What does "lo" mean in Spanish? (Part 1)

Learn all about expressions like "lo bueno", "lo de ayer" and "lo que", including the grammar needed to create new expressions like these yourself!

Jun 11, 2020
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One of the most common and confusing uses of “lo” is when it works as a neutral article. We can immediately think about our Spanish teacher telling us that every noun has a gender, so when should we use a neutral article? Is there such a thing as a neutral noun in Spanish?

The answer is no, your teacher taught you well, but in Spanish it’s possible to turn adjectives and some adverbs into nouns through a process called nominalization. Since adjectives don't themselves have gender, when they are turned into generic nouns it’s impossible to define them using “la” or “el”, which is where “lo” comes to the rescue. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Lo próximo que vamos a hacer es revisar la tarea.
    The next thing we’re going to do is review the homework.
  • Lo bueno fue que todos llegaron a tiempo a la fiesta.
    The good thing is everyone arrived on time to the party.

So when exactly do we use this neutral article?

Note: Paying attention to the examples and their English translations is going to be key for understanding this topic.

Adjectives and adverbs can become nouns with the use of “lo”

One of the main uses of “lo” is turning adjectives and adverbs into nouns. This process has a wide variety of uses, as we'll see.

Making generic nouns (like "thing" or "part" in English)

In English, we often say "the good thing is that..." or "the hard part is..." to describe an aspect of something. In Spanish, we actually don't need to use a generic word like "thing" or "part" - we can just use lo! When used in this way, the adjective after lo is always singular and masculine.

Let’s see some examples:

  • Lo bueno de estudiar español es que puedes comunicarte con muchas personas.
    The good thing about studying Spanish is you can communicate with many people.
  • Lo verdaderamente difícil de aprender un idioma es adquirir fluidez.
    The truly difficult part of learning a language is to become fluent.

We could also express something very similar to the above examples in the following way:

  • Estudiar español es bueno para comunicarse con muchas personas.
    Studying Spanish is good for communicating with many people.


  • Adquirir fluidez en un idioma es realmente difícil.
    To become fluent in a language is truly difficult.

However, the adjectives in these two examples are missing emphasis and prominence in the sentence.

“Lo” can also be used with superlative sentences to emphasize adjectives:

  • Este libro es lo peor que he leído.
    This book is the worst thing I’ve ever read.
  • Esto es lo más difícil del examen.
    This is the most difficult part of the exam.

“De + lo + adjective” is used when the noun we’re describing belongs to a specific group:

  • Este libro es de lo peor que he leído.
    This book is the worst thing I’ve ever read.
  • Esto es de lo más difícil del examen.
    This is the most difficult part of the exam.

When adverbs are included in superlative sentences, “lo” becomes necessary.

  • Por favor, llámame lo más pronto posible.
    Please, call me as soon as possible.
  • Ella corrió lo más rápido que pudo.
    She ran as fast as she could,

Expressing extreme degree of an attribute

“De lo más” can work with simpler sentences -sentences with no subordinate clause- as an equivalent of “muy”. Note that in this use case, adjectives match the gender and number -plural, singular- of the noun.

  • ¡Ellos son de lo más insistentes!
    They are so insistent!

On the other hand, in sentences with a subordinate clause “lo + adjective” is used to express the extreme degree of a characteristic.

  • Me enoja mucho lo insistentes que son.
    It bothers me how insistent they are.
  • ¡No puedo creer lo cansada que estoy!
    I can’t believe how exhausted I am!

For these types of sentences, the use of absolute adjectives like máximo, mejor, peor or muerto is incorrect since they aren’t gradable.

Indicating the minimum required for something

Use “lo” with the following adjectives: necesario, básico, suficiente, justo, imprescindible y mínimo to indicate the minimum required for something.

  • Tú estudiabas lo mínimo para pasar los exámenes.
    You studied the minimum to pass the exams.
  • Nosotros explicamos lo básico que necesitas entender.
    We explain the basics that you need to know.

