In short – ‘bonito’ and ‘bonita’ are both adjectives that mean ‘pretty’, ‘beautiful’ or ‘cute’ in English. The former is used to modify masculine nouns, while the latter modifies feminine nouns.
Is that it?
Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple … ‘bonito’ can also function as an adverb (‘bonita’ NEVER works as an adverb), and in everyday speech they also have different connotations!
So, make sure to stick around if you wanna master these two super common Spanish words once and for all.
‘Bonito’ vs ‘bonita’
To fully understand the difference between ‘bonito’ and ‘bonita’, we’re gonna have to dive into a little bit of grammar.
And, well, nouns (i.e., people, places, and things) in Spanish are either feminine or masculine –
el restaurante (masculine) = the restaurant
la persona (feminine) = the person
And what does that have to do with anything?
Well, adjectives in Spanish MUST ALWAYS agree in number and gender with the nouns they modify.
And a lot of (but not all!) Spanish adjectives end with ‘o’ when modifying masculine nouns (think ‘bonito’, ‘guapo’, ‘pesado’, ‘ligero’, ‘rico’, etc.) and ‘a’ when modifying feminine nouns (‘bonita’, ‘guapa’, ‘pesada’, ‘ligera’, ‘rica’, etc.).
That’s why both ‘bonito’ AND ‘bonita’ exist in Spanish; if the noun in question is masculine, we use ‘bonito’ and, well, if it’s feminine, we use ‘bonita’.
Here are some examples –
(la semana) Te deseo una bonita semana. = I hope you have a nice week.
(el día) Que tengas bonito día. = Have a nice day.
(la tarde) Ten una bonita tarde. = Have a lovely afternoon.
(el atardecer) ¡Qué atardecer tan bonito! = What a beautiful sunset!
Erika’s note – just remember that this rule DOESN’T apply to all adjectives in Spanish as many don’t end with an ‘o’ or an ‘a’.
All gravy so far?
Glad to hear it! Just bear in mind that, as I mentioned earlier, adjectives also have to agree in NUMBER with the noun they’re modifying.
This is actually pretty easy as all you have to do is whack an ‘s’ on the end of the adjective in question, so ‘bonito’ would become ‘bonitos’, etc.
¡Esos perros son muy bonitos!
Those dogs are so cute!
Tus niñas son muy bonitas.
Your girls are really pretty.
And how do you know what gender a noun is in Spanish …
Well, very often masculine nouns actually end with an ‘o’ too and, yep you guessed it, feminine nouns often end with an ‘a’ –
la taza = the mug
la mesa = the table
la silla = the chair
el libro = the book
el perro = the dog
el gato = the cat
HOWEVER, there are plenty of examples of masculine nouns ending with ‘a’ (such as ‘clima’, or ‘weather’) and feminine nouns ending with ‘o’ (such as ‘mano’, or ‘hand’) –
El clima no está tan bonito como para hacer un picnic.
The weather isn’t nice enough for a picnic.
Tienes unas manos muy bonitas.
You have very beautiful hands.
There are also LOADS of nouns that DON’T end with ‘o’ or ‘a’, so it’s often best to take a note of the gender of nouns as and when you come across them!
Different connotations of ‘bonito’ and ‘bonita’
When talking about people, ‘bonito’ and ‘bonita’ are strongly associated with femininity – as is the case with ‘pretty’ in English.
This is why you’ll hear ‘bonito’ used to describe small boys and babies, in a similar way to ‘cute’ or ‘pretty’, and ‘bonita’ to describe adult women.
Mi mamá es una mujer muy bonita.
My mom is a very beautiful woman.
¡Qué bonito niño!
What a cute kid!
This DOESN’T mean that calling a man ‘bonito’ is wrong or offensive in any way; it’s just not as common –
Mi novio es muy
My boyfriend is really
*Erika’s note – you can think of ‘guapo’ as the Spanish equivalent of ‘handsome’. Check out our article on all the different ways to say ‘cute’ in Spanish if you wanna learn some alternatives.
It’s also important to mention that ‘bonita’ can also be used as a term of endearment –
Una hija a su mamá
Mariana – Mami, ¿puedo comer un chocolate?
Alejandra – Sí, bonita.
A daughter to her mother
Mariana – Mommy, can I eat some chocolate?
Alejandra – Yes, darling.
‘Bonito’ as an adverb
‘Bonito’ can also function as an adverb, which basically means that it modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb (NOT a noun).
In this case you should always use ‘bonito’ in its “masculine” form –
Me encanta que me traten bonito.
I love to be treated nicely.
El coro de la escuela cantó muy bonito en el recital Navidad.
The school choir sang beautifully at the Christmas recital.
Expressions with ‘bonito’ / ‘bonita’
In Mexico a ‘niño bonito’ is a colloquial expression that refers to a spoiled, privileged man; it’s often used in a similar way to the English expression ‘daddy’s boy’.
In Spain specifically it’s more similar to a ‘golden boy’.
Damián es un niño bonito.
Damián’s a daddy’s boy.
Pasarlo / Pasarla bonito
‘Pasarlo / pasarla bien’ is a super common expression that means something along the lines of ‘to have a nice time’. In Spain you’ll likely hear people say ‘(pasar) lo’ and in Mexico it’s more common to use ‘(pasar) la’, but really both are correct!
‘Pasarlo bonito’ is just a variation of ‘pasarlo / pasarla bien’ and means pretty much the same thing.
La pasamos bonito en Playa del Carmen.
We had a lovely time in Playa del Carmen.
Boni – Nice / Cute
In Mexico you might also hear the expression ‘boni’ – especially amongst youths –, which is short for either ‘bonito’ OR ‘bonita’.
It mostly refers to something ‘cute’ or ‘nice’ –
¡Me compré un vestido muy boni!
I bought a really cute dress!
Hopefully you’re all set when it comes to using ‘bonito’ and ‘bonita’, as well as all the other Spanish adjectives ending with ‘o’ and ‘a’!
Are you ready to put your newfound knowledge to the test?
Well, head on over to our article on the meaning of ‘muchos gracias’ …
… can you guess what’s wrong with this phrase?