Spanish words: bien, bueno, mal, malo

bien bueno mal malo spanish featured 1

What’s the difference between bueno and bien, malo and mal?

You probably know when you use one or the other because of the translation, but then you find out you failed to choose one or the other.

No problem. After reading this short but clear explanation you’ll get it right.

bien bueno mal malo spanish

The meaning of “bueno” and “malo”

Bueno and malo are adjectives.

  • In general, bueno means “good” and malo means “bad”. They are opposites.

Adjectives are a type of word that describe nouns and work as a complement to ser and other verbs.

In other words, when you want to say that a person and animal, or a thing is good or bad you use bueno or malo, before them, also when you say how a person, animal, or thing is, you use ser (“to be” for descriptions) followed by bueno or malo.

But wait, depending on how many things you are describing and their gender you have other forms of bueno and malo to choose from!

Like every adjective, they agree in number and gender with the noun that they describe. And, depending on the position, you may need to do a change of spelling.

  • You have five forms:

Masculine singular: bueno / buen – malo / mal

Femenin singular: buena – mala

Masculine plural: buenos – malos

Feminine plural: buenas – malas

  • You can see some examples:

El servicio del restaurante es bueno.

The service at the restaurant is good.

Mi hijo tiene una buena maestra de español.

My son has a good Spanish teacher.

Tengo un buen presentimiento.

I have a good feeling.

Tengo mala suerte.

I have bad luck.

Esos niños son malos.

Those kids are bad (mean).

Did you notice when buen and mal are used? When the noun is masculine singular and you want to place the adjective before, it uses buen instead of bueno or mal instead of malo

spanish words bien bueno mal malo (1)

Meanings and usage of “bien” and “mal”

Bien and mal are adverbials.

They are invariable words used to describe actions, other adverbials, and adjectives.

But they don’t describe people, animals, or things. In general, bien means “well” and mal means “badly”.

Although, when placed before adjectives or other adverbials bien means “very” or “pretty”.

Mi suegra cocina bien.

My mother-in-law cooks well.

Ellos hablan bien español.

They speak Spanish well.

Él es bien extraño.

He is very weird.

Juego mal a las cartas.

I play cards badly.

Él escribe mal.

He writes badly.

bien malo bueno spanish

Correctly use of “bien”, “bueno”, “mal” and “malo”

Spanish learners use bien, bueno, mal and malo wrongly because of the translation of certain phrases in English.

In English, you use “good” and “bad” with linking verbs and you may automatically think of using bueno and malo , but remember the previous explanation:

  • Bueno and malo only go after the verb to be used to describe things.

For any other verb, you use bienor mal.

Read the examples and their translations and you’ll understand how to use bien, bueno, mal, and malo correctly.

Me siento bien.

I feel good.

El bebé huele bien.

The baby smells good.

¡Te ves tan mal!

You look so bad!

Me va bien.

I’m doing good / well.

Hablé con Julio. Suena muy mal.

I talked to Julio. He sounds very bad.

El pollo sabe bien, pero la ensalda sabe mal.

The chicken tastes good, but the salad tastes bad.

¿Cómo estás? Estoy bien. (Estar: “to be” for state of being)

How are you? I’m good. (In general) I’m well (I’m healthy)

¿Nos vemos luego? – Bueno, está bien.

¿Can we meet later? – Well, it’s ok.

In the case of estar, bien and bueno are possible.

But the meaning changes, so you have to be very careful.

Yo estoy bien means “I’m good, I’m ok.”

Yo estoy bueno means “I’m hot.”

bien bueno mal malo spanish (2) (1)

“Bien”, “Mal”, “bueno” and “malo”

As you can see, although this topic may seem overwhelming at first.

If you remember that bien and mal work with verbs, but bueno and malo describe people and things, you will be good.

¡Estarás bien!

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