Adjectives In Spanish

What are adjectives in Spanish used for?

Similarly to English Grammar, adjectives in Spanish belong to a class of words that modifies a noun, denoting its properties or qualities.

An adjective provides additional information about the subject — such as shape, color, age, temperature, and size. Demonstrative adjectives in Spanish also describe bits of material that note the person, animal, object, or place that we are talking about.

Examples:

  • Mi esposo maneja un coche rojo. – My husband drives a red car.
  • Su mejor amigo Fernando murió ayer. – His best friend Fernando died yesterday.

Those who master the language and possess an agile pen, combined with a distinctive style such as poets, are able to convey an extraordinary meaning to any class of words.

Look at the beautiful extract below from the poet José Gorostiza. His poem is about the seashore and he chooses the word sonora (sonorous) to describe agua (water).

The sound of water creates a striking image of the waves pounding against the sand in the reader’s mind.

El agua sonora

de espuma sencilla,

el agua no puede

formarse la orilla.

Y porque descanse

en muelle lugar,

no es agua ni arena

la orilla del mar.

Where are Spanish Adjectives placed?

Within the English sentence structure, the adjective is usually located before the noun but in Spanish it can be placed before or after; it can also be separated by a verb, an adverb or a preposition.

  • AFTER NOUN: Ramas verdes – Green branches
  • BEFORE NOUN: El solitario monje – The lonely monk
  • AFTER VERB: Nuestra huerta es generosa – Our orchard is generous
  • AFTER ADVERB: La sopa está muy sabrosa – The soup is very tasty
  • AFTER PREPOSITION: He pintado la casa de blanco – I’ve painted the house in white

The location freedom that Spanish adjectives enjoy allows the speaker or writer to emphasize a particular intention even in ordinary speech or writing.

Do Adjectives in Spanish Have Gender?

There is a rule of concordance of gender (feminine and masculine) and number (singular and plural).

Look at how the adjective agrees with the gender and quantity of the noun, in this case a person or group of people, which is highlighted in red.

SPANISH ENGLISH
Niña bonita Beautiful girl
Niño bonito Beautiful boy
Niñas bnonitas Beautiful girls
Niños bonitos Beautiful boys

In this more complex sentence the concordance still stands:

  • En la estrecha avenida que da al norte del pueblo hay muchos árboles frondosos que ofrecen una fresca sombra al conductor. – On the narrow avenue at the north of the town there are many leafy trees that offer a cool shade to the driver.

Exceptions to the concordance rule:

  • If an adjective refers to two or more singular nouns it should be used in plural. — La carne y el pescado frescos deben consumirse pronto. (Fresh meat and fish must be consumed soon.)
  • If an adjective refers to two nouns, one masculine and one feminine, it should be used in its masculine form and in plural. — El caballo y la cebra son equinos preciosos. (The horse and the zebra are lovely equines.)
  • There are neutral or “genderless” Spanish adjectives which are applied equally for both masculine and feminine nouns and pronouns. You can see some of the most common listed below.
SPANISH ENGLISH
Alegre Cheerful
Gentil Gentle
Inteligente Inteligent
Valiente Brave
Feliz Happy
Triste Sad

What are Spanish Adjective Degrees?

The degree of the adjective expresses the intensity of the quality to which the adjective refers: positive, comparative, superlative.

POSITIVO/POSITIVE:

It expresses the basic quality.

  • Ramón es alto – Ramón is tall

COMPARATIVO/COMPARATIVE:

It expresses a level of superiority, equality or inferiority when comparing two or more nouns.

  • SUPERIORITY: Ramón es más alto que Carlos – Ramón is taller than Carlos
  • EQUALITY: Ramón es tan alto como Hugo – Ramón is as tall as Hugo
  • INFERIORITY: Ramón es menos alto que Diego – Ramón es less tall than Diego.

The basic formula:

más (more)+ adjective + que

tan (as) + adjective + como

menos (less) + adjective + que

SUPERLATIVO/SUPERLATIVE:

It expresses the highest degree either as a total (absolute) or as in relation to a context (relative).

ABSOLUTE: The absolute superlative has three possible forms, all grammatically correct.

  • Ramón es muy alto – Ramón is very tall
  • Ramón es altísimo – Ramón is hugely tall
  • Ramón es sumamente alto – Ramón is extremely tall

RELATIVE: The relative superlative adjective establishes maximum superiority in the context of a specific group.

  • Ramón es el jugador más alto de su generación – Ramón is the tallest of his class.
  • How Many Kinds of Spanish Adjectives are there?

The following is a simple classification of Spanish adjectives.

However, for a more rigorous catalog, visit the official grammar manual titled Nueva Gramática de la Lengua Española, published by the Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española (The Association of the Spanish Language Academies) and the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy).

SPANISH NAME ENGLISH TRANSLATION KEY SPANISH EXAMPLE ENGLISH TRANSLATION
1 Calificativos Calificative This group indicates common qualities  Hojas secas  Dead leaves
1.1 Especificativos Limiting Indicates a quality that differentiates the noun from a group Dientes afilados/dientes podridos Sharp teeth/rotting teeth
1.2 Explicativos Explanatory Expresses a quality that the noun already has for literary purposes Blanca nieve White snow
2 Gentilicios Demonym or gentilic Denotes country of origin, ethnic group or national affiliation Mexicano/nicagaraguense/indígena/panameño Mexican/Nicaraguan/ indigenous/Panamanian
3 Determinativos o pronominales Pronominal This group refers to time, place, and order, as well as ownership  Segundo/mío  Second/mine
3.1 Demostrativos Demonstrative Indicates both spatial and chronological proximity Esta, esa y aquella This, that, and that one
3.2 Posesivos Possessive Indicates ownership Tuyo/suyo/nuestro Yours/his/ours
3.3 Algunos numerales Some numerals Include some ordinal and multiplicative numbers Primero/quinta/doble/triple First/fifth/double/triple
4 Sustantivados Substantive The adjective is used as a noun Lo hermoso/el sabio The beautiful/the wise man
5 Verbales Verbal adjective Originates from a verb Cansada/meditabundo/fácil/amoroso Tired/meditative/easy/lovable
6 Sintagma nominal Nominal syntagm It is created from a syntagm or group of words Reunión familiar (reunión de familia) Family reunion

List of Possessive Adjectives in Spanish

As you can see from the list, possessive adjectives in Spanish indicate the owner of the noun they modify. They always appear before or after the noun, contrary to possessive pronouns, which in fact replace it.

SPANISH ENGLISH
Mi/mío/mía/míos/mías My/mine
Tu/tus/tuyo/tuya/tuyos/tuyas Your/yours
Su/sus/suyo/suya/suyos/suyas Your/yours (formal Spanish in Latinamerica) + his/her/hers + their/theirs
Vuestro/vuestra/vuestros/vuestras Your/yours (plural in Spain)
Nuestro/nuestra/nuestros/nuestras Our/ours

List of Demonstrative Adjectives in Spanish

These are the most common demonstrative adjectives in Spanish:

SPANISH ENGLISH
Este/esto/esta This
Estos/estas These
Ese/eso/esa That
Esos/esas Those
Aquel/aquella That (way over there)
Aquellos/aquellas Those (way over there)

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