Spanish Adjectives for Early Stage Learners
Spanish adjectives are a bit of a difficult endeavor. To construct a sentence with an adjective, you have to be able to match the adjective with the noun, the quantity, and the order.
However, when used correctly, Spanish adjectives sound much more descriptive than English adjectives ever could.
In this post, I’ll go over what an adjective is, masculine and feminine Spanish nouns, plural Spanish adjectives, and the order adjectives should be in.
What is an Adjective?
Just like in English, an adjective in Spanish describes a noun. For example:
The blue car.
Their second son.
In Spanish, adjectives can be used to describe nouns using two different types of verbs for the English word “is”. They are: “ser” and “estar”.
In the beginning, you might find it a bit difficult to remember which goes with which. However, once you get practicing, your brain will become familiar with the concept.
Adjectives, like “importante”, which means “important” are normally used with ser. Ser is the infinitive form of the verb. For example:
The verb ser is used to describe a characteristic that isn’t going to change so often.
Adjectives relating to emotions are normally used with “estar” because it is describing the way you feel for the moment, which is a state that can change. Estar is the infinitive form of the verb. For example:
The verb estar is used to describe a mood or appearance that can change.
Masculine and Feminine Nouns
In Spanish, when you‘re describing a noun, you have to change the ending of the adjective to match the gender of the noun.
The majority of all adjectives (there are always exceptions to the rule) can be split up into two groups:
Adjectives ending in ‘a’ (feminine) and ‘o‘ (masculine) like corto(a), rico(a), bajo(a), lógico(a) and distinto(a)
English: A rich man. Español: Un hombre rico.
Adjectives ending in letters other than ‘a‘ and ‘o‘ like triste, popular, fácil, and capaz.
English: A sad cat. Español: Un gato triste.
Plural Spanish Adjectives
When it comes to plurals and adjectives, there are three groups:
Adjectives ending in vowels like ‘o‘, ‘e‘, and ‘a‘.
Adjectives ending in consonants like ‘n‘ and ‘l‘.
Adjectives ending in ‘z’.
For adjectives ending in vowels, all you have to do is add the letter ‘s‘ at the end.
Una chica bonita becomes Unas chicas bonitas. (A pretty girl/Some pretty girls).
Un barrio pobre becomes Unos barrios pobres. (A poor neighborhood/Some poor neighborhoods).
For adjective ending in consonants, all you have to do is add ‘es‘ at the end of the noun:
Una clase fácil becomes Unas clases fáciles. (An easy class/Some easy classes).
El avión azul becomes los aviones azules. (The blue plane/The blue planes).
For adjectives ending ‘z‘, you have to change the ‘z‘ into ‘c‘ and then add ‘-es‘.
El niño feliz becomes los niños felices. (The happy child/The happy children).
The order of the noun and the adjective can be dictated by the context of the situation and sentence.
When in doubt (as a beginner student), place the adjective after the noun as this is usually the case. However, do note that there are some cases where the adjective comes before the noun, The more you study, the more you’ll understand the order. Let’s take a look below for more detail:
Adjectives that go after the noun
These adjectives are called adjetivos relacionales. They are used to describe colors, membership, form, multiple adjectives or origin.
Colors: La casa roja. The red house.
Membership: El juez demócrata. The Democratic judge.
Form: El estadio circular. The circular stadium.
Multiple Adjectives: el zapato nuevo y barato. The new, inexpensive shoe.
Origin: La mujer americana. The American woman.
Adjectives that go before the noun
These adjectives are used to state if something is the worst or best, numeric adjectives, quantitative adjectives, possessive adjectives, and expressive adjectives.
The worst or best: These will go always go before the noun. Mejor. Best / Peor. Worst. El mejor perro. The best dog. La peor comida. The worst food.
Numeric Adjectives (adjetivos numerales): Dictating the order of the nouns. Hay dos opciones. There are two options. Su segundo hijo. Their second child.
Quantitative Adjectives (adjetivos cuantitativos): Instead of giving an exact amount, these adjectives describe a more general amount of the noun, like too little and too much. Demasiado tarea. Too much homework. Muy poco espacio. Too little space.
Possessive adjectives (adjetivos posesivos): Who the nouns belong to, like the English words ‘my’, ‘your’, ‘our’ Mi amor. My love. Nuestra casa. Our house.
Expressive Adjectives (adjetivos explicativos): This adjective describes something about the noun that is already known, the adjective belongs to the noun in most cases, like cold ice and sweet sugar. El frío hielo. The cold ice. El dulce azúcar. The sweet sugar.
Adjectives where the order doesn‘t matter
This is easy to remember since only two adjectives go under this category. They are: Bueno. Good / Malo. Bad
When either of these two adjectives are placed before a masculine noun, however, the ending is dropped.
A good car. Un buen coche. Un coche bueno. A bad cat. Una gata mala. Una mala gata. A bad man. Un hombre malo. Un mal hombre.
Lastly, Adjectives where the order really matters
A change in order using the following adjectives can drastically change the meaning of the sentence. These are called specific adjectives because they are used to differentiate one noun from another, making it stand out from the rest.
Here are some examples with the different orders and their meanings:
Un amigo viejo. A friend who is old in age. Un viejo amigo. A longtime friend.
Un hombre grande. A big man. Un gran hombre. A great man (a very good man, character-wise).
There are, of course, some exceptions to these rules, however, if you are focused on getting the basics down with plural adjectives and adjectives in general, these will help you on your way!
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Adriana Rodrigues has studied Spanish for years and is also Peruvian, although born in Florida. She been working and playing professional soccer while using her Spanish. In addition to Spanish, she knows German, Portuguese, and English.