The Rules for Spanish Adjective Placement

Spanish adjectives, LOS ADJETIVOS, are words that are normally used to describe people, objects, houses and lots of other things in the language. Just like nouns, adjectives follow some grammar rules. In this lesson, we will focus on learning the rules for Spanish adjective placement through simple explanations, many audio examples and two interactive quizzes. Let’s begin…

The Rules for Adjective Placement in Spanish

Adjectives are words used to describe nouns such as “carro” (car) and “perro” (dog). This means that adjectives can give more information about the noun they describe, just like the word BONITA or ALTO tells us about someone’s physical appearance, as shown in these sentences:

  • Ella es una chica bonita. (She is a pretty girl).
  • Él es muy alto. (He is very tall.)

As you can see in the first example, the adjective “bonita” was placed after the noun, not before. However, this is not necessarily true for all situations, which is why we need to study the rules to place Spanish adjectives appropriately. Next, take a look at the image below. It explains the basics about Spanish adjective placement, as well as how adjectives should change their gender (masculine/feminine) and number to modify nouns. The words in dark red below the three pictures on the top are “adjetivos”.

Spanish adjectives placement and agreement rules

Placing Spanish adjectives after nouns: sentences and audio

Unlike their English counterpart, most of the time Spanish adjectives will be placed after the noun they modify. This is confusing for English learners at first too; instead of “pretty girl”, they will say “girl pretty”, placing the adjective the way it is done in Spanish. Thus, when describing a person in Spanish, you’d better say “un chico guapo” (a handsome boy), but not “un guapo chico” (a boy handsome).

  • María tiene una casa grande y lujosa. (María has a large and luxurious house.)
  • Su perro es cariñoso y juguetón. (Your dog is affectionate and playful.)

There are many adjectives, some of them more common than others. We will be using some a list of common Spanish adjectives in sentences, so you can see where they are placed and how they work along with other parts of the sentence. Click on the PLAY button to listen to the examples.

Using Spanish adjectives after nouns in sentences

NUEVO – Yo tengo un auto nuevo
I have a new car
VIEJO – Yo tengo una bicicleta vieja
I have an old bicycle
DIVERTIDO – Es una película divertida
It is a fun movie
INTELIGENTE – Es un chico inteligente
He is an intelligent boy
INTERESANTE – Estoy leyendo un libro interesante
I am reading an interesting book

The verb SER plus Spanish adjectives

The verb SER (to be) is generally used along with adjectives to describe objects or things. SER is an irregular verb, so it will change to ES when referring to a single object and SON for many. It is not that complicated to use, and it is really useful for all types of descriptions. The easiest way to use it is by adding an adjective after ES or SON, for example:

  • La naturaleza es hermosa. (Nature is beautiful.)
  • Mis estudiantes de la universidad son creativos. (My college students are creative.)

Notice that the adjective will be placed after the verb. You can even add a noun, but remember to put the noun in front of the adjective, e.g. “Son estudiantes creativos“. Here are some more sentences using Spanish adjectives you can listen to. 

BUENO – El vino del restaurante es bueno
The restaurant’s wine is good
FEO- La foto reciente es fea
The recent picture is ugly
BONITA- Tu casa es muy bonita
Your house is beautiful

When to place Spanish adjectives before nouns

It is time to talk about the exceptions. Spanish adjectives will be placed before nouns only when we want to emphasize a quality or when we want to sound a little more formal.  We cannot do this with all adjectives, though. Some types of adjectives following this rule are  Numbers, possessive adjectives, demonstrative adjectives and quantifiers(e.g. varios, algunos, pocos).

One more thing, when using more than one Spanish adjective in the same sentence, remember to use commas to separate them, e.g. “Él es inteligente, alto,…” and use the conjunction “Y” for the last couple of adjectives, e.g. “Él es inteligente, alto y amable “.

Examples using Spanish adjectives before nouns

1. Emphasizing a quality: Creo que es un buen plan. (I think it is a good plan)
2. Being formal: Usted tiene una maravillosa familia. (You have a wonderful family)
3. Numbers and possessive adjectives:Mi casa tiene tres habitaciones.” (My house has three rooms)
4. Several adjectives (formal): Tienes una grande y bonita casa. (You have a big, beautiful house)

Related Spanish Worksheets:

7 thoughts on “The Rules for Spanish Adjective Placement”

  1. Reese Lindquist

    In “Examples using Spanish adjectives before nouns” above, adjectives are after the noun in example 4.

  2. Robert Benfield

    Example: “VIEJO – Yo tengo una bicicleta vieja I have a new car”
    Think the translation should be “I have an old bicycle”

  3. Robert Benfield

    Example: “INTERESANTE – Estoy leyendo un libro interesante. I am reading an intresting book”
    Think “interesting” was misspelled.

  4. When you have a masculine and feminine adjective describing a noun and is followed by a verb e.g: Los muchos condimentos y especias NECESARIOS para crear la salsa.
    My question is, is it NECESARIAS because the word especias is female gender? Thank you. M. Ross

    1. Hi Maria. According to the rule, since both nouns “condimentos” and “especias” have different genders, then we can either use an adjective with the gender of the last noun (especias -> necesarias) or a make the adjective plural and masculine, just like you did (condimentos y especias -> necesarios). Both of them sound well in spoken Spanish. Thanks for your question! Muy buena pregunta por cierto 🙂

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