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How to Say Two Things are Equal in Some Respect
The best way to introduce the grammar topic of comparatives is to review basic description using an adjective to describe a noun. Traditional grammars refer to this as the positive degree -- an attribution of some quality to a noun, e.g., La camisa es costosa. (The shirt is expensive.)
After pointing out that a quality is ascribed to a noun, the next step after reviewing the positive degree is to introduce a second noun. Keeping to the example above, using a shirt, ask them how they would compare two shirts that are just as expensive. You may start in English or keep to Spanish, depending on your class and your style of teaching grammar. You may need to review very briefly, the demonstrative adjectives and demonstrative pronouns in order to do this efficiently. On the board, write:
Esta camisa es tan costosa como ésa. (This shirt is as expensive as that one. AND Esta camisa cuesta tanto como ésa.)
Next, point out the structure of the sentence in a formulaic manner: tan + adj. + como. Tell them that tan is used when the comparison of equality involves an adjective or an adverb, e.g., Juan corre tan rapidamente como Tomás. (John runs as quickly as Thomas.)
When the comparison involves nouns, the structure remains the same, but instead of tan, we use tanto, tantos, tanta or tantas, depending on whether the noun is a count noun (things we count, individually, such as books), in which case, we use the plural forms tantos or tantas:
Mi amigo tiene tantos libros como yo. (My friend has as many books as I.)
¿Quién tiene tantas revistas como ella? (Who has as many magazines as her?)
When the noun is a non-count noun (things we measure or pour, like rice or water -- or even money when viewed as a whole), we use tanto or tanta, depending on the gender of the non-count noun:
Ella tiene tanto dinero como tú. (She has as much money as you.)
Nosotros tenemos tanta energía como ustedes. (We have as much energy as you.)
These clear examples should help any confused student better understand how to express comparisons of equality in Spanish. Read this next article for tips on Teaching Comparisons of Inequality.
- Author's more than 20 years experience teaching and translating Spanish.