Adjectives are descriptive words -- they are used to describe, amongst other things -- nouns.
The dog is black / el perro es negro.
The cat is grey / el gato es gris.
In the examples above, black - grey negro - gris are adjectives.
Adjectives agree in gender and number with the nouns that they qualify.
The red book / el libro rojo (masculine singular)
The red books / los libros rojos (masculine plural)
The red house / la casa roja (feminine singular)
The red houses / las casas rojas (feminine plural)
Quick check: where nouns end in -o (masculine) or in -a (feminine), you can quickly check that the final vowels and consonants agree, for, as you can see from the following simple example, agreement occurs in 11 out of the twelve cases:
la casa roja
las casas rojas
el muchacho alto
los muchachos altos
Adjectives that end in -e -- inteligente, canadiense, estadounidense, -- do not change from masculine to feminine. Most adjectives that end in a consonant -- fiel, leal, liberal, -- do not change from masculine to feminine, either. However, words that end in -or often have -ora as their feminine form -- conservador / conservadora, reformador / reformadora, profesor / profesora, doctor / doctora.
Note that adjectives which describe nouns usually follow the noun while numbers and adjectives of quantity usually precede the noun.
another red house / otra casa roja
* (note that in (an)other the an is never translated into Spanish).
Other red houses / otras casas rojas
Many red things / muchas cosas rojas
Apocope / apócope is the technical term for adjectives and numbers that lose their endings, usually before masculine singular nouns. We have already met this in the example: a book / un libro versus I have one / tengo uno. The adjectives bueno, and malo (among others) apocopate before a masculine singular noun: a good day / un buen día BUT a good day / un día bueno, a bad book / un mal libro BUT a bad book / un libro malo. Adjectives that apocopate must be memorized.
Note that most adjectives MAY precede the noun they qualify. When they do so, their figurative meaning is emphasized, whereas their literal meaning is emphasized when they follow the noun. This is a <<rule of thumb>> -- a generalization -- and the fuller exploration of the changing meaning of adjectives will be covered at a higher level.
Adjectives of nationality are often, but not always, associated with the language they represent.
Nationality masculine singular feminine singular masculine plural feminine plural English inglés inglesa ingleses inglesas French francés francesa franceses francesas German alemán alemana alemanes alemanas Mexican mexicano mexicana mexicanos mexicanas Canadian canadiense canadiense canadienses canadienses
Note that canadiense -- like estadounidense -- has only one form for the masculine and the feminine.
Possessive Adjectives, as the name suggests, denote possession.
My book / mi libro, my books / mis libros, my house / mi casa, my houses / mis casas
My / mi, mis are only found in the singular and plural forms and do NOT change for masculine and feminine.
Our / nuestro, nuestra, nuestros, nuestras will show all four forms, masculine singular (our book / nuestro libro), feminine singular (our house / nuestra casa), masculine plural (our books / nuestros libros), and feminine plural (our houses / nuestras casas).
While my / mi, mis is relatively easy to follow, there are the usual problems with you and yours, especially when translating from English to Spanish.
The Problem with YOU!
English French Spanish you tu
usted (Ud., Vd.)
(formal or plural)
ustedes (Uds., Vds.)
The problem with you is that while there is only one way to say you in English, there are two ways to say you in French (tu and vous), and five different ways of saying you in Spanish (tú, usted, vosotros, vosotras, and ustedes). Clearly, this also complicates the way in which Spanish expresses the possessive adjective your, as in your book which can be translated as tu libro, su libro de usted, vuestro libro, or su libro de ustedes, depending upon which form of you / your is being used in the target language.
The problem with su!
This leads us immediately to the problem of su. Su libro has multiple possible meanings.
su libro / his book / su libro de él / el libro de él
su libro / her book / su libro de ella / el libro de ella
su libro / your book / su libro de usted / el libro de usted
su libro / their book / su libro de ellos / el libro de ellos
su libro / their book / su libro de ellas / el libro de ellas
su libro / your book / su libro de ustedes / el libro de ustedes
While su libro de usted, for example, is perfectly correct, people sometimes replace su with el as in el libro de usted.
This appears complicated, and it is complicated for the anglophone who works within the tonal range to establish the exact relationship of the speaker (I) to the spoken to (you); try for example variations on the I love you / I hate you theme and observe how voice and tone change in English, while the written word <<you>> stays the same! That said, one soon gets used to the different variations of you and yours in Spanish, so don't panic too soon nor give up too easily.
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