It doesn’t take long to realize that Spanish adjectives follow different rules than in English, does it?
They come in all sorts of “wrong” places.
They change their form.
They even change their number.
It is so easy to get discouraged and confused. If adjectives weren’t so useful, many of us would probably ignore and never use them.
Unfortunately, you can’t avoid using adjectives – they make the language more colorful and descriptive; they allow you to better explain your ideas, choices, and needs.
Time for an attitude change, then! Let’s conquer Spanish adjectives together, shall we?
Adjectives in Spanish – the Absolute Grammar Essentials
- adjectives are words that describe or clarify nouns
- they may contain information about size, color, texture, age, shape, etc.
- in Spanish, their gender depends on the noun they accompany
- for some adjectives, the masculine and feminine forms are the same
- unlike in English, Spanish adjectives have singular and plural form
I realize such a compact summary is probably not enough to clarify all your doubts and questions, which is why we are going to analyze Spanish adjectives in more detail.
What are adjectives and how to use them in Spanish?
For those of you who are not entirely familiar with grammar concepts, adjectives are a group of words that modify / describe nouns (that is: objects, people, places, animals, concepts, etc.)
Let’s take a simple noun: a house.
In Spanish, that would translate as una casa.
Now, ask yourself what a house can be or look like.
There are so many possibilities, aren’t there?
A big house,
a modern house,
an expensive house,
an old house, etc.
All the words I’ve marked in cursive are nothing else than ADJECTIVES.
English is packed with different types of adjectives, but today we will be dealing only with one of them, which is descriptive adjectives. They can contain information about:
- appearance (pretty, ugly, handsome, attractive, etc.)
- size (small, big, tiny, enormous, etc.)
- shape (round, oval, square, etc.)
- color (white, blue, yellow, green, etc.)
- texture (soft, smooth, rough, etc.)
- temperature (hot, cold, chilly, warm, etc.)
- personality (funny, friendly, shy, outgoing, etc.)
- other qualities (dangerous, crowded, violent, etc.)
All of these descriptive adjectives have, of course, their Spanish equivalents.
How about if we see a few examples we’ll later use as our base?
30 common adjectives in Spanish and their 30 antonyms:
|🇪🇸 grande – 🇬🇧 big|
🇪🇸 bonito – 🇬🇧 pretty
🇪🇸 rico – 🇬🇧 rich
🇪🇸 alto – 🇬🇧 high
🇪🇸 caliente – 🇬🇧 hot
🇪🇸 barato – 🇬🇧 cheap
🇪🇸 rápido – 🇬🇧 fast
🇪🇸 seguro -🇬🇧 safe, secure
🇪🇸 liviano – 🇬🇧 light
🇪🇸 joven – 🇬🇧 young
🇪🇸 fácil – 🇬🇧 easy
🇪🇸 listo – 🇬🇧 smart
🇪🇸 interesante – 🇬🇧 interesting
🇪🇸 delgado – 🇬🇧 thin, slim
🇪🇸 simple– 🇬🇧 simple
🇪🇸 largo – 🇬🇧 long
🇪🇸 claro – 🇬🇧 light, clear
🇪🇸 mojado – 🇬🇧 wet
🇪🇸 suave – 🇬🇧 smooth
🇪🇸 blando – 🇬🇧 soft
🇪🇸 ancho – 🇬🇧 wide, broad
🇪🇸 energético – 🇬🇧 energetic
🇪🇸 delicioso- 🇬🇧 delicious
🇪🇸 limpio – 🇬🇧 clean
🇪🇸 cortés – 🇬🇧 polite
🇪🇸 fuerte– 🇬🇧 strong
🇪🇸 valiente – 🇬🇧 brave
🇪🇸 alegre – 🇬🇧 happy
🇪🇸 abierto – 🇬🇧 open
🇪🇸 lleno – 🇬🇧full
|🇪🇸 pequeño– 🇬🇧 small|
🇪🇸 feo – 🇬🇧 ugly
🇪🇸 pobre – 🇬🇧 poor
🇪🇸 bajo – 🇬🇧 low
🇪🇸 frio – 🇬🇧 cold
🇪🇸 caro – 🇬🇧 expensive
🇪🇸 lento – 🇬🇧 slow
