Monthly Word / La palabra del mes

October 2004 ~ Spanish that Works Review

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Más / MAHSS (more, most) La palabra del mes


About "más"

You will notice that the word más (more) is written with an accent mark.  This is to distinguish it from the word mas, spelled without an accent mark, which sounds the same, but means “but.”  Today the word mas (but) is mostly literary, and modern Spanish speakers instead use the word pero / PEH-ddoh (but).  The word más (more), however, is used all the time.

In addition to being used to talk about “more” items, más is used to augment adjectives (“more amazing”), and in various common expressions, such as “more or less” and “moreover.” 

NOTE:  The “dd” in the pronunciation guide is a tapped “r,” similar to the fast “dd” of the word “buddy,” and the “th” in the guide is the voiced “th” of “brother.” The “eh” of the guide is like the Canadian “eh?”, similar to the “a” of “gate.”  You should stress the syllable written in all caps.

More, please

One use of the word más is when you want to talk about “more” of something. There is only one form, so you do not need to make it plural. For example:

Quisiera más té. (I’d like more tea.)
Hay más libros en la otra sala. (There are more books in the other room.)
¿Quiere más de eso? (Do You* want more of that?)
No hay más. (There isn’t any more.)

*The words “You” and “Your” are often capitalized in Spanish that Works™ to remind you that you are using the polite forms usted (You) and su (Your), and not the “buddy-buddy” forms tú (you) and tu (your). 

Más can be also used with an adverb.

Favor de caminar más rápido. (Please walk more quickly.)
Más despacio, por favor. (Slower, please.)
La clase es más tarde. (The class is later.)

Bigger is more big

In English, most adjectives are made “more” by putting –er, or –est on the end of the adjective. In Spanish, you usually use más. For example:

grande (big)
más grande (bigger)
el más grande, la más grande (the biggest)

Almost all Spanish adjectives are made “more” using más. A couple of notable exceptions to this rule are:

mejor / MAY-hohrr (better = more good, more well)
el mejor, la mejor (the best) 
peor / pay-OHRR (worse = more bad, more badly)
el peor, la peor (the worst)

Once you know how to use más, you can make sentences of comparison. For example:

Mi casa es más bonita que su casa. (My house is prettier than Your* house.)
Mi casa es la más bonita de todas. (My house is the prettiest of all.)
Es la casa más bonita del mundo. (It is the prettiest house in the world.)
Mi casa vale más de** cien casas. (My house is worth more than a hundred houses.) 

*Again, the polite form of “Your.” You may have heard the expression Mi casa es su casa (My house is Your house), which is used as an expression of hospitality (“Make yourself at home.”)
**Before number amounts, use the word de / theh instead of que / keh to mean “than.”

Less vs. More

The opposite of más / mahss is menos / MAY-nohss. Menos often translates as “less,” “fewer,” or “least.” It can also translate as “except” and “minus.” For example:

Quisiera menos té. (I’d like less tea.)
Hay menos libros en la otra sala. (There are fewer books in the other room.)
¿Quiere menos de eso? (Do You* want less of that?)

Todos tienen el libro menos él. (Everyone has the book except him.)
Cuatro menos dos son dos. (Four minus two is (are) two.)

Like más, the word menos / MAY-nohss can be used in comparisons. 

grande (big)
menos grande (less big, not as big, smaller)
el menos grande / la menos grande (the least big, the smallest)


Más (and menos) are also used in many expressions. Here are some common ones:

más bien (rather)
no más que (only)
a más de (in addition to)
a lo más (at the most)
no más (only - Mex. & L. America)
más o menos (more or less)
es más (moreover, what's more)
está de más (it’s unnecessary)
nada más (nothing else, nothing more)
ya no más (no more already)

por lo menos (at least)
a menos que (unless)
echar to menos (to miss - have nostalgia for)
es lo de menos (that’s the least of it)
menos mal (so much for the better, it could have been worse)

Popular sayings

A couple of well-known "dichos" or popular sayings with más are:

Más vale prevenir que lamentar.
Literal translation: It’s worth more to prevent than to lament. 
Meaning: Take care of things now, so you’re not sorry later. 
English equivalent: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Más vale un pájaro en la mano que cien volando. 
Literal translation: One bird in the hand is worth more than one hundred flying. 
Meaning: The good thing that you have is more valuable than the better thing that you don’t have. 
English equivalent: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Remember it!

It’s usually easy for students to learn más, because it starts with an “m,” just like the word “more.” However, you may want to learn a couple of the other uses for más, such as comparisons, or the common expressions. The word menos looks like “minus,” and when you minus something, you always get less, so that one is pretty easy, too.

Coming next month are some other “m” words, which are sometimes confused with más and with each other: muy / mooy (very) vs. mucho / MOO-choh (much, a lot) and muchos / MOO-chohss (many). But for now, just concentrate on learning these, and learning them well:

más / MAHSS (more, most)
menos / MAY-nohss (less, fewer, least)

©2004 Elizabeth Almann


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