Two very common words, two very different usages.

Why do people often get confused about whether they should use ‘bien’ or ‘bueno’?

The reason there’s often confusion about which of these above words is appropriate is that they can both translate into English as “good”. For example:

¡Muy bien!

Very good!

La película es muy buena

The film is very good

But the words are NOT interchangeable, as we are about to see.

So when do we use each of these words? The two words are actually different types of words: ‘bien’ is an ADVERB, while ‘bueno/buena/buenos/buenas’ are all ADJECTIVES.

For those who don’t know, adverbs are used to describe a verb, other examples being: quickly, slowly, barely, tirelessly and menacingly. Most of them end in -ly, but this isn’t the case for all.

Adjectives, on the other hand, describe a noun. There are millions of adjectives out there, with most having a hundred or so synonyms, but some of the most common are: happy, angry, bad, tall, easy and long.

Going back to our two words, then, ‘bien’ is used to describe a verb, and usually translates as “well”. ‘Bueno’ is used to describe nouns and translates as “good”. Looking at examples will help make this even clearer.

Using ‘bien’

Estoy muy bien, gracias

I’m very well, thank you

Mi nuevo ordenador funciona bien

My new computer works well

Mis primos no pueden escribir bien porque mi tío no les enseñó bien

My cousins can’t write well because my uncle didn’t teach them well

Using ‘bueno’

Ayer comimos un chocolate muy bueno: voy a volver a comprarlo hoy

Yesterday we ate a very good chocolate: I’m going to buy it again today

Buenas tardes, ¿cómo están ustedes?

Good afternoon, how are you?

Me han dicho que mi tarta de manzana es muy buena

I’ve been told that my apple pie is very good

4 thoughts on “Bien vs. bueno: the difference

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