Spanish Lessons


Making Comparisons in Spanish - Part 2

In the first part of our lesson on comparative structures, we covered comparisons of inequality. However, what if we would like to talk about similarity? Part two of this lesson will deal with comparisons of equality as well as superlatives, and considering that 2020 has been uno de los años más difíciles para muchos (one of the hardest years for many people), superlative structures could definitely come in handy. 


Comparisons of Equality


1. tan + adjective/adverb + como 


Let's start by using the Spanish equivalent of as ___ as (as good as, as fast as, etc.). We can use this structure with both adjectives and adverbs.


Oye, no, no es tan fácil como tú lo ves, ¿eh? 

Hey, no, it's not as easy as you see it, huh?

Caption 21, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 17

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Tampoco saliste con una mina tan finoli como ella. 

You haven't dated a woman as elegant as her either.

Caption 18, Yago - 12 Fianza

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Notice that we use tan rather than tanto before the adjective or adverb. Thus, in the previous examples, it would be a mistake to say tanto fácil or tanto finoli. We can, however, say tanto más or tanto menos fácil (as explained in part one of this lesson). 


On the other hand, the similar structure tanto como is the Spanish equivalent of "as much as." In the following example, note that because tanto is an adverb, it is unmarked for gender and number. 


Espero que hayáis disfrutado al menos

I hope that you have enjoyed at least

tanto como yo disfruto

as much as I enjoy

estando todos los días con vosotros. 

being here every day with you guys.

Captions 76-78, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoli

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2. tanto + noun + como


Unlike the examples with adjectives and adverbs above, tanto must be marked for gender when used with nouns. We will therefore use tanto/s before masculine nouns and tanta/s before feminine nouns as follows:


Tiene tanto dinero como su hijo. 

She has as much money as her son does. 


Tiene tanta paciencia como tú.

She has as much patience as you do. 


Tienes tantas hermanas como yo.

You have as many sisters as I do. 


3. parecido(s)/parecida(s)           


When talking about things (cosas) that are similar, we can employ this term as an adjective (marked for number and gender) to say that they are parecidas. On the other hand, to express that something is done in a similar way, we use the unmarked adverb: parecidoas in Juana y su hermana hablan parecido. And to top it all off, parecido is also a noun that indicates resemblance.  


La [cultura] gitana es muy parecida a la cultura árabe. 

Gypsy [culture] is very similar to Arab culture.

Caption 37, Europa Abierta - Jassin Daudi - Con arte

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Notice the use of the preposition a following the adjective parecida to indicate "to."


Now, let's look at parecido as a noun as it appears in this caption from Clase Aula Azul, which explains the use of the verb parecer:


Hablamos de parecidos físicos, ¿sí?

We're talking about physical similarities, right?

Se parece es como decir, es parecido, es similar, ¿mmm?

"Se parece" [It looks like] is like saying, it's alike, it's similar, hmm?

Captions 37-38, Clase Aula Azul - El verbo parecer

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4. idéntico/igual/mismo 


While we can use parecido or similar to describe similarities, what if the items being compared are exactly the same? When items are virtually indistinguishable, idéntico, igual, or mismo are suitable terms. Remember that these are adjectives and are therefore marked for number and gender, except for igual, which is gender neutral. It is worth mentioning that only el/la mismo/a or los/las mismos/as can come before the noun. Thus, if one has the same t-shirt someone is wearing, he or she might say the following:


Tengo la misma remera (I have the same t-shirt).

Tengo una remera igual (I have a t-shirt just like that).

Tengo una remera idéntica (I have an identical t-shirt). 


Let's take a look at some additional examples: 


Porque uno idéntico a este

Because one identical to this one

embarcó en el Titanic en mil novecientos doce. 

embarked on the Titanic in nineteen twelve.

Captions 24-25, Málaga - Museo del automóvil

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Si hay diez personas trabajando con los mismos medios y las mismas herramientas.

If there are ten people working with the same media and the same tools.

Caption 73, Lo que no sabías - Arte electrónico

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As a side note, the interesting expressions me da igual or me da lo mismo mean "it's all the same to me" or "I don´t really care":


Ya lo que digan me da igual 

What people say doesn't matter to me anymore

Caption 22, Alejandro Fernandez - Eres

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5. Como 


Another keyword when it comes to making comparisons is como (like). 


Juli, vas a quedar como una cobarde,

Juli, you're going to look like a coward,

como si te diera miedo. 

as if it scared you.

Captions 44-45, Club 10 - Capítulo 1

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And you will definitely remember this comparative structure after listening to the Calle 13 song in this clip:


No hay nadie como tú

There is no one like you

Caption 29, Calle 13 - No hay nadie como tú

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Superlative Structures


Finally, we have the superlative forms with the following structures: el/los/la/las/lo + más + adjective:


La prueba de sonido es lo más importante quizás porque es la preparación, ¿no?

The sound check is the most important thing, maybe because it's the staging, right?

Caption 6, David Bisbal - Haciendo Premonición Live

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Este es el aguacate más caro que hay en el mercado. 

This is the most expensive avocado that there is on the market.

Caption 38, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 1

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Note that there are a few irregular superlatives:


el mejor   (the best)

el peor      (the worst)

el mayor    (the oldest) 


For "the oldest," el más grande can also be used. While this is very common in some regions and can also mean "the largest," "the greatest," or "the biggest," it is important to remember that, as is the case with all irregular superlatives, mayor cannot be used in conjunction with más. Thus the sentence "Paul is the oldest in his class" can be translated as Paul es el más grande de su clase or Paul es el mayor de su clase but NOT Paul es el más mayor. 


