Spanish Grammar Lesson

Adjectives Part I:  General Rules

Adjectives are words that describe or modify a person, place, or thing.  Before delving into this lesson, remember one essential fact:  all Spanish nouns are either masculine or feminine.  Knowing the gender of the noun will make adjectives much easier to understand.

 

Descriptive adjectives generally follow the noun—yes, the exact opposite of English.  Think of a red car as “a car red,” un carro rojo.  Remember, Spanish is a different system!  Occasionally, descriptive adjectives will precede nouns for dramatic or poetic effect; for your purposes as a beginner, however, use the standard, un-stylized noun-before-adjective convention.  (Definite articles like a, an or the come before the noun, as in English.)

 

Descriptive adjectives may end in –o, -e, or a consonant.  Here are the general rules to help you understand and use them accurately:

 

 

Adjectives ending in –o

 

alto

tall

extranjero

foreign

ancho

wide

feo

ugly

barato

cheap

frío

cold

blanco

white

gordo

fat

bonito

pretty

hermoso

beautiful

bueno

good

largo

long

caro

expensive

limpio

clean

cómodo

comfortable

loco

crazy

corto

short

malo

bad

delgado

thin

moderno

modern

delicioso

delicious

sucio

dirty

duro

hard

viejo

old

 

 

This list is only a small sample of the most common adjectives ending in –o.  Although classified as “ending in –o,” these adjectives actually have four different endings each:  masculine, feminine, masculine/mixed plural, and feminine plural.  Let’s use limpio as an example.  Watch how the ending changes depending on whether we tell about one or more clean rooms (masculine), one or more clean houses (feminine):

 

                   el cuarto limpio              los cuartos limpios

                   la casa limpia                 las casas limpias

 

Except for the masculine singular, the endings for the article, noun and adjective all match:

 

                   el cuarto limpio              los cuartos limpios

                   la casa limpia                 las casas limpias

 

 

Adjectives ending in –e

 

elegante

elegant

impresionante

impressive

enorme

enormous

inteligente

intelligent

excelente

excellent

interesante

interesting

fuerte

strong

pobre

poor

grande

big

triste

sad

importante

Important

verde

green

 

Again, this is only a sample of commonly used adjectives ending in –e.  These adjectives have only two forms:  singular and plural.  Gender has no impact on these adjectives.  Simply add an s to make these adjectives plural:

 

            el elefante enorme           los libros interesantes

          la mujer elegante            las universidades importantes

 

 

Adjectives ending in consonants

 

azul

Blue

gris

gray

difícil

Difficult

joven

young

fácil

easy

oficial

official

feliz

happy

popular

popular

final

final

tropical

tropical

 

As with adjectives ending in –e, most adjectives ending in consonants have only two forms:  singular and plural.  Gender has no impact on these adjectives.  To make these adjectives plural, add –es:   

 

          el curso dificil                 los examenes finales

          la canción popular                   las tormentas tropicales

 

 

Practice

 

Fill in the blanks with the correct form of the adjective in parentheses.  For extra credit, translate the paragraph.

 

 

            Mi madre es una mujer ___________________ (hermoso).  Tiene pelo _______________________ (corto) y siempre lleva ropa ________________________ (elegante).  Mi mamá no es ________________________ (viejo), pero sí tiene unos pelos _______________________ (gris).  Ella parece _________________________ (joven) y tiene ideas _________________________ (interesante).  Mami dice que las mujeres _______________________ (moderno) son _________________________ (loco) por preocuparse tanto por la belleza; es major ser una persona _________________________ (feo) y _____________________________ (feliz) que una muñeca _________________________ (bonito) y  ___________________________ (triste).

 

Answers (by sentence):

 

hermosa

corto, elegante,

vieja, grises

joven, interesantes

modernas, locas; fea, feliz, bonita, triste

 

 

            My mother is a beautiful woman.  She has short hair and always wears elegant clothes.  My mom isn’t old, but she does have a few gray hairs.  She looks young and has interesting ideas.  Mom says that modern women are crazy to worry so much about beauty; it’s better to be an ugly, happy person than a pretty, sad Barbie doll.**

 

** Muñeca literally means doll, but it is used in many countries to denote a beautiful but empty-headed woman.  Translations will vary.

 


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