The Rules for Spanish Noun-Adjective Agreement

In the previous lesson, we explained the rules for adjective placement and talked about the rules to place these words, either before or after nouns. In this lesson, we will learn about another important feature called “concordancia del adjetivo y el sustantivo”, that is Spanish noun-adjective agreement. Do not worry, it will be easier than it sounds, though you will understand everything way faster if you already know the basics about noun gender and the plural form of nouns. Let’s start…  

Spanish noun-adjective agreement rules and examples

Introductory video: How to use Spanish adjectives in descriptions

We will begin this lesson with a video explaining the basic rules to use Spanish adjectives. This video was recording in Spanish, but you can also activate the captions (cc) below or check the script. It includes some examples and notes that will be very helpful to understand more about the way adjectives work in the language.

Spanish noun-adjective agreement in gender

Spanish masculine adjectives

Most adjectives must agree in gender with the noun they modify. When describing a masculine noun like “Amigo”, we must use a masculine adjective as well, such as “Honesto”. Just like with nouns, Spanish masculine adjectives usually end in the vowel -O like “Bonito” and “Creativo”, e.g. “El niño es bonito y gordo”. In addition, some words ending in -R will also be considered masculine adjectives.

Some examples of common Spanish masculine adjectives are:

Afortunado (lucky), Alto (tall), Bajo (short), Bueno (Good), Estupendo (awesome), Famoso (famous), Malo (bad) and Pequeño (small)

Carlos es mi amigo. Es el chico alto que está usando un sombrero negro.
Carlos is my friend. He is the tall guy who is wearing a black hat.
Alberto conoce a un escritor famoso. Sus libros son estupendos.
Alberto knows a famous writer. His books are great.
Eres muy afortunado. No tienes problema médico.
You are very lucky. You have no medical problem.

Spanish feminine adjectives

On the other hand, when describing feminine nouns like CASA (house), we have to use a feminine adjective like BONITA (pretty) or ESPACIOSA (spacious), and not a masculine one such as BONITO or ESPACIOSO. That being said, Spanish feminine adjectives are the same words with a slight change at the end from -O to -A, e.g. “Bueno” to “Buena”.

Know that it is possible to make some masculine adjectives feminine by adding -A at the end when the word ends in a consonant, but not in all cases, e.g. “Trabajador/Trabajadora” (correct) and “Popular/Populara” (incorrect). Most nationalities do suffer gender changes too, including some that end in consonants like “español->española”.

Marcos compró una casa nueva. Es muy hermosa y espaciosa.
Marcos bought a new house. It is very beautiful and spacious.
María es la chica alta que está sentada en el sofá verde.
Maria is the tall girl sitting on the green sofa.
La ciudad que visitamos tenía una arquitectura única y famosa.
The city we visited had some unique and famous architecture.

Spanish adjectives for both masculine and feminine nouns

Some adjectives are used for both genders despite their ending, especially those that end in -E or in consonants, for example: “un libro interesante”, “un examen fácil”, “un chico optimista/una chica optimista”.

Some common Spanish nouns that won’t suffer gender changes are:

Amable (kind), Difícil (difficult), Fácil (easy), Flexible, Paciente (patient), Verde (green).

Most numbers (except for the number one) will stay the same for masculine or feminine nouns, so you could say “Cuatro perros” or “Cuatro casas” and that would be totally correct. However, the number “UNO” will change to UN when used before a masculine noun as in “Un gato“, and to “UNA” before a feminine noun as in “Una amiga”. In this scenerario, UN/UNA would be used as indefinite articles.

Ella tiene una casa grande / El telescopio es grande.
She has a big house / The telescope is big.
La casa azul es la más antigua. / Usaremos ese líquido azul.
The blue house is the oldest. / We’ll use that blue liquid..
Ella encontró cuatro perlas. / Él ha finalizado cuatro proyectos.
She found four pearls. / He has completed four projects

Interactive quiz: Choose the best Spanish adjective to complete each sentence

Making Spanish adjectives agree with plural nouns

As we mentioned above, Spanish adjectives normally have a singular and a plural form. The rules are exactly the same used to form the plural of nouns. To illustrate this, a sentence like “She is a pretty model” would be translated into “Ella es una modelo hermosa”, but for several models, we must say “Ellas son modelos hermosas”. Notice that all the words, including the subject pronoun and the verb SER as well, will change so that there is actual Spanish noun-adjective agreement and the sentence makes sense.

Él es un niño inteligente / Ellos son niños inteligentes.
He is a smart kid / They are smart kids.
Es un empresario exitoso. / Son empresarios exitosos.
He is a successful businessman. / They are successful businessmen.
Él es mi mejor amigo. / Nosotros somos mejores amigos.
He is my best friend. / We are best friends..
Ella es una señora amable. / Las señoras de allá son muy amables.
She is a kind lady. / The ladies over there are very kind.
La ciudad es impresionante. / Las ciudades que visitamos son impresionantes
The city is impressive. / The cities we visited are impressive

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