Spanish Comparatives and superlatives

In the previous post ,  we saw that adjectives must agree in number and gender with the noun to which they refer. By placing más or menos before adjectives and que after them we can make comparisons as follows:

Juan es más alto que Pedro.
Juan is taller than Pedro.

Estas casas son más bonitas que ésas.
These houses are prettier than those.

Este abrigo es menos caro.
This coat is less expensive.

Los gatos son menos cariñosos que los perros.
Cats are less affectionate than dogs.

When making a comparison using pronouns, the subject pronoun (see Unit 1) must be used after que:

e.g. (Yo) soy más fuerte que tú.
 I am stronger than you.

(Nosotros) somos más ricos que ellos.
We are richer than them.

The comparisons can be further qualified by using the following adverbs before más or menos:

mucho                    much/a lot
bastante                                quite/considerably
un pocoa                               little
algo                        rather/somewhat

e.g.          Juan es mucho más inteligente que Pedro.
Juan is much more intelligent than Pedro.

Este coche es bastante más cómodo que aquél.
This car is considerably more comfortable than that one.

Este libro es un poco menos interesante.
This book is a little less interesting.

más que or más de?

When an expression of quantity (usually a number) follows ‘than’ this is normally translated by de rather than que:

Pesa más de ochenta kilos.
He weighs more than 80 kilos.

Tengo menos de veinte euros.
I have less than 20 euros.

Son más de las doce y media.
It is later than half past twelve.

The exception to this is the expression no … más que (only) that can be used before quantities:

No tengo más que veinte euros.
I only have 20 euros.

No pesa más que sesenta kilos.
He only weighs 60 kilos.

No son más que las once.
It is only 11 o’clock.

A few adjectives have special comparative forms, although in some cases it is possible to use más or menos before them in the same way as other adjectives, but with a slightly different meaning or context:

Adjective                              Comparative
bueno                                    mejor                                                     better
malo                                       peor                                                       worse
grande                                   mayor                                                    bigger, older
más grande                                          bigger

pequeño                                                menor                                                    smaller, younger
más pequeño                                        smaller
bajo inferior                                         lower, inferior
más bajo l                                             ower, shorter (height)
alto superior                                         higher, superior
más alto                                                                higher, taller (height)

mayor and menor are especially used to indicate older and younger in family relationships:

mi hermano mayor
my older brother

su hermana menor
his younger sister


más and menos are also used to form superlatives – ‘biggest’, ‘youngest’, ‘most interesting’, etc. The absence of the following que indicates that a superlative rather than a comparative is intended:

la película más interesante
the most interesting film

el pueblo más aislado
the most remote villaje

el coche menos caro
the cheapest car

Note: To express the English ‘in’ after a superlative, de must be used:

la chica más inteligente de la clase
the most intelligent girl in the class

el país más rico del mundo

the richest country in the world