When it comes to describing people and things, Spanish superlatives are a really important element. Why? Because this type of structure helps us emphasize features and to be more specific about them. However, this short explanation might not be enough to understand this topic, so, what are Spanish superlatives?
Spanish superlatives are ways to indicate the degree of a quality. They are used to describe things and people with outstanding features but can also be used to exaggerate their characteristics. Spanish superlatives are built by adding ‘más’, ‘menos’ before an adjective or the suffix ‘-ísimo’ after it.
Because of the great importance of Spanish superlatives, in the next sections you’ll find in-depth explanations of how to use them along with examples to help you get a full understanding of the subject.
Spanish Superlatives: What Are They and How Do They Work?
Spanish superlatives are adjectives that give us extra information about the characteristics of people, animals, things, and even how an action is done. To describe these features, we form superlatives with adverbs, or suffixes. Here are some examples:
Antonio es el más guapo del salón.
Antonio is the most handsome in the room.
Molly habla rapidísimo.
Molly speaks super fast.
Luis es el hermano menos problemático.
Luis is the least problematic brother.
As you can see, superlatives in Spanish allow you to express that a person or thing has a higher level of a certain quality. For example, in example #1, it’s pretty clear that Antonio is the most handsome in that group.
If you’re still a bit confused about this topic, in the sections below, we’ll talk about the two different types of superlatives in Spanish, how you build them and when you should use them.
Absolute Superlative in Spanish
An absolute superlative in Spanish is a way of describing someone or something without relying on comparison. This kind of superlatives requires an adjective and the suffix ‘-ísimo’ or ‘ísima’. There’s no equivalent in English, but it would be similar to adding the words ‘super’ or ‘extremely’ before an adjective.
The purpose of an absolute superlative is to give information about a remarkable quality. However, we only use this type of superlative when we don’t have another reference to compare those qualities with.
We make absolute superlatives in Spanish by removing the last vowel of an adjective and adding ‘-ísimo’ or ‘-ísima’ (and its plural forms) instead.
(Noun) + [verb conjugated] + [adjective] + ísimo
Estos zapatos están baratísimos.
These shoes are super cheap.
La comida de mi mamá es buenísima.
My mom’s food is great.
Hace mucho que no te veía, ¡estás altísima!
I haven’t seen you in a long time, you’re super tall!
Espérame, caminas rapidísimo.
Wait for me, you walk extremely fast.
Take Note: In order to keep the pronunciation consistent, adjectives that end with ‘-co’, ‘-ca’, ‘-ga’ or ‘-go’ change to ‘-qu’ and ‘-gu’ respectively.
La comida está riquísima.
The food is delicious.
Ese actor es comiquísimo.
That actor is hilarious.
El camino es larguísimo.
The road is super long.
Spanish relative superlatives are ways to express that a characteristic is at its maximum degree. In English, it would be the equivalent of adding the suffix ‘-est’ after an adjective or the words ‘most’ and ‘least’ before. And as you can see, unlike the absolute superlatives, relative superlatives need a reference point.
To make the difference between the two types of superlatives in Spanish more understandable, check out these examples:
Luis es listísimo.
Luis is super smart.
Este pastel está riquísimo.
The cake is delicious.
Luis es el más listo.
Luis is the smartest.
Este pastel es el más rico que he probado.
This is the most delicious cake that I have ever tasted.
Notice that, as mentioned earlier, the Spanish relative superlative requires a reference point, since the expression ‘the most delicious’ implies that there are other cakes that I’ve tried which are not as delicious as this one.
Notice that superlatives always use the verb ‘ser’ because we use them to describe permanent characteristics. Here is the structure that you can use for this case:
[‘Ser’ conjugated] + definite article + más / menos + [adjective] + [complement]
Quiero el pastel más rico que venda.
I want the tastiest cake you sell.
Eres la persona más amable que he conocido.
You’re the nicest person I’ve ever met.
De todos mis amigos, soy el menos puntual.
Of all my friends, I am the least punctual.
Eres la más divertida de toda la familia.
You are the funniest in the whole family.
El halcón peregrino es el pájaro más rápido del mundo.
The peregrine falcon is the fastest bird in the world.
If you want to be more specific and emphasize your comparison, you can mention the noun or group the thing you’re talking about belongs to. For example, the peregrine falcon sentence only compares this animal to birds, and no other species.
Although most adjectives follow the previous formula, there are 4 irregular superlatives that you should learn:
|Adjective||Spanish Superlative||English Superlative|
What is Comparative and What is Superlative in Spanish?
Comparatives in Spanish are used to establish differences between two specific things. They are the equivalent of using the English suffix ‘-er’ or saying ‘as’, ‘more than’ and ‘less than’. On the other hand, Spanish superlatives are used to talk about the degree of a quality. While some superlatives rely on contrast, the phrases are more general.
Ana es más linda que Teresa.
Ana is prettier than Teresa.
Ana es lindísima.
Ana is super pretty.
Ana es la más linda.
Ana is the prettiest.
As you can see, the comparative example is talking about the differences between two specific people, while the superlative sentences are more general statements. Here are some more examples of comparative sentences in Spanish and the phrase structure they follow:
[Noun] + [verb conjugated] + más / menos + [adjective] + que + [noun 2]
Mi hermano lee más rápido que yo.
My brother reads faster than me.
Creo que este medicamento es menos efectivo que la aspirina.
I think this medicine is less effective than aspirin.
[Noun] + (no) + [verb conjugated] + tan + [adjective] + como + [noun 2]
Esta laptop no es tan cara como la otra.
This laptop is not as expensive as the other one.
Escuché que este tren es tan rápido como el de Tokio.
I heard this train is as fast as the one in Tokyo.
Wapping Up & Key Points
In this article, we’ve learned what Spanish superlatives are and how to use them. We’ve also learned that there are two types of superlatives in Spanish and the differences between them. This knowledge will be extremely useful to describe things and be accurate when pointing out qualities.
We also saw the difference between comparatives and superlatives in Spanish, both very important elements of the language. Here’s a few key points you want to remember:
- Superlatives express the degree of a quality.
- There are two types of superlatives in Spanish: relative and absolute.
- Absolute superlatives require an adjective and the suffix ‘-ísimo’ or ‘ísima’
- Absolute superlatives need some spelling changes when the adjectives end in ‘co’, ‘ca’, ‘ga’ or ‘go’.
- Relative superlatives distinguish the subject and a reference point.
- Relative superlatives are built with a definite article, the words ‘más’ or ‘menos’ and an adjective.
- Comparatives in Spanish establish differences between two specific things.