Grammar Guide
Adjectives
Short-Form Adjectives in Spanish

Short-Form Adjectives in Spanish

Quick Answer

Some Spanish adjectives need to be shortened when they come before a noun. The fancy term for this shortening process is apocopation.

For example:

Original AdjectiveShortened AdjectiveExample

bueno

buen

Nico es un buen chico.

malo

mal

No seas un mal amigo.

Common Shortened Adjectives

Quite a few common adjectives are shortened when they are used before a noun, especially if that noun is singular and masculine. Here's a list of some you're likely to come across.

Original AdjectiveShortened AdjectiveEnglish
bueno
buen
good
malo
mal
bad
uno
un
one, a
primero
primer
first
tercero
tercer
third
cualquiera
cualquier
any, whatever
alguno
algún
some
ninguno
ningún
none

Cualquier or Cualquiera?

The adjective cualquiera is always shortened to cualquier when it comes before a singular masculine noun.

Cualquier hombre haría lo mismo. (Any man would do the same.)

Cualquiera hombre haría lo mismo. (Any man would do the same.)

When it comes before a singular feminine noun, cualquiera can be shortened to cualquier or left as is. Latin American speakers tend to use the shortened form, while speakers of Peninsular Spanish tend to leave the adjective in the original long form.

No soy cualquier mujer. (I'm not just any woman.)

No soy cualquiera mujer. (I'm not just any woman.)

Santo Cielo

Santo is an adjective that is shortened only before certain nouns. It is not shortened with names that begin with Do- or To- or when it precedes a common noun.

San Francisco
Saint Francis
San Miguel
Saint Michael
Santo Domingo
Saint Dominic
Santo Tomás
Saint Thomas
el santo templo
the holy temple
todo el santo día
all day long (literally: the whole sainted day)

Grande

Big Changes

Grande is shortened when it precedes both masculine and feminine singular nouns.

Vive en una gran casa.
She lives is a great house.
Es un gran músico.
He is a great musician.

Big Exceptions

The short form of grande is not used when

  • it's used in the comparative or superlative
  • it's used in an exclamatory with the word cuán
  • when it appears in coordination with other adjectives
Soy más grande que tú.
I'm bigger than you.
Es el festival más grande del mundo.
It's the biggest festival in the world.
Todavía no se sabe cuán grandes serán las pérdidas.
How great the losses will be is still unknown.
La grande y noble nación mexicana superará esto.
The great and noble Mexican people will rise above this.

Ciento or Cien

The adjective ciento (one hundred) becomes cien before a noun when it means exactly one hundred. You'll also see the shortened form used before numerals like mil (thousand) and millón (million).

cien dólares
one hundred dollars
cien mil pesos
one hundred thousand pesos
cien millones de euros
one hundred million euros

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