Making Comparisons of Equality and Inequality in Spanish
Comparisons of equality
By comparison of equality, we mean building similar structures like “as...as” in English. For instance, a sentence such as “I am as intelligent as you”. It is the subject of this lesson.
To build such a sentence in Spanish you have two choices:
1. tan + como
If the comparison is to be made with adjectives/adverbs you should use “tan...como” combination.
- Ella es tan intelligente como yo (she is as intelligent as me)
Or in a more modest expression
- Ella es tan fea como yo (she is as ugly as me)
- La chica es tan gorda como el chico (the girl is as fat as the boy)
2. tanto + como
If the comparison is to be made with a noun, you need to use “tanto...como”. You need to be careful when using tanto. It has to agree with the gender and number of the noun.
As usual with words ending in –o, there will be four versions you need to choose from:
tanto (masculine, singular)
tanta (feminine, singular)
tantos (masculine, plural)
tantas (feminine, plural)
- tiene tanto dinero como yo (he has as much money as I have)
Since dinero is a masculine and singular noun, tanto is used in this sentence.
- tiene tanta comida como yo (he has as much food as I have)
Since comida is a feminine and singular noun, tanta is used in this sentence.
- tiene tantos pantalones como yo (he has many trousers I have)
Since pantalones is a masculine and plural noun, tantos is used in this sentence.
- Tiene tantas gafas como yo (he has as many glasses as I have)
So, while tanto/-a means “as much as”, “tantos/-as” means as many as.
Be careful! If you make a comparison using verbs with adverbs you still need to use “tanto..como”:
- Alejandro baila tan bien como Rosa (Alejandro dances as well as Rosa).
But, if no adverb or adjective follows the verb, you should use “tanto...como”
- Las camisetas cuestan tanto como las ropas (The t-shirts cost as much as the dresses)
Note that in this case, you do not need to modify “tanto”. The masculine, singular form is used with the verbs.
Comparisons of inequality
Recall that to express comparisons of inequality; we use generally the structure (more/less ... than) in English. For example “She is more intelligent than me” or “She is less intelligent than me”.
The Spanish version is very similar. To express comparisons of inequality, use “más /menos” which means more/less and add the word “que”.
- Mi casa es más grande que tu case (My house is bigger than yours)
- Tengo más libros que Rosa (I have less books than Rosa)
As you see, whether comparisons are made with adjectives/adverbs or nouns, you use always the same structure. In this sense, the inequality case is much simpler than the equality case.
There is a point you need to be careful about though. If numbers are used when comparing two unequal things, “de” has to be placed before the number(s):
- tiene menos de tres amigos (he has less than three friends)
- ella tiene más de treinta años (she is more than 30).
Note that in the above case, que is omitted completely; only “de” is used.
Another structure which you need to get used to in this respect is the formation of negative sentences with numbers:
- No hay más que diez estudiantes en la clase.
The above sentence means that “there are only ten students in the class”. Usually, the sentences with “only” are built using “más que” in this way in Spanish.
There are some exceptional adjectives and adverbs which have their own comparative forms. We know this topic from English again. For example, the comparative form for good is better not more good.
Here are the typical adjectives/adverbs falling into this class:
bueno (good): mejor (better)
bien (well): major (better)
malo (bad): peor (worse)
mal (badly): peor (worse)