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Adjectives - (Agreement and Word Order)
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Video Lesson
Summary of Lesson
What is an adjective? Some basic points about agreement, word order and when adjectives are used in conversation. A comparison between how adjectives are used in Spanish and English.
How to make adjectives agree with the people or things they are describing. Some adjectives take ending changes and some don't.
How to form plural adjectives, both feminine and masculine. When to add 's' to form the plural and when to add 'es'.
A look at where adjectives are placed in sentences relative to the nouns they describe. Word order.
Adjectives that change form when positioned in front of masculine singular nouns. How these adjectives are shortened. Other examples of adjectives that take short forms. Other irregularities.
   
  What you can learn from this lesson
   
To understand the basic concepts of what adjectives are and when and how they are used in Spanish as compared to English. Appreciating the importance of gender and what makes an adjective singular or plural.
Being able to form masculine and feminine adjectives by following a general set of guidelines. Recognising how adjectives change form depending on whether they end in a vowel or a consonant.
Being able to form plural adjectives by following a general set of guidelines. Recognising how plural adjectives are formed depending on whether the singular form of an adjective ends in a vowel or a consonant.
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PART 1

 

The first part of this lesson introduces what adjectives are and looks at the fundamental differences between how they are formed and used in Spanish and English.

 

What are adjectives?

 

Adjectives are known as describing words. They are usually used with nouns in order to give more information about the noun they are describing. In English adjectives are usually placed before the noun they are describing. In Spanish they usually go after the noun. (More information about word order is given in part 4 of the lesson.)

 

A green apple. Una manzana verde.
An expensive car. Un coche caro.

 

Adjectives can also be used with pronouns and sometimes even verbs.

 

Virginia (ella) es delgada. Virginia (she) is slim.
(adjective used with a personal pronoun)  
(Yo) solamente puedo ver amarillo.   I can only see yellow.
(adjective used with a verb)  

 

Note: Do not confuse adjectives with adverbs. Adverbs give more information about the words they are used with (usually verbs), rather than describing them.

 

Puedo ver claramente. I can see clearly.
El alcohol es claro. Alcohol is clear

 

Sometimes a word can be either an adverb or an adjective. Take a look at the separate lessons on adverbs to learn more.

 

The most important thing to remember is that an adjective is used to describe something. These things can be physical object, qualities, or ideas or concepts.

 

Types of adjectives

 

1)      Normal adjectives - used for general descriptions.

 

limpio/a clean
sucio/a dirty
mojado/a wet
seco/a dry

 

2)      Comparative and superlative adjectives - saying something is more or less or, most or least of something. (See separate lesson on comparative and superlative adjectives for more information.)

 

más limpio/a cleaner
más sucio/a dirtier
menos mojado/a weter
el más seco/a driest

 

In English making an adjective into a comparative or superlative adjective is the only way that adjectives ever change form. In Spanish adjectives change form depending on whether they describe things that are masculine or feminine or singular or plural. (See parts 2 and 3 of the lesson.)

 

3)      Possessive adjectives - (my / your / his / her or mine / his / hers etc)

 

Mi libro es interesante. My book is interesting.
El libro es mío. The book is mine.

 

4)      Indefinite adjectives - These are adjectives that are used in a general way to describe things without actually specifying exactly what these things are.

 

Cada día (yo) como fruta.  I eat fruit every day.

 

5)      Interrogative adjectives - These types of adjectives are question words or phrases.

 

¿Dónde está la iglesia? Where’s the church?

 

6)      Demonstrative adjectives - Those words used to identify a particular person or thing. (this / that / those etc)

 

(Yo) quiero este pescado. I want this fish.

 

For more information on possessive, indefinite and demonstrative adjectives take a look at the separate lessons which look at these types of adjectives and pronouns together. For more information on interrogative adjectives take a look at the separate lesson on questions and question words.