🇪🇸 peligroso – 🇬🇧 dangerous
🇪🇸 pesado – 🇬🇧 heavy
🇪🇸 viejo – 🇬🇧 old
🇪🇸 difícil– 🇬🇧 difficult
🇪🇸 tonto – 🇬🇧 silly, stupid
🇪🇸 aburrido – 🇬🇧 boring
🇪🇸 gordo – 🇬🇧 fat
🇪🇸 complicado – 🇬🇧 complicated
🇪🇸 corto – 🇬🇧 short
🇪🇸 oscuro – 🇬🇧 dark
🇪🇸 seco – 🇬🇧 dry
🇪🇸 áspero – 🇬🇧 rough
🇪🇸 duro – 🇬🇧 hard
🇪🇸 estrecho – 🇬🇧 narrow
🇪🇸 cansado – 🇬🇧 tired
🇪🇸 asqueroso – 🇬🇧 disgusting
🇪🇸 sucio – 🇬🇧 dirty
🇪🇸 maleducado – 🇬🇧 rude
🇪🇸 débil – 🇬🇧 weak
🇪🇸 cobarde – 🇬🇧 coward
🇪🇸 triste – 🇬🇧 sad
🇪🇸 cerrado – 🇬🇧 close
🇪🇸 vacío – 🇬🇧 empty
Spanish adjectives go AFTER the noun.
That is the first and most important rule about Spanish adjectives, which makes it quite different from English and causes quite a few mistakes among native English speakers.
Let’s have a look:
🇪🇸 Esta es una casa grande.
🇬🇧 This is a big house.
🇪🇸 Vivo en un edificio alto.
🇬🇧 I live in a tall building.
🇪🇸 Tengo un perro viejo.
🇬🇧 I have an old dog.
🇪🇸 Necesito un carro nuevo.
🇬🇧 I need a new car.
See? In the Spanish version, you need to mention the noun first and then describe it with an adjective of your choice.
Let’s call it our Rule of Thumb #1.
Genders in Spanish grammar
Another important difference between English and Spanish has to do with word gender.
You’re probably asking yourself, “What? How can words have a gender”?
In English, you can’t say whether a lamp is masculine or feminine, or a car, or a table.
The articles that accompany nouns (A / AN or THE) don’t convey any such information.
In Spanish, however, nouns DO have genders, and the articles tell you if a specific word is considered feminine or masculine.
🇪🇸 un perro – the article UN indicates that the noun is masculine
🇬🇧 a dog
🇪🇸 una casa – the article UNA indicates that the noun is feminine
🇬🇧 a house
When we talk about a specific dog or a particular house, the indefinite articles UN and UNA are replaced with EL and LA.
🇪🇸 el perro – 🇬🇧 the dog
🇪🇸 la casa – 🇬🇧 the house
Now, let’s suppose that you want to describe both the dog and the house with adjectives.
The Rule of Thumb # 2 says: adjust the adjective’s form according to the gender of the noun it describes.
Sorry if I am getting too scholarly. I am a teacher, after all.
I promise I will do my best to explain it in an easy way.
How to change the gender of Spanish adjectives from masculine to feminine?
The way you find adjectives in a dictionary or an online translator is in their masculine form. The adjectives from the list above are all masculine as well.
How to change them to feminine?
Well, it depends on how they end:
Adjectives ending in an “-O.”
This group of adjectives replaces the vowel O with A in the feminine form.
frío – fría
bonito – bonita
pequeño – pequeña
lento – lenta
peligroso – peligrosa
What would it look like in combination with nouns?
🇪🇸 un / el plato frío – the word “plato” is masculine, and so is the adjective
🇬🇧 a / the cold dish
🇪🇸 una / la niña pequeña – the word “niña” is feminine, and so it the adjective
🇬🇧 a / the little girl
Would you like to see some more examples?
🇪🇸 “El Patito Feo” es mi cuento favorito. – both “patito” and “cuento” are masculine
🇬🇧 “The Ugly Ducking” is my favorite story.
🇪🇸 No quiero vivir en una calle peligrosa. – “calle” is feminine
🇬🇧 I don’t want to live in a dangerous street.
