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I often get corrected when using either the word igual or mismo, and haven't really figured out when to use which yet.

What are the rules for when and how to use igual, and when and how to use mismo (or lo mismo), and when is either form appropriate?


A menudo me corrigen cuando uso la palabra igual o mismo, y todavía no he conseguido adivinar cuando se usa cada cual en realidad.

¿Cuáles son las reglas sobre cuándo y cómo usar igual, y cuándo y cómo usar mismo (o lo mismo), y cuándo es apropiada cada forma?

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It may be easier to help you if you provide a few example situations in which people have corrected you. :) – JorgeArtware Jun 26 '14 at 22:50

There is an important distinction: lo mismo means that the two things are actually the same object (or idea, or person, or whatever), while igual means that they have many characteristics in common. For example, say you are walking down the street and see a random person. The next day, you happen to see that person again. You'd probably think "Debe de ser la misma persona", that is, it probably was the same person you see both days. However, if you somehow found out it was actually a pair of twins you saw, you'd think something like "Con razón; eran iguales", meaning "No wonder; they looked the same".

In short, lo mismo is about identity, igual is about appearance or characteristics. Let's say your grandma says "Estás igual a tu padre" (You look just like your father). It makes sense, because igual doesn't mean you are the same person, it just means you look alike.

As a further example, say a couple is getting divorced. The man asks why, and his wife says "No eres la misma persona que cuando te conocí" (You are not the same person as when I met you). Physically, the man may look just like the time they met, but he may have changed in other ways, and therefore is not considered the same person.

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+1 Well reasoned answer! Thanks! – Joze Nov 21 '11 at 12:08
Today I came across two more uses of "mismo." 1) A woman was describing a fruit to me, and said "tiene la misma forma" (explaining it was similar in shape to an orange). 2) A pharmacy called "Farmacia similares" with a tag-line "Lo mismo pero mas barato." These both seem like cases of "mismo" being used to describe things with similar charactaristics, but different identities. Can you help me understand these uses of mismo? Thanks. :) – Flimzy Nov 22 '11 at 2:20
@Flimzy: Well, when talking about languages it's usually not as clear-cut as one would like. Your first example sounds like it's more idiomatic than anything else. "Tiene igual forma" would work too, though the first one sounds more natural. You could say that it's the shape that is the same, not the fruit. You could make the argument that since the fruit-shape is an abstract idea, there's only one of it. If you were talking about the fruit itself, you would say "estas frutas son iguales". – Javier Nov 22 '11 at 2:24
As for your second example, in this case "lo mismo" means not "the same thing" but "the same kind of thing". The point here is to emphasize that the medicine being sold is actually the same product as in other places. If you said "igual pero más barato", it would sound like you're selling cheaper (and probably not as good) copies of more expensive medicine. – Javier Nov 22 '11 at 2:26
Igual = equal
Lo mismo = the same (as)

Usage will thus depend on a case per case basis, for example:

We are equals = somos iguales
His level is equal to mine = su nivel es igual al mio

He said the same thing = el dijo lo mismo
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Ya, pero es que un angloparlante casi siempre dirá "His level is the same as mine". – JoulSauron May 7 '12 at 6:36
It was just an example, in your case, the real spanish translation would thus be 'su nivel es el mismo que el mio' so there's really no issue – Sotkra May 8 '12 at 8:02
The issue is that there is no clarification for an English-speaker about when to use "igual" and "mismo". – JoulSauron May 8 '12 at 8:46
I just explained what is what. Igual = equal, mismo = same or most often, THE same. So grab any sentence you want and convert it to spanish. The only reason you have such a conflict is because in 'commonspeak' spanish, lots of people use 'igual' when they shouldn't - 'es igual' or 'me da igual' being crappy uses of the words. Go ahead and present me with any example you wish and I'll explain the why's and how's – Sotkra May 8 '12 at 14:15
  • El es igual que el padre => He is the same as his father.
  • El tiene el mismo reloj => He have the same clock.
  • Estamos en la misma situacion => We are in the same situation.
  • Estamos aca, igual que ayer => We are here, same as yesterday.
  • No eres la misma persona que cuando te conoci => You are not the same person as when I met you.
  • No eres igual a tu madre => You are not the same as your mother

Not always igual = equal && mismo/a = same

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Siento decir, que estás usando mal el español en casi todos tus ejemplos. Entiendo que intentas ayudar pero temo que con esta respuesta estás confundiendo a la gente. – JorgeArtware Jun 26 '14 at 22:55

Mismo translated literally means "same".. or "the same" assuming you use a definite article.. "El mismo"... and it is more or less used as an adjective.

The same book
--- El mismo libro
We ate out of the same bowl.
--- Comimos del mismo tazón.
Our thoughts are the same
--- Nuestros pensamientos son los mismos

Lo mismo would refer to an idea or thing or a comparison to something in the current context.

The same book that I had.
--- Lo mismo libro que tenía.
We ate out of the same bowl as the dog
--- Comimos de lo mismo tazón del perro

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