Spanish expressions: “Más bien…”

mas bien expressions spanish

Part of communicating in Spanish is to be able to correct yourself while speaking, doing this without apologizing is important. When we make grammar mistakes or change our minds during a speech, we use “más bien” to keep fluency and to clarify information recently given.

Sometimes, we use “más bien” as a logical connector to explain an idea. So, the listener has a closer interpretation of what the speaker wants to express. Depending on the context, there are two “más bien” structures we can use. Generally, we use “más bien” in a subtle and spontaneous way.

As a result, identifying which “más bien” structure fits better in any situation will require a bit of practice. “Más bien” is an alternative to  “más bien dicho” or “mejor dicho”. In English, you probably know it as “better said”.

In this article, we will teach you how to enhance your speaking and writing by using the Spanish phrase “más bien”

How to use “más bien” during a speech

While speaking, your thoughts might come and go. As a result, giving a clear speech is sometimes challenging. Yet, it’s really important to be as clear as possible. It enhances communication and keeps your audience engaged. By using “más bien”, we can achieve this goal.

In that case, the formula we generally use when giving a speech is the following: 

Main idea + Más bien + Detail-explained idea.

Las abejas, o más bien los insectos polinizadores, mantienen el equilibrio del ecosistema.

Bees, or better said pollinating insects, keep the balance of the ecosystem.

In this example, the speaker realizes that it was appropriate to use a better term. It’s because bees are not the only responsible ones for pollinating.

Another use of “más bien” is to correct the information given, even if the idea is clear but the words or terms are not technically accurate. In that case, the structure we use is the following:

Main idea + Más bien + Technically accurate idea.

Los infectados con Covid19, más bien, infectados por SARS-CoV-2 requieren atención médica inmediata.

People infected by Covid19, I mean,  infected by SARS-CoV-2 need immediate medical attention.

Note that the speaker decided to correct the previous sentence, even if the idea was clear to most listeners. This is why the right translation for “más bien” is “I mean” or “better said” in this context.

We can also use it to correct a grammar error, and you can use the previous structure or the following: 

Incorrect sentence, correct sentence + “Más bien”. 

Te quedo secada la carne, seca, más bien.

You made the steak dried, dry, I mean.

As we previously mentioned, using both structures interchangeably is possible.

Let’s see the example below.

¡Gracias a usted!, ¡a los dos!, más bien.

Thank you, sir! thank you both, better said. 

¡Gracias a usted! más bien, gracias a los dos.

Thank you, sir! better said, thank you both.

“Más bien” may also mean “even better” or “rather”. In that scenario, we use it to give advice. We can even use it to connect an idea with a new one using previous information and make it count.

Puedes ir en taxi, pero yo tomaría más bien el metro, es más rápido y económico.

You could go in a cab, but I would rather take the subway, it is faster and cheaper.

Vayamos a la terraza a tomar aire, más bien, bajemos directo a la playa y así caminamos también.

Let’s go to the terrace to take some air, even better, let’s go to the beach and have a walk too.

How to use “más bien” in written form

While speaking, “más bien” has several different uses. However, we can use “más bien” to write any file or necessary document. Some writers, when trying to express that a situation should happen differently use “más bien”.

The structure we use in that situation would look like the following: 

Extraordinary situation, + “Más bien” + Ordinary situation. 

Estuvo lloviendo mucho ese otoño, una época, más bien, infrecuente para las lluvias en mi país.

It rained a lot during that fall, not a usual time for rain in my country.

El equipo no logró los objetivos esta temporada, situación, más bien, irregular considerando la buena racha que tuvieron al comienzo.

The team did not improve the goals this season, the situation was, rather, irregular considering the good run he had at the beginning.

These are good examples of how a writer uses “más bien” so the reader knows that an event didn’t happen as expected. Sometimes, it is important for storytellers to let readers know what is normal to develop a story.

Why you should learn to use “más bien”

Using “más bien” isn’t a struggle. It’s a great tool to keep fluency and simplicity while speaking. As you can see, “más bien” usages are many but the structure is simple and often the same. Below, you’ll find some examples to review what we have just mentioned.

These are some common examples and, therefore, you’ll probably use “más bien” this way on a daily basis.

     To explain better an idea:

Main idea + Más bien + Detail-explained idea.

Son un excelente grupo de trabajadores, más bien, un excelente equipo.

They are an excellent group of workers, actually, an excellent team.

     To amend sentences when the idea is clear but the terms aren’t right:

Main idea + Más bien + Technically accurate idea

Los productos de la gasolina, más bien de la combustión, son dañinos para el ambiente.

Fuel gases, better said combustion gases, are damaging to the environment.

     To make grammar corrections:

Me compré una coche, un coche más bien.

I bought an car, a car I mean.

The correction is necessary because the noun “coche” is masculine, and the right article has to be masculine, which is “un” and not “una”.

Improve, or “más bien” enhance, your Spanish

In summary, when we communicate our thoughts it is necessary to prove confidence and clarity and to be knowledgeable about the topic we talk about. Consequently, being able to use “más bien” correctly will help you show others that Spanish isn’t a weakness for you but the opposite. Wait… That’s even a great example!

El Español no es tu punto débil, ¡más bien lo contrario!

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