Tan vs Tanto: A How-to Guide for Spanish Comparatives

Tan and tanto are both common comparative words in Spanish, but how is each used? Here we'll cover all the details for using tan vs tanto!

Tan vs Tanto: Hay tantos pasteles en el horno

We have two very similar Spanish comparative words that we use all the time: tan and tanto. This may seem confusing at first, so in this post we’ll give you the full how-to guide on choosing between tan vs tanto whenever you’re making comparisons in Spanish.

We’ll start off by giving you the big-picture differences between tan vs tanto, looking at the contexts where we use each one, and at their grammatical details. Then we’ll dive deep into how both tan and tanto are used in a bunch of contexts and sentence constructions, giving you clear details and examples for each.

Are you ready to get started? Let’s start learning all about tan vs tanto!

Tan vs Tanto: Key Differences

Let’s make this short and sweet to keep these two clear. Both tan and tanto are used to make comparisons, mostly even to state extremes (“so much!”), but each one has its own realm of what it can describe. What are the key differences between tan vs tanto?

Tan is used to emphasize qualities. It’s an adverb, so it is only used to compare or put emphasis on descriptive terms, whether adjectives or other adverbs.

Tanto is used to emphasize quantities. It can be used in a few grammatical forms, whether as an adjective to modify nouns, an adverb to modify verbs, or a pronoun to replace nouns. In all of these cases, tanto compares or puts emphasis on quantities, whether of nouns or actions.

Before we dive into the details, let’s just see some examples of tan and tanto in each of their grammatical forms:

Tan, always an adverb:

  • Those cakes are so delicious. – Esos pasteles son tan deliciosos.

Tanto as an adverb:

  • I ate so much I needed a nap. – Comí tanto que necesité una siesta.

Tanto as an adjective:

  • I am very full from eating so many cakes. – Estoy muy llena por haber comido tantos pasteles.

Tanto as a pronoun:

  • The oven is full of cakes. It has so many that we are going to have a feast. – El horno está lleno de pasteles. Tiene tantos que vamos a darnos un banquete.

Do you see the differences? Tan is used to talk about a quality, whereas tanto is used to talk about quantity. Also, notice that like other adjectives and pronouns, tanto changes form to match gender and number.

Now that you’ve got the basics of tan vs tanto clear, let’s go deep into each one!


As mentioned before, tan is an adverb, meaning that it will always be used to modify an adjective or another adverb. It can be used in a number of ways that we’ll see here, though note that in every case you’ll see that tan is placed immediately before the word it modifies. Don’t forget that context is essential, so the translations in English might not always be identical.

Emphasizing qualities and characteristics

tan – so

This use of tan in Spanish is one of the most common, serving to emphasize a quality. The usual English translation for this use of tan in Spanish is “so,” though what’s more important is to simply translate the concept of emphasis.

  • My brother always finishes his homework so quickly! – ¡Mi hermano siempre acaba su tarea tan rápidamente!
  • My mother is so understanding. – Mi madre es tan comprensiva.
  • Don’t stop dancing, you do it so well. – No dejes de bailar, lo haces tan bien.
  • What a difficult exercise! – ¡Qué ejercicio tan difícil!
  • I am so happy that you are my assistant. Thank you for your effort! – Estoy tan feliz de que seas mi asistente. ¡Gracias por tu esfuerzo!

Comparing qualities and characteristics

tan … como – as … as

This is the most common comparative use of tan in Spanish, comparing one thing with another using this “tan … como” structure. The equivalent in English is “as … as”.

  • My work is as heavy as yours. – Mi trabajo es tan pesado como el tuyo.
  • Raúl is as tall as my father. – Raúl es tan alto como mi padre.
  • This new tree is as lush as the one in our old house. – Este nuevo árbol es tan frondoso como el de nuestra antigua casa.
  • For placing the piano, the new bedroom on the second floor is just as big as the living room. – La nueva habitación en el segundo piso es tan grande para colocar el piano como la sala de estar.
  • Your second book is as interesting as your first. – Tu segundo libro es tan interesante como el primero.
  • I’m as clever as my sister. – Soy tan inteligente como mi hermana.
  • The flowers in the garden are as beautiful as those in your painting. – Las flores del jardín son tan bellas como las de tu pintura.

