Adjective Placement | SpanishDict Answers
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Overview

In English, adjectives always precede, or go before, the noun they describe. In Spanish, most of the time, it is the opposite.

In General, adjectives follow the nouns they describe. There are a few exceptions to the rule, however, which are explained below.

Adjective Placement Exceptions

1. Descriptive adjectives that emphasize an essential quality of a noun

Exception

These adjectives are placed in front of the noun. An essential quality of a noun is something that is implicitly obvious about a noun even without the adjective being present.

  • El valiente león protege su teritorio. (The brave lion protects his territory.)
  • La dulce miel es deliciosa en pan tostado. (Sweet honey is delicious on toast.)
  • Las verdes hojas del árbol cantan en el viento. (The green leaves of the tree sing in the breeze.)

2. Limiting adjectives A limiting adjective is any adjective that defines a number or amount of a noun, even if it is not specific.

Exception

These adjectives are placed in front of the noun.

  • Los niños quieren ocho helados. (The children want eight icecreams.)
  • Yo tengo menos dinero que mi hermana. (I have less money than my sister.)
  • Hay pocas naranjas este verano. (There are few oranges this summer.)
  • Tienes suficiente tiempo. (You have sufficient time.)

Below you will find a list of common limiting adjectives. Remember that all numbers are limiting adjectives as well.

Limiting Adjectives

alguno some
bastante enough
cuanto as much
mucho a lot
ninguno no, none
poco a little
suficiente sufficient, enough
varios various, some, a few

3. Possessive or demonstrative adjectives A possessive or demonstrative adjective specifies whose noun or to which noun the sentence refers.

Exception

These adjectives are placed in front of the noun.

  • Mi hermana es alta. (My sister is tall.)
  • Nuestro perro es muy amable. (Our dog is very friendly.)
  • Este arbol tiene muchas manzanas. (This tree has a lot of apples.)
  • Estas sillas son cómodas. (These chairs are comfortable.)

4. Meaning-changing adjectives

Some adjectives can mean different things depending on their placement around the noun they modify. When placed after the noun like normal, the adjective carries a fairly objective, descriptive meaning. When placed before the noun, the adjective carries a more subjective, opinionated meaning.

  • Cien años de soledad es un gran libro.(One Hundred Years of Solitude is a great book.)
  • Yo tengo una casa grande. (I have a big house.)
  • Pablo es mi viejo amigo. (Pablo is my long-time friend.)
  • Juanita es mi amiga vieja. (Juanita is my elderly friend.)

Below you will find a list of common meaning-changing adjectives with their meanings when they are placed before and after the noun.

before the noun after the noun
alto top/high-class tall
antiguo former old/ancient
bueno simple/good good/gentle/generous
cierto certain true/right
cualquier any (of those available) any (type doesn´t matter)
dulce good/nice sweet
grande great big
mismo same himself/herself
nuevo another new
pobre unfortunate poor
propio his/her own especially for someone
puro sheer pure
raro rare strange
simple mere simple
triste only sad
único only unique
varios several different
viejo former/long-time old/aged

Exercises

1) Decide which blank the adjective should be placed in each sentence.

Example: ___|\___| hermana \___|\___|\___| es muy amable. (mi)

-> Mi hermana es muy amable.

  1. Las ___|\___|\___|_ hormigas \___|\___|\___|\___|_ trabajan todo el verano. (trabajadores)
  2. ¿Quién tiene las ___|\___|\___|__ respuestas ___|\___|\___|\___|\___|? (correctas)
  3. Hay ___|\___|__ hamburguesas ___|\___|\___|_ aquí. (tres)
  4. ¿Tienes ___|\___|\___|__ canciones___|\___|\___|\___|_ de Shakira? (algunas)
  5. ___|\___|\___| computadora \___|\___|\___|__ es de mi hermano. (esta)

2) Translate each sentence from English to Spanish paying attention to the meaning-changing adjectives.

Example: One certain day, I went to the zoo. En un cierto día, fui al zoológico.

  1. My husband is the only man in my life.
  2. Pablo is a really unique guy.
  3. Her car is old.
  4. She is a long-time friend.
  5. Sweet dreams!
  6. These are sweet cookies.

Answers:

Part 1

  1. trabajadores hormigas
  2. respuestas correctas
  3. tres hamburguesas
  4. algunas canciones
  5. Esta computadora

Part 2

  1. Mi esposo es el único hombre en mi vida.
  2. Pablo es un hombre único.
  3. Su coche es viejo.
  4. Ella es una vieja amiga.
  5. ¡Dulce sueños!
  6. Estas son galletas dulces.
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