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Different Verbs, Same Idea? Let's Not Get Philosophical

The Spanish verbs tener (to have), haber (especially the impersonal verb form hay), ser and estar (both "to be") can sometimes be interchanged or used in similar ways to express the same idea. Recently, one of our subscribers asked us to tackle the subject. Since these verbs are indeed among the list of the most useful, versatile, and difficult verbs in the Spanish lexicon, we thought... What are we waiting for?! 


In Spanish we use hay, the impersonal form of the verb haber (to have) to express a necessity. The formula is always hay que:


Es decir, hay que compartir.

I mean, it's necessary to share.

Caption 20, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 15

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However, it's also possible to use the verbs tener (to have) or ser (to be) to express the same idea. Here's what the phrases would look like:

With tenerEs decir, se tiene que compartir.
With ser (you can't use estar): Es decir, es necesario compartir.

Is there a difference between them? Not really. OK, maybe a very subtle one, practically inexistent: it could be argued that the level of urgency in which the necessity is expressed is different for each sentence. Hay que is more pressing, se tiene is a little less, and es necesario is even lesser. It's really a negligible and debatable difference, so feel free to use them indistinctly.


Another case. We can use hay to express the concept of "there are/there is."


Creo que hay muchas personas haciendo "circuit bending"

I believe that there are many people doing circuit bending

Caption 70, Lo que no sabías - Arte electrónico - Part 5

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Can we use the other verbs to express the same idea? Well, this is a tricky matter. Of course, the following sentences are all possible in Spanish:


With tener

Creo que tenemos muchas personas haciendo "circuit bending" / I believe we have a lot of people doing circuit bending.

With estar: 

Creo que están muchas personas haciendo "circuit bending" / I believe a lot of people are doing circuit bending.

In fact, the usual order would be: Creo que muchas personas están haciendo "circuit bending."

With ser:

Creo que son muchas personas haciendo "circuit bending" / I believe they are many, the people doing circuit bending.

Take note that saying Creo que muchas personas son haciendo circuit bending is totally incorrect.


You can see that the first sentence using tener (to have) is very similar to the example using hay even though they are not exactly the same. The second example using estar is, however, the closer to the original one that uses hay. The only difference is they employ different verbs, haber (to have) and estar (to be). The third one is the really tricky one, because the subtle difference between the use of ser and estar (both "to be") gets lost in English. Maybe, in this particular context, you could use son muchas personas instead of hay muchas personas. 


Just remember that in Spanish the use of the verb ser (to be) implies a more fundamental situation, while the use of estar implies a more temporal one, one that might change, one that depends on external factors like time and space. Ser is more about the essence of things and situations. Its meaning is broad and less determined by context. Therefore, using ser results in a shift of the sentence's focus from the action of doing circuit bending to the nature or state of being many, which is something we tried to mimic in our translation. In fact, that's the reason why the sentence only works using exactly that word order; so the verb son (ser/to be) modifies muchas personas. But you can't use ser to modify the verb haciendo, that is, to talk about an action that may be happening now, but may or may not happen tomorrow. For that you must use the verb están (estar/to be): están haciendo. Let's put it with apples:

Hay manzanas en la mesa / There are apples on the table.
Tenemos manzanas en la mesa / We have apples on the table.
Las manzanas están en la mesa / The apples are on the table.

Las manzanas son en la mesa /

This last example can't be used instead of any of the previous ones. In fact, it can't really be used at all, unless you are taking part in some kind of philosophical discussion. Saying this in Spanish would mean something like "The apples exists on the table." 


Let's now see an example where you can use ser but not estar:


Pero siempre vamos a encontrar que hay una gran similitud.

But we are always going to find that there is a great similarity.

Caption 40, Beatriz Noguera - Exposición de Arte

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The following sentences are not exactly the same; however, in some contexts they may be used to express the same idea, with subtle differences. Please note that in the following examples we have added possible contexts in parentheses.

With tener

Pero siempre vamos a encontrar que tenemos una gran similitud (entre chabacanos y duraznos) But we are always going to find that we have a great similarity (between apricots and peaches).

The sentence may mean something different in a different context, though. For example: 

Tenemos una gran similitud (entre nosotros) We have a great similarity (between each other).

With ser:

Pero siempre vamos a encontrar que es una gran similitud (la que existe entre chabacanos y duraznos) But we are always going to find that there is a great similarity (that exists between apricots and peaches).

Notice how the verb ser here modifies similitud (the similarity is fundamentally great), and we need to use existe (to exist)—we could also use hay (there are)—in a complicated circunloquio (circumlocution) so we can convey the idea of the first example. You can't ever say something like es una gran similitud entre chabacanos y duraznos.


With estar


It's not possible to use the verb estar (to be) to express this idea. You can't ever say something like está una gran similitud entre chabacanos y duraznos. This is wrong because you use estar to express non intrinsic situations, and when we talk about the similarity of apricots and peaches we are necessarily comparing their fundamental way of being, their intrinsic nature, what makes them what they are and not, let's say, bananas and apples. 


Ok. Keeping all this in mind, let's put you to the test: Are the following sentences possible in Spanish? If they are, do they mean the same thing? 

Los gemelos son igualitos.
Los gemelos están igualitos.

The answer is yes, both sentences are possible in Spanish. What's the difference between them, then? 


Well, the first sentence is either talking about the fundamental similarity that exists between twins, any twins in general (Twins are identical), or it's talking about a particular couple of twins, which we refer to as "the twins," and the idea would translate as "The twins are identical." Using ser here stresses the idea that they are identical because they are identical in something that is intrinsic to them, not because they are wearing the same outfit or have the same haircut, for example. On the contrary, the second sentence, using estar, can't be used to talk about any twins in general. It can only be used to refer to a certain couple of twins. The translation is then, "The twins are identical."


By the way, fun fact: the diminutive igualito (from igual = same) paradoxically functions as a kind of augmentative: igualito means "very same," "identical."



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