Declaring an extreme level of a quality or characteristic

tan … que – so … that

This use of tan in Spanish is similar to how you declare something to be “so … that …” in English. This “tan + [quality] + que” construction allows us to state that whatever we’re describing is on such an extreme level of that quality that there are consequences.

  • You are so stingy that I already understand why your partner left you. – Eres tan tacaño que ya entiendo la razón por la que te abandonó tu pareja.
  • Chris is so negative that I decided not to invite her to the meeting. – Chris es tan negativa que decidí no invitarla a la reunión.
  • I was so anxious about your arrival that I couldn’t sleep all night. – Estaba tan ansiosa por tu llegada que no pude dormir en toda la noche.
  • My mom talks so loudly on the phone that I prefer to see her in person. – Mi madre habla tan fuerte por teléfono que prefiero verla en persona.

Comparing how people do things

tan … para … como – as … at … as

We can use tan to compare how well one person does something as compared with another person. Here’s the basic structure of these “tan … para … como” phrases:

[person] + [verb] + tan + [adverb/adjective] + para + [infinitive verb] + como + [other person]

  • I am as good at knitting as my grandmother. – Yo soy tan hábil para tejer como mi abuela.
  • When it comes to cooking, Miriam is as quick as her teacher. – Miriam es tan rápida para cocinar como su profesor.
  • Raúl and Laura are just as good at interacting with customers as the rest of the staff. – Raúl y Laura son tan buenos para relacionarse con los clientes como el resto de los empleados.

Describing when two things happen in immediate succession

tan pronto como… –  as soon as…

This construction of tan in Spanish explains when one thing occurs immediately after another, or simultaneously with it. The straight translation of tan pronto como in English is as soon as.

  • As soon as you get off work, we’ll go to the movies. – Tan pronto como salgas del trabajo, iremos al cine.
  • Call Miriam as soon as you get home. – Llama a Miriam, tan pronto como hayas llegado a casa.
  • As soon as the sun dipped below the horizon, we saw hundreds of fireflies. – Tan pronto como el sol se puso en el horizonte, vimos cientos de luciérnagas.
  • The doctor started the treatment as soon as he did the analysis of the laboratory tests. – El médico inició el tratamiento tan pronto como hizo el análisis de los exámenes de laboratorio.

Asking about the the level of a quality or characteristic

¿qué tan …? – how …?

This use of tan in Spanish is specific to questions, asking what level of a certain quality the subject has. In Spanish, we use the construction “¿Qué tan [adverb/adjective] …”.  The English equivalent for this use doesn’t include any direct translation of the word tan.

  • How well do you understand Spanish grammar? – ¿Qué tan bien entiendes la gramática del español?
  • How skilled are you in math? – ¿Qué tan hábil eres en matemáticas?
  • How smart is your dog? – ¿Qué tan inteligente es tu perro?
  • How fast can Japan’s bullet train go? – ¿Qué tan rápido puede ir el tren bala de Japón?

Expressions with Tan

In addition to the grammatical uses of tan we’ve covered so far, here are a couple of idiomatic expressions which are based around tan in Spanish:

Tan terco como una mula Stubborn as a mule
¡Tan lejos, tan cerca! So close, yet so far

Tanto as an adjective

Tanto is used as an adjective of relative quantity. Used with nouns, tanto generally indicates that the quantity is quite a lot. Sentence construction can take many forms using tanto as an adjective, each with their own nuances, that we’ll look at in this section.

First though, let’s go over the four forms that tanto in Spanish can take as an adjective, since it always needs to agree with the gender and number of the noun it modifies:

Masculine Feminine
Singular tanto tanta
Plural tantos tantas

Emphasizing quantities

tanto … – so much …, so many …

This simple use of tanto as a quantitative adjective indicates that there’s a lot of whatever noun it modifies, emphasizing that the quantity is more than might be considered usual. The English equivalent can be “so much” or “so many,” depending on the noun.

