Should you use mucho or muy? Do you know how to say the Spanish words muy and mucho in English? What is the difference between muy vs. mucho in Spanish?
Simply put, muy in English would be "very" or "really," while mucho in English means "many," "much," or "a lot." However, as these words can wear muchos sombreros (a lot of hats), muy vs. mucho can be un concepto muy difícil (a very difficult concept) for many English speakers.
When muy is accompanied by an adjective, the adjective that modifies the noun must agree with that noun in terms of gender and number. The "good news," however, is that the word muy itself always stays the same, regardless of whether the noun it modifies is singular or plural or masculine or feminine. Let's take a look:
es un artista plástico español muy reconocido.
is a very famous fine art artist.
Caption 14, Amaya - Vínculo: un mural muy especialPlay Caption
¡estos plátanos son muy pequeños!
these bananas are very small!Play Caption
Es una ciudad muy linda que tiene un cri'... clima primaveral.
It's a very beautiful city that has a spri'... spring-like climate.
Caption 47, Cleer - Entrevista con JackyPlay Caption
Las ranas son definitivamente las mejores maestras en salto.
Frogs are definitely the best jumping masters.
Pero son muy vanidosas.
But they're very full of themselves.
Captions 22-23, Guillermina y Candelario - Una Amiga muy PresumidaPlay Caption
Just to reiterate, although the adjectives are singular or plural and masculine or feminine, in agreement with their corresponding nouns, the word muy always remains the same.
The word muy in Spanish also remains the same when accompanying an adverb, which modifies a verb, as in the following examples:
Con un poco de práctica, podremos aprender estas reglas muy fácilmente.
With a bit of practice, we will be able to learn these rules very easily.Play Caption
Kristen, por ejemplo, tú has dicho, muy rápidamente,
Kristen, for example, you've said, very quickly,
Caption 11, Clase Aula Azul - Pedir deseosPlay Caption
When constructing or understanding sentences with muy in Spanish, how will you know whether you are contending with an adjective or an adverb? When you see a word that ends with the suffix -mente (equivalent to -ly in English), as in the examples above, you can be sure you have an adverb. However, as not all adverbs take this form and some words can function as either adjectives or adverbs, depending upon the context, it can sometimes be tough to tell the difference. Let's take a look at an example with the word rápido, which may be used as an adverb in lieu of rápidamente:
porque lo hacen muy rápido.
because they do it very quickly.Play Caption
Like the English word "fast," rápido can function as an adjective when describing a noun (e.g. un carro rápido/a fast car) or an adverb when describing an action (el carro va rápido/the car goes fast) to talk about something that happens "fast" or "quickly." The tricky aspect of this is that, while rápido would need to agree in terms of gender and number when employed as an adjective (e.g. unos carros rápidos), as an adverb, it remains the same (in its masculine singular form) regardless of the number of people or objects performing the action. Let's see one more example:
Vamos a trabajar muy fuerte.
We're going to work very hard.Play Caption
Note that as always, the word muy is unchanging, and because fuerte (strong, hard, etc.) works as an adverb here, it remains unchanged, in its singular form, as well. Were it an adjective, on the other hand, gender and number would need to be taken into account, as in the example "Somos muy fuertes" (We are very strong).
Moving on to the word mucho in Spanish, taking into account what we have learned thus far regarding adjectives and adverbs, let's examine how this word can function as either of these parts of speech. To start, when mucho functions as an adjective, it must agree in terms of number and gender with the noun it modifies. Let's look:
¿Sí? No tengo mucho tiempo libre ahora.
Right? I don't have a lot of free time now.
Caption 20, Clase Aula Azul - Pedir deseosPlay Caption
La verdad es que yo he tenido muchos perros,
The truth is that I've had many dogs,
Caption 50, Tu Voz Estéreo - LauraPlay Caption
En Málaga, hay mucha gente con tus mismos síntomas.
In Malaga, there are a lot of people with your same symptoms.
Caption 20, Ariana - Cita médicaPlay Caption
A muchas personas les gusta ir de vacaciones allí
A lot of people like to go on vacation there
Caption 22, El Aula Azul - Adivina el paísPlay Caption
As you can see in these examples that employ masculine singular/plural and feminine singular/plural nouns, the form mucho takes (mucho, muchos, mucha, or muchas) changes in accordance with the noun it modifies.
In contrast, when mucho functions as an adverb, modifying a verb, it is always mucho in the singular/masculine form, and the gender/quantity of the noun or verb has no effect on it. Let's look at some examples:
¿Se utiliza mucho el ajo en los platos peruanos?
Is garlic used a lot in Peruvian dishes?
Caption 19, Recetas de cocina - Papa a la HuancaínaPlay Caption
Estos ejercicios ayudan mucho
These exercises really help
Caption 59, Bienestar con Elizabeth - RelajaciónPlay Caption
Me gusta mucho este parque.
I really like this park.Play Caption
Sí, me gustan mucho las uvas.
Yes, I like grapes a lot.Play Caption
To conclude our discussion on muy vs. mucho, note that the word mucho and its corresponding feminine/plural alternatives can be used as pronouns to replace nouns that have been mentioned or implied. Notice that the pronoun forms of mucho must agree in gender and number with the nouns they replace, as follows:
¿Se encuentran aquí buenas cositas o no,
Can you find good stuff here or not,
buenas gangas? -Sí, sí, sí. -¿Sí? -Muchas.
good bargains? -Yes, yes, yes. -Yes? -Many.
