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Published on: Grammar Bites

The position of adjectives in Spanish

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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