  • There are so many butterflies in the garden today. It’s the first time that this happened in two years. – Hay tantas mariposas en el jardín hoy, es la primera vez que ocurre desde hace dos años.
  • Miriam and Raul speak so many languages because they’ve lived in many different countries. – Miriam y Raul hablan tantos idiomas porque han vivido en muchos países diferentes.
  • There’s so much fluid in his lung, that we need to operate immediately. – Hay tanto líquido en su pulmón, que debemos operar de inmediato.

Emphasizing quantities, with a consequence

tanto … que … – so much … that …, so many … that …

This use of tanto in Spanish is essentially the same as the previous, except that it also includes the qualifier que to indicate some consequence for the significant quantity being described by tanto. The English equivalent is “so much that,” or “ so many that.”

  • I’ve waited for you for hours, so many that I’ve lost count. – Te he esperado por horas, tantas que he perdido la cuenta.
  • Sarah received so many letters from her friends that she doesn’t know where to put them. – Sarah recibió tantas cartas de sus amigos que no sabe dónde guardarlas.
  • Karina has so many dreams to fulfill that she has begun to prepare financially. – Karina tiene tantos sueños por cumplir que ha comenzado a prepararse económicamente.

Comparing quantities

tanto … como – as much … as, as many … as

This use of tanto in Spanish as a comparative adjective allows us to compare quantities or intensities of nouns. In English, the equivalent is “as much … as” or “as many … as.”

  • There was not as much noise yesterday as today in the neighborhood. – No había tanto ruido ayer como hoy en el vecindario.
  • My cats eat as much food as my nephews. – Mis gatos comen tanta comida como mis sobrinos.
  • I have as many books as magazines in my library. – Tengo tantos libros como revistas en mi biblioteca.
  • There are as many boxes as garbage bags in the warehouse. – Hay tantas cajas como bolsas de basura en el depósito.

Asking questions about quantities

¿qué tanto …? – how much …?, how many …?

This “¿qué tanto” formulation used on a noun essentially translates to “how much” or “how many”, allowing us to ask about quantities or intensities.

  • How much time do you have, to go with me to the supermarket? – ¿Qué tanto tiempo tienes para acompañarme al supermercado?
  • How much water do you need to water the plants in the garden? – ¿Qué tanta agua necesitas para regar las plantas del jardín?
  • How many toys do you need to be satisfied? – ¿Qué tantos juguetes necesitas para estar satisfecha?
  • How many letters do I need to write you for you to take it seriously? – ¿Qué tantas cartas necesito escribirte para que lo tomes en serio?

Tanto as an adverb

Tanto can be used to modify a verb, acting as an adverb. Remember that adverbs never change form, so in this use we’ll only use the form tanto.

Tanto as an adverb to emphasize an amount of action

tanto que – so much that, so … that

When we use tanto on a verb, we’re saying that whatever action the verb describes is a lot more than usual. Including que leads us into the consequence of that increased action.

  • I drank so much last night that I couldn’t get up today because of the headache. – Tanto bebí anoche que hoy no pude levantarme a causa del dolor de cabeza.
  • There is the person I love so much! – ¡Allí está la persona que tanto quiero!
  • I got so bored at the party that I decided to leave it and go home. – Me aburrí tanto en la fiesta que decidí abandonarla e irme a casa.
  • My dad worked so much all week that the only thing he had energy for on the weekend was to nap in the hammock. – Mi papá trabajó tanto durante toda la semana que para lo único que tenía energía el fin de semana era para echarse una siesta en la hamaca.
  • She plays on her phone so much that sometimes the battery dies while she’s out. – Ella juega tanto con su teléfono que a veces muere la batería mientras está fuera.

Tanto as an adverb to compare an amount of action

tanto como – as much as

Tanto is used as a comparative adverb in this “tanto como” structure when it modifies a conjugated verb. The English equivalent is to say that the action is “as much as” its comparison.

In this use, the two words tanto como are never separated.