 

PART 2

 

The second part of this lesson looks at how Spanish adjectives are formed. In English forming adjectives is very easy as they only ever change form when forming comparatives. In Spanish the formation of an adjective is dependant on the gender of the noun or pronoun that is being describing. It is also dependant on whether the noun or pronoun that is being described is singular or plural.

Adjectives must agree with the nouns and pronouns that they describe. If the noun or pronoun being described is both masculine and feminine and it is not clear which gender is being referred to, or if gender is mixed then the masculine form of the adjective should be used.

 

Gender

 

1) Many masculine formed adjectives end in o and many feminine formed adjectives end in a. These are by far the most common types of adjectives.

 

El piso blanco. The white floor. (El piso is masculine so blanco is also masculine.)
La puerta blanca. The white door. (La puerta is feminine so blanca is also feminine.)

 

2) Adjectives that end in e, i, or u are both masculine and feminine.

 

El hombre valiente. The brave man.
La mujer valiente. The brave woman.

 

Adjectives ending in i or u are much less common.

 

Adjectives ending in a consonant are usually both masculine and feminine.

 

El niño joven. The young boy.
La niña joven. The young girl.

 

Some adjectives ending in a consonant are masculine only. To make these types of adjectives feminine an a is added to the end of them. The following are common types:


1)      Adjectives ending in án, ín, ón. These adjectives in the feminine do not take an accent mark (tilde). Adjectives ending in or.

 

El es cabezón.  He’s a big head.
Ella es cabezona. She’s a big head.
Un chico hablador. A talkative boy.
Una chica habladora. A talkative girl.

 

Note: Some adjectives ending in or are masculine and feminine - mejor / peor / mayor

 

Adjectives ending in án and ín are much less common.

 

2)      Adjectives that end in a consonant and which refer to nationality are usually masculine. Again, to make them feminine the letter a is added.

 

El cantante Inglés. The English singer.
La comida inglesa. English food.

 

Note: If the adjective takes an accent mark (tilde), in the masculine form, it is removed in the feminine form.

 

Part 3

 

The third part of this lesson looks at how plural adjectives are formed.

 

Plural adjectives are formed in the same way that plural nouns are formed. (Take a look at the lesson on nouns part 2 to learn more.)

 

Adjectives ending in a vowel add s

 

Las papas están quemadas.  The potatoes are burnt.
Las parejas bailaron románticas. The couples danced romantically.
Dame dos cafés calientes por favor.  Give me (I’ll have), two hot coffees please.

 

Note: If an adjective ends in a vowel that takes an accent mark (tilde), then es is added to the end and not s. These types of adjectives are not very common.

 

Adjectives ending in a consonant except z add es

 

Los resultados estuvieron aterradores. The results were appalling.
Las acciónes ilegales. Illegal actions.
Los ingleses invadieron. The English invaded.

 

Note: If the adjective ends in a consonant and takes an accent mark (tilde), over the final vowel in its singular form then it is dropped in its plural form (inglés - ingleses).

 

Adjectives ending in z, drop the z and add ces

 

feliz happy
Ellos tenían las caras felices. They had happy faces.

 

Sometimes an adjective might be used to describe multiple nouns that are both masculine and feminine. In these cases the masculine plural form of the adjective should be used. If the multiple nouns are either all masculine or all feminine then the respective form of the adjective should be used accordingly.

 

Las manzanas, el durazno y la pera son frescos. The apples, the peach and the pear are fresh.

 

PART 4

 

This part of the lesson looks at the word order of sentences that contain adjectives.

 

When an adjective is used directly next to the noun that it is describing it usually comes after the noun. In English it usually comes before the noun.

 

Pasa por la puerta azul. Go through the blue door.

 

Even if the adjective isn’t used directly next to the noun it is describing it still usually comes after the noun. In English too, this is often the case.

 

El elefante fue enorme. The elephant was huge.

 

Adjectives that come before a noun

 

Sometimes in Spanish an adjective may go before the noun it is describing even if it is used directly next to it. This occurs most often with the less conventional types of adjectives as follows: (These types of adjectives are explained in more detail in other lessons.)