🇪🇸 Necesitamos cortar el árbol alto. – “árbol” is masculine
🇬🇧 We need to cut down the tall tree.
🇪🇸 ¿Por qué compraste una motocicleta vieja? – “motocicleta” is feminine
🇬🇧 Why did you buy an old motorcycle?
Adjectives ending in an “-E” or “-A”
This group of adjectives is much easier as it does not require you to change anything, no matter if you describe a masculine or a feminine noun.
Check out the phrases below:
🇪🇸 un país grande – “país” is masculine in Spanish
🇬🇧 a big country
🇪🇸 una ciudad grande – “ciudad” is feminine in Spanish
🇬🇧 a big city
The same thing happens with an adjective “optimista” – optimistic.
🇪🇸 un plan optimista – “plan” is masculine in Spanish
🇬🇧 an optimistic plan
🇪🇸 una canción optimista– “canción” is feminine in Spanish
un optimistic song
See? No change! Adjectives like “grande” and “optimista” are much friendlier!
- 🇪🇸 alegre – 🇬🇧 happy
- 🇪🇸 amable – 🇬🇧 kind
- 🇪🇸 fuerte – 🇬🇧 strong
- 🇪🇸 rentable– 🇬🇧 profitable
- 🇪🇸 responsable – 🇬🇧 responsible
- 🇪🇸 importante -🇬🇧 important
- 🇪🇸 brillante – 🇬🇧brilliant
- 🇪🇸 consciente – 🇬🇧 conscious
- 🇪🇸 prudente – 🇬🇧 careful
- 🇪🇸 cobarde – 🇬🇧 coward
- 🇪🇸 inteligente – 🇬🇧 intelligent
- 🇪🇸 emocionante – 🇬🇧 exciting
- 🇪🇸 interesante– 🇬🇧 interesting
- 🇪🇸 realista – 🇬🇧 realistic
- 🇪🇸 futurista – 🇬🇧 futuristic
- 🇪🇸 pacifista – 🇬🇧 pacifist
- 🇪🇸 pesimista – 🇬🇧 pessimistic
- 🇪🇸 perfeccionista – 🇬🇧 perfectionist
Adjectives ending in a consonant
The third group of Spanish adjectives includes those whose last letter is a consonant. Most of them (there are exceptions, unfortunately) keep the same form no matter the gender of the described noun.
If you scroll back to our list, you’ll find one adjective belonging to this category: joven – young.
🇪🇸 una pareja joven – “pareja” is a feminine noun in Spanish
🇬🇧 a young couple
🇪🇸 un hombre joven – “hombre” is, of course, masculine
🇬🇧 a young man
Would you like to learn more adjectives that finish in a consonant? Here are some:
- 🇪🇸 leál– 🇬🇧 loyal
- 🇪🇸 feliz– 🇬🇧 happy
- 🇪🇸 débil– 🇬🇧 weak
- 🇪🇸 fácil – 🇬🇧 easy
- 🇪🇸 azul- 🇬🇧 blue
- 🇪🇸 fiel – 🇬🇧 faithful, loyal
- 🇪🇸 cortés – 🇬🇧 polite
🇪🇸 El perro de mi vecino es muy fiel. – “perro” is masculine
🇬🇧 My neighbor’s dog is very loyal.
🇪🇸 La trabajadora más fiel que hemos tenido es Margarita. – “trabajadora” is feminine
🇬🇧 Margarita is the most loyal worker we’ve had.
🇪🇸 La tarea que me diste no es fácil. – “tarea” is feminine
🇬🇧 The task you gave me is not easy.
🇪🇸 El trabajo de Pedro es muy fácil. – “trabajo” is masculine
🇬🇧 Pedro’s job is not easy.
For those of you who are slightly more advanced in Spanish, you might stumble upon exceptions to this rule. Adjectives ending in “-ÓN,” “OR,” or “-ÉS” lose the accent in feminine form and add the letter “A” at the end:
🇪🇸 gruñón – gruñona
🇪🇸 hablador – habladora
🇪🇸 francés – francesa
Luckily, they are not too many.
Spanish adjectives in the plural form
Congratulations! You’ve just gotten through one major grammar topic.
Time for the next one! Adjectives in Spanish and their number.