  • Laura runs as much as she can every day. – Laura corre tanto como puede todos los días.
  • My husband drinks water as much as I do to stay healthy. – Mi esposo bebe agua tanto como yo para estar saludable.
  • Chris studies as hard as her best friend to pass the college entrance exam. – Chris estudia tanto como su mejor amiga para aprobar el examen de ingreso a la universidad.
  • The doctor on call cares for her patients as much as the nurses at the hospital. – El médico de guardia cuida a sus pacientes tanto como las enfermeras del hospital.

Tanto as an indefinite pronoun

Tanto in Spanish can be used as a pronoun to replace a noun of imprecise quantity. As a pronoun, tanto changes form to reflect the gender and number of the noun it replaces. The forms are the same as we saw above for tanto as an adjective: tanto, tanta, tantos, tantas.

Tanto as an imprecise quantity

tanto – some, so much, so many

Using tanto as a pronoun to replace a quantity of something makes it especially vague as to how much of the thing we’re talking about. Often tanto refers to a fairly big quantity, though it can also just be “some” or “a bit.” It all depends on the context.

  • My brother had too many shirts when he finished college, so he left a bunch of them to his roommate. – Mi hermano tenía demasiadas camisetas cuando terminó la universidad, así que dejó tantas a su compañero de cuarto.
  • There were at least twenty flavors of cake at the buffet, but I didn’t try so many of them. – Había al menos veinte sabores de pastel en el buffet, pero no probé tantos.
  • I think they charge some percentage for delivery in the store. I’m not sure. – Creo que cobran un tanto por ciento por el delivery en la tienda, no estoy segura.
  • Give me 300 grams of ham and some turkey breast, please. – Deme 300 gramos de jamón y un tanto de pechuga de pavo, por favor.

Tanto as a vague number

In this use, tanto acts as an imprecise number to introduce some vagueness to whatever quantity is being described.

  • Laura is already thirty-something and still working for us. – Laura tiene ya treinta y tantos años y sigue está trabajando para nosotros.
  • How old is the neighbor’s daughter? I think she’s in her twenties. I’m not sure. – ¿Cuántos años tiene la hija del vecino? Creo que tiene veintitantos, no estoy seguro.
  • I’ve worked here for forty-odd years, and it still seems like yesterday that I joined the company. – He trabajado cuarenta y tantos años y aún parece que fue ayer cuando entré a la empresa.

Tanto in idiomatic expressions

In the previous sections, we saw the main uses of tanto in Spanish as an adjective, an adverb, and a pronoun. In addition to those phrases, tanto is also used in a number of common idiomatic expressions that we’ll list here:

Las tantas (relativo al tiempo, las horas) Very late (related to time, hours)
Por lo tanto Therefore, For this reason
Estar al tanto To know, To be up to date with
Ponerse al tanto Catch up, Be up to date
Al tanto Up to date
Mientras tanto Meanwhile
Entre tanto Meanwhile
Hace tanto que So long since
En tanto que While, If
De tanto From so much
No tanto No so much
No muevas tanto … Don’t move so much
Tanto tiempo Long time no see
Tanto gusto A real pleasure
No es para tanto It’s not all it’s cracked up to be
Te amo tanto, Te quiero tanto I love you so much
Te extraño tanto I miss you so much
Marcar un tanto To score a goal


Wow, we’ve just covered a lot of detail on getting to know tan vs tanto! As we saw at the start as well as through all the specific explanations for both tan and tanto, the main point to remember to keep these Spanish comparative words straight is that tan is for qualities, while tanto is for quantities. Tan is always used as an adverb to modify descriptive words, while tanto can be used as an adjective, a pronoun, or as an adverb to modify verbs.

Going into the details of each, we saw a bunch of common sentence constructions when using tan vs tanto. Whether used alone or in conjunction with other words like como or que, both tan and tanto are very versatile while remaining in each of their respective realms for comparing qualities or quantities. Finally, we saw a handful of idiomatic expressions using both tan and tanto.

