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When Superlatives Fail: Exaggerating in Spanish

Spanish speakers love to exaggerate. What to non-Spanish speakers may seem an excessive way to talk to the Spanish-speaking mind simply adds a bit more emphasis. Not only can you compare things, but you also have a way to express an exaggerated state of things.

To exaggerate a quality, you add -ísimo (ee-see-moh) or -ísima (ee-see-mah) to an adjective or an adverb. For example, to say that something good, bueno (bvooeh-noh), is exceptionally so, you say buenísimo (bvooeh-nee-see-moh).

Here are some examples:

  • La película es buenísima. (lah peh-lee-koo-lah ehs bvooeh-nee-see-mah) (The film is exceptionally good.)

  • La ciudad es grandísima. (lah seeoo-dahd ehs grahn-dee-see-mah grahn-dee-see-mah) (The city is huge.)

  • Los perros son bravísimos. (los peh-rrohs sohn bvrah-bvee-see-mohs) (The dogs are extremely fierce.)

  • El hotel es malísimo. (ehl oh-tehl ehs mah-lee-see-moh) (The hotel is really bad.)

  • El postre está dulcísimo. (ehl pohs-treh ehs-tah dool-see-see-moh) (The dessert is sickeningly sweet.)

  • Los colores son vivísimos. (losh koh-loh-rehs sohn bvee-bvee-see-mohs) (The colors are exceedingly bright.)

  • El bus andaba lentísimo. (ehl bvoos ahn-dah-bvah lehn-tee-see-moh) (The bus advanced extremely slowly.)

  • La tienda cobraba carísimo. (lah teeehn-dah koh-bvrah-bvah kah-ree-see-moh) (The shop was exorbitantly expensive.)

    [Credit: Corbis Digital Stock]
    Credit: Corbis Digital Stock

Exaggeration is something you see everywhere, even in classical Spanish poetry. For example, Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas (frahn-sees-koh deh keh-bveh-doh ee bvee-yeh-gahs), the Spanish poet of the Golden Century (who lived from 1580–1645), says in his poem “A una nariz” (ah oo-nah nah-rees) (To a nose) to a person with a very large one, “muchísima nariz” (moo-chee-see-mah nah-reehs) (a whole lotta nose).

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