This article looks at Spanish adjectives which go before nouns. Learning when they go before nouns and when after can at first appear confusing, but fear not! This topic is fairly logical when you understand the key concepts.
Read on to discover when you should put Spanish adjectives before nouns and when after.
What are Spanish adjectives?
Adjectives are words which describe nouns (nouns are people, places, things, etc.). Examples of adjectives are ‘beautiful, ugly, tired, tall, short’ etc.
In Spanish adjectives normally go after the noun, for example:
- La casa roja = The red house (i.e. ‘The house red’ in Spanish)
However Spanish adjectives can and often do go before nouns.
Which Spanish adjectives go before nouns?
First of all, the following adjectives normally go before the noun:
- Alguno*/Alguna/Algunos/Algunas = Any
- Ambos/Ambas = Both
- Bastante/Bastantes = Enough
- Bueno*/Buena/Buenos/Buenas = Good
- Cada = Each/Every
- Malo*/Mala/Malos/Malas = Bad
- Mucho/Mucha = Much/A lot of (Singular)
- Muchos/Muchas = Many/A lot of (Plural)
- Ninguno*/Ninguna/Ningunos/Ningunas = Not any
- Otro/Otra = Another/Other (Singular)
- Otros/Otras = Other (Plural)
- Poco/Poca = Not much
- Pocos/Pocas = Not many
- Suficiente/Suficientes = Enough
- Todo/Toda/Todos/Todas = All
- Varios/Varias = Several
* These drop the ‘o’ when placed before a masculine singular noun to make ‘buen’, ‘mal’, ‘algún’ and ‘ningún’ as appropriate.
Cardinal and Ordinal numbers also go before the noun
Un/Una, dos, tres, etc…. go before the noun
Primero, segundo, tercero, etc…. go before the noun. [Note that primero and tercero drop the ‘o’ before a masculine singular noun].
Adjectives that describe inherent characteristics also go before the noun
When an adjective describes an inherent characteristic, the adjective may be placed before the noun in Spanish.
What is an inherent characteristic?
An inherent characteristic is a characteristic is natural and normal for all nouns of that type. Some examples could include:
- las altas montañas = the tall mountains
- la blanca nieve = the white snow
In this situation, putting an adjective before the noun essentially shows that it is an inherent characteristic of the noun being described. It is clear that mountains are always tall and snow is always white.
Putting an adjective after the noun when it describes an inherent characteristic emphasises the adjective. For example:
- las montañas altas = the tall mountains
Here the mountains are especially tall (i.e. taller than other ones).
Adjectives which change meaning depending on their position
In Spanish a number of adjectives have one meaning in front of the noun and a different meaning when after. Some important examples of these adjectives are as follows:
- antiguo/a(s) = former (before the noun)/ancient (after the noun)
- diferente(s)/distinto/a(s) = various (when plural)(before the noun)/different (after the noun)
- gran(es) – This is used before the noun to mean ‘great’
- grande(s) – This is used after the noun to mean ‘big/large’
- mismo/a(s) = same (before the noun)/’self’ (after the noun) e.g. yo mismo/a = myself (male/female speaking)
- único/a(s) = only (before the noun)/unique (after the noun))
There are other adjectives which go before the nouns, but the above ones are some of the most important ones.
We would discuss further adjectives that are similar to those above during Spanish tuition.
I hope that the above post has helped you to understand the main situations in which adjectives go before nouns in Spanish. Use that knowledge to impress Spanish speakers by showing them that you know when to use adjectives both before and after the noun.
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