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  • What's the "ísimo" doing on the following adjectives?

  • What rules should be applied to convert the adjectives to the corresponding "ísimo" adjective?

  • Can this be applied to all adjectives or just a few?

Example 1:

El pastel está rico.
El pastel está riquísimo.

Example 2:

El café está caliente.
El café está calentísimo.

More examples: buenísimo, facilísimo, malísimo.

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1  
It's a maginification of the adjective, in an excited way, it's like saying "el pastel esta muy rico", but more enthusiastic. –  yms Dec 5 '11 at 17:05
    
@yms Why don't you elaborate that and post it as an answer? :) –  Alenanno Dec 5 '11 at 17:17
2  
As noticed in Gonzalo Medina's answer, it is not calientísimo, but cal**e**ntísimo. –  Auron Dec 6 '11 at 19:09

3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

ísimo/ma is a Latin suffix that can be appended to some adjectives and adverbs to form their superlatives: malísimo, riquísimo.

The rules governing the use of the ísimo suffix are the following:

  • For adjectives ending in l, r, and z, simply add the suffix (changing the final z for a c):

    fácil, facilísimo.

    feroz, ferocísimo.

    popular, popularísimo.

    As an exception to this rule, if the adjective ends in or, the c consonant must be added before the suffix: mayor, mayorcísimo.

  • Adjectives ending in n usually add a consonant c before the suffix:

    bribón, briboncísimo.

    cansón, cansoncísimo.

  • Adjectives ending in a non-tonic vowel usually lose the vowel:

    listo, listísimo.

    dulce, dulcísimo.

    As an exception the superlative of cursi is cursilísimo.

  • If the adjective ends in a tonic vowel, the superlative cannot be formed using the -ísimo suffix

    carmesí, muy carmesí.

  • Adjectives ending in the non-tonic groups ue, or uo/ua lose the final vowel:

    tenue, tenuísimo.

    ingenuo, ingenuísimo

    exigua, exigüísima.

  • Adjectives ending in diphthongs io/ia lose both vowels:

    amplia, amplísima.

    sucio, sucísimo.

  • Adjectives ending in hiatus ío/ía lose the final vowel:

    frío, friísimo.

    impía, impiísima.

  • A special case is the group of adjectives containing the diphthong ie o ue; those adjectives form their superlatives (with ísimo) using the Latin root of the corresponding adjective:

    cierto, certísimo.

    fuerte, fortísimo.

    caliente, calentísimo.

    However, this group also admits another valid form for the superlative, incorporating the Spanish root of the adjective:

    cierto, ciertísimo

    fuerte, fuertísimo.

    caliente, calientísimo.

  • Some other superlatives come directly from Latin:

    antiquísimo (lat. antiquissimus).

    crudelísimo (lat. crudelissimus).

The rules can be found in the entry for ísmo in the Diccionario panhispánico de dudas.

It's is worth noticing that there's another way (less prone to error) to produce the superlative without appending the ísmo suffix, namely, using muy:

caliente, muy caliente.

fuerte, muy fuerte.

falaz, muy falaz.

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2  
The rusles are officially in buscon.rae.es/dpdI/SrvltGUIBusDPD?lema=-%EDsimo I'd say that the safest way to express the same is to add "muy" in front of the adjective, as "muy malo" is the same as "malísimo" –  Javi Dec 5 '11 at 17:35
    
@Javi: yes, thank you. I was just editing my answer to add exactly that information. –  Gonzalo Medina Dec 5 '11 at 17:40
    
fuertísimo, calientísimo and ciertísimo are not valid forms, at least as far as RAE is concerned. –  huff Dec 5 '11 at 21:36
    
@huf: DPD says other thing... I provided the correponding link in my answer. –  Gonzalo Medina Dec 5 '11 at 21:38
1  
I see now that it is said so in that article... though they are not in the Diccionario (while their counterparts are)... and they really grind my ears! –  huff Dec 5 '11 at 21:41

Actually Gonzalo's nice answer doesn't cover one part of the story fully.

It's not that Spanish has two ways to express the superlative of adjectives - rather Spanish, like Latin, most modern Romance languages, and also Ancient Greek has two different kinds of superlatives:

  1. The relative superlative
    This is the more familiar one with más: El más grande
    It is usually translated to the English superlative The biggest
  2. The absolute superlative
    This is the form ending in -ísimo: Grandísimo
    It is usually translated to English using very: Very big

(There is a small possibility that the terms used in English for this part of Spanish grammar follow a different tradition to what is used in Spanish when discussing Spanish grammar...)

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Also Italian has "-issimo": bello - bellissimo, (beautiful). We also have the "old" "-errimo", but it's not as spread; it seems only 12 adjectives take it. By the way, I think that "the biggest" can be both relative and absolute. If I find my point to be true, I'll elaborate an answer maybe, since I'm not sure yet, honestly. –  Alenanno Dec 6 '11 at 19:16
    
I remember checking on the absolute superlative for Wiktionary once a few years ago and I'm pretty sure French doesn't have it but Catalan, Galician, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish all do. –  hippietrail Dec 6 '11 at 21:04
    
I think "relative" and "absolute" may be at least partly grammatical terms so the semantics might be a bit more flexible. Suffice it to say I don't think that "very" is the only way to translate an absolute superlative, just the usual way. –  hippietrail Dec 6 '11 at 21:06

I am going to expound on the 'Mejcanisimo' nature of the subject in my answer. I can tell that too many answers become contradictory in the end as the answers are taken from books written by Authors of differing opinions. This may be OK for someone who does not live the life of a Mexican every day on the border, which is to say that you cannot get any more Mexican than the border. Books are fine, however they completely fail to capture the true essence of the subject. The proper use in Mexican is that 'isimo' refers to the essence of something and expresses the degree of how you feel. 'Muchisimo Gracias' is a way of politely expressing thankfulness of a greater degree. It expresses a feeling and not particularly thought.

Hermano Gonzalo, you rely too much on grammatical rules taken from books and not from real life. Your word 'ciertisimo' may follow your books rule however, it is not a real word. The word Truth is truth in Spanish whether in Spain or Mexico and truth has no varying degree as lack of truth is a lie. That makes it a closed end statement or question, one where the question or statement is yes or no so truth cannot have differing degrees, sorry if I offend you. So when daily life does not hold true to books, is it not real? Books are written to educate and use as a guide, but the rules cannot be used in all real instances depending on the word and in the context of which it is used. Anything that is absolute in nature of context, cannot vary in any degree, therefore the correct rule of thumb would be to ascertain whether the word has a value of being absolute, if so, then it cannot be exponentially uncreased in any way, regardless of what any book says. Keep in mind that many books are written by linguistic majors who have learned from someone else's book and then write their own take on other's books. I do NOT own a single book on Spanish and only teach from verifiable usages through real life experience. So if I seem abrasive, forgive me I AM MEXICAN and can only give real life experience of over half a century of living on the border of Mexico and living the Mexican lifestyle in real-time. Hasta luego compadres.

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The correct expression is Muchísimas gracias and not Muchísimo Gracias. What do you mean with ciertísimo not being a real word? Of course it is, and not just because the DPD says so; it's widely used here in Colombia. Don't worry, you're not offending me. You have a different point of view, and you have all the right to express it. –  Gonzalo Medina Dec 6 '11 at 21:31
    
Your ideas of how linguists works is pretty sad. Other than that, I'm pretty confused by virtually the entirity of this answer. It seems almost like a rant on an completely different topic. –  guifa Jun 23 at 7:37

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