Perhaps this was a lot to take in at once, so feel free to bookmark this page and refer to the various uses of tan vs tanto we’ve covered here. In the meantime, we’ll leave you with some exercises to practice choosing between tan vs tanto!

Exercises: Tan vs Tanto

Now that you’ve got a good grasp of when to use tan vs tanto, why don’t you give these exercises a try. Based on the context and with reference to the English translation, complete the sentences with either tan or tanto. When used as an adjective or a pronoun, don’t forget to use the correct form of tanto to match the noun’s gender and number.

1. El profesor de karate entrena _____ como sus estudiantes.

– The karate teacher trains as much as his students.

2. Miriam participa en _____ competencias como sus hermanos.

– Miriam participates in as many competitions as her brothers.

3. Chris y Laura son _____ amigables como sus antiguos vecinos.

– Chris and Laura are as friendly as their former neighbors.

4. En el evento de hoy, participarán _____ estudiantes como profesores de español.

– In today’s event, both students and teachers of Spanish will participate.

5. Jugar poker es _____ adictivo como jugar video juegos.

– Playing poker is just as addictive as playing video games.

6. El ajedrez tiene _____ reglas que es imposible entenderlo, aunque es _____ interesante como las damas chinas.

– Chess has so many rules that it is impossible to understand it, although it is as interesting as Chinese checkers.

7. Mis empleados reciben _____ pedidos que se les dificulta despacharlos a tiempo.

– My employees receive so many orders that it is difficult for them to ship them on time.

8. Mis mejores amigos son _____ confiables que no puedo dejar de depender de ellos.

– My best friends are so reliable that I can’t help but depend on them.

9. ¿Eres _____ hábil como Raúl para reparar automóviles?

– Are you as skilled as Raúl at repairing cars?.

10. El club de judo es _____ grande como el club de arte.

– The judo club is as big as the art club.

11. Laura toma _____ clases de canto como yo, aunque no es _____ buena cantante como ella cree.

– Laura takes as many singing lessons as I do, although she is not as good a singer as she thinks she is.

12. Tengo _____ hambre que me comería todo un banquete completo.

– I am so hungry that I would eat an entire banquet.

13. La empresa tiene _____ problemas que no sabemos por dónde comenzar a solucionarlos.

– The company has so many problems that we don’t know where to begin to solve them.

14. Mi hermana es _____ bella y _____ exitosa que es digna de la más grande admiración.

– My sister is so beautiful and so successful that she is worthy of the greatest admiration.

15. Mis sobrinos son _____ inteligentes que no tienen comparación.

– My nephews are so intelligent that they have no comparison.

16. Es la primera vez en mi vida que he sufrido _____.

– It is the first time in my life that I have suffered so much.


1. El profesor de karate entrena tanto como sus estudiantes.

2. Miriam participa en tantas competencias como sus hermanos.

3. Chris y Laura son tan amigables como sus antiguos vecinos.

4. En el evento de hoy, participarán tanto estudiantes como profesores de español.

5. Jugar poker es tan adictivo como jugar video juegos.

6. El ajedrez tiene tantas reglas que es imposible entenderlo, aunque es tan interesante como las damas chinas.

7. Mis empleados reciben tantos pedidos que se les dificulta despacharlos a tiempo.

8. Mis mejores amigos son tan confiables que no puedo dejar de depender de ellos.

9. ¿Eres tan hábil como Raúl para reparar automóviles?

10. El club de judo es tan grande como el club de arte.

11. Laura toma tantas clases de canto como yo, aunque no es tan buena cantante como ella cree.

12. Tengo tanta hambre que me comería todo un banquete completo.

13. La empresa tiene tantos problemas que no sabemos por dónde comenzar a solucionarlos.

14. Mi hermana es tan bella y tan exitosa que es digna de la más grande admiración.

15. Mis sobrinos son tan inteligentes que no tienen comparación.

16. Es la primera vez en mi vida que he sufrido tanto.

This blog is brought to you by lingohour

Daily conversation practice with native speakers 🧑🏽‍💻

No English. No Teachers. Just real conversations with friendly native speakers, online.

Just $47/mo for 30m per day.

how it works