Spanish Adjectives Overview
When we first start learning a new language, we typically start with common greetings, such as hello and good morning, numbers, and a handful of vocabulary words. Soon after this, we start learning adjectives.
For those of us who aren’t language majors or may have been out of school for a little while and need a reminder: an adjective is a word or a phrase that assigns an attribute to a given noun.
In other words, they are words used to give details and descriptions of people, places, and things.
Imagine what it would be like to tell a story without any adjectives. Pretty boring, right? Adjectives allow us to convey ideas and stories with more precision and clarity, not to mention more fun.
If you’ve been studying Spanish, you are probably already aware of what a bright and colorful language it is. Spanish is full of great adjectives and learning how to use them correctly will get you one giant step closer to fluency.
In this article, I want to go over how adjectives fit into the Spanish sentence structure as well as share a list of 100 of my favorite Spanish adjectives. Don’t worry, using adjectives in Spanish is fairly straightforward. There are only a few simple rules to follow and I will be breaking them down and providing a few handy tips to help make this as painless as possible. Let’s get started!
What Is An Adjective Exactly?
As I already mentioned, adjectives are the words we use to describe nouns. This means that just about every word that adds interest to a sentence is an adjective. For example, consider this sentence:
There is a puddle in my yard.
This is vague, to say the least. Is the puddle small? Muddy? Clear? Huge? Sunken? Deep? Shallow? In essence, this sentence tells you almost nothing. But if we add in just a few adjectives, the story becomes something completely different.
There is a huge, green puddle boiling in my front yard.
Now we’re getting somewhere. We can imagine this scary puddle and we want to know more. Or maybe we don’t.
This is a somewhat silly example, but it serves a purpose. It allows you to easily see why it is so important to learn adjectives. With adjectives you can tell stories, give directions, and easily point out your tall, smart-looking friend Amilia. Adjectives are awesome.
Rules About Spanish Adjectives
The most obvious difference between English adjectives and Spanish adjectives is that English adjectives typically remain the same no matter what you’re talking about where Spanish adjectives have to match the noun they are assigned to.
Notice that the words ‘big’, ‘yellow’ and ‘interesting’ never change form even though they are being used to describe totally different things. Now, look at these same examples in Spanish.
Do you notice the differences? The adjectives change depending on the gender and the quantity of the noun. Let’s talk about that for a minute.
You Have To Know The Noun’s Gender
One of the first things you probably learned about Spanish is that Spanish words have genders, they are either masculine or feminine.
In general, words that end with ‘o’ are masculine and words that end with ‘a’ are feminine. This is not always the case, so be mindful. Words like el problema (problem), el día (day), and el idioma (language) are all masculine where la mono (hand), la foto (photo), and la radio (I bet you can guess the meaning of that one) are feminine.
In order to use adjectives correctly, you have to know the gender of the noun you’re trying to describe. For people and animals, the gender of the noun can sometimes be changed to match the gender of whoever or whatever you’re talking about. For example, a male cat would be ‘un gato’ where a female cat would be ‘una gata’.
For inanimate objects, such as chairs, books, towels, and pans, the gender is based solely on the word itself.
As long as you know the gender of the noun, you can easily change the adjective to match. Most of the more common adjectives end with ‘o’ in their masculine form, making them easy to adjust. For example, here are the words for tall, thin, and clean.
If you are using an adjective that ends with ‘e’ or ‘ista’, then you’re in luck because these words remain the same for both genders. Here are a few examples:
Adjectives that end with a consonant are also gender-neutral. Examples:
Gender-neutral adjectives only change depending on the quantity of the noun you’re describing which leads us to our next adjective rule.
Singular And Plural Adjectives
Just like articles in Spanish, adjectives have to match the quantity of your nouns. This is pretty easy to remember if you’re already used to changing 'el' to 'los' or 'la' to 'las'. Here are a few examples, just in case:
As you can see, the adjective has to match both in gender and in number. If it ends with ‘o’, ‘a’, or ‘e’ simply add an ‘s’ to make it plural. If the adjective ends with a consonant, add ‘es’.
