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Published on: Grammar Bites

Todo sobre el adjetivo

An adjetivo is a word that we use to give qualities to a noun (sustantivo) and we can place it either before or after the noun. But -be careful- the meaning of some adjectives can change according to their position.

Let’s take a look at an example in which the noun agrees with the adjective in both gender and number:

  • El niño estudioso.  /  La niña estudiosa.

In these sentences, the adjetivo can be masculine (estudioso) or femenine (estudiosa). However, there are some adjetivos that are neutral, that is, they never change:

  • La casa grande.  /  El perro grande.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the adjectives that experience a change of meaning based on their placement:

Gran / Grande

‘Gran’ is the short form of ‘grande’ and we use it when the adjective goes in front of the noun, but that’s not the only change:

  • Un gran hombre = un hombre bondadoso, generoso, honorable = a great / good man.
  • Un hombre grande = un hombre de un tamaño físico grande = a large / big man.
Pobre
  • Una mujer pobre = una mujer sin dinero; expresa un hecho (fact).
  • Una pobre mujer = una mujer desdichada (unfortunate); expresa empatía por la mujer.
Puro/a
  • Él bebe agua pura = agua limpia y mineral; sin químicos = water that is pure.
  • Él bebe pura agua =  solamente bebe agua; nada más = nothing but water.
Viejo/a
  • Un viejo amigo = alguien que es nuestro amigo por muchos años = an old friend.
  • Un amigo viejo = un amigo que tiene muchos años = a friend who is old.
Antiguo/a
  • Mi antiguo coche = el coche que tengo antes del actual = my previous car.
  • Mi coche antiguo = un coche que tiene muchos años = my antique car.
Solo/a
  • Hay un solo hombre = solamente un hombre presente.
  • Hay un hombre solo = un hombre sin compañía (alone) o solitario (lonely).
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