Spanish adjectives reveal gender and number in a sentence, and they are typically placed after nouns (with a few exceptions). In Finnish, however, adjectives always precede nouns, must agree in number and case with the nouns they are modifying, and are inflected in the same way as nouns. Most of the grammatical rules for comparison of adjectives in Spanish are relatively easy for a Finnish speaker to understand, but some cases require a bit more attention.
Comparative and Superlative: Negative Comparisons in Spanish
One specific feature of the Spanish language is the negative comparison, which does not exist in the Finnish language. In Spanish, someone or something can be less than something (menos … que), whereas in Finnish this must be expressed with an appropriately inflected adjective.
EN: My sister is shorter (i.e. less tall) than my brother.
SP: Mi hermana es menos alta que mi hermano.
FIN: Siskoni on lyhyempi kuin veljeni.
In Finnish, the expression less tall (vähemman lyhyt) is very bad grammar, although still understandable. In Spanish, más bajo (shorter) is an equally grammatically correct translation.
Difference between Comparative and Superlative in Spanish
The difference between comparative and superlative in Spanish is small. Both are distinguished from each other by using either the indefinite or definite article. In Finnish, the difference is clearer as the comparative and the superlative each have their own suffix and inflection.
EN: Next time, I want to have a more efficient cleaning lady
SP: La próxima vez, quiero tener una señorita de limpieza más eficaz.
FIN: Ensi kerralla haluan tehokkaamman siivoojan.
In this example Spanish uses the indefinite article to indicate the comparative, and Finnish uses the suffix -amman, which cannot be substituted with anything and still preserve proper grammar in the sentence. In the construction of the superlative, Spanish uses the definite article (“el”) and Finnish uses the appropriate suffix (-ein).
EN: My cat is the most beautiful of all cats.
SP: Mi gato es el más guapo de todos.
FIN: Minun kissani on kaikista kaunein.
Absolute Superlative in Spanish
The absolute superlative in Spanish is normally formed by modifying the adjective and by adding the suffix -ísimo, -ísima, -ísimos, or -ísimas. Another possibility for forming the absolute superlative in Spanish is to use words like “muy,” “sumamente,” or “extremadamente” before an adjective. The absolute superlative is not a question of comparison but a degree of the adjective. When translating from Spanish into Finnish, the translator should find an adequate word before the adjective in order to ensure that the message is emphasized enough. In general, Finnish has a tendency to use adjectives in a way that is less emphatic than Spanish.
EN: Today we ate some very delicious fish.
SP: Hoy comimos un pescado riquísimo.
FIN: Söimme tänään todella herkullista kalaa.
The Finnish sentence requires the word “todella” (very) in order to express how good the fish was. A Finnish speaker, however, could easily omit this and just express that it was good fish without the additional fanfare. This is an interesting example of the cultural differences that are often visible in colloquial language. Although a translator might be accustomed to dealing with standard language, it is important to capture the nuances of colloquial language in order to create versatile communication between linguistic borders.