An Important Exception: If the adjective ends with ‘z’, the ‘z’ is changed to a ‘c’ and ‘es’ is added. The most common example of this is the word ‘feliz’ which means happy.
How To Use An Adjective (Or Two) In A Sentence
You have probably already guessed this just from reading all the examples, but let’s talk about it anyway. In Spanish, the adjectives almost always go after the noun.
This means that instead of saying, “The black car.” you would say, “The car black.” This may seem confusing at first, but you’ll get used to it after a while. I like to think that the noun is the most important feature of the sentence, so I say the noun first and then the adjectives. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but I’ll get to those in a second.
The second thing you should know about adjective placement is that the meaning can change depending on which of the dreaded ‘to be’ verbs you’re using: ‘estar’ or ‘ser’.
Remember: ser is used for permanent attributes and estar is for temporary attributes. This is especially important to remember if you’re describing a person, including yourself.
For permanent attributes, such as your ethnicity, eye color, and personality traits, you would use ser. For example, to say that you are blond you would say “Soy rubia(o).” To say that you are Italian you would say, “Soy italiana(o).”
For temporary attributes, such as feelings, you can say, “Estoy emocionada(o) de verte!” which means, “I’m excited to see you!”
Be very mindful of this when you’re talking about other people because the ‘to be’ verb you choose can change the meaning completely. For example:
As you can see, there is a huge difference in the meanings there.
Easy Mix Up Warning!
Be careful when expressing feelings this way. Many temporary states, such as hunger and body temperature, are expressed using ‘tener’ instead of ‘estar’.
For example, if you want to say that you are warm, you would say, “Tengo calor.” If you’re hungry, “Tengo hambre.” Thirsty? Say, “Tengo sed.” This can be used for some emotions as well. That is not the focus of this article, so I won’t go into detail here, but it is worth investigating to save you from some embarrassing situations.
Exceptions To The Rules
Of course, like all language rules, there are always a few exceptions. When it comes to Spanish adjectives, the biggest exceptions to these grammar rules are grande, bueno, and malo.
Grande (Big or Large)
Grande has two forms, grande(s) and gran. Although the words are similar and ‘gran’ seems like it would just be an abbreviation of grande, they do have slightly different usages.
Grande means big or large. Since it ends with ‘e’ we know that it stays the same whether the noun is masculine or feminine. It can be used before or after the noun, although using it before the noun gives it a bit more emphasis.
Gran, on the other hand, is always used before the noun and it means grand or great.
This adjective has three forms:
Warning! Easy Word Mix Up: Buen can easily be (and often is) confused with ‘bien’, but don’t be fooled! Buen, as you now know, is an adjective. Bien is an adverb. Buen is used to describe singular, masculine nouns as ‘good’. Bien is used to describe an action as being done ‘well’ or ‘good’.
Like grande, bueno can be used before or after the noun, but placing it before the noun gives it a bit more emphasis. If you want to place this adjective before a singular, masculine noun then you can use ‘buen’. If the noun is plural then use buenos or buenas depending on the noun in question.
The meaning of bueno can also change depending on the verb it is used with. If used with ser it can mean that a person or thing is fundamentally good, such as a food being good for you. If used with estar it can mean that the noun is good in that moment, such as when you say your cup of coffee is good today.
Extra Side Note: Another interesting thing about ‘bueno’ is that it is often used as a filler word, much like ‘so’ or ‘well’ in English. For example, if you were trying to say, “Well… it was okay.” You could say, “Bueno… está bien.” And if you visit Mexico, you may even hear bueno used as a greeting, but only for answering the phone.
Malo is just like bueno in that it has three forms: malo(s), mala(s), and mal. Following the rules you just learned about bueno, you can probably guess how each form is supposed to be used.
Malo(a) can be placed before or after the noun and must agree with the gender and number of the given noun. Placing it before the noun gives it a bit more emphasis. If you are talking about a singular, masculine noun then you can use mal, otherwise you would use malos or mala(s).
The meaning of this word can also change depending on whether it is used with ser or estar. If you are talking about a person and you want to describe their moral character you would say, “Él es malo.” (He is bad.) or “Ella es una mala persona.” (She is a bad person). If you want to say that someone looks bad, you could say, “Él está malo.” But that isn’t very nice, so don’t say that.
