Understanding grammar will help you on your way to foreign language fluency. When learning the Spanish language, it’s important to know that Adjectives are words that describe or modify nouns. As we already know, in Spanish nouns may be singular or plural, masculine or feminine. Consequently, Spanish adjectives must always agree in number and gender with the nouns they modify, so it is advisable that, during your first learning stages, you pay extreme attention to these small details that are usually overlooked.
As a general rule of thumb, Spanish adjectives come in six varieties.
Spanish adjectives ending in: –o singular, masculine (nuevo, limpio, cerrado)
Spanish adjectives ending in: –os plural, masculine (nuevos, limpios, cerrados)
Spanish adjectives ending in: –a singular, feminine (nueva, limpia, cerrada)
Spanish adjectives ending in: –as plural, feminine (nuevas, limpias, cerradas)
If you’ve already reviewed our section on Spanish definite and indefinite articles, then you know that adjectives with these endings would take the following definite and indefinite articles:
–o singular, masculine – el / un
–os plural, masculine – los / unos
–a singular, feminine – la / una
–as plural, feminine – las / unas
Now these points notwithstanding, there are a few exceptions to the above. For example, an adjective whose singular form does not end with –oor –ausually agrees only in number (in terms of gender it is called undefined and it can go with both feminine and masculine nouns) and only comes in two forms:
un asunto/una decisión importante/difícil
an important/difficult matter/decision
unos asuntos/unas decisiones importantes/difíciles
(some) important/difficult matters/decisions
Finally, there are many types of adjectives in Spanish. However, in sum, we can distinguish those that describe the noun (qualifier) or those that state the number or quantity of the noun (quantifier). In Spanish, qualifiers are generally placed after the noun while quantifiers come before the noun, as in the examples below:
Madrid es una ciudad grande. (qualifier)
Madrid is a big city.
Mi habitación estálimpia. (qualifier)
My bedroom is clean.
Muchas personas visitan el país. (quantifier)
Many people visit the country.
Pocas casas tienen jardines en este vecindario. (quantifier)
Few houses have gardens in this neighborhood.
Until you know a noun’s gender, you really cannot describe it properly because adjective endings are generally based on gender. Once you know its gender, you also have to consider whether the noun is singular or plural. You will use both gender and grammatical number to determine how to pick the right adjective ending.
Just as you have to use the right article before a noun, you also must use the right form of the adjective. Fortunately, this is pretty easy because in most cases it corresponds with the –o and –a endings of the masculine and feminine nouns.
Singular masculine nouns require that the adjective ends with-o.
Plural masculine nouns require that the adjective ends with –os.
Singular feminine nouns require that the adjective ends with –a.
Plural feminine nouns require that the adjective ends with-as.
Black dog Perronegro
Black dogs Perrosnegros
White rose Rosablanca
White roses Rosasblancas
The adjective inteligente(intelligent) is a primary example of an adjective that ends in –e. Since it is undefined (works for both genders), the singular form is inteligente, and the plural form is inteligentes.
Another example of an undefined adjective is difícil (difficult), which ends with a consonant and works for both the masculine and feminine version of the noun. In this case, the plural version of the adjective will be difíciles for both genders.
Finally, notice that most of the time the adjective comes after the noun, and not before it. When you begin to mentally translate a sentence into Spanish, go ahead and change the order: dog small, cat grey, jewel shiny, and jacket large. This will help you focus on getting the primary word (the noun) and its gender before you worry about changing the adjective to match the noun. It is important for you to remember this because putting the adjective before the noun may change the meaning of the sentence.
Mi amiga vieja A friend who is old
Mi vieja amiga A friend I have known for a long time
You can have a friend who is old, but that is not the same thing as someone you have been friends with for a long time.
To emphasize a particular adjective,you can add the Spanish equivalent to the English word “very”: the suffix –ísimo. The following are some of the adjectives in which –ísimo is often used to provide emphasis.
muy bueno very good buenísimo
muy limpio very clean limpísimo
muy puro very pure purísimo
muy grande very big grandísimo
muy largo very long larguísimo
muy rico very tasty riquísimo
Beyond just describing something, adjectives can be used to compare two or more items. As it does in English, in Spanish, a comparative adjective compares two items (more, fewer, steadier, sadder). A superlative adjective describes the degree of quality over all other items (the best, the most, the worst, the smallest). However, comparative and superlative adjectives change based on the quality. Notice that in the case of comparatives, the adjective goes between más/menos and que.
More más … que
Él es másalto que su hermano. He is taller than his brother.
Most el más
Él es el más alto en su familia. He is the tallest person in his family.
Less menos … que
Él es menos serio que su hermano. He is less serious than his brother.
Least el menos
Él es el menos serio en su familia. He is the least serious person in his
Equal tan … como
Él es tan alto comosu hermano. He is as tall as his brother.
Take some time to learn these sentences before moving on to the irregular comparatives. Just as it is easier to learn –er/more than (comparative) and –est/the most (superlative) in English before learning better and best, learning the rules for Spanish regular comparison will make it easier to use the correct comparative or superlative adjectives in most cases.
Once you feel comfortable with the common or regular comparatives and superlatives, you can learn the irregular comparatives and superlatives.
Adjective Comparative Superlative
bueno (good) mejorque (better than) el mejor (the best)
malo (bad) peorque (worse than) el peor (the worst)
grande (big) mayorque (bigger than) el mayor (the biggest)
pequeño (small) menorque (smaller than) el menor (the smallest)
viejo (old) mayor que (older than) el mayor (the oldest)
joven (young) menor que (younger than) el menor (the youngest)