 

Possessive adjectives (not those referring to mine, yours etc) mi camisa my shirt
Demonstrative adjectives esos clavos those nails
Interrogative adjectives ¿cuál tipo? Which type?
Indefinite adjectives cada mañana each morning

 

Sometimes even the more conventional types of adjectives are used before the noun that they describe instead of after it.

 

1) Sometime when using the words good or bad. (malo/a - bueno/a), or in greetings.

 

mala suerte bad luck
buena suerte good luck
buenos días good morning


Note: The adjectives malo/a and bueno/a in may cases can also be used after the noun they describe.

 

2) When using short forms of adjectives.

 

Some adjectives are shortened when they are used with masculine singular nouns. (Explained in more detail in part 5 of the lesson)

 

El primer día de mi trabajo fue terrible. My first day at work was terrible.

 

3) When talking about numbers.

 

(Yo) tengo diez monedas.   I have ten coins.

 

Adjectives that can come before or after the noun they describe but change meaning

 

When these types of adjectives are used the meanings of the adjectives change depending on whether they are used before or after the nouns that they describe. The following are some common examples.

 

medio/a half comes before the noun
medio/a average comes after the noun
pobre unfortunate comes before the noun
pobre poor comes after the noun
mismo/a the same comes before the noun
mismo/a oneself etc comes after the noun

 

Quiero medio kilo de arroz. I want half a kilo of rice.
El tiempo medio de esperar.  The average waiting time.
El pobre niño no tiene zapatos.  The poor boy doesn’t have shoes.
(Yo) vivía en un barrio pobre. I used to live in a poor district.
La misma cantidad de ayer.  The same amount as yesterday.
Lo haré por mi mismo. I will do it myself.

 

PART 5

 

The final part of this lesson looks at certain irregularities that exist when using adjectives.

 

Adjectives that take shortened forms

 

Some adjectives take three different types of formation.

 

1)      When the adjective is feminine it takes an a ending.

2)      When the adjective is masculine it takes an o ending.

3)      Where the adjective is masculine but used exclusively with singular masculine nouns the o ending is removed.

 

Bueno.  masculine Good.
La película fue buena.  feminine The movie was good.
El buen hombre. masculine The good man.

 

Note: When adjectives are used with masculine singular nouns they always come before the noun they describe.

 

Other adjectives formed in this way include:

 

malo/a or mal bad
alguno/a or algún some(shortened form takes an accent above the ú)
ninguno/a or ningún no (shortened form takes an accent above the ú)
primero/a or primer first
tercero/a or tercer third
uno/a or un one

 

Note: When these adjectives end in either o or a they can sometimes come before the noun they describe or after it.

Highly irregular adjectives

 

Certain adjectives which normally take the same endings for both masculine and feminine also have a shortened form when used with singular masculine nouns.

 

grande big (masculine and feminine)
gran great (masculine only)

 

El letrero grande.
(adjective used after the noun)   
The big sign.
El rey es un gran hombre.
(adjective used before the noun)
The king is a great man.

 

The adjective cualquiera

 

When used as an adjective this word means any or ordinary. It can be used before or after the noun it describes.

 

(Tú) puedes tomar un coche cualquiera. You can take any car.
(Tú) puedes tomar cualquier coche.  You can take any car.
No es una cama cualquiera. It’s no ordinary bed.
No es cualquier cama. It’s no ordinary bed.

 

If the word cualquiera is used before, any noun it describes then the a is dropped. If it is used after, any noun it describes the a is kept.

 

Adjectives that never change

 

These types of adjectives remain in the same form always. They are both masculine and feminine and are never pluralized.

 

Los libros naranja. The orange books.

 

That concludes this lesson on adjectives - (agreement and word order). If you have not done so already watch the actual video for this lesson and then try one of the associated quizzes to test your understanding.

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Adjectives - (Agreement and Word Order)
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