100 Helpful Spanish Adverbs
La puerta está abierta. Las ventanas están abiertas.
The door is open. The windows are open.
Este libro es aburrido. Esas películas son aburridas.
This book is boring. Those movies are boring.
Él es una persona afortunada.
He is a lucky person.
Este pájaro es agradable.
This bird is pleasant (or nice).
Tall or High
Ella es muy alta.
She is very tall.
Mis compañeros de trabajo son amables.
My coworkers are nice.
Este jugo es amargo.
This juice is bitter.
Ese río es ancho.
That river is wide.
Este vestido está demasiado apretado.
This dress is too tight.
Short or Low
Mi hermano es bajo.
My brother is short.
Estos boletos son muy baratos.
These tickets are very cheap.
Tengo un sombrero blando.
I have a soft hat.
Una flor bonita.
A pretty flower.
Su café es muy caliente.
Their coffee is very hot.
Hot or High Temperature
It is hot (outside).
Ese carro es muy caro.
That car is very expensive.
Hay un hotel cerca de aquí?
There is a hotel near here?
La tienda está cerrado.
The store is closed.
La respuesta correcta.
The right answer.
Estos son mis zapatos cómodos favoritos.
These are my favorite comfortable shoes.
Me gusta la falda corta.
I like the short skirt.
Thin or Slender.
Ella es alta y delgada.
She is tall and slender.
Una tanca debil.
A weak fence.
Este sándwich es delicioso.
This sandwich is delicious.
Unfortunate or Unlucky
Un partido desafortunado.
An unfortunate game.
Un dia desagradable.
An unpleasant day.
Hard or Difficult
Un examen muy difícil.
A very difficult exam.
Una fiesta divertida.
A fun party.
Un pastel de chocolate dulce.
A sweet chocolate cake.
Hard or Solid.
Una roca dura.
A hard rock.
Ella es educada y lista.
She is polite and smart.
El gato gordo está emocionado por cenar.
The fat cat is excited for dinner.
Estoy enferma hoy (feminine).
I am sick today.
El cerdo enojado.
The angry pig.
La respuesta equivocada.
The wrong answer.
Esa calle es estrecha.
That street is narrow.
Esta es una película estúpida.
This is a stupid movie.
¡Este pan es excelente!
This bread is excellent!
Esta clase es muy fácil.
This class is very easy.
Esa historia es falsa.
That story is false.
La vaca californiana está feliz.
The Californian cow is happy.
Estos pantalones son feos.
These pants are ugly.
La porcelana fina.
The fine china.
It is cold (outside)!
Mi esposa es muy fuerte.
My wife is very strong.
Esa gente es generosa.
Those people are generous.
Su perro gordo es lindo.
Her fat dog is cute.
¡Mi amigo gracioso está aquí!
My funny friend is here!
La sopa en este restaurante es grueso y caliente.
The soup at this restaurant is thick and hot.
Las montañas son muy hermosas.
The mountains are beautiful.
Loose or baggy.
Esta camiseta es demasiado holgada.
This t-shirt is too baggy.
Estos documentos son importantes.
These documents are important.
Los osos son inteligentes.
Bears are intelligent.
Esta música es interesante.
This music is interesting.
Ese libro es inútil ahora.
That book is useless now.
Una niña joven y bonita.
A young pretty girl.
Tu cabello largo es hermoso.
Your long hair is beautiful.
Vivo lejos de aquí.
I live far from here.
Mi computadora lenta no es buena.
My slow computer is no good.
Light or Lightweight.
Este suéter ligero es muy cómodo.
This lightweight sweater is very comfortable.
Todos los platos están limpios.
All the dishes are clean.
Mis estanterías están llenas.
My bookshelves are full.
Me encantan las fiestas locas.
I love crazy parties.
Esas luces luminosas son bonitas.
Those bright (or luminous) lights are pretty.
Esas ratas son maleducadas.
Those rats are rude.
Mis calcetines mojados no son cómodos.
My wet socks are uncomfortable.
Soy la única morena en mi familia.
I am the only brunette in my familia.