When the adverbs bastante and suficientemente appear in these sentences, it’s necessary to indicate the referent like this: lo + bastante/ suficientemente + (como) para.

  • Ella corrió lo suficientemente rápido como para llegar a tiempo.
    She ran fast enough to arrive on time.
  • No es lo bastante grande para beber.
    He’s not old enough to drink.

“Lo” in comparative sentences

The type of comparative sentences that use “lo” are the ones where the comparison takes place between a person, a noun or an action and our own ideas or concepts about them, as shown in the examples:

De lo + necesario/ posible

  • Hizo más de lo necesario.
    He did more than necessary.
  • Él hizo más de lo posible.
    He did more than possible.

De lo + participio

  • Él habla más de lo esperado.
    He speaks more than expected.
  • Esa reunión estuvo más aburrida de lo imaginado.
    That meeting was more boring than imagined.

De lo que+ verbo conjugado

  • Juan es más rico de lo que crees.
    Juan is wealthier than you think.

Creation of concessive clauses

A concessive clause expresses an objection to what the main clause states. These are the ones used with “lo” in Spanish:

Con lo + adjective

  • No puedo creer que no se lo comieran. ¡Con lo delicioso que estaba!
    I can’t believe they didn’t eat it. It was so delicious!
  • ¿No fueron a la fiesta? ¡Con lo divertida que estuvo!
    You didn't go to the party? But it was so much fun!

Para lo + adjective + que

  • Para lo rápido que iba, no le pasó nada.
    For how fast he went, it's surprising that nothing happened to him.
  • Eso no es nada para lo inteligente que es.
    That’s nothing for him. He’s too smart.
  • Para lo enojado que estaba, no dijo nada.
    He didn’t say anything, despite how mad he was.

Lo + participle

“Lo” is also used to turn participles of transitive verbs, such as decir, escribir, ver, etc., into nouns. This use of “lo” + participle is more commonly found in formal language such as literature, news, or formal speeches.

  • Lo dicho en la clase no se entendió.
    What was said in the class wasn’t understood.
  • Lo escrito por Merly fue bien recibido.
    What Merly wrote was well received.
  • Él no recuerda todo lo hablado.
    He doesn’t remember what was discussed.

In our regular communication we prefer the relative pronoun “lo que”:

  • Lo que dijeron en la clase no se entendió.
    What they said in class wasn’t understood.
  • Lo que Merly escribió fue bien recibido.
    What Merly wrote was well received.
  • Él no recuerda todo lo que se habló.
    He doesn’t remember what was discussed.

Neutral article “lo” used with some determiners


  • Lo mío es tuyo.
    What’s mine is yours.
  • Las matemáticas no son lo mío.
    Math is not my thing.

“Lo de”

Friendly reminder: “De” indicates possession in Spanish. For example de Ana = "Anna’s"; de él = "his"; de Carlos = "Carlos’". It allows us to be more specific than using the more generic "suyo".

  • Bailar es lo suyo .
    Dancing is her/his/their thing.
  • Bailar es lo de ella.
    Dancing is her thing.

“De” means “about” as well, so it’s also possible to combine it with “lo” (lo de) in sentences that translate to “that thing about”. E.g.:

  • Lo de ir a la fiesta se arruinó.
    That thing about going to the party is ruined.
  • Lo de José me dejó sorprendida.
    That thing about José surprised me.

We can also use lo with indefinite pronouns like “otro” and “demás”.

  • Lo demás no me interesa.
    I don’t care about the rest.
  • Hoy solo hablamos de los impuestos, lo otro lo vamos a discutir mañana.
    Today we talked about taxes, we’ll discuss the other thing tomorrow.

We know this might be a lot to take in, so we created a section full of examples with English translations for every usage above so you can compare them and get a better understanding of the sentences that go with “lo” in Spanish. We've also got a new podcast, "Lo bueno", "lo malo" y "lo raro" de Latinoamérica, so you can work on your listening, apply your new knowledge of "lo" and learn about Latin America all at the same time!

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