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Published on: Grammar Bites

Adjectives: before or after the noun?

Do you ever wonder where do adjectives go en español? Before or after nouns?

Traditionally in Spanish adjectives go after nouns (the opposite of English); particularly when these adjectives are used to qualify or describe the attributes of that noun:

  • Mi casa es grande y luminosa. My house is big and bright.
  • El día está gris y frío. The day is gray and cold.
  • Los tres hermanos son altos y morenos. The three brothers are tall and dark-haired.

 

However there are some exceptions; when adjectives are used to identify a noun (demonstratives, possessives, numerals, indefinite, etc) they usually go before it:

  • Esta casa es de mi abuela. This house belongs to my grandmother.
  • Aquel auto es muy rápido. That car is very fast.
  • Mi casa es grande y luminosa. My house is big and bright.
  • ¿Tu hermano se casa el sábado, no? Your brother is getting married on Saturday, right?
  • Los tres hermanos son altos y morenosThe three brothers are tall and dark-haired.
  • Mañana es el primer día de clases. Tomorrow is the first day of school.
  • Algunos días llego muy tarde a casa después de trabajar. Some days I get home from working really late.
  • Hace varias semanas que no hablamos por teléfono. It’s been a few weeks since we last talked on the phone.

 

Another exception is when we place a qualifying adjective before the noun in order to emphasize its attributes:

  • Las tradicionales fiestas de Carnaval. (The emphasis is on the traditional aspect.)
  • Bebimos una refrescante limonada. (The emphasis is on how refreshing the drink is.)
  • Están muy cansados después de un largo viaje. (The emphasis is on how long the trip was.)

Note that placing the adjective before the noun can sometimes cause a change of meaning:

  • Mi viejo amigo. (We’ve been friends for a long time.)
  • Mi amigo viejo. (My friend is old.)
  • Es un gran hombre. (He is a great man.)
  • En un hombre grande. (He is a large man.)
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