Spanish Phrases: Basic grammar of adjectives

This page gives an extremely basic introdction to the grammar of Spanish adjectives. In particular, it explains why some adjectives are listed with forms ending in both -o and -a, and the position of the adjective relative to the noun it qualifies.

Form of adjectives

Masculine and feminine forms

Spanish adjectives generally agree with the noun they qualify: so the forms in -o go with masculine nouns and the forms in -a go with feminine nouns. Adjectives ending in a consonant or -e are the same for both genders.

Plural forms

As a general rule, adjectives ending in a vowel add an -s when they describe a plural noun; adjectives ending in a consonant generally add -es.

Short masculine singular forms

A few adjectives, in particular bueno ("good") and grande ("big, large") have special short forms used directly before a masculine singular noun.

tiene buen apetito
he has a good appetite
con gran placer
with enormous pleasure

Position of adjectives

As in French, the position of adjectives in Spanish is a complex issue. But in general:

  • In the vast majority of cases, the normal position for the adjective is after the noun.
  • It is usually possible to put the adjective before the noun for stylistic effect.
  • With adjectives related to numbers or ordering (e.g. primero, último, segundo), things are generally reversed: the normal position is before the noun, but for stylistic effect they can go after the noun.
  • There are a few short adjectives, including those with 'special' short forms (gran for grande), where the position is more freely interchangeable. For example, there is little difference between de alta calidad and de calidad alta ("high quality"), or between bajo precio and precio bajo ("low price").

comments powered by Disqus

Page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright (c) Javamex UK 2014. All rights reserved.