Spanish Adjectives: Basic Grammar

Adjectives

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

This post is part of the series: Parts of Speech

If you can classify words — the building blocks of language, it is easier to figure out what they are for & where they go in a sentence. Grammar teaches the proper arrangement of words, according to the idiom or dialect of any particular people…keep words in the right box: the Parts of Speech.
  1. Learning about the Parts of Speech: English and Spanish
  2. Definite and Indefinite Articles: English and Spanish
  3. Looking at Words that Describe: Spanish Adjectives
  4. Parts of Speech: Pronouns in English and in Spanish
  5. Parts of Speech: Nouns
  6. Parts of Speech: Prepositions in Spanish
  7. Parts of Speech: Guide to Prepositional Usage with Spanish Verbs
  8. Understanding Verbs in English and Spanish
  9. Let's Learn about Adverbs in Spanish
  10. Using Conjunctions in Spanish: Words that Glue or Unglue a Sentence
  11. Using Interjections: Compare Spanish and English