How do you tell someone that their food is "the best"? Or explain to your friend how very, very cool your teacher is? Today's episode is the first in a 2-part series on Spanish Superlatives! First, we will talk about Relative Superlatives, and in the next episode we'll talk about Absolute Superlatives. And of course we can't forget about our Cultural Tip on Paraguay, where we go over their national holidays. Let's begin!
Can you hear my infant son joining in on the fun? Sorry about that! ;) He was very chatty!
What is a Superlative?
A superlative is when you want to say that something or someone is the best in a group or that it/he/she has the highest level of whatever characteristic or quality you are describing. So when you say that your Aunt Cathy is the best cook in the world, you are using a superlative to describe her cooking skills. Or if you want to say that your Uncle Bob is not only funny, but hilarious, you are using superlative to convey that he is top-notch funny.
What is an Absolute Superlative?
If you're intermediate or advanced in your Spanish studies, you've probably heard numerous examples of an absolute superlative: the famous -ísimos, such as buenísimo, fresquísimo, or calentísimo. These are all used in Spanish to show that something or someone has an extreme amount of skill or a very high level of a quality or characteristic. The key here is that you are not directly comparing your subject to anythig or anyone else. But we will talk more about this in our next episode.
What is a Relative Superlative?
A relative superlative is where you do make a direct comparison between your subject and someone or something else. You are claiming that the person or thing you are talking about has the most of or the least of a given quality, trait, or skill. In English, we do this by using words like best, worst, smallest, biggest, or by adding the suffix -est to a word, like slowest, fastest, etc.
Relative superlatives are further divided into two categories: regular and irregular.
Regular superlatives follow the following basic formula:
Subject + Ser + Definite Article + Más or Menos + Adjective
So you are always comparing if someone has the most or least of a quality. If you need to add more context for the comparison, you can also add a noun after the definite article and the group you're comparing at the end. Take a look at the following examples and see how they follow the formula.
Subject + Ser + Definite Article (+ Noun) + Más or Menos + Adjective (+ Group)
He is the tallest in his peer group. Él es el más alto de su grupo de pares.
She is the fastest runner I have ever seen. Ella es la corredora más rápida que existe.
They are the slowest drivers on the road. Ellos son los conductores más lentos del camino.
Danny is the smartest boy at school. Danny es el chico más inteligente de la escuela.
Note how the definite article must agree with the subject's gender and number. Also, sometimes you can leave off the adjective if it's quite evident what you're referring to (mainly if it's already been mentioned or been made very clear).
My sisters are the most responsible ones in the family. My brother is the least. Mis hermanas son las más responsables de la familia. Mi hermano es el menos.
One other note: you can also use this formula with the neuter article to create phrases like "the most important thing" or "the smartest thing to do", etc. We've talked about the neuter article before in Episodes 56 and 57 with the Spanish lo, so check those out if you haven't already!
Irregular superlatives are basically all of the remaining superlatives that don't follow the regular pattern. That's because they essentially combine the Más or Menos + Adjective into one Superlative Adjective. So the rule structure looks like this:
Subject + Ser + Definite Article + Superlative Adjective
So instead of using Definite Article + Más or Menos + Adjective, you use Definite Article + Superlative Adjective. It might sound a bit confusing, but it's not. In English, this is when we use words like best, worst, youngest, eldest, etc. In Spanish, I've mainly seen these four irregular superlatives (that's right, just four!): menor (youngest or smallest), mayor (oldest or biggest), mejor (best), and peor (worst). ThoughtCo. has an article that mentions two others, pésimo and máximo, as the alternate superlatives of malo and grande. And while this was the first time I had ever heard of these two, the Diccionario de la lengua española by the Real Academia Española (RAE) supports this usage/classification.
Here are some examples of the irregular superlatives:
My sister is the youngest in her family. Mi hermana es la menor de su familia.
I am the eldest in my family. Soy el mayor de mi familia.
