This is probably an easy question, but is there a simple way to tell when "tanto...como" means "both" and when it means "the same as"? Thanks.
The only way to know if you refer to one meaning or the other is by context as both meanings are used the same way.
Sometimes though it can be a bit ambiguous, for example, here:
Tengo tanto dinero como poder.
I have both money and power.
(not comparing the quantity of each here, simply saying you have both)
I have as much money as power.
(I have the same amount of money and power.)
When you compare quantities you normally compare the two different elements against another person, thing, place, e.g:
En Jaen no hay tanto tráfico como en Madrid.
In Jaen there isn't as much traffic as in Madrid.
You make a comparison between two different places.
And then as a contrast we could say:
En Jaen y en Madrid hay tanto tráfico como contaminación.
In Jaen and in Madrid there are both traffic and pollution.
This would generally be interpreted as something that is happening in the two cities, in both places there is 1. traffic + 2. pollution (both things)
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