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I have heard the following line in the TV series "Vis a Vis", which takes place in Spain:

Fue más lista que la policía, más lista que los perros, más lista que los inspectores, más lista que nadie.

Does "más lista que nadie" mean "más lista que todos"? Is it usual in both Spain and Latin America?

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  • que nadie = en portugues, que qualquer otra pessoa. – Lambie May 14 '20 at 15:41
  • You might consider using the simple past in English. – Lambie Jun 14 at 19:02
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Yes, there's no logic to it but “más X que nadie” means the same as “más X que todos”, for any value of adjective X. If there's a difference, it's very subtle.

  • “Más lista que nadie” = she's smarter than anybody that you can think of; nobody is or could be smarter than her.
  • “Más lista que todos” = she's smarter than anybody around, smarter than every person that here and now could compare with her.
  • Also possible, but different meaning: “Más lista que todos ellos juntos” = she's smarter than all of them put together.

The principle is valid also for nunca: “Me siento mejor que nunca” = “Me siento mejor que en todo otro momento; nunca (antes) me había sentido mejor”.

I'd say this is ground-level Spanish, so to speak, i.e. something shared by all dialects.

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  • 2
    There's also the expression "más que nada" (more than anything (else)), which follows the same logic. – Gustavson May 14 '20 at 14:19
  • "No se te olvida nada?" is also the common way to say "You didn't forget anything?". "No hay nada que hacer" means "There isn't anything to do". Re: "there's no logic to it", I wonder why the dictionary hasn't amended the definition of "nada" with "algo; cualquier cosa", since the usage is so common. Then again, it'd be as bad as how "literally" had its definition modified for a time to include "figuratively"/"virtually". – JoL May 14 '20 at 16:25
  • Well, "¿No se te olvida nada?" and the like are different: they're double negatives. Obviously there must be a "logic" behind all this. The crucial difference with English is that the quartet "every- / some- / any- / no-" doesn't map well to our own (incomplete) trios of quantifiers ("todo/todos, algo/algunos, nada/ningunos"). – pablodf76 May 14 '20 at 16:50
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Short answer: yes, it means the same.

"Más (adjective) que nadie" implies, using a negative form that sounds strange to English speakers, that nobody is as (adj) as that person.

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Yes, in many languages, there´s not such a thing as a double negation. It just doesn´t make sense. However in Spanish it´s used here and there and you stumbled upon one of those.

If you take the sentence and translate it word by word to English it would mean that everyone else is smarter than she is but the actual meaning is just the opposite.

The same double negation "paradox" applies to other sentences like:

  • No tengo nada (I have nothing)

which could be understood by an English as a convoluted way of saying that you actually have something.

It´s also worth noting that the simple negation equivalent would make no sense to a native speaker. Saying something like:

  • No es más lista que alguien
  • No tengo algo

make little sense and may lead to one or two confused faces.

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  • Your "simple negation" examples make no sense. There is no negation in those sentences. Do you mean "Tengo nada"? In that case, you are right, that sentence is not idiomatic in Spanish. In your other case "Es más lista que alguien", it depends on the context. "Supongo que es más lista que alguien, pero aún no hemos encontrado a ese alguien" is perfectly fine. – RubioRic Jun 14 at 9:49
  • I edited the examples because I missed the "No" and they were not even a negation. This neverending lockdown cycles are killing me. Thanks for noticing! – Jean Lannes Jun 15 at 10:03

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