Compare Using Adjectives

Since you already know how to combine adjectives with ser and estar to describe people, places, and things, let's talk about how to use adjectives to compare them. You can compare the characteristics of things in three ways:they have the same amount of the characteristic, one thing has more of the characteristic, or one has less of it. Imagine, for a moment, that you want to compare several characteristics of your sweet little grandmother and your pesky teenage brother, Jaime. Let's look at some characteristics you might compare.

Characteristics to Compare

















Think about how you would compare the age of these two people in English. There are several possibilities, for example:

Grandma is older than Jaime.

Jaime is younger than Grandma.

Grandma is less young than Jaime.

Jaime is less old than Grandma.

Grandma isn't as young as Jaime.

Jaime isn't as old as Grandma.

More Than …

The two most obvious comparisons, “Grandma is older than Jaime” and “Jaime is younger than Grandma,” are comparisons based on more of a quality, in this case, age. In English the most common way to make this sort of comparison is to simply add -er to the end of the adjective. Then you follow the formula of “adjective + -er + than.” When an adjective in English has multiple syllables, it is more common to use the word “more,” and the formula changes slightly to “more + adjective + than.” Spanish generally uses the latter formula más + adjective + que to express more of a quality.

More Than…


Listen to the following examples and repeat each one.

Abuelita es más vieja que Jaime. or Abuelita es mayor que Jaime.

(Grandma is older than Jaime.)

Jaime es más joven que Abuelita.

(Jaime is younger than Grandma.)

The comparatives “better” and “worse” are irregular in Spanish. Use mejor and peor. For example, El chocolate es mejor que los vegetales. The comparative más viejo(a) is a bit abrupt when applied to people, since it implies that something is old and rather worthless. When describing people, mayor is a gentle way of saying older. To refer to an “older” or “younger” brother, use hermano mayor or menor.

Less Than …

The second two examples compare on the basis of having less of the quality of oldness or youngness. In English, we use the formula “less + adjective + than,” and the same formula is used in Spanish: menos + adjective + que.

Less Than…


Listen to the following examples and repeat each one.

Abuelita es menos energética que Jaime.

(Grandma is less energetic than Jaime.)

Jaime es menos viejo que Abuelita.

(Jaime is less old than Grandma.)

Not As …

The third set of examples also expresses comparisons of inequality but in a different way. English uses the formula “not as + adjective + as.” In Spanish the formula is the same: no + tan + adjective + como. Of course, in both cases you have to include the verb “to be”, which may be either ser or estar in Spanish depending on whether the quality compared is an essential characteristic or a state of being.

Not As…


Listen to the examples and repeat each one.

Abuelita no es tan joven como Jaime.

(Grandma isn't as young as Jaime.)

Jaime no es tan viejo como Abuelita.

(Jaime isn't as old as Grandma.)

In each case, we have compared the age of Grandma and Jaime, but in a slightly different way. There is no rule for which formula to use. You can decide which characteristic seems most outstanding and base your comparison on that characteristic. For example, in the case of a teenager and a grandmother, it's more natural to refer to the teenager being younger than the grandmother rather than less old because a teenager isn't old at all. The important thing to remember, though, is that you have to follow the comparative formulas.

Comparisons of Equality

So what if you want to compare a characteristic that each person has in the same measure? Grandma and Jaime are both kind people, and they are both lazy. You've only got one formula to remember in this case. English uses “as + adjective + as,” and Spanish uses the same formula: tan + adjective + como.

Comparisons of Equality


Listen to each example and repeat.

Abuelita es tan amable como Jaime. (Grandma is as nice as Jaime.)

Jaime es tan perezoso como Abuelita. (Jaime is as lazy as Grandma.)

Let's take a moment to summarize the different ways you can make comparisons with adjectives.

Comparisons with Adjectives



more + adjective + than

más + adjective + que

less + adjective + than

menos + adjective + que

not as + adjective + as

no tan + adjective + como

as + adjective + as

tan + adjective + como

Practice: Equal and Unequal Comparisons

Practice the different formulas as you compare Grandma and Jaime in as many ways as you can. Refer to the previous table and the following cues. Then write out complete sentences. Remember, there is more than one way to make many of these comparisons. Check your responses against the sample answers in Appendix D.

  • Jaime / alto / Abuelita

  • Abuelita / callada / Jaime

  • Jaime / perezoso / Abuelita

  • Abuelita / reservada / Jaime

  • Jaime / pesado / Abuelita

  • Abuelita / comprensiva / Jaime

  • Jaime / abierto / Abuelita

  • Abuelita / callada / Jaime

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