Describe things using the correct position, gender and number of adjectives

Concordancia de adjetivos

You learned in previous lessons that nouns and articles in Spanish must agree in both gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural):

  • Play Audioel hombre (the man)
  • Play Audiolos hombres (the men)
  • Play Audiola niña (the girl)
  • Play Audiounas niñas (some girls)

This same agreement must occur in Spanish when adjectives are used to describe nouns. If the noun you are using is masculine-singular, the adjective must be masculine-singular as well. It’s important to note that while the gender of nouns is an inherent property, adjectives do not have this inherent characteristic. The gender of an adjective will change according to the noun.

If the noun is masculine and singular, the adjective that describes the noun will also be masculine and singular:

  • Play Audioel chico generoso (the generous boy)

If the noun is feminine and singular, the adjective that describes the noun will also be feminine and singular:

  • Play Audiola chica generosa (the generous girl)

If the noun is masculine and plural, the adjective that describes the noun will also be masculine and plural:

  • Play Audiolos chicos generosos (the generous boys)

If the noun is feminine and plural, the adjective that describes the noun will also be feminine and plural:

  • Play Audiolas chicas generosas (the generous girls)

If an adjective ends in -o for the masculine form, it generally will also have a feminine form (generoso / generosa as shown in the examples). If a masculine singular adjective ends in a consonant or a vowel other than -o (most commonly -e), such as importante, it does not change for gender but it will change for number:

  • Play Audioel documento importante (the important document)
  • Play Audiola clase importante (the important class)
  • Play Audiolos documentos importantes (the important documents)
  • Play Audiolas clases importantes (the important classes)

The plurals of adjectives are formed in the same way that you learned in previous lessons for nouns. Add an -s if the word ends in a vowel; add an -es if the word ends in a consonant:

white flag
  • Play Audioel marcador verde (the green marker)
  • Play Audiolos marcadores verdes (the green markers)
  • Play Audiola bandera blanca (the white flag)
  • las banderas blancas (the white flags)
  • Play Audiola luz débil (the weak light)
  • Play Audiolas luces débiles (the weak lights)

Adjectives are usually placed after the noun they are describing or after the verb ser.

  • Play AudioMi mamá cocina comida rica. (My mom cooks delicious food.)
  • Play AudioLos médicos son inteligentes. (The doctors are intelligent.)

Indefinite adjectives, such as Play Audiomucho (a lot, many), Play Audioalguno (some), Play Audioningun (any), Play Audiocada (every) and numbers, both cardinal and ordinal, precede the noun.

Note: There are a few exceptions to this placement that you will learn in future lessons. Also, some adjectives mean something slightly different when used before a noun instead of after. Here are just a few examples:

  • Play AudioAlto (top or high / tall): Play AudioPagamos un alto precio (We pay a high price). Play AudioEs un hombre alto (He is a tall man).
  • Único (only / unique): Play AudioCompramos la única marca (We buy the only brand). Play AudioTengo una mochila única (I have a unique backpack).
  • Gran (great) or grande (big, large): Play AudioElla es una gran líder (She’s a great leader). Play AudioElla lidera un país grande (She leads a large country).

Another note: The word grande doesn’t just change meaning when used before a noun, it’s shortened to gran. Other words get shortened only before a masculine singular noun, including: bueno (buen), malo (mal), alguno (algún) and ninguno (ningún).

One more note: When you look up an unfamiliar adjective in the dictionary, only the masculine singular form will be shown. You must change for gender and/or number to describe the noun you are using if it is not a masculine-singular noun.

¡Inténtalo! (Try It!)