The use of adjectives in Spanish

In Spanish, the adjective needs to correspond in gender and number with the noun. For example white house / white houses would be:

- la casa blanca (feminine singular) / las casas blancas (feminine plural)

and white car / white cars is:

- el coche blanco (masculine singular) / los coches blancos (masculine plural)


The feminine form of the adjective

1. The last letter changes into an "-a", when the adjective ends with:

-oblanco - blanca
-otefeote - feota
-eteregordete - regordeta

2. An "-a" is added, when the adjectives ends with:

-ángalán - galana*
-ínchiquitín - chiquitina*
-óncomilón - comilona*
-dorluchador - luchadora
-torseductor - seductora

3. Similarly, an "-a" is added, when the adjective refers to nationality, originating from or belonging to a place, and it ends with a consonant.

Example: inglés - inglesa*, andaluz - andaluza

4. Other than the cases above, the feminine form of the adjective is the same as the masculine.

Example:

el equipo croata-la isla croata
el gobierno iraquí-la mujer iraquí
un hombre fuerte-una coalición fuerte
un trabajo fácil-una tarea fácil
un abrigo gris-una pared gris
un profesor joven-una escritora joven

* Note the use of accents: in the basic, masculine form of the adjective it denotes irregular stress - but is needed no more when another syllable is added to the end of the word.


The plural of adjectives

It's the same as forming the plural of the noun.


Special adjective forms

A) some adjectives lose the last letter ("-o") when preceding singular masculine nouns.

bueno --> buen hombre
malo --> mal tiempo

B) some adjectives lose the last syllable when preceding singular masculine nouns

santo --> San Diego

With a couple of exceptions, like Santo Domingo, Santo Tomás, Santo Tomé...

C) some adjectives lose the last syllable when preceding singular nouns (both masculine and feminine)

grande --> un gran país / una gran ciudad

Note, however, that if these adjectives follow the noun, they are used in their original, not the shortened form (e.g. Río Grande, Espíritu Santo, colesterol malo).


Adjective preceding or following the noun?

The adjective usually follows the noun, if

The adjective usually precedes the noun, if

This means even the same adjective + noun might mean different things depending on their order.

Whereas

and similarly,


The comparison of adjectives

degreeadjective formin English
positivericorich
comparativemás ricoricher
superlativeel más ricorichest
absolute superlativeriquísimothe richest possible

To express "less" / "least", replace "más" with "menos" in the above example.

When the superlative of the subjective is used after the noun, the adjective (el) is omitted

Example: Bill Gates es el hombre más rico del mundo.


Irregular comparison

Certain adjectives have an alternative comparison of latin origin.

positivecomparativesuperlative
grandemayormáximo
pequeñomenormínimo
altosuperiorsupremo
bajoinferiorínfimo

In many cases, both this and the regular comparison is used, but the special form is used more figuratively.

more figurativemore literal
una calidad inferiorun precio más bajo
su hermano mayoruna casa más grande

Sometimes the special comparison is used rather than the regular form, as in the following cases.

positivecomparativesuperlative
buenomejoróptimo
malopeorpésimo


Comparative structures

Comparing equal or similar things

tan... como...
as... as...
Su hermano es tan inteligente como él.His brother is as intelligent as him.
Esta casa es tan grande como un palacio.This house is as big as a palace.

Comparison of different degrees

más... que...
more... than...
Su hermano es más inteligente que él.His brother is more intelligent than him.
Esta casa es más grande que un palacio.This house is bigger than a palace.

más... de lo que...
more... than...
Su hermano es más inteligente de lo que parece.His brother is more intelligent than he seems.
Esta casa es más grande de lo que parece.This house is bigger than it seems.

menos... que...
less... than...
Su hermano es menos inteligente que él.His brother is less intelligent than him.
Esta casa es menos antigua que el palacio. This house is less old than the palace.

menos... de lo que...
less... than...
Su hermano es menos inteligente de lo que parece.His brother is less intelligent than he seems.
Esta casa es menos antigua de lo que parece.This house is less old than it seems.

Superlative structure

el/la/los/las más... de/en...
the most... of/in...
Su hermano es el más inteligente de su grupo.His brother is the most intelligent in his group.
Esta casa es la más grande de la ciudad.This house is the biggest in the city.

el/la/los/las más... de/en...
the least... of/in...
Su hermano es el menos inteligente de su grupo.His brother is the least intelligent in his group.
Esta casa es la menos ruinosa de la calle.This house is the least dilapidated in the street.


Where next?

Want to make sure these rules were really clear for you? Try yourself with a short test of Spanish adjectives...

...or try the longer nouns + adjectives test, where adjectives need to be matched with the gender of the noun.

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