Gran vs Grande in Spanish


Gran is the short version of grande. For that reason, many new and experienced Spanish learners assume that these adjectives are synonymous. But the truth is that they cannot be used interchangeably because they refer to different things. As a result, many people start to wonder what’s the difference between gran and grande in Spanish. 

Grande is an adjective that is placed after the noun and it describes a person or object’s size or age. Therefore, it means ‘big’, ‘old’, ‘large’ or grown-up’. Gran is placed before the noun and it refers to a person or object’s remarkable or important qualities.  It means ‘great’ or ‘big’. 

Even though they seem the same, using ‘gran’ or ‘grande’ will have a different effect in the meaning of your sentence. Since these adjectives can be confusing for Spanish learners, in the following sections, we’ll explain when and how to use these words. 

Additionally, we’ll provide examples and the phrase structures you need to use when applying these words to your sentences. By the end of this, you’ll have a stronger command of ‘gran’ and ‘grande’. 

What’s the difference between ‘gran’ and ‘grande’?

Since ‘gran’ is the apocope of ‘grande’, these Spanish adjectives are easily confused. But despite their similarities, these words have slightly different meanings that prevent us from using them interchangeably. On top of this, ‘gran’ and ‘grande’ have their own grammatical rules. 

Gran is used when talking about a person or object’s remarkable or significant characteristics or qualities. It means great, fantastic or big. ‘Gran’ is figurative: it talks about intangible qualities. It’s always placed before a singular or feminine noun. 

¡Qué gran idea!
It’s a fantastic idea!

Mi hermana es una gran mujer: siempre trata de ayudar a otros
My sister is a great woman: she always tries to help others

Grande is also an adjective and it qualifies an object’s or person’s size or age. It means ‘big’, ‘large’, ‘old’ or ‘grown-up’. ‘Grande’ is placed after the noun and it has a plural form.  

Nuestros vecinos son pura gente grande
Our neighbors are only old people

Mi hermana es una mujer grande: es la más alta de mis hermanos 
My sister is a big woman: she’s the tallest of my siblings

Now that you have a general idea about these Spanish adjectives, it’s time to see when and how to use each one of these words. 

How & When to Use Gran in Spanish

Gran is a Spanish adjective that is used to describe positive, intense, remarkable, or noble qualities of a person or object. As a result, this Spanish adjective means ‘great’, ‘fantastic’ or ‘big’. On top of this, ‘gran’ always needs to be placed before the noun that it’s qualifying. Here is a phrase structure that you can use: 

[Verb conjugated] + un/una + gran + [noun]

Hiciste una gran elección
You made a great choice 

Paulina es una gran maestra
Paulina is a fantastic teacher

¿Conoces a Daryl? Es un gran amigo mío
Do you know Daryl? He’s a great friend of mine

Frida Kahlo fue una gran pintora mexicana
Frida Kahlo was a great Mexican painter 

España es un gran lugar para aprender español
Spain is a fantastic place to learn Spanish  

Notice that unlike other adjectives, ‘gran’ can be used for both singular masculine and feminine nouns. If you want to use it with plural nouns, ‘gran’ will become grandes. However, this change doesn’t affect the meaning of the sentence unless you misplaced the adjective. 

Sebastián y Alberto son grandes amigos míos
Sebastian and Alberto are great friends of mine

¿Qué grandes ideas han cambiado al mundo?
What great ideas have changed the world?

Frida Kahlo y Diego Rivera fueron grandes pintores mexicanos
Frida Kahlo y Diego Rivera were great Mexican painters 

Take Note: ‘Gran’ is translated as ‘great’, but this doesn’t mean that this Spanish word has all the same meanings as ‘great’ does.

Gran – As a synonym of big

‘Gran’ can also refer figuratively to an object or concept’s size. This means that you cannot actually see the size of the thing that you’re talking about. In this situation, ‘gran’ is translated as ‘big’.

Tu papá tiene un gran corazón Your dad has a big heart

Tómate tu tiempo, es una gran decisión Take your time, it’s a big decision

How & When to Use Grande in Spanish

Grande is also a Spanish adjective. But unlike ‘gran’, grande refers to a person or object’s size or age and it’s placed after the noun that it’s qualifying. As a result, it can be translated as:

  • Big
  • Large
  • Old 
  • Grown-up

Here is the phrase structure that you need to follow with this adjective: 

[Verb conjugated] + [noun] + (adverb) + grande 

Mi vecino es un señor grande
My neighbor is an old man

¿Tienes una talla más grande?
Do you have a larger size?

¿Quieren una taza más grande?
Do you guys want a bigger cup?

¿Por qué traes una bolsa tan grande?
Why did you bring such a big bag? 

Todavía no eres lo suficientemente grande para tener tu propio coche
You’re still not old enough to have your own car

Take Note: In Spanish, you can use grande before a noun as long as you use it in expressions or questions that contain qué or cuál. The purpose of these expressions is to intensify a person’s or object’s qualities. Notice that in this case, the order of the sentence will vary. 

Qué / Cuál + (adverb) + grande + [verb conjugated] + noun

Pero qué grande está tu hijo
Your son is so big

No manches, ¡qué grande está tu casa!
Holy cow, your house is so big!

¿Qué tan grandes son tus hermanos?
How old are your brothers? 

Wrapping Up

In Spanish, gran and grande are easily confused because they seem to be the same word. But even though ‘gran’ is the short version of ‘grande’, each of these words have their own meanings and grammatical rules. Here is a quick reminder of these adjectives:

Gran

  • Placed before a noun
  • Means ‘great’, ‘fantastic’ or ‘big
  • It can talk about figurative meanings
  • Refers to a person or object’s positive, remarkable, noble or intense qualities

Grande

  • Placed after a noun
  • Refers to an object or person’s size or age
  • Means ‘big’, ‘large’, ‘old’ or ‘grown-up’
  • In questions or expressions that contain qué it can be placed before the noun

Remember: 

Hopefully, now you have a better idea about the difference between these words as well as how and when to use them.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

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