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 adjectives placement through simple explanations, lots of examples and an interactive quiz. Let’s begin…

Spanish adjective placement and definition

Adjectives are words used to describe nouns or words 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 tells us about someone’s physical appearance in the sentence “Es una chica bonita” (She is a pretty girl). As you can see in this example, the adjective “bonita” was placed after the noun, not before. However, this is not necessarily true for all cases and that is why we need to study the rules for Spanish adjectives placement.

Before getting deeper into grammar, we will ask you to 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
¿Cómo funcionan los adjetivos en español?

Placing Spanish adjectives after nouns: sentences and audio

Unlike their English counterpart, Spanish adjectives will be placed after the noun they modify most of the time. This is confusing for English learners at first; instead of “pretty girl”, we 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). See, things work the opposite way here.

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

SER plus Spanish adjectives

One of the most common verbs you will see Spanish adjectives with is “SER”. 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 the verb is really useful for all types of descriptions. The easiest way to use it is by adding an adjective after ES or SON, e.g. “Es hermosa” and “Son creativos”. 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 pair 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: Tienes una grande y bonita casa. (You have a big, beautiful house)

A quiz about adjective placement in Spanish

This quiz will test if you understand the rules for adjective placement – “la posición de los adjetivos”. Choose the sentence that has the same meaning as the one in English. You will get a tip every time you find a correct answer. Press START to begin the quiz.

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

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

  3. 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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