One big area you need to be confident with is the use of adjetivos (adjectives)

When learning Spanish, you’ll need to be able to use all the different parts of speech to fully express yourself and develop your fluency. One big area you need to be confident with is the use of adjetivos (adjectives) which describe nouns and have a few particular rules in Spanish that make them different from how we use them in English.

Before we jump into all the rules and spelling changes, let’s have a quick look at some example sentences to see if you can spot some of the main differences.

  • El gato negro está en la cocina – The black cat is in the kitchen
  • Necesito una mesa nuevaI need a new table
  • Los coches azules son los mejores – Blue cars are the best

Can you see anything a little unusual? Hopefully you can notice that in Spanish, the adjective comes after the noun and also that it must agree with the gender of the word it describes, as well as being singular or plural. We have some other blogs which deal with the topic of genders and all the rules regarding that, so in the rest of this post we will focus on the changes you need to make to adjectives in particular.

Making adjectives agree

Once we’ve decided which adjective we want to use to describe our chosen noun, we then must look at the gender and number of the noun to ensure we use the correct adjective ending. In Spanish, adjectives often end in the letter “o” which indicates that this is the masculine singular form. Here’s a table showing you how such adjectives would change depending on whether we are using singular, plural, masculine or feminine nouns.

Adjectives ending in “o” English
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Masculine El/Un perro negro Los/Unos perros negros Masculine The/A black dog The/Some black dogs
Feminine La/Una silla negra Las/Unas sillas negras Feminine The/A black chair The/Some black chairs

In the table above, you can see that for all adjectives ending in “o”, we add an “s” to make the plural and change the “o” to an “a” for the feminine form. Easy!

Apart from the “o” ending, there are also several other common adjective endings. The most important ones are adjectives which end in an “e” and those which have a final consonant. For instance,

  • Verde Green
  • MarrónBrown
  • Leal Loyal/Faithful

In these cases, there is no feminine form and the plural you simply add “s” if the adjective ends in “e”, and “es” if it ends in a consonant. This applies except when the adjective ends in “z” which then changes to “c” before you add the plural (e.g. capaz capable becomes capaces in the plural). Look at these examples,

Other adjectives English
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Masculine El/Un coche verde Los/Unos coches verdes Masculine The/A green car The/Some green cars
Feminine La/Una puerta marrón Las/Unas muertas marrones Feminine The/A brown door The/Some brown doors

¡Ojo! (Be careful!) as there are, as with everything when learning Spanish or any other language, there are some exceptions. For instance, the adjective hablador (talkative) does change to habladora in the feminine. Another odd one is the colour adjective naranja (orange) which doesn’t have a masculine “o” form and only changes to make the plural by adding “s”. Don’t worry too much about these yet, as you study Spanish you’ll see lots of adjectives in context which will help you understand the trickier ones.

Moving adjectives – Do they change the meaning or not?

Earlier, we just said that adjectives come after the noun in Spanish. In the vast majority of cases, that’s true but we need to look at ones which can come before the noun too. Some of these change their meaning depending on their position in the sentence, and some don’t.

  • Adjectives which don’t change their meaning

Sometimes we can use an adjective both before and after noun with no change in meaning.

    • Un buen chico / Un chico buenoA good boy
    • Una mala idea / Una idea mala A bad idea

There are a number of these and you’ll need to read and listen to lots of Spanish to encounter all of them, but for now it’s most important to simply be aware that they exist. You may also have spotted that these types of adjectives often drop the final “o” when coming before a masculine noun.

  • Adjectives which change their meaning

This is a very important group of adjectives, as using them incorrectly will completely change the idea of what you’ve just said! For instance, the adjective viejo (old) means old as in age when it comes after the noun, but old as in a long time when it comes before.

    • Una silla vieja An old chair (it was made years ago)
    • Un viejo amigo – An old friend (we have been friends for many years)

See what we mean? You could end up calling someone old and offending them, or acknowledging that you’ve known them for a long time! Here are some other adjectives which work in a similar way.

Adjectives Meaning before noun Meaning after noun
antiguo old/former antique
diferente various (e.g options) different
grande great (e.g. friend) big
pobre unfortunate/unlucky poor/bad quality

These are but a few, and we won’t go into every single one here, but as you practise your Spanish, you’ll come across more which you can apuntar (note down) and learn.

So, there we have an introduction to how to use Spanish adjectives! Like we’ve said many times before in other blogs, the best way to learn Spanish is to practise speaking as much as possible, read and listen to whatever you can to pick up new words and structures, and to take a course with us at Hablamos to get that expert help which will ensure you become a fluent, confident speaker.

Hablamos – full-on Spanish!