Sólo vs Solo vs Solamente: When to use each
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A lot of words in Spanish are very similar, so are easily confused by learners and native speakers alike. A good example is between sólo vs solo vs solamente, whose straight translations are often all identical: they all mean only in Spanish. But there’s more to it if we dig a little deeper!
In order to demystify these basic Spanish words, in today’s post we’ll cover all of the differences and similarities between sólo vs solo vs solamente in Spanish. You’ll discover that it’s simpler than it sounds, allowing you to understand and use them properly in no time.
Let’s get started!
Sólo vs Solo in Spanish
Before we start to compare solo vs solamente in Spanish, let’s first take a close look at the two variants of solo: both with and without the accent. Don’t worry, it’s pretty simple.
The unaccented solo can now function either as an adjective or as an adverb. The accented sólo was the adverbial version in the past, but language reforms have done away with the accent so now we just use solo. Let’s take a look!
When solo functions as an adjective, it never has an accent. As an adjective, the translation of solo is along the lines of alone, lonely, or single.
Since it’s an adjective, solo must agree in gender and number with the noun it describes. The four forms of solo we may encounter are therefore: solo, sola, solos, and solas.
- En el apartamento de Juan hay un solo baño. – In Juan’s apartment, there is a single bathroom.
- Mi mamá estaba sola en casa cuando llegamos. – My mom was home alone when we arrived.
- Creo que tus gatos se sienten solos, deberías pasar más tiempo en casa. – I think your cats feel lonely, you should spend more time at home.
- No creo que las niñas construyeran la casa del árbol solas, seguro las ayudó el abuelo. – I don’t think the girls built the treehouse by themselves, I’m sure Grandpa helped them.
Sólo vs Solo: adverb
First and foremost, it’s important to establish that both solo and sólo serve as adverbs, meaning only or just in English. These days, however, the accented sólo is rarely used, with the unaccented solo remaining the only option we really need.
In the past, an accent was required to differentiate the adverb from the adjective, so we could always tell that sólo was an adverb and solo was an adjective. In the language reforms of 2010, however, the Spanish Royal Academy (RAE) declared that the accent mark is no longer necessary. Thus, solo (without an accent) is now used as both an adjective and an adverb.
It’s worth noting that some Spanish speakers, including prominent writers, resisted this alteration, choosing to retain the accent in sólo to uphold its adverbial nature. And in fact, even the RAE allows for continued use of the accent where context needs clarity. Nonetheless, for our purposes in understanding modern Spanish, we can consider that both the adjective and the adverb are spelled without the accent as solo.
Remember that adverbs are invariable since they don’t modify nouns, so the only form we’ll see is solo.
- Solo me gusta el helado de chocolate, no me gusta ningún otro. – I only like chocolate ice cream, I don’t like any other.
- Ella solo quiere jugar con su oso de peluche. – She just wants to play with her teddy bear.
- Solo haz lo que te dice la maestra, Pedro, es por tu bien. – Just do what the teacher tells you, Pedro, it’s for your own good.
Solamente in Spanish
Like most Spanish words ending in -mente, solamente is an adverb. Like the adverb solo, solamente is also translated into English as only or just.
- Ella solamente usa ropa de color rosa. – She only wears pink clothes.
- Solamente quiero descansar este fin de semana, nada de fiestas. – I just want to rest this weekend, no parties.
- Ellas solamente salen a correr por las mañanas. – They only go jogging in the mornings.
Solo vs Solamente
Now comes the moment of truth… What is the difference between solo vs solamente? Well, in fact, there is none.
When used as adverbs, solo and solamente are interchangeable, since they both mean the same thing.
However, pay attention to the context to make sure solo is working as an adverb and not as an adjective. Solamente cannot be used as an adjective.
- Nunca viajo en avión, solo en tren. – Nunca viajo en avión, solamente en tren. – I never travel by plane, only by train.
- Solo me quedan 3 días de vacaciones antes de volver a trabajar. – Solamente me quedan 3 días de vacaciones antes de volver a trabajar. – I only have 3 days of vacation left before I go back to work.
- ¿Te gustan mis zapatos nuevos? ¡Solo me costaron 20 mil pesos! – ¿Te gustan mis zapatos nuevos? ¡Solamente me costaron 20 mil pesos! – Do you like my new shoes? They only cost me 20,000 pesos!
- Creo que ella solo quería que la ayudaras con la tarea. – Creo que ella solamente quería que la ayudaras con la tarea. – I think she just wanted you to help her with her homework.
As we saw in this post comparing sólo vs solo vs solamente, these three related words stand as prime examples of the multifaceted nature of linguistic expression. Solo and sólo have shown us how the language continues to evolve, with the accented version now relegated to the past. With this in mind, we’ve seen that while sólo and solamente were formerly interchangeable, now it’s the adverbial version of solo that’s interchangeable with solamente.
In its use as an adjective, solo can take four forms (solo, sola, solos, solas), all conveying meanings of solitude, from alone, to on one’s own, to lonely, to single.
As adverbs, solo and solamente seamlessly deliver the same essence, meaning just or only, reminding us of the fluidity and richness of language. Yet, even as the modern language landscape evolves, we honor the historical echoes that shaped these words, as their roots continue to inform our understanding of their contemporary usage.
Through the lens of sólo vs solo vs solamente, we unearth a mosaic of linguistic history and vibrant expression that keeps Spanish communication dynamic and endlessly captivating!