Solo vs Solamente: What’s the Difference?
I remember having passionate discussions about solo vs solamente with my friends, students, and editors. I remember reading written by the highest authorities in the fields of Spanish language and literature have written equally passionate articles on the same topic.
Why is it that solo vs solamente is so controversial? What is so confusing about these two words?
Keep reading, and I’ll reveal the secret. You’ll discover that I’m talking here not about two words but actually three!
I’ll teach you the difference, and how to use them correctly. You’ll get to know some fixed expressions, and I’ll give you a chance to practice your new skills.
Let’s start, if you’re ready.
Solo vs Solamente and… Sólo
Have you ever heard the song Me gustas tú, y tú, y tú y solamente tú? (I like you, and you, and you, and only you). The lyrics could be Me gustas tú y tú y tú y sólo tú and the translation would be the same.
Why? Because sólo and solamente are synonyms. They are versions of the same word, an adverb that means “only” or “just.”
On the other hand, solo, without the accent mark, is an adjective that means “alone,” “solitary,” or “unique.”
Let’s get deeper into solo vs solamente.
If you need a quick refresher on adjectives and adverbs, check out:
- A Massive List of Adjectives in Spanish for Beginner
- 50 Common Spanish Adverbs to Start Using Today.
Sólo or Solo: the 2010 Linguistic Revolution
In 2010, the Spanish-speaking world learned that the song I mentioned earlier could also be written like this: Me gustas tú, y tú, y tú y solo tú? Why, if solo is an adjective? Let me explain.
In 2010, la Real Academia Española, published a document about new orthographical rules that provoked an earthquake in the Spanish-speaking, or rather, “Spanish-writing” world.
La Real Academia Española (The Royal Spanish Academy) is the highest authority of the Spanish language, and its mission is to ensure the unity and stability of the Spanish language.
In 2010, among other changes, the academy decided that sólo meaning solamente did not need the accent mark, and could be written in the same way as the adjective solo.
General upheaval ensued, and famous writers commented on the stupidity of such a decision. In 2015, La RAE added that in ambiguous cases, the accent mark could be maintained.
Eleven years later, famous Spanish speaking writers such as Mario Vargas Llosa from Perú or Javier Marías from Spain keep putting an accent mark on sólo when it means solamente. The same goes for the majority of newspapers in Spanish, for example El País.
The battle started by La RAE seems to be lost for them, however the Academy has not backed off.
I’m also a faithful proponent of the accented sólo when it means solamente. In this article about solo vs solamente, I’ll maintain the accent mark.
Now, let’s see how to use solo, sólo and solamente.
Sólo/solo = solamente (adverb)
As I mentioned before, solamente and sólo are the same adverb, meaning “only” and “just.” Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs, and their form stays always the same, no matter what word they modify. Sólo and solamente are interchangeable.
Sólo faltan dos días para que empiecen las vacaciones.
Solamente faltan dos días para que empiecen las vacaciones.
There are only two days left until the holidays begin.
Let’s see some more examples:
Sólo/solamente nos quedan 10 pesos.
We only have 10 pesos left.
Mi mamá vino sólo/solamente para quejarse.
My mom just came to complain.
No te creo que sólo/solamente quieras esto.
I don’t believe you only want this.
Sólo/solamente me costó dos días de trabajo pero lo terminé.
It only cost me two days of work but I finished it!
Solo as an adjective is always written without the accent mark. It means “alone,” “solitary,” or “unique”.
Déjame solo. No quiero ver a nadie.
Leave me alone, I don’t want to see anybody.
Remember that as an adjective, solo needs to agree in gender and number with the noun it modifies:
Leave me alone. (a man speaking)
Leave me alone. (a woman speaking)
Leave us alone. (men, or men and women speaking)
Leave us alone. (women speaking)
Do you want to see more examples?
Yo vivo sola. No me gusta la compañía.
I live alone. I don’t like company.
¿Lo hiciste tú sola? ¡Wow!
Did you do it by yourself? Wow!
Hay un solo edificio verde en toda la ciudad.
There is only one green building in the entire city.
Estoy solo. Ya todos se fueron.
I am alone. Everybody has left.
Expressions with solo
I’ll show you some expressions that use the adjective solo. When you see them next time, instead of doubting between solo vs solamente, you’ll instantly know what to put.
1. A solas
A solas means “alone.”
No me gusta estar a solas.
I don’t like being alone.
Me da miedo la oscuridad cuando estoy a solas.
I’m afraid of the dark when I’m alone.
2. De solo a solo
The expression de solo a solo means done uniquely between two people without the intervention of others.
Ven aquí a hablar. De solo a solo.
Come here to talk. Just you and me.
3. Café solo
Café solo is a strong black coffee without milk. It’s solo coffee, nothing else.
Un café solo, por favor. Y un croissant.
A black coffee, please. And a croissant.
Solo vs Solamente – Exercises
Now, I’m sure you’re ready to do some exercises on solo vs solamente.
Fill in the blanks with solo (-a, -os, -as) or solamente/sólo.
- Déjame _______, no quiero ver a nadie.
- _______ déjame, no te estoy pidiendo nada más.
- _______ existe un _______ ejemplar de este libro.
- No _______ de pan vive el hombre.
- _______ tú podrías haber inventado algo así.
- Nos quedamos _______ chicas.
- Veo las series _______ en casa, _______ cuando mi marido tiene mucho trabajo.
- Mi hermano y yo nos sentimos _______ en esta ciudad.
Click here to check your answers and see the translations of these sentences.
Congratulations; you’ve just improved your Spanish! Solo vs solamente has no secrets for you anymore. You know what these words mean and how to use them. You even know when to put an accent mark over solo. You can challenge yourself even more and sign up for a free class with our professional native speakers from Guatemala to practice solo vs solamente.
Ready to learn more Spanish grammar? Check these out!
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- sólo/solamente, solo
- Sola, sólo/solamente
- Leave me alone, I don’t want to see anyone.
- Just leave me, I’m not asking you anything else.
- There is only one copy of this book.
- Not only from bread does man live.
- Only you could have invented something like that.
- We’re alone, girls.
- I watch the series alone at home, only when my husband has a lot of work.
- My brother and I feel alone in this city.
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