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Overview

Some adjectives need to be shortened when they go before, or precede, a singular and masculine noun. This helps make both the pronunciation and flow of the phrase a bit easier. The official grammar term for this process is “apocopation.”

  • Bueno - Nico es un buen chico. (Nico is a good guy.)
  • Santo - Es la iglesia de San Diego (It is Saint Diego’s church.)
  • Tercero - Pablo es el tercer niño. (Pablo is the third child.)
  • Malo - No seas un mal amigo (Don´t be a bad friend.)

Common Apócopes: Short Form Adjectives

Not all adjectives are shortened when they precede a singular masculine noun, but the ones that do simply drop the -o ending to form the apócope.

  • bueno - buen (good)
  • malo - mal (bad)
  • postrero - postrer (final, last)
  • uno - un (one, a)
  • primero - primer (first)
  • tercero - tercer (third)
  • alguno - algún (some) *
  • ninguno - ningún (none) *

* Notice that algún and ningún carry a written accent mark, or tilde, to maintain the correct syllabification, or word stress.

Santo is also an adjective that is shortened by dropping the -o ending, but only with certain nouns. It is not shortened with names that begin with Do- or To-, or when it precedes a common noun.

  • San Francisco
  • San Miguel
  • Santo Domingo
  • Santo Tomás
  • El santo templo
  • Todo el santo día

Other short form adjectives are:

  • ciento - cien (one hundred)
  • cualquiera - cualquier (any, whatever)
  • grande - gran (great, large)

Grande is shortened when it precedes both masculine and feminine singular nouns and even when there is another interceding word.

  • Vive en una gran casa. (She lives is a great house.)
  • Es un gran músico. (He is a great musician.)
  • Es el gran último diálogo escrito por Platón. (It is the last great dialogue written by Plato.)

The short form of grande is not employed when (1) it appears in a superlative, (2) it is used in an exclamatory with the word cuán, or (3) it appears in coordination with other adjectives. 
Superlative:

  • Es el más grande festival del mundo.
  • Es la más grande obra de ficción jamás contada.

Exclamatory with "cuán"

  • ¡Cuán grande es la fortuna!
  • Todavía no se sabe cuán grandes serán las pérdidas.

Coordination with other adjectives

  • La grande pero fragmentaria colección de la literatura medieval española.
  • La grande y noble nación mexicana.

 

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