the dog.
The comparative adjective here is simple: más caro (more expensive).
At first glance, this phrase doesn’t appear to make much sense. After all, a dog’s collar doesn’t cost all that much.
Let’s say you buy a dog for a few hundred dollars. In reality, the dog costs much more than its initial price. You also have to factor in food, visits to the vet, pet sitters, leashes, and—you guessed it—collars.
Thus, the phrase sale más caro el collar que el perro refers a purchase that leads to many other, more expensive purchases over time. If your friend buys a used car for the low, low price of 500 dollars but then has to pay to replace three of the tires, two of the windows and the air conditioning within a month, el collar le ha salido más caro que el perro.
2. Estás más perdido que Adán en el día de la madre.
English translation: You’re more lost than Adam on Mother’s Day.
The meaning of this comical phrase is pretty straightforward—you would use it to poke fun at somebody who looks lost, hence the use of the comparative adjective más perdido (more lost).
This is hardly the only Spanish one-liner that takes the form of más X que Y. Such phrases can be jokes, insults, come-ons, compliments or observations.
Here are some other examples:
- Eres más bonita que una puesta de sol. (You’re more beautiful than a sunset.)
- Eres más tonto que el que vendió su moto para comprar gasolina. (You’re dumber than the guy who sold his motorcycle to buy gasoline.)
- Eres más raro que un pez con el pelo largo. (You’re weirder than a fish with long hair.)
- Eres más inútil que la “g” de “gnomo.” (You’re more useless than the “g” in the word “gnome.”)
Go ahead—try to make up some of your own!
3. Más vale pájaro en mano que cien(to) volando.
English translation: A bird in the hand is worth more than one hundred flying.
The word vale in this phrase comes from the verb valer, which means to value or to be worth. So, más (more) is actually a comparative adverb. Together, más vale means “It is worth more.”
Some wisdom truly is universal. This lovely rhyming refrán is, of course, the Spanish equivalent of the English “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” In other words: something that you have is worth more than a potentially better thing that you don’t have.
4. Más vale tarde que nunca.
English translation: Late is worth more than never.
Here, once again, the comparative word is más (more). This time, it appears in the Spanish version of another phrase that’s well known in English: “better late than never.”
This phrase has proved very useful for me while living abroad in the Spanish-speaking world. I use it when my ESL students show up twenty minutes late to class. I used it when my mom’s Christmas presents finally arrived to my apartment in Spain (in mid-January) after getting tied up in customs for a month. I also use it when I sing the chorus to this very catchy song by Argentine folk/rap fusion group Fémina.
5. No por mucho madrugar, amanece más temprano.
English translation: Waking up early won’t make the sun rise earlier.
The comparative here is más temprano: earlier. And it’s an adverb, like in example 3.
As a kid, I always loved Halloween. I loved it so much that at times I would start thinking about my costume as early as June or July. This meant several months of pestering my parents, begging them to take me to the mall to look at sewing patterns for witch, princess and superhero costumes.
My parents could have told me, “No por mucho madrugar, amanece más temprano.“ Things will happen when they happen. Halloween is in October, and being overly excited or proactive won’t make it come any earlier!
6. Al más ruín puerco, la mejor bellota.
English translation: To the meanest pig, the best acorn.
Again, we have two superlative adjectives in this phrase: El más ruín (the meanest/most dastardly) and la mejor (the best).
Do you ever feel like honest, deserving, hard-working folks are always losing out in favor of their rude, obnoxious counterparts? If so, you’re not alone—that’s exactly what this phrase refers to.
For example, if you were to find out that your loud, annoying coworker has been awarded the promotion you’ve been working so hard for, you might grumble, “al más ruín puerco, la mejor bellota.“
7. Amores reñidos son los más queridos.
English translation: Lovers at odds are the most loved.
The featured superlative adjective here, of course, is los más queridos (the most loved). This time, the adjective is in the plural form, meaning we must use los instead of el or la.
This phrase holds that true love isn’t easy or harmonious. Couples that truly care for each other and have spent a lot of time together know how to be honest about their feelings and would prefer to communicate their problems than hide them.
You might use this phrase when you come across an old couple bickering about something. They’re comfortable enough to be open about their disagreements and don’t worry about constantly pleasing one another.
8. Al mejor cazador se le va la liebre.
English translation: A rabbit escapes from the best hunter.
Nobody’s perfect, simple as that. Not even the greatest hunter in the world could capture every rabbit in a forest, and neither can any of us expect to be perfect in anything we do.
I’m positive that all language learners, even advanced learners, have days where they feel incapable of communicating in their target language. The next time you mis-conjugate a verb, forget an easy vocabulary word or mix up your genders, breathe. Remind yourself that everybody makes mistakes every now and then. Al mejor cazador se le va la liebre.
9. El hilo se corta por lo más delgado.
English translation: The string is cut at its thinnest.
This saying also has an English equivalent: “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” Put in simple terms, the weakest part of any group or team will be its downfall.
Notice the superlative adjective in this example: lo más delgado (the thinnest). This phrase uses the “lo + superlative” construction discussed above, and therefore refers to an indefinite adjective. Notice how the phrase doesn’t say that the string is cut at la parte más delgada (the thinnest part) or at el punto más delgado (the thinnest point). The noun is removed and simply replaced with the article lo.
Did you enjoy these phrases?
Not only will you have fun using them in conversational Spanish, but you’ve really reinforced your knowledge of Spanish comparative and superlative adjectives.
Now, get out there and use these!
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