“Muy” and “mucho” in Spanish are often mixed up and people get confused as to when to use which one. They are not interchangeable, “muy” is the adverb meaning “very”, whereas “mucho” can be used as an adverb, an adjective or a pronoun and is normally translated as “many”, “much”, “a lot of” although in other contexts it is translated differently. Here we will compare the two and show you when to use each one.
“Muy” translates as “very” in English and is used with adjectives. It has one form and does not change according to singular, plural or gender of nouns.
Juan es muy listo. John is very clever.
Marta habla muy bien en inglés. Marta speaks very well in English.
Mi padre es muy alto. My Dad is very tall.
Mi madre es muy delgada. My Mum is very slim.
As an adverb, “mucho” is often translated as “a lot” or “much”.
Felipe habla mucho. Philip talks a lot.
Llueve mucho en abril. It rains a lot in April.
Este restaurante es mucho más caro que el otro. This restaurant is much more expensive than the other one.
As an adjective, “mucho” translates as “many” or “a lot of” and in these cases must agree with the noun whether singular, plural, masculine or feminine:
Tengo mucho trabajo. I have a lot of work.
Pedro bebe mucha agua. Pedro drinks a lot of water.
María lee muchos libros. Maria reads many books.
Hay muchas casas bonitas aquí. There are many flowers in the garden.
As a pronoun, it must agree with what it is referring to, even though the noun isn’t mentioned:
Hay muchos que dicen que hay una falta de trabajos. There are many who say that there is a lack of jobs.
(“Muchos”, assumes men and women are being referred to, in this case you use the masculine form.)
Recibimos varias llamadas de clientes cada día, pero cuando hay muchas, no es posible contestar a todos. We receive several calls from clients every day, but when there are many, it isn’t possible to answer them all.
(“muchas” here refers to the calls, “llamadas” which are feminine.)
“Mucho” used in “tener” phrases:
There are a few phrases using “tener mucho/a + noun” that translate into English as “to be very …” although in Spanish you use “mucho/a” as it acts as an adjective describing a noun:
Tengo hambre: I am hungry. (Literally, “I have hunger.”)
Tengo mucha hambre: I am very hungry. (Literally, “I have much hunger.” “Hambre” is feminine so we use “mucha”.)
Tengo frío: I am cold. (Literally, “I have cold.”)
Tengo mucho frío. I am very cold. (Literally, “I have a lot of cold”. “Frío” is masculine, so we say “mucho”.)
* Also watch out for weather expressions that often use “hacer” – in Spanish, you say, “It makes sun / heat / cold” = Hace sol / calor / frío. When say in English “it is very sunny”, in Spanish you say “It makes a lot of sun” so you would use “mucho” (a lot of):
Hace mucho sol: It is very sunny. [Literally: It makes a lot of sun.]
Hace mucho calor: It is very hot. [Literally: It makes a lot of hear.]
Hace mucho frío: It is very cold. [Literally: It makes a lot of cold.]