Learning about Spanish adjectives is important because they allow us to describe the specific characteristics of a person, place or thing. For example, we can use adjectives to describe the color of something or the material that it is made from.
In the sentence “a blue, plastic pencil”, the words “blue” and “plastic” are both adjectives.
Characteristics of Spanish Adjectives
The main difference between Spanish and English adjectives is that in Spanish the form of the word changes depending on the gender of the noun that it’s describing and whether it’s singular or plural. For example:
El perro negro – The black dog
Los perros negros – The black dogs
La pluma negra – The black pen
Las plumas negras – The black pens
Notice how the endings of the adjective (negro/negros/negra/negras) change in these examples to match the gender and quantity of the noun.
There are some Spanish adjectives that end in the letter “e”, such as “grande” (big). These adjectives don’t change to reflect the gender of the noun, but they do change to reflect the quantity. For example:
La casa grande – The big house
Las casas grandes – The big houses
El gato grande – The big cat
Los gatos grandes – The big cats
There are also some Spanish adjectives that end in consonants, such as “joven” (young). These adjectives also only change to match the quantity of the noun and not the gender. To make these adjectives plural, you simply need to add “es” to the end. For example:
El chico joven – The young boy
Los chicos jovenes – The young boys
La chica joven – The young girl
Las chicas jovenes – The young girls
You may have noticed from the above examples that the positioning of adjectives in the sentence is also different in Spanish and English. In English, the adjective goes before the noun it refers to. In most cases, a Spanish adjective will go after the noun. For example:
El libro rojo – The red book
Notice how in the Spanish description the adjective (“rojo” – red) goes after the noun (“libro” – book).
Exceptions to the above rules occur when the adjective is describing a nationality. In cases where the nationality ends in a consonant, then an “a” is added to make a distinctive feminine form of the adjective. For example:
El hombre español – The Spanish man
La mujer española – The Spanish woman
Los hombres españoles – The Spanish men
Las mujeres españolas – The Spanish women
Differences between European Spanish and Latin American adjectives
The characteristics of Spanish adjectives, and the ways that they are used, are the same in all Spanish speaking countries. There are some regional variations in the meanings given to adjectives, in particular when they are used as slang words.
For example, in most places the word “burro” means donkey, but in Mexico it is also commonly used as an adjective to describe an idiot or fool.
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