Más vale…

Today we’ll take a quick look at the expression “más vale…” and several sayings associated with it. Literally, this short phrase translates as “it is worth more…” but a closer equivalent in colloquial English would be the word “better”, as in “Better to be late than never.” Here are some examples of how this phrase is used:

  • Más vale tarde que nunca = Better late than never
  • Más vale prevenir que lamenter = Better to prevent than to regret (“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”)
  • Más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando = Better a bird in hand than a hundred flying (“A bird in hand is worth two in the bush”)
  • Más vale que sobre a que falte = Better there be too much than too little
  • Más vale una imagen que mil palabras = Better an image than a thousand words (“A picture is worth a thousand words”)
  • Más vale una palabra a tiempo que cien a destiempo = Better a well-timed word than a hundred ill-timed words (“A stitch in time saves nine”)
  • Más vale caer en gracia que ser gracioso = Better to be liked as one is than to be funny (in reference to one who tries to be funny to gain friends)
  • Más vale malo por conocido que bueno por conocer = Better the evil you know than the good you don’t (“Better the devil you know than the angel you don’t)
  • Más vale un mal acuerdo que un buen pleito = Better a bad agreement than a good lawsuit

You can also use the phrase “más vale” to indicate that someone ought to do something.

  • “Ese carro trae demasiados problemas. Más vale venderlo.” = “That car has [brings] too many problems. You should sell it.”
  • “Más vale cortar por lo sano antes de que las cosas empeoren” = “You’d better cut your losses before things get worse.”

And then there’s this warning-filled expression, which often stands alone and functions just as its English equivalent:

  • ¡Más te vale! = You had better!

Finally, you can say “Me vale” to indicate that you don’t give a you-know-what about something. It’s an ironic usage of a phrase that literally translates as “It’s important to me” but means the exact opposite. It’s sort of like saying “I could care less”, which is also grammatically ironic in English. “Me vale” can stand alone or appear in sentences such as:

  • “Me vale lo que la gente diga de mi” = “I don’t give a you-know-what what people say about me”
  • “A te vale madre todo el mundo” = “You don’t give a —- about anybody.”

And, of course, in Spain, they say “vale” to everything which is basically a colloquial way of saying “OK” or “All right”.

Ahora, más vale estudiar si quieres perfeccionar tu español. ¡Hasta la próxima!


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