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The difference between bien and bueno

So you need to know the difference between bien and bueno? I can help you with that!

I have noticed this is a very common mistake among Spanish learners, so you’re not alone.

To start, it will be helpful for you to realize that there’s this distinction between ‘good’ and ‘well’ in English.

It’s just the same in Spanish! Bueno is an adjective and bien, an adverb. That’s it!

However, with some fixed expressions you can use them interchangeably, and there’s one special case where you probably don’t want to mix them up.

Keep reading till the end!

The difference between bien and bueno

As I said, bueno is an adjective and it translates as ‘good’ in English. So far so good.

But then we have buen, which also means bueno. Mmm, so what’s the difference between bueno and buen?

Bueno is used with both masculine and feminine nouns, either before or after them. Let’s see some examples:

Hacer ejercicio es bueno para la salud.

Isabella es una niña muy buena.

Hay buenos restaurantes en Puerto Madero.

Puedes escuchar buenas canciones en Spotify.

Remember that in Spanish we have grammatical gender and number! Since bueno is an adjective its final form varies depending on the noun.

What about buen then? Let’s see!

Buen or bueno: same meaning, different words

Buen is the shortened form of bueno and it is used only before a masculine noun in singular:

Buddy es un buen perro.

Leer todas las noches es un buen hábito.

Tengo un buen plan para el sábado.

Again, if you put the adjective following the noun you need to use bueno, not buen:

Kevin es un profesor buen bueno.

Hey, it’s not me who says that, but my students 😉

Now let’s move on!

People giving thumbs up - difference between bien and bueno
¡Las explicaciones de Kevin son muy buenas! – Foto de Gustavo Fring

Bien in Spanish: when to use it

This is the big difference between bien and bueno in Spanish! Bien is an adverb which translates as ‘well’ in English.

An adverb can modify a verb, an adjective or just another adverb. Let’s see some examples with bien modifying verbs:

Tuve un accidente con la bici, pero estoy bien. (= I’m OK)

Mi computadora hoy no funciona bien.

Mi hijo cocina bien, tiene mucha habilidad.

Is it clearer now? I hope so!

Finally a few special cases. Let’s go!

Bien or bueno? Both!

When we want to express our happiness for something good that happened, we can use the fixed expressions qué bueno or qué bien interchangeably:

—Conseguí una beca para estudiar este verano en Harvard.
—¡Qué bueno! / ¡Qué bien!
(= Good!, Great!)

In a similar way, we can praise both actions or qualities using muy bien or muy bueno respectively.

And this is a very little nuance here.

Let’s say you are having a good pizza in Güerrín, my favorite pizzeria in Buenos Aires. As you are eating a slice, you could say:

Mmm, muy buena. (= it is very good, you are praising the pizza)

Mmm, muy bien. (= it is very well made, you are praising the cooking)

Again, a very little nuance.

What you should really know, though, is the difference between ser bueno and estar bueno!

Estar bien means ‘to be OK’, that’s not a problem. Estar bueno is a different story!

But I have already written about it! It’s not about the difference between bueno or bien as much as it is about the contrast ser / estar in Spanish.

Read it there! It’s right at the end of the article.

Wait a minute! Well translates as bueno too?

Yes, I know! I told you that ‘well’ translates as bien in Spanish. And it’s true!

But ‘well’ in English sometimes is use as a filler, you know, those words or short phrases used when a person pauses to fill in a white space in the conversation and think about what to say next:

—¿Qué piensas de la última canción de Shakira?
—Bueno, a mí no me gustó mucho, pero Bizarrap es un gran productor.

In practically all of the cases listed here, you can use bueno as a filler in Spanish.

And that’s all for today!

Do you want to learn more Spanish?

I hope you have enjoyed this article about the difference between bien and bueno in Spanish!

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Thank you very much and until next time,


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