Learning Latin American Spanish Online

Adjectives Part IV:
Exceptions to the Rules


Spanish is wonderfully systematic—even the exceptions to the rules have sets of rules!  While many students of Spanish are initially dismayed by this news, some students can attest that these rules actually make Spanish grammar easier to grasp and ultimately master than other languages!  Trust me, and when you’re ready, read on:



Adjectives ending in –án, -ón, -or, or -ín 


In Adjectives Part I, we studied the formation of adjectives ending in –o, -e and in consonants.  In Adjectives Part II, we studied the formation and usage of adjectives of nationality.  There is a group of adjectives ending in consonants that follows the same pattern as adjectives of nationality.  These adjectives have four forms and may carry a written accent in the masculine singular.  They end in –án, -ón, -or, or –ín:





   gabby, chatty















Unlike other adjectives ending in consonants, the adjectives listed above have masculine and feminine forms as well as singular and plural forms.  Observe:


el muchacho preguntón

la muchacha preguntona

los niños preguntones

las mujeres preguntonas


el hombre trabajador

la mujer trabajadora

los estudiantes trabajadores

las maestras trabajadoras


Remember, in general, regular adjectives ending in consonants do NOT have four possible endings; every word on the list above is an EXCEPTION to the rule.


This next list is made up of regular adjectives.  Although they end in –or, the following adjectives are NOT included in the first list because they are NOT exceptions to the rule.  The adjectives on this list follow the same rules as regular adjectives ending in consonants—they only have singular and plural forms (add –es for the plural):





   outside, exterior


   lower, bottom, inferior


   better, best


   rear, back, posterior


   upper, top, superior


   ulterior; hidden, concealed


*Okay, there’s an exception here, too. 

In the expression Mother Superior, the translation is la madre superiora.



Shortened masculine singular


You may have run into the expression “apocopated adjectives”—that’s what we’re talking about here.  Certain adjectives have a shortened form in the masculine singular, and some of these forms carry a written accent in this shortened form.  This point is often overlooked in Spanish classes, because it seems so minor and inconsequential—barely noticeable, really—to fluent speakers and readers of Spanish.  For those of you who may be confused, or for those of you who truly want to achieve educated near-native proficiency someday, here’s the way apocopated adjectives work—observe:



un buen hombre


un mal muchacho


el primer hijo


el tercer libro


algún día


ningún talento



All other forms of these adjectives (feminine and plural forms) are regular:


una buena mujer

una mala idea

la primera página

algunas condiciones


But wait!  Don’t adjectives have to follow the nouns they modify?!  Usually, yes.  These adjectives are exceptions to that rule as well.  Ordinal numbers (first, second, third, etc.) always come before the noun.


The word grande provides an added twist:  its position before or after the noun changes the meaning of the sentence.  When grande comes BEFORE the noun, the form is shortened and it means “famous” or “great/accomplished/important.”  When it comes AFTER the noun, it means “big” or “large.”  Think that’s a minor concern? 


Would you rather be remembered as

una gran persona or una persona grande?


That’s what I thought.  Notice, too, that the shortened form gran is acceptable in the masculine AND FEMININE singular forms—it’s an exception to the exception!





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


Mi novio es un _____________________ hombre, muy inteligente y ______________________.  (bueno, trabajador)  Él no es _____________________ , pero tiene dos hermanas muy _____________________ .  (hablador, charlatán) Mi novio y yo somos _____________________ amigos; espero que _____________________ día nos podemos casar.  (mejor, alguno)


(By sentence)
buen, trabajador
hablador, charlatanas
mejores, algún

My boyfriend is a good man, very intelligent and
hard-working. He isn’t talkative, but he has two very chatty
sisters. My boyfriend and I are best friends; I hope that
some day we can be married.



If you don't already have a copy of LSLC Nivel Uno,
here's the link:

Learning Spanish Like Crazy Nivel Uno

And here's the link to LSLC Nivel Dos:

Learning Spanish Like Crazy Nivel Dos