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Quick answer
"Mal" is an adjective which is often translated as "bad", and "bien" is an adverb which is often translated as "well". Learn more about the difference between "mal" and "bien" below.
mal(
mahl
)
An adjective is a word that describes a noun (e.g. the big dog).
1. (disagreeable)
a. bad
El mal olor, desafortunadamente, venía de la cocina.The bad smell was, unfortunately, coming from the kitchen.
2. (incorrect)
a. wrong
Eso está mal. La respuesta no es 17, es 27.That’s wrong. The answer’s not 17, it’s 27.
3. (not well)
a. ill
Empezó a sentirse mal después de nadar en el río Hudson.He began to feel ill after swimming in the Hudson River.
b. sick
Estás mal porque comiste muchos dulces.You feel sick because you ate a lot of candy.
4. (unhappy)
a. sad
Mi hermana estaba muy mal cuando se murió su perro.My sister was really sad when her dog died.
An adverb is a word that describes a verb, an adjective, or other adverbs (e.g. to run quickly, very tired).
5. (imperfectly)
a. badly
El tiro se hizo tan mal que casi era de risa.The shot was so badly made it was almost laughable.
6. (wrongly)
a. incorrectly
Colocaron mal las cortinas.They put the curtains up incorrectly.
A masculine noun is used with masculine articles and adjectives (e.g. el hombre guapo, el sol amarillo).
7. (malevolence)
a. evil
No sé si creo en el mal, pero creo que la gente es capaz de cometer acciones malas.I don't know if I believe in evil, but I believe people are capable of committing evil deeds.
8. (sickness)
a. illness
Su mal se mantenía controlado con medicamentos.Her illness was kept under control with medication.
9. (harm)
a. harm
Una falta de oxígeno puede hacerle mal al cerebro.A lack of oxygen can cause harm to the brain.
10. (bad luck)
a. misfortune
Los males que le dio la vida no la desanimaron.The misfortunes life sent her way didn't drag her down.
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bien(
byehn
)
An adverb is a word that describes a verb, an adjective, or other adverbs (e.g. to run quickly, very tired).
1. (in good health)
a. well
Últimamente no me he sentido bien.I haven't felt well lately.
2. (properly)
a. well
Si la carne molida no se cocina bien, las bacterias no mueren.If the ground meat is not cooked well, the bacteria don't die.
3. (all right)
a. OK
Quedamos en el bar. - Bien.Let's meet at the bar. - OK.
4. (extremely)
a. very
Me di un paseo bien largo para despejar mi mente.I went for a very long walk to clear my mind.
5. (proficiently)
a. bien
Cuando viajé a España, me comentaban que sabía hablar bien el español.When I traveled to Spain, people told me I could speak Spanish well.
6. (as intensifier)
a.
This refers to an idiomatic word or phrase for which there is no word-for-word translation.
no direct translation
Se hace el tonto pero bien sabía que no nos había pagado.He's pretending he didn't, but he knew full well he hadn't paid us.
Bien podías habérselo dicho.You really could have told him.
A masculine noun is used with masculine articles and adjectives (e.g. el hombre guapo, el sol amarillo).
7. (virtue)
a. good
El bien siempre gana al mal.Good always beats evil.
8. (benefit)
a. good
Está dispuesto a sacrificar su vida por el bien de la nación.He is willing to sacrifice his own life for the good of the nation.
9. (posession)
a. property
Mi abuelo dejó todos sus bienes a sus seis hijos.My grandfather left all his property to his six children.
b. belonging
Cuando se divorciaron, dividieron sus bienes equitativamente.When they divorced, they divided their belongings equally.
A conjunction is a word that connects words, phrases, clauses, or sentences (e.g. The cat and the dog slept.).
10. (used to express alternatives)
a.
This refers to an idiomatic word or phrase for which there is no word-for-word translation.
no direct translation
Bien nos vamos, bien no, pero hay que decidirlo ya.We either go or we don't, but we need to decide.
Tenemos que mudarnos, bien este año, bien el que viene.We have to move, whether it's this year or next.
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