She is the worst teacher! ¡Ella es la peor maestra!
He is the best runner on the team. Él es el mejor corredor del equipo.
These chairs are the smallest ones. Estas sillas son las menores.
Our house is the biggest house on the block. Nuestra casa es la mayor de la cuadra.
A few things to note. the superlative adjectives will only change when you have a greater quantity. So it's menor and menores, mayor or mayores. They don't change when the subject is masculine or feminine. The exception to this is with those extra superlative adjectives, pésimo and máximo, which will become pésima and máxima when refering to feminine nouns. Another thing is Daniella Sanchez notes in her blog article on superlatives is that, while it is not grammatically correct, you'll still hear people treating grande, joven, and pequeño as regular superlatives, meaning they would say "These chairs are the smallest ones" as Estas sillas son las más pequeñas, or "Our house is the biggest house on the block" as Nuestra casa es la más grande de la cuadra.
What do you think, is that the case? Or does common usage make it grammatically correct? Please let me know, or send your questions and thoughts to email@example.com.
To my listeners in the US, have a wonderful Thanksgiving! May it be full of good food, loved ones, and gratefulness for the year's blessings. If you want some Thanksgiving songs to get you in the mood, check out the Thanksgiving Surprise section of Episode 63!
See you soon!
Remember, learning a language is a lifelong journey.
¡Aprovéchalo, Disfrútalo y Compártelo!
Cultural Tip: Paraguay
Global National Holidays
Today's cultural tip highlights the national holidays of Paraguay! To save on time, and to avoid extreme repetitiveness, here is a quick list of holidays that many other countries also celebrate and/or which we have covered in previous episodes, so I won't get into too much detail for these ones.
New Year's Day (01/01a)*
Holy Week (04/06-04/09, with Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and then the culmination of the week with Easter Sunday.)
Labour Day (05/01a, also known as International Workers' Day or Día de los Trabajadores)
Day of Immaculate Conception (12/08a, called Virgin of Caacupé Day)
Christmas Day (12/25a, La Navidad)
*The "a" means that it is always celebrated on this day.
Unique National Holidays
So let's talk about the 6 unique holidays that Paraguay celebrates!
1. Day of Heroes, aka Día Nacional de los Héroes (03/01a)
This day honors the Paraguayan men who died fighting in the War of the Triple Alliance against Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. The main hero it highlights is the former president, Marshal Francisco Solano López, as March 1st is the day he died in the Battle of Cerro Corá, the last battle of the war.
2. Independence Day, aka Día de la Independencia Nacional (05/14-15a)
These two dates commemorate Paraguay's independence from Spain and Argentina (both were vying for power of the area) in 1811, becoming the second (after the U.S.A.) independent nation in the New World. Spain's power and influence was waning at this time due to the Napoleonic Wars, Argentina's growing influence, and bad local political decisions made by the local governor. The Paraguayans overthrew the Spanish, led by lawyer Dr. José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia, on May 14, 1811 and declared their independence the next day. Gaspar Rodríguez then became the country's first president and ruled for quite awhile, from 1814-1840 (that's 26 years!). He also helped with the Paraguayan flag, which is the only national flag in the whole world that has different images based on which side of the flag you are looking at: on one side is the treasury seal and country motto, "Paz y justicia", and on the other is the country's coat of arms.
On this day, people celebrate the sacrifices their ancestors made for independence while also celebrating their cultural heritage and national pride. You may see many people wearing traditional garb or eating traditional food, such as sopa paraguaya, which is actually a cornbread dish and not a soup (and of course I found a recipe: check it out!). Just like with our American Independence day, families and friends get together to celebrate with food, music, and fun.
3. Día de la Patria and Mother's Day (05/15a)
This day is the second day of Paraguay's Independence Day celebrations, but it is also Paraguay's Mother's Day. It honors Juana María de Lara de Díaz de Bedoya, who was instrumental in the Paraguayan rebellion. To learn more about her, check out this article by the Real Academia de Historia.