Tengo muchos bolígrafos rojos.
I have many red pens.
Mis plantas de interior muertas huelen raro.
My dead houseplants smell funny.
Mi casa nueva está cerca de mi trabajo.
My new house is near my work.
El cielo está oscuro por la noche.
The sky is dark at night.
Velas grandes pueden ser peligrosas.
Large candles can be dangerous.
Small or Little
La perra pequeña es muy amable.
The little dog is very friendly.
Mi maleta es muy pesada.
My suitcase is very heavy.
El pobre pato no tiene pan.
The poor duck does not have bread.
A few or a Small Amount
Hablo un poco de español.
I speak a little Spanish
La oveja preocupada no puede dormir.
The worried sheep cannot sleep.
Este es un tema profundo y importante.
This is a deep and important subject.
¡Tú puedes leer muy rápido!
You can read very fast!
El hombre relajado duerme todo el día.
The relaxed man sleeps all day.
Rich, Fancy, or Tasty
¡Que rico galletas!
What delicious cookies!
Blond or Light-Complected
Mi hermana mayor es rubia.
My older sister is blond.
Mis vecinos ruidosos son muy maleducados.
My noisy neighbors are very rude.
La ropa está seca ahora.
The laundry is dry now.
Safe or Sure
Este lugar es muy seguro.
This place is very safe.
Unimportant or Without Importance
Los documentos sin importancia son basura.
The unimportant documents are trash.
¡Toda mi ropa está sucia!
All my clothes are dirty!
Él es una persona superficial.
He is a shallow person.
Stingy or Cheap.
¡Scrooge es tan tacaño!
Scrooge is so stingy!
Odio la cena tarde.
I hate late dinner.
Me encantan las carreras tempranas.
I love early runs.
Esta sopa terrible me puso enferma.
That terrible soup made me ill.
Mi tímida amiga está tranquila.
My shy friend es quiet.
Quiet or relaxing
Mi hermano menor no es tranquilo.
My little brother is not calm.
Estoy triste hoy.
I am sad today.
¡Esta lista de adjetivos es muy útil!
This list of adjectives is very useful!
Mi taza vacía está triste.
My empty mug is sad.
True or Real
El verdadero rey.
The true king.
Mis abuelos son muy viejos.
My grandparents are very old.
La presentación en vivo fue asombrosa.
The live performance was stunning.
Don’t Forget About Colors!
If that isn’t enough adjectives for you, don’t forget that colors are great descriptors as well. You’ll notice that some colors have genders and some don’t. Remember the rules you’ve already learned and you’ll easily be able to use these adjectives. Although you should keep in mind, there may be a few exceptions here as well.
Me encantan las flores rojas.
I love red flowers.
Por qué el cielo es azul?
Why is the sky blue?
Mi bolígrafo naranja está vacío.
My orange pen is empty.
Ese vestido gris es hermoso.
That gray dress is beautiful.
Esa panda púrpura es enorme!
That purple panda is huge!
¡Los pasteles rosas son los mejores!
Pink cakes are the best!
Me gusta este delicioso té verde.
I like this delicious green tea.
Las camisetas blancas están limpias.
The white t-shirts are clean.
Mi computadora negra es vieja.
My black computer is old.
A esa vaca marrón le gusta la hierba verde.
That brown cow likes green grass.
Quiero un carro amarillo.
I want a yellow car.
Did you notice the exceptions? If you said pink and orange, then you’ve been paying attention! Even though rosa and naranja both end with ‘a’, they do not change when used with a masculine noun. Naranja also lacks a plural form. It is simply naranja, no matter what noun it is used with.
Just like in English, naranja refers both to the color orange and the fruit. Interestingly, naranjo is also a Spanish word, but it is strictly the word for orange trees.
Spanish Adjectives: Final Thoughts
Congratulations on making it all the way to the end of this extensive adjective adventure! I hope you found it interesting and useful (interesante y útil). If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, don’t worry, it is a lot to take in. Just remember these simple rules:
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I hope you have enjoyed this article and are feeling encouraged to pursue your dream of becoming a fluent Spanish speaker. Keep up the good work and happy learning!