As you know, English adjectives don’t pluralize. They always keep the same, no matter if the noun they describe is used in the singular or plural form. Like in the sentences below:
I want to eat a red apple. – the noun “apple” is in singular form (only one)
He doesn’t like red apples. – the noun “apples” is in plural form (multiple apples)
See? You can change the noun from singular to plural, yet the English adjective remains unchanged.
If you are learning Spanish, however, you may forget this rule.
Instead, learn our Rule of Thumb # 3: Spanish adjectives do pluralize.
Making the plural form by adding an “S.”
The good news is, in most cases, they make their plural form by simply adding the letter “S” at the end. This rule applies to adjectives ending in a vowel (“O,” “E” or “A”)
🇪🇸 un chico guapo – muchos chicos guapos
🇬🇧 a handsome guy – many handsome guys
🇪🇸 un día hermoso – muchos días hermosos
🇬🇧 a beautiful day – many beautiful days
🇪🇸 un postre delicioso- muchos postres deliciosos
🇬🇧 a delicious dessert – many delicious desserts
🇪🇸 un hombre amable – muchos hombres amables
🇬🇧 a nice man – many nice men
🇪🇸 un plan realista – muchos planes realistas
🇬🇧 a realistic plan – many realistic plans
I’m sure you´ll agree it is not such a big deal having to remember about the additional “S.” You need to pluralize the noun anyway, right?
Plural form and the adjective gender
If you review the examples of the plural form above, you’ll realize that all the nouns I used are masculine.
What happens if the noun you want to describe is feminine?
In such a case, your job is double: you have to adjust the gender of the adjective you use AND its number.
Have a look:
🇪🇸 una mujer rubia – muchas mujeres rubias
🇬🇧 a blond woman – many blond women
🇪🇸 una mañana tranquila – muchas mañanas tranquilas
🇬🇧 a beautiful day – many beautiful days
🇪🇸 una calle peligrosa– muchas calles peligrosas
🇬🇧 a dangerous street – many dangerous streets
Of course, for those adjectives whose masculine and feminine form is the same, you only need to worry about the number.
🇪🇸 una mujer amable – muchas mujeres amables
🇬🇧 a nice woman- many nice women
🇪🇸 una tarea realista – muchas tareas realistas
🇬🇧 a realistic task- many realistic tasks
How to pluralize adjectives ending in a consonant
The last group of adjectives we need to analyze are those that end in a consonant.
Do you remember some of them?
That’s right: leál, cortés, azul, fácil, feliz, etc.
Can you recall whether or not they changed their gender? No, they didn’t
But they do change their number.
However, in Spanish, you can’t simply “glue” the “S” to another consonant.
❌ los ejercicios fácils
❌ los ojos azuls
Instead, you need to separate the 2 consonants with the vowel “E”. So:
✔️ los ejercicios fáciles
✔️ los ojos azules
That is not the only thing you’ll need to remember, though.
There are two more details regarding the plural form of the adjectives ending in a consonant:
- When the last consonant of the adjective is “Z,” it needs to be replaced with “C” and then added “ES.”
🇪🇸 un final feliz – muchos finales felices
🇬🇧 a happy end – many happy ends
🇪🇸 un lobo feroz – muchos lobos feroces
🇬🇧 a ferocious wolf – many ferocious wolves
🇪🇸 una mujer eficaz – muchas mujeres eficaces
🇬🇧 an efficient woman – many efficient women
🇪🇸 una persona voraz – muchas personas voraces
🇬🇧 a voracious person – many voracious people
- The adjectives that stress the last syllable in the singular form lose the accent mark in the plural form. This rule applies to adjectives that have at least two syllables.
🇪🇸 un hombre leál – muchos hombres leales
🇬🇧 a loyal man – many loyal men
🇪🇸 una persona cortés – muchas personas corteses
🇬🇧 a polite person – many polite people
🇪🇸 un gato gruñón – muchos gatos gruñones
🇬🇧 a grumpy cat- many grumpy cats
That’s all about adjectives, guys!
Please remember our 3 Rules of Thumb:
#1 Spanish adjectives go after the noun
#2 Spanish adjectives have genders
#3 Spanish adjectives can change the number from singular to plural