4. Día de la Paz del Chaco, or Chaco Armistice Day (06/12a)
This day celebrates the end of the Chaco War in 1935 with a ceasefire between Paraguay and Bolivia. Both countries fought for control of the strategic and potentially lucrative area known as Gran Chaco. That being said, Bolivia and Paraguay didn't sign an official agreement with agreed upon borders until 2009.
5. Founding of Asunción (08/15a)
This holiday is pretty self-explanatory; it's the celebration of the founding of Paraguay's capital, Asunción, on August 15, 1537. It is one of the oldest cities in South America. It began with a search for a missing explorer in 1537. Juan de Salazar y Espinosa set up camp on the Paraguay River while they searched and apparently liked the area so much he began a settlement on August 15th. It's original name is quite a mouthful: Nuestra Señora Santa María de la Asunción in honor of the Feast of the Assumption that is celebrated on August 15th in Catholicism. I'm glad they shortened it!
6. Boquerón Battle Victory Day (09/29a)
The Battle of Boquerón was the first major battle in the Chaco War. In fact, it was the first official attack that began the war on September 7, 1932. Paraguay attacked the Bolivian outpost Fortín Boquerón. This turned into a 22-day siege and eventual victory for Paraguay on the 29th.
Estrella de Esperanza
"Este es el mensaje que hemos oído de él, y os anunciamos: Dios es luz, y no hay ningunas tinieblas en él. Si decimos que tenemos comunión con él, y andamos en tinieblas, mentimos, y no practicamos la verdad; pero si andamos en luz, como él está en luz, tenemos comunión unos con otros, y la sangre de Jesucristo su Hijo nos limpia de todo pecado. Si decimos que no tenemos pecado, nos engañamos a nosotros mismos, y la verdad no está en nosotros."
© 2023 by Language Answers, LLC
Intro and Closing Music by Master_Service from Fiverr
"Comparatives & Superlatives in ''Spanish: The Ultimate Guide" by Daniela Sanchez for Tell Me in Spanish, last updated April 7, 2023
"Spanish superlatives" from Spanish Dictionary, posted July 22, 2020
"Superlative Adjectives in Spanish" from SpanishDictionary.com, posted
"Relative superlative in Spanish" published on October 24, 2018 by El Rincon del Tandem Spanish School Valencia
"Comparatives and Superlatives in Spanish" by Gerald Erichsen for ThoughtCo, last updated on December 19, 2018
"máximo, máxima" definition by the Diccionario de la lengua española, by the Real Academia Española (RAE)
"pésimo, pésima" definition by the Diccionario de la lengua española, by the Real Academia Española (RAE)
"Celebrating Heroes's Day in Paraguay" by Benjamin Kerns for Trazee Travel, February 7, 2020
"Día Nacional de los Héroes" by the Consulado General de la República del Paraguay in Los Angeles, CA
"Paraguay Independence Day 2022 Doodle - Google Doodles" The Doodle Paraguay Independence Day 2022 launched May 14, 2022 by Google
"Juana María de Lara de Díaz de Bedoya" by the Real Academia de la Historia.
"The Best Sopa Paraguaya: Our Secret Recipeu" by Camila Benitez for Camila Made, last updated November 1, 2023
"Independence Day in Paraguay" by AnyDayGuide.com
"Mother's Day in Paraguay" by AnyDayGuide.com
"Paraguay Independence Day" by National Today
Estrella de Esperanza
Juan 1:5-8, de BibleGateway.com. Del sitio: "Reina-Valera 1960 (RVR1960), Reina-Valera 1960 ® © Sociedades Bíblicas en América Latina, 1960. Renovado © Sociedades Bíblicas Unidas, 1988. Utilizado con permiso. Si desea más información visite americanbible.org, unitedbiblesocieties.org, vivelabiblia.com, unitedbiblesocieties.org/es/casa/, www.rvr60.bible"