In English, it is common to create an adverb by adding the suffix "-ly" to the end of an adjective. In Spanish, we can do something almost as easy-create an adverb by adding the suffix -mente to a certain form of the adjective.
How to Use -Mente
The -mente is added to the singular feminine form of the adjective. For example, the singular feminine form of ruidoso (noisy) is ruidosa, so the adverb form is ruidosamente (noisily).
The adjectives with separate masculine and feminine forms are those whose dictionary listings end in -o, such as quieto (quiet). To create the corresponding adverb, change the ending to -a, in this case quieta, and then add -mente. Thus the corresponding adverb for quieto is quietamente (quietly).
Since many adjectives have no separate masculine or feminine forms, the suffix is often simply added to the singular. So the adjective triste (sad) can be turned into the adverb tristemente, and feliz (happy) can easily be turned into felizmente (happily).
Examples of Adjectives With Corresponding Adverbs
Here are some of the most common Spanish adjectives that have corresponding -mente adverbs along with possible translations. Note that in a few cases the meanings of the Spanish adverbs are different than what you might expect simply from adding "-ly" to the English equivalent adjective.
- abierto (open), abiertamente (openly, obviously)
- aburrido (boring), aburridamente (in a boring manner)
- alto (tall, high), altamente (highly)
- cansado (tired), cansadamente (wearily, tediously)
- común (common), comúnmente (commonly, normally)
- débil (weak), débilmente (weakly)
- dulce (sweet, kind), dulcemente (sweetly, gently)
- equivocado (mistaken), equivocadamente (mistakenly)
- feo (ugly, dreary), feamente (horribly, badly)
- grande (large, great), grandemente (extremely, greatly; "largely" can often be translated using en gran parte or principalmente)
- inteligente (intelligent), inteligentemente (intelligently)
- justo (fair, just, exact), justamente (fairly, justly, exactly)
- lento (slowly), lentamente (slowly)
- limpio (clean), limpiamente (cleanly, with integrity or honesty)
- lindo (pretty, beautiful), lindamente (beautifully, elegantly)
- llana (flat, level, unpretentious, modest), llanamente (plainly, frankly, straightforwardly)
- loco (crazy), locamente (with lack of prudence or moderation)
- nuevo (new), nuevamente (anew, again; a common way of saying "newly" is recientemente)
- pobre (poor), pobremente (poorly)
- rápido (quick, fast), rápidamente (quickly, rapidly)
- repugnante (repugnant), repugnantemente (repugnantly)
- raro (rare), raramente (rarely)
- rico (rich), ricamente (richly, very well, abundantly)
- sano (healthy), sanamente (healthily, healthfully)
- seco (dry), secamente (coldly when referring to behavior; curtly)
- simple (simple, easy), simplemente (simply, straightforwardly)
- sucio (dirty), suciamente (in a dirty or filthy way, meanly)
- tonto (stupid, foolish), tontamente (stupidly, foolishly)
- tranquilo (quiet, calm), tranquilamente (quietly, calmly)
Avoiding Overuse of -Mente Adverbs
Even though a -mente adverb may exist doesn't always mean it's the only or even the preferred way of expressing something.
First, in Spanish, more so than English, it is common to use an adverbial phrase even though a single-word adverb may exist. For example, while baratamente can be used to indicate that something was bought or made cheaply, it is more common to say a precio bajo (at a low cost) or even de forma barata (in a cheap way).
Second, there are a few adjectives that are often used as adverbs even though separate adverbial forms exist. Among the more common are rápido and lento, which can mean not just "fast" and "slow," respectively, but also "rapidly" and "slowly."
Spelling and Pronunciation of -Mente Adverbs
As in the above examples of débil and rápido, if an adjective has an accent mark, the corresponding -mente adverb retains the accent mark, even though the spoken emphasis likely will be on the next-to-last syllable.
Adverbs in a Series
When two or more -mente adverbs are used in a series, the -mente suffix is frequently dropped from all but the last adverb. This is especially common in written Spanish. Examples:
- Habla lenta y claramente. (She speaks slowly and clearly.)
- Anda cuidada, dolorosa y pacientemente. (He walks carefully, painfully and patiently.)
- Creo que estás equivocado: triste, absoluta y totalmente equivocado. (I think you're mistaken - sadly, absolutely and totally mistaken.)