This sentence "Cómo será de feo, que es más feo que lo de las mujeres" is from the novel "El amor en los tiempos del cólera" by Gabriel GarcíA Márquez. I understand that it means "How ugly it is, even uglier than a woman's thing". My question is on the grammar.

"De" as a preposition should be followed by a noun or something like a noun, for example, "Soy de Barcelona", so I do not understand the "de feo" part. Also the sentence is, when translated to English, "How it will be of ugly", which does not make sense.

If you need context, you can find it here: https://books.google.com/books?id=nui9DwAAQBAJ&pg=PA188&lpg=PA188#v=onepage&q&f=false

  • Well, feo can be a noun, see the entry in the DLE and the fourth definition. Does that help?
    – mdewey
    Sep 3 '21 at 12:23
  • It helps, but the construction still does not make sense, "it will be of ugliness"? What purpose does the preposition "de" serves?
    – puravidaso
    Sep 3 '21 at 14:13
  • 1
    I don't know where you found that other translation but it is wrong. You might say in Spanish: No sabemos cómo será de bonita, la boda. We don't know how pretty the wedding will be. ser de + adjective is indeed: how [adjective] something is.
    – Lambie
    Sep 3 '21 at 21:52

"Ser + de + adjective" and "estar + de + adjective" are common constructions in Spanish, and will always appear with interrogative or exclamatory adverb "cómo".

I agree with mdewey that the adjective has some nominal force. Actually, I interpret "de + adjective" as "as far as (noun) is concerned", but I think the word after "de" is an adjective:

  • ¿Cómo es de alto? (How tall is he?) (Literal, terrible translation: What is he like as far as tallness is concerned?)

  • ¿Cómo es de caro? (How expensive is it?) (Literal, terrible translation: What is it like as far as price is concerned?)

  • ¡Cómo está de gordo! (How fat he is!) (Literal, terrible translation: How he is as far as fatness is concerned!)

Even though adjectives like "alto" can work as nouns, others like "caro" and "gordo" can't. Therefore, though the structure may be noun-related from a semantic perspective, what follows the preposition is an adjective.

I find this exclamatory or interrogative construction formed by "de" + adjective, where "de" introduces a magnitude, to be closely related to phrases like:

  • No tiene un pelo de tonto.
  • No tiene nada de divertido.
  • Your explication makes sense and I have marked it as the answer. As a non-native speaker, where should I find the answer apart from posting to this forum? I looked up the "de" entry in the dictionary, such usage is not documented there.
    – puravidaso
    Sep 3 '21 at 22:57
  • 2
    The point is that the dictionary not always refers to the meaning of prepositions used in idioms like this one.
    – Gustavson
    Sep 3 '21 at 23:22

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