We are still on the subject of adjectives as there are a lot of things to say about them apart from how they agree with nouns as we have already seen. Another thing we use adjectives for is to make comparisons. For example, in English we say ‘big’, ‘bigger’, ‘the biggest’; “nice, nicer, the nicest”; ‘beautiful’, ‘more beautiful’, ‘the most beautiful’. We call these forms comparative and superlative.
The comparative compares two things – ‘My dad is bigger than your dad’, whereas the superlative compares one thing in relation to all the rest – ‘His dad is the biggest’.
This is very easy in Spanish as we simply place the word ‘más’ in front of the adjective to form the comparative (comparing two) and ‘el más’ (masc) or ‘la más’ (feminine) to form the superlative (one in comparison to all the rest).
Mi papá es más grande que tu papá – ‘My dad is bigger than your dad’. (Notice we use ‘que’ to translate ‘than’).
Su papá es el más grande – His dad is the biggest.
Here is one more thing to learn about adjectives; Spanish has a very interesting way of using them to replace nouns.
For example, we can say:
El hombre viejo – the old man. This is perfectly correct, but usually it gets reduced to simply el viejo. (We could translate this as ‘the old man’ or simply ‘the old one’).
This works in the same way in the feminine.
La chica guapa – the pretty girl, or simply la guapa (the pretty one).
All adjectives work in this way:
el gordo – the fat one (masc)
la tonta – the silly one (fem)
el gracioso – the funny one (masc)
la fea – the ugly one (fem)
Of course in Spanish we can identify whether the person is masculine or feminine, whereas this meaning is lost in English. We can also use this to refer to things, of course.
¿Cuál de las cajas quieres? ¿La grande? – Which box do you want? The big one?
Finally, also related to adjectives, we can now learn the fifth way of saying ‘the’. If you remember we have learnt so far that there are masculine, feminine, singular and plural forms – el, la, los and las. The missing form is ‘lo’. Now ‘lo’ has several meanings in Spanish, but at the moment we are only looking at when it means ‘the’. This is how it works, using three examples:
Lo interesante – the interesting thing
Lo difícil – the difficult thing
Lo curioso – the curious thing
What can we say about these expressions? Well, interesante, difícil and curioso are all adjectives. However, they are not describing anything in particular. We are not saying ‘the interesting book’, ‘the difficult job’, ‘the curious idea’. These adjectives are really describing ideas or situations, not words that are defined as masculine or feminine. In this case, the word for ‘the’ cannot be ‘el’ or ‘la’ but is a neutral ‘the’ – ‘lo’.
I’ll finish with a sentence for you to translate into English for next month which hopefully illustrates some of what we’ve learnt.
Los dos hijos, el guapo y el feo, van a visitar a su familia este verano. Lo triste es que el guapo es más popular que el feo, aunque el feo es mucho más simpático, y es el más generoso de toda la familia. Lo más curioso de todo es que el guapo tiene muchos más amigos que el feo, pero el feo es el más feliz.
Jane Cronin’s “Step by Step Spanish” articles are now available as e-books at www.janecronin.eu where you can also obtain Jane’s brand new “Step by Step Internet Spanish” course.