Firstly, let’s look at the meanings. The Spanish word bien means fine and also well, whereas the word bueno means good. Nice and simple, right? Not always...!
We use bien to answer when someone asks you how you are, and the word bueno when asked what you are "like" in terms of, for example, your personality. So if you are a "good person", you’d answer bueno (or buena if you are female).
These are the two most basic uses of the two words, but let’s take a look at a few rules that will help us remember them:
- To tell someone is fine, well, or okay
- el niño se cayó pero está bien
- (the child fell down but he is ok)
- To tell when something is fine, well or okay
- el postre está bien
- (the dessert is fine)
- To tell when something is efficiently done
- Carl limpia bien la casa
- (Carl cleans the house well)
NB: Remember to use the verb estar to express the idea of fine, well or okay. Now some examples for bueno...
- To tell that someone is good at what they do
- el camerero es bueno porque es rápido
- (the waiter is good because he is fast)
- To talk about the qualities of food
- el vino Español en general es bueno
- (Spanish wine, in general, is good)
- To tell that someone has a kind nature
- el gerente del restaurante es bueno
- (the restaurant manager is kind)
NB: remember to use the verb SER when we are expressing the idea of ‘good’ except when we want to express that the food tastes good, in which case we say something like:
- El postre está bueno
- (the dessert is good)
Can you see a little pattern is forming here? We use bien with ESTAR and use bueno/a with SER (except when it’s the ‘taste’ of food).