Understanding the difference between Bien, Bueno and Buen in Español can be tricky, especially for beginners, so I’ve put together this mini lesson to help you understand how and when to use them. At the end of this blog you’ll find the lesson in video format – if you prefer learning that way, feel free to skip to the end 🙂
Let’s look at bien first of all. Bien is an “adverb” – one of the irregular adverbs to be precise as most adverbs end in –mente (the equivalent of -ly in English). When adverb bien modifies a verb it means ‘well’. When it modifies an adjective (a describing word) or an adverb it means ‘very’. Let’s look at some examples;
Bien + a verb
¡Bien hecho! (Well done!) – in this case the word hecho is the past participle of the verb hacer (to do)
Estoy bien (I’m well) – Estoy comes from the verb Estar (to be)
¡Hablas español muy bien! (You speak Spanish very well) – Hablas comes from the verb hablar (to speak)
Bien + an adjective
El té está bien caliente (The tea is very hot) – caliente being the adjective
Ese vestido te queda bien (That dress looks so good on you) – quedarse bien means to suit
Tomás corre bien rápido (Tomas runs really fast) – correr means to run
Bien + an adverb
La casa está bien lejos (The house is very far)
La mermelada está bien arriba en la nevera (The jam is very high inside the fridge)
El florero se cayó bien lentamente antes de romperse en mil pedazos (The vase felt very slowly before breaking into a thousand pieces)
Bueno on the other hand is an adjective and means ‘good’ and usually goes after the noun. As nouns can either be feminine or masculine, singular or plural the adjectives must agree also. Masculine adjectives that end in -o drop the -o and add -a for the feminine forms.
Let’s take el libro (the book) as an example. El libro (the noun) is masculine and singular, therefore the adjective also changes to match it. In this case el libro rojo (the red book). If the noun is feminine, for example, la puerta (the door), then we have to say la puerta roja (the red door).
To form the plural, both masculine and feminine, add -s to the singular endings.
- Bueno – Juan es un perro muy bueno (Juan is a very good dog)
- Buen – eres un buen chico (you are a good kid)
- Buena – Ana es una buena amiga (Ana is a good friend)
- Buenos – Julián y Sara son buenos estudiantes (Julian and Sara are good students)
- Buenas – las tortas son muy buenas (the cakes are very good)
Other uses of bueno
Unlike in Spain where people use the word diga to answer the phone, in Mexico, people say‘¿bueno?’. ‘¿Bueno?’ translates as ‘hello?’ or ‘hi?’
Bueno is also the translation of the word ‘okay’ when agreeing with someone. We also use bueno as a filler word that is when we are making a pause in our speech (the same as when using entonces; so) or when we want to buy some time to think. In this case, it would be translated as ‘well’.
- Bueno, te veo a las 10. (Okay. I’ll see you at 10.)
- Bueno… eso no es lo que quise decir. (Well… that’s not what I meant.)
Just as bueno, buen is also an adjective and therefore it follows the same rules: it must agree in number and gender with the noun that is describing. Unlike bueno, buen goes before the noun and can be translated either as ‘good’ or ‘nice’.
- Juan es un buen hombre (Juan is a nice man)
- Eres una buena amiga (You are a good friend)
- María y Andrea son buenos vecinos (María and Andrea are good neighbours)
Some Common Expression with BUEN
We use it specifically for greetings, salutations, good wishes, etc because we usually want to be more emphatic with our message in these particular occasions.
- ¡Buen viaje! (Have a nice trip!)
- ¡Buen día! (Have a nice morning/good morning!)
- ¡Buen fin de semana! (Have a nice weekend)
- ¡Buen provecho! (Bon appetite/enjoy your meal)
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