What we are going to look at this month follows directly on from our previous articles about the bits you tack onto the beginnings and ends of words. This is a rather nice word-trick which you can play around with at home if you like, without doing any serious damage. It is called an Absolute Superlative and is used when we wish to intensify the meaning of an adjective.
Let’s start with a word like grande (big). We can expand the meaning with muy grande (very big). You will also hear in everyday Spanish the tendency to repeat words in order to intensify them, hence muy muy muy grande. Finally, to express an ultimate quality of bigness we can use this absolute superlative grandísimo. In English we deal with this idea differently by saying things like ‘great big’, or even ‘whacking’ or ‘whopping’ to convey the same idea of exaggerated size.
This ísimo (masculine) or ísima (feminine) ending can be added to many adjectives, so here are a few:
Fácilísimo (extremely easy/cinch)
Dificilísimo (really hard)
As you can see I’m choosing all kinds of different expressions in English to convey the same feeling, which is often, but not always, a little bit slangy or informal. Now you can pick an adjective, (any adjective) and try it for yourself, in both masculine and feminine forms, supplying your own exaggerated translations.
Similarly we can change the word mucho (a lot) to muchísimo (an awful lot/a tremendous amount.) We often hear muchísimas gracias which could translate as ‘thank you ever-so much!’ If there are a lot of people somewhere we can expand mucha gente (a lot of people) to muchísima gente – to describe somewhere that’s absolutely swarming with humankind.
There are some uses of this form which are more ceremonial and official. For example, a rather extreme form of courtesy when addressing or referring to a revered individual is excelentísimo, a title also given to town councils. You may well have read that General Franco bestowed on himself the exaggerated title of generalísimo, a word that is still to be found on street names up and down the country.
Perhaps it’s partly to do with the Spanish tendency to be emphatic, but these endings are very commonly heard so are worth trying to get to grips with. If someone asks you if you are contento or contenta about something, you can if you wish, say that you are contentísimo or contentísima. Likewise you might be enfadadismo (extremely angry) or encantadísma (really delighted). You’d need a lot of Spanish attitude to go with them though!
Jane Cronin’s “Step by Step Spanish” articles are available as e-books at www.janecronin.eu where you can also obtain Jane’s “Step by Step Internet Spanish” course.