In this article I want to explain the cases in which you should use: buen, bueno, and bien in a normal conversation in Spanish. This is a very common mistake in my Spanish lessons. I have heard a lot of sentences like:
- Él es un bien profesor
- Gaby cocinan muy buen
- El Valle del Cocora es un bien lugar
- Colombia es un muy bien país
Again, I have heard a lot of sentences like the ones I mentioned before. Yes, I know there’s a lot of confusion because these three words are so similar in meaning and spelling. But what we need to know is the position in the sentence of each of these words and the functions they accomplish. Despite the similarities, there are differences and contrasts as well.
Verb + bien
- Ella cocina bien (“She cooks well”)
- Ellos bailan bien (“They dance well”)
- El café sabe bien (“The coffee tastes good”)
Generally we use “bien” after a verb, like in the previous examples, so bien functions as an adverb.
Buen + masculine noun
- Camilo es un buen profesor (“Camilo is a good teacher”)
- Mauricio no es un buen estudiante (“Mauricio is not a good student”)
- Colombia es un buen país para visitar (“Colombia is a good country to visit”)
As you can see, bueno loses the final “-o” when it is used before a masculine noun. In this case, it is an adjective because it modifies the noun.
This is a special case where bueno/a can be used after a noun:
- Amanda es una profesora muy buena (“Amanda is a very good teacher)”
- ¡Qué sopa tan buena! (“What a good soup!”)
- Este instituto es bueno (“This institute is good”)
As you can see, the main difference between buen and bueno/a is the position in which they are generally used. However, many of my students may ask: “But do buen and bueno/a both mean good?” And I would answer, “Yes, indeed, but the difference is that bueno must be used after the noun and verb. For example:
- Había una vez en Hollywood de Quentin Tarantino es una película buena (“‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ by Quentin Tarantino is a good movie”)
We can use buen or bueno depending on the positioning, for instance:
- Cien años de soledad de Gabriel García Marquez es un buen libro (“‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ by Gabriel García Márquez is a good book”)
Or in another case we could say as well:
- Cien años de soledad de Gabriel García Márquez es un libro bueno (“‘One Hundred of Solitude’ by Gabriel García Márquez is a good book”)
Bueno means ok
Bueno is also used as an affirmation in Spanish, for instance:
- Q: ¿Vamos a cine mañana? (“Do you want to go to the movies tomorrow?”)
- A: Bueno (“Sure”)
- ¿Quieres café y galletas? (“Do you want coffee and cookies?”)
- Bueno (“Sure”)
Bien + adjective
This is used in many Spanish speaking countries and most of the times means “very”. Let’s see some examples:
- La conferencia está bien interesante (“The conference is very interesting”)
- María vive bien lejos (“María lives very far”)
Ser bueno/a or Estar bueno
It depends on which verb you use; if you use SER is a characteristic, nationality, description, occupation or relationship, among others and if you decide to use ESTAR is a variable condition, but, if it refers to a person it could modify the meaning of the noun. Let´s see some examples:
- Yeni es una buena madre (“Yeni is a good mother”)
- Mike es es un profesional muy bueno (“Mike is a very good professional”)
- Santiago está bueno (“Santiago is hot”)
Also you could say:
- Santiago está bien bueno (“Santiago is very hot”)
So you can use bien and bueno at the same time. In this case, bien modifies the adjective.
So, bien in Spanish? Or Buen? Or bueno? Now you know they mean the same thing, but the difference is the position of buen and bueno in each sentence. Remember these differences to not get confused when you speak Spanish.
Audio to practice
Now you have learned several uses for bien, bueno/a and buen. Practice so that you can improve your Spanish. Let’s go!
Written by Gise, profesora at Whee.