Spanish Adjectives  

A Spanish adjective is used to modify or describe a noun. The number (singular or plural) and the gender (masculine or feminine) of an adjective depends on the noun. As with all the sections in this course, this section begins with basic lessons and continues to more advanced lessons. Don't try to learn everything at once!

Resources Spanish Grammar Spanish Adjectives

Demonstrative Adjectives

These determiners "specify" the noun by "pointing" to ("demonstrating") the noun in terms of distance (physical or psychological) from the speaker. English makes a two way distinction: 'this/these' (near speaker), 'that/those' (apart from speaker).

Spanish makes a three-way distinction:

este / esta / estos / estas = 'this/these' (near speaker)
ese / esa / esos / esas = 'that/those' (near listener)
aquel / aquella / aquellos / aquellas = 'that/those' (apart from both speaker and listener)

The demonstrative adjective generally precedes the noun, but may follow to communicate an especially negative attitude on the part of the speaker:

No me gusta ese tipo. / No me gusta el tipo ese. = 'I don't like that guy.'

*Note the masculine plural forms are: este  estos, ese  esos (not estes / eses).

Possessive Adjectives

Possessive adjectives "specify" the noun in terms of the possessor: mi(s)/mío(s) = 'my', tu(s)/tuyo(s) = 'your' [de tí], su(s)/suyo(s) = 'its/his/her/your [de Ud.]], nuestro(s) = 'our', vuestro(s) = 'your' [de vosotros], su(s) = 'their/your [de Uds.].

The Spanish possive adjective "agrees' in number with the "thing possessed", not with the "possessor". Compare these sentences:

Su casa es roja. = 'His/Her/Their/Your (singular)/Your (plural) house is red.'
Sus casas son rojas. = 'His/Her/Their/Your (singular)/Your (plural) houses are red.'.

The Spanish possessive has both a short and long form. The short form precedes the noun and expresses possession "casually". The long form always follows the noun (or ser) and "emphasizes" possession. Compare these sentences:

Neutral Emphatic/Contrastive Emphatic/Contrastive

Mi/Tu casa está cerca. La casa mía/tuya es verde. Esta casa es mía/tuya.
'My/Your house is nearby.' 'MY/YOUR house is green. 'This house is MINE/YOURS.

Limiting Adjectives

Limiting adjectives answer the implicit questions "Which one?" or "How much/many.

A. Counters simply count the noun.

1. Cardinal Nnumbers. The following examples make a number of points. Study them closely:

un(a) (stressed) = 'one', quince = 'fifteen', diez y seis/dieciséis = 'sixteen', veinte y un días / veintiún días = 'twenty-one days'' / veintiuna casas, treinta y una casas, cien = 'a hundred', ciento dos = 'a/one hundred (and) two', trescientas vacas, quinientos = 'five hundred', mil dólares = 'a thousand dollars', un millón de dólares = 'a million dollars', mil millones de personas = 'a billon people' (U.S.), un billón de personas = 'a trillon people' (U.S.).

2. Ordinal numbers count items in terms of their order in a set:

primer(a) = 'first', segundo/a = 'second', tercer(a) = 'third', cuarto = 'fourth', quinto = 'fifth', sexto = 'sixth', séptimo = 'seventh', octavo = 'eighth', noveno = 'ninth, décimo = 'tenth'

3. Fractions quantify the noun in units less than one. Key examples are:

la mitad de = 'one-half of', la tercera parte de / un tercio de = 'one-third of', la cuarta parte de / un cuarto de = 'one forth/quarter of' , la quinta parte de / un quinto de = 'one-fifth of'', etc. Note the optional forms using ordinal numbers.

B. Estimators (my word) quantify in less precise terms. It is important to know these:

demasiado(s) = 'toomuch/many', tanto(s) = 'so much/many', mucho(s) = 'much/many/a lot of', varios = 'several', bastante(s) = 'enough/plenty of/quite a bit of/quite a few, un poco de = 'a little bit of/some', unos cuantos '= 'a few', poco(s) = 'little/few', muy poco(s) = 'very little/few', demasiado poco(s) = 'too little/few'. You do not say muy mucho = 'very much/many' or demasiado mucho = 'too much/many'. Note the difference between poco dinero = 'little money' and un poco de dinero = 'a little money'.

C. Set Adjectives (my word) refer to a noun as a member of a set (unique or many). They frequently express the "totality" (meaning "all"/"none") of the set. Some important ones are:

el único problema = 'the only problem', el mismo día = 'the same/very day', el otro carro = 'the other car', Tengo otro problema. = 'I have another problem', cada página = 'each/every page', ambos estudiantes = 'both (of the) students', cualquiera de los dos libros = 'either (one) of the books', cualquier estudiante = 'ANY student', todo estudiante = 'any STUDENT', todos los profesores = 'all (of the) professors', ningún examen = 'no test', ninguno de los dos libros = 'neither (one) of the (two) books'. A couple of notes: 1) the Spanish word for no + noun = ningún/ninguna,which are not generally used in the plural ['no books' = ningún libro, not usually ningunos libros], 2) that Spanish does not have simple forms = 'either/neither'.

Descriptive Adjectives

Descriptive adjectives modify nouns by adding information about the "state/condition" of the noun, or about its "qualities".

Descriptive adjectives describing states [limpio = 'clean', roto = 'broken', lleno/vacío = 'full/empty', aburrido/interesado = 'bored / interested', enfermo/sano = 'sick/healthy', borracho = 'drunk', cansado = 'tired', casado = 'married', muerto = 'dead' generally follow the noun and are used with the verb estar.

Adjectives describing "qualities" [rojo = 'red', grande = 'big', gordo/flaco = 'fat/skinny', pobre/rico = 'poor/rich', joven/viejo = 'young/old', inteligente/estúpido = 'intelligent / stupid', aburrido/interesante = 'boring/interesting'. They generally follow the noun, but may precede it if they are used very "subjectively" and/or the noun has other modifying phrases that follow it: Es un libro muy interesante = 'It is a very interesting book', Es un interesante libro de historia = 'It is an interesting book about history'.

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