A Comprehensive Guide To Spanish Adjectives
Learning Spanish adjectives at an early stage of your Spanish journey is key.
When you’re a brand-new beginner, nouns and verbs are enough to survive and get your message through. However, if you want to express yourself fully in your new language, Spanish adjectives are what you need.
Read this blog post to learn everything you need to know about Spanish adjectives at the beginner level. I’ll show you how to form them according to Spanish grammar rules. You’ll learn about the types of Spanish adjectives and how to place them in a sentence.
What Are Spanish Adjectives?
Spanish adjectives are one of the 9 parts of speech. Their role is to modify or describe nouns. They give you more information about the nouns, such as their size, color, origin, etc.
He perdido una cartera negra.
I’ve lost a black wallet.
So far so good, just like in English. What’s different then?
The main difference that you’ll notice is that Spanish adjectives must agree in gender and number with nouns. Moreover, they usually come after nouns in a sentence.
Gender and Number of Spanish Adjectives
Like Spanish nouns, all Spanish adjectives have gender and number. That’s why, at the beginning, you’ll need to watch out for some things.
When it comes to gender, there are two main endings for Spanish adjectives:
Adjectives That End in O
- alto – tall
- bajo – short
- malo – bad
Adjectives that end in o are masculine and will change the ending to a for feminine nouns
- alto – masculine
- alta – feminine
Un hombre alto
A tall man.
Una mujer alta
A tall woman.
Adjectives That End in Other Letters
- verde – green
- ágil – agile
- común – common
- popular – popular
The adjectives that end in other letters keep the same ending both for masculine and feminine nouns.
Uno hombre popular
A popular man
Una mujer popular
A popular woman
Now, let’s look at three ways in which adjectives change their ending with plural nouns.
1. For adjectives that end in a vowel, add –s to form the plural form
pobre (poor) – pobres
El hombre pobre
The poor man
Los hombres pobres
The poor men
2. For adjectives that end in z, replace z with c and add –es.
capaz (capable) – capaces
El hombre capaz
The capable man
Los hombres capaces
The capable men
3. For adjectives that end in a consonant other than z, just add –es.
joven (young) – jovenes
El hombre joven
The young man
Los hombres jóvenes
The young men
Types of Adjectives
Now, before you learn about adjective placement, you need to know about different types of adjectives.
Spanish adjectives are divided into two groups:
- Descriptive adjectives (adjetivos calificativos)
- Limiting adjectives (adjetivos determinativos)
Let’s take a closer look at each of them.
Descriptive Spanish adjectives describe nouns and tell us about their quality: grande (big), pequeñoI (small), tonto (stupid), inteligente (intelligent), rojo (red), etc.
El hombre es alto.
The man is tall.
El río está frío.
The river is cold.
Like in any language, there are positive adjectives (guapo – beautiful, inteligente) and negative adjectives (feo, tonto).
Placement of Descriptive Adjectives
1. After the noun
Un hombre alto
A tall man
2. Around the noun; the shorter or less important adjective comes before the noun
Un típico pastel italiano
A typical Italian cake
Un viejo perro callejero
An old street dog
3. Preceding the noun (if the adjective indicates an inherent quality)
La dulce sonrisa de mi hermana
The sweet smile of my sister
La blanca nieve
The white snow
4. Before the noun (for most subjective descriptive adjectives)
El mejor caballo
The best horse
Una mala idea
A bad idea
Limiting adjectives, or determiners, specify the noun. They always come before the noun, except in two cases that I’ll mention later. They subdivide into the following 7 groups.
1. Demonstrative Spanish Adjectives
Demonstrative adjectives in Spanish indicate a specific noun or nouns. There are 12 of them in total:
- este, esta, estos, estas – this
- ese, esa, esos, esas – that
- aquel, aquella, aquellos, aquellas – that
Me gusta esta falda.
I like this skirt.
Check out: A Comprehensive Lesson on Demonstrative Adjectives in Spanish
2. Exclamative Spanish Adjectives
There are two Spanish exclamative adjectives: qué and cuánto. You use them to express strong feelings such as exclamation, admiration, or contempt. You always place an accent mark on them.
¡Mira cuántas flores!
Look how many flowers!
3. Indefinite Spanish Adjectives
Indefinite Spanish adjectives describe nouns in a non-specific or general way. They may indicate a vague quantity.
Here are some indefinite Spanish adjectives:
|few, a little||poco|
Todos los días como fruta.
Every day I eat fruit.
Cada gato tiene bigotes.
Every cat has whiskers.
Read more about indefinite Spanish adjectives here.
4. Interrogative Spanish Adjectives
There are three interrogative adjectives in Spanish, all with an accent mark: qué (what?), cuál (which?), and cuánto (how many?). You’ll use them to ask questions.
¿Qué idioma te gusta?
What language do you like?
¿Cuál libro quieres?
Which book do you want?
¿Cuántos zapatos tienes?
How many shoes do you have?
All the numbers in Spanish are adjectives—both cardinal and ordinal.
As with limiting adjectives, they usually precede the noun. However, some ordinal numbers, if they are part of a name, go after the noun.
Juan Pablo Segundo
John Paul the Second
6. Possessive Spanish Adjectives
Possessive adjectives tell us to whom or to what the noun belongs. You use them instead of the articles. They can come in short and long forms:
- mi, mío – my
- tu/tuyo – your
- su/suyo – his, her, your
- nuestro – our
Short possessives come before the noun like all the other limiting adjectives, but the long-form follows the noun.
Es mi libro.
It’s my book.
Este libro mío fue caro.
This book of mine was expensive.
See also: A Simple Guide to Possessive Adjectives in Spanish
7. Relative Spanish Adjectives
Only two relative adjectives exist in Spanish:
- cuyo – whose, of whom
- cuanto – as many, as much
Acabo de ver un perro cuya cola era peluda.
I just saw a dog whose tail was fluffy.
Pídeme cuanta ayuda necesites.
Ask me for as much help as you need.
To learn more, check out How to Use Relative Adjectives in Spanish.
Last but not least, let me tell you about some adjectives that change the meaning depending on their position in the sentence.
The meaning will be different if you put an adjective before the noun versus after the noun.
Usually, these adjectives have an objective meaning when they follow a noun, and a more subjective one if they precede it.
Es un gran amigo.
He is a great friend.
Es una casa grande.
It’s a big house.
Es un libro viejo.
It’s an old book.
Es un viejo amigo.
He is a long-time friend.
Here are some other adjectives that change meaning depending on their position.
- alto – top/high class – tall
- bajo – of low quality – short
- dulce – good, nice – sweet
- pobre – unfortunate – poor
If you want to see more meaning-changing adjectives and other Spanish adjectives, take a look at this Massive List of Adjectives. See how many of them you already know and can use!
Practice Spanish Adjectives
Now that you’ve learned so much about Spanish adjectives, it’s time to practice. Theoretical knowledge is useful, but you’ll only remember what you’ve learned if you practice it in a conversation.
Practice makes perfect and if you’re persistent enough, you’ll get on the bilingual level faster than you think. And being bilingual is not only about knowing another language. Being bilingual helps your brain to sustain cognitive skills in older age!
Don’t wait any longer! Sign up today for a free trial class at Homeschool Spanish Academy. Let our friendly and professional teachers from Guatemala help you reach your fluency goals and practice all types of Spanish adjectives in a 1-to-1 conversation! Check out our affordable pricing and flexible programs!
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