Bien or Bueno? Muy or Mucho? Erase any doubt! 6


 

This is a common question between the Spanish students and a great source of confusion so in this article you will learn to differentiate the two pair of terms and use them correctly.

The simple answer is that one is an adjective and the other is an adverb, but that doesn’t help much of you don’t have a clear understanding of the function of adjectives and adverbs themselves.

ADJECTIVE vs. ADVERB: THE GRAMMATICAL ANSWER

So, let’s make a quick explanation about these two concepts.

  • An adjective always modifies a noun, which means that an adjective talks about or is referred to a noun and therefore will accord always with the noun in genre and number. Look at the example:

- El perro mojado corre.
- The wet dog runs.

Here “mojado” is an adjective that talks about the noun, “perro“.

  • Whereas adverbs always modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb or phrase, which means that an adverb talks about or is referred to a verb or other adverb / adjective but not a noun.

- El perro mojado corre rápidamente.
- The  wet dog runs quickly.

In this example “rápidamente” is an adverb that talks about the verb, “corre“, and answers the question: “how the action (verb) is done?”.

It’s easy to see the difference between the adjectives and verbs with these kind of words: “mojado” is a participle and they work as adjectives, whereas the words that end in “-mente“, the equivalent of “-ly” in English, are adverbs and always talk about how the action is done.

Well, the problem arrives with the 2 pairs of words I presented you at the beginning of the post.

 CLEAR DOUBTS: THE DEFINITE ANSWER

The previous answer is helpful but if you still have doubts about when to use bien or bueno, muy or mucho, keep reading this article and you won’t have any doubt left once you finish reading this article.

  • BIEN or BUENO (BUEN)

Bien is an adverb, so it will be referred to the verb, the action, of the sentence. So, as an adverb, the word “bien” won’t appear close to a noun but close to a verb and it will answer the question “How…?”. Look at the examples:

- No he dormido bien.
- I didn’t sleep well. (¿How did you sleep?)

- Desde que hago ejercicio estoy muy bien.
- Since I do exercise I am very well. (How are you?)

Bueno, on the other hand, is and adjective, so it will accord with the noun it goes with.

- La película buena.
- The good film.

- El libro bueno.
- The good book.

When “bueno” is used before the noun it becomes “buen” but only in the masculine.

- El libro bueno > El buen libro.

So basically bien is translated by well and bueno by good.

So far so good but… when to use “bien” or “bueno” with “ser” and “estar“?

I think that’s the most complicated part to understand but here is my attempt to make you finally understand this. “Ser” express a quality and “estar” a temporary thing or the result of something. Having this in mind, look at these examples:

- Yo estoy bien.
- I am good, fine, ok.

- Yo soy bueno.
- I am a good person.

But:

- Yo estoy bueno.
- I am good looking. So careful with this if you don’t want to sound cocky :D

Oh, and remember we never use “bien” with “ser” . So, “Esto es bien is wrong, you either say “Esto está bien“, which means that ‘this is right, correct or good’,  or “Esto es bueno”, meaning ‘This is good, beneficial’ depending on what you actually want to express.

  • MUY vs. MUCHO

This is the last pair of words that cause some headache to my students.

First thing: “muy” is an adverb and is referred to other adjectives and adverbs while  “mucho” an adjective referred to a noun.

- Ese chico es muy alto.
- This guy is very tall.

-  Hay muchos libros encima de la mesa.
- There are a lot of books on the table.

 However, sometimes “mucho” works as an adverb and then you can find it referred to the verb / action.

- Estoy muy cansado porque he trabajado mucho.
- I’m very tired because I worked a lot.

As you see here, “mucho” is not talking about any noun but the verb “trabajar”.

So here is the rule:

- Muy + adjective

- Mi novio es muy listo.
- My boyfriend is very smart.

- Muy + adverb

- Hemos terminado el proyecto muy rapidamente.
- We have finished the project very quickly.

- Mucho + noun

- Tenemos mucho trabajo.
- We have a lot of work.

- Verb + mucho

- Llueve mucho.
- It rains a lot.

・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・

If you liked this post, you might be interested in reading as well:
- “Ser bueno” and “estar bueno”: not the same thing?
- “Ser” or “Estar”: the answer
 
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6 thoughts on “Bien or Bueno? Muy or Mucho? Erase any doubt!

  • Louis

    In English the ‘correct’ construction for the response to the question “How are you?” is not “I am good”, it is “I am well.”

    Implicit in the phrase is the verb “doing” which requires an adverb as a modifier. Saying “I am good” means “I am not evil.” It is not unlike Spanish: estoy bien.

    That is prescriptive grammar, however, and since American usage shows a change in the use of adjectives and adverbs as the dominance of “cultured” grammar declines, we can expect this to be reflected in grammar books in a few years. E.g. I’m real tired; I’m good; There’s cars in the lot. The last example, especially, can be heard coming from the mouths of educated speakers even though it is nonsensical. (There is cars in the lot. Vs. There are cars in the lot). It will eventually operate like “hay” in Spanish, I’d wager.

    • Nathan Peterson

      Actually the english sentence “I am good” is correct. “to be” is a special type of verb called a linking verb which requires an adjective not an adverb. For example, “I am quickly” is not gramatical because “quickly” is an adverb, whereas “I am quick” is gramatical because “quick” is an adjective. The confusing part in English is that “I am well” is also gramatical. This is due to the fact that the word “well” can operate as either an adverb or adjective. I suspect something similar is going on in Spanish where “bien” can operate as either an adjective or adverb.

      • Louis

        You may not have noticed the rest of my post. I’m talking about prescriptive grammar. As such, I am good is incorrect as a response to how are you. If one subscribes to prescriptive grammar, that is where it stands right now. Grammar doesn’t really have a coherent internal logic. What we call correct is determined by usage. And that is usually determined by educated speakers. It really doesn’t mean it’s correct in the sense that 2+2 =4 is correct in arithmetic. Ask an editor of a prestigious publishing house whether I am good is correct formally. It’s definitely used widely in casual speech, but there’s no internally logical reason for it one way or the other. It doesn’t have to do with the copula or adverbs, etc.
        In fifty years ‘I am good.’ will probably be standard educated English. Today, however, we are in transition. There’s no telling how English will change as more people speak it worldwide. That’s a interesting thing!

  • Josh

    Muchas Gracias Amiga por su tiempo en explicar “Hacer” es importante por ensenaza, Me llamo Josh Ya aprende Espanol mi casa es en California Buena Suerte Adios Chica!!!