Captions 102-103, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 14Play Caption
Sí. -¿Que mucha más gente viene ahora?
Yes. -That a lot more people come now?
Sí, mucha. -Yo tengo un niño pequeño entonces...
Yes, a lot. -I have a small child so...
Captions 43-44, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 16Play Caption
Puedes ver que no tenemos muchos
You can see that we don't have many
porque hemos vendido últimamente bastantes.
because we have sold quite a few lately.
Captions 46-47, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 11Play Caption
While you can clearly see in the first two examples that the word mucho changes forms (to mucha and muchas) to agree with the feminine singular and plural nouns it replaces (cositas/gangas and gente), the third example is notable because the noun being replaced by the masculine plural form muchos is not immediately apparent. However, since the conversation in question, which began several captions earlier, involves cars (the masculine plural noun, los coches), the masculine plural form muchos must be utilized to express the idea of "many" in this context.
We hope that this lesson has helped to clarify the difference between muy vs. mucho in Spanish since sus muchos usos y matices pueden resultar muy difíciles (their many uses and nuances can be very difficult) for English speakers. We welcome any insight you might have on mucho vs. muy in Spanish, and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments.
Let's go back to the subjunctive just a little. Did you know that one characteristic that sets apart the subjunctive mood from the indicative, conditional, and the imperative is the fact that the subjunctive is found primarily in dependent clauses? (Of course, the other moods can occur there as well.) Let's illustrate this with an example from one of our videos:
¿Que estás queriendo que se muera más rápido?
What are you wanting for him to die faster?
Caption 12, Yago - 9 Recuperación - Part 9Play Caption
This is a classic example of subjunctive, right? It's being used to talk about a wish, a hypothetical situation. We have highlighted the subjunctive muera in bold and underlined the indicative queriendo to clearly show you the way the subjunctive is used as part of compound sentences: the indicative queriendo plays the main role as the independent clause (the action of wanting), while the subjunctive muera refers to the action that depends on it (the action of dying). This is the way the subjunctive is used most of the time.
But the subjunctive is sometimes used in independent clauses. One of the most interesting cases is when the imperfect subjunctive is used to replace the conditional forms of the verbs poder (to be able), querer (to want), and deber (must) as part of what in Spanish is called el subjuntivo de cortesía (the courtesy subjunctive). As its name indicates, this construction is used to make a request or a suggestion in a more gentle, polite, or deferential way. This type of subjunctive is very, very common, so it's a good idea to memorize the corresponding conjugation for each verb. you can find full conjugations of these verbs on this page.
You might also want to explore the following examples. Note that the use of this subjunctive is usually combined with another verb in infinitive:
Quisiera saber si los perros tienen cosquillas.
I would like to know if dogs are ticklish.Play Caption
¿Pudieras pasarme la leche?
Could you pass me the milk?
Angélica debiera bajar a comer.
Angelica should come down to eat.
Caption 15, Muñeca Brava - 36 La pesquisa - Part 5Play Caption
All these expressions would still be correct if you used the conditional forms (querría instead of quisiera, podrías instead of pudieras, debería instead of debiera); the use of subjunctive just makes them more polite, refined. It's a subtle difference, really. Think of it this way: using the conditional podrías pasarme la leche could mean, in theory, that the speaker is actually doubting whether the other person is able to pass the milk or not, instead of just asking for a favor. The use of the subjunctive leaves no room for doubts that you are making a polite request.
We can't stress enough how common this substitution of conditional with subjunctive is. But make no mistake, this is no conditional, and it only uses these three verbs. You may bump into similar constructions that are just incomplete compound sentences, for example incomplete si (if) clauses:
Si yo supiera...
If I only knew...
Caption 72, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido - Part 4Play Caption
The subjunctive is not used as an independent clause here. Grammatically speaking, this expression is just missing its main clause, in this case a conditional. If we add it, for example: si yo supiera te lo diría (if I only knew I would tell you), we have a classic case of conditional plus subjunctive, as seen in one of our previous lessons on the subject.
The same happens with the following example. It's a tricky one, because even though it uses the verb poder (to be able), this is not a case of courtesy subjunctive. To prove it, we have completed the sentence with a conditional in brackets:
Si pudiera bajarte una estrella del cielo [me amarías]
If I could lower down to you a star from the sky [you would love me]
Caption 5, Enrique Iglesias - Cuando me enamoroPlay Caption
Another interesting use of the subjunctive used as an independent sentence happens when it's used with words that mean “perhaps,” like tal vez and quizá.
Tal vez cure el tiempo las heridas.
Perhaps time may heal the wounds.
Caption 20, Reik - No desapareceráPlay Caption
Of course, it's also possible to simply use the indicative here and say: tal vez cura el tiempo las heridas (perhaps time heals the wounds). The use of subjunctive just stresses the idea that the action is improbable or doubtful, it's also more poetic. However—and this is just an exercise of the mind—another way of understanding these type of expressions is to recall that the words tal vez and quizá mean es posible (it's possible) and thus play the role of the main clause in a classic example of indicative plus subjunctive, where the subjunctive que cure... is the subordinate clause. Just saying.
Es posible que cure el tiempo las heridas.
It's possible that time will heal the wounds.