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Looking at Words that Describe: Spanish Adjectives

written by: Eric W. Vogt • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 1/17/2012

This lesson covers basic information about Spanish adjectives, what kinds of adjectives there are, and refers learners to a more detailed article about the use of adjectives.

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    Adjectives are words that describe nouns. There are two types of adjectives.

    They can describe a noun in terms of its qualities, such as a red book or a beautiful house. In Spanish, we would say libro rojo and casa bonita.

    Adjectives can also describe a noun in quantitative terms, such as three books or many houses, or even the fifth singer. In Spanish, these phrases would be tres libros and muchas casas.

    In Spanish, qualitative adjectives are placed after the nouns they modify and the quantitative ones are placed before the nouns they modify. Spanish is a bit different from English in that the position of qualitative (descriptive) adjectives come before the nouns, whereas in Spanish they follow the nouns. If both a quantitative and a qualitative adjective are used, then the quantitative one comes first, then the noun, followed by the qualitative adjective. So, to say three tall women in Spanish, we would say tres mujeres altas.

    The next important thing to know about adjectives in Spanish is that the adjectives must agree with the nouns they modify in both gender and number. Looking at the previous phrases, notice that the word casa is feminine (ending in –a) and the word libro is masculine (ending in –o), and that the adjectives describing them agree with the nouns: rojo and bonita. If we make these same nouns plural, changing them to libros and casas, then the phrases would be libros rojos and casas bonitas. If we switch the adjectives so as to say red houses and beautiful books, then we must say casas rojas and libros bonitos.

    Some adjectives change meaning according to position, such as pobre, grande (gran when it is placed before nouns) and nuevo. Please see my other mini lessons on position of adjectives for more details and for practice, see the quizzes that accompany those articles.

    Where Adjectives are Placed in a Spanish Sentence

    Possesive Adjectives