Tricky Situations: Spanish Adjectives versus Spanish Adverbs

The question of when to use certain Spanish adjectives and Spanish adverbs can lead to some tricky situations. So just how can you know when to use an adverb versus an adjective? By knowing what to watch for. The following sections present some adjective/adverb situations that can trip you up when learning how to use these tools in Spanish.

Learning good Spanish well

Bueno(s)/buena(s) and malo(s)/mala(s) are adjectives (and must agree in number and gender with the nouns they modify) that mean good and bad, respectively. Bien and mal are adverbs (requiring no agreement) that mean well and badly/poorly, respectively.

  • Ellas tienen muchas buenas (malas) ideas. (They have many good [bad] ideas.)

  • Elena juega bien (mal). (Elena plays well [poorly].)

Spanish words that can be both adjectives and adverbs, more or less

The Spanish words más (more), menos (less, fewer), mejor (better), peor (worse), mucho (much, many), poco (little, few), and demasiado (too much, too many) may be used as adjectives or adverbs.

As adjectives, más and menos remain invariable; mejor and peor add -es to agree only with noun plurals that they modify; and mucho, poco, and demasiado agree in both number and gender with the nouns they modify. As adverbs, all these words remain invariable. Look at the following sentences where adjectives appear in the first examples and adverbs are used in the second examples:

  • Samuel tiene más (menos) energía. (Samuel has more [less] energy.)

    Samuel trabaja más (menos) enérgicamente. (Samuel works more [less] energetically.)

  • Teodoro tiene mejores (peores) notas. (Theodore has better [worse] grades.)

    Teodoro se aplica mejor (peor). (Theodore applies himself better [worse].)

  • Da muchas (pocas, demasiadas) excusas. (He gives many [few, too many] excuses.)

    Piensa mucho (poco, demasiado). (He thinks a lot [a little, too much].)

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