Positioning and shortening adjectives in Spanish

In Spanish, adjectives can be either placed before or after the noun that they are describing. It is mostly common for an adjective to be placed after the noun. However, the placement usually depends on a number of factors:

  • The type of adjective
  • The connotation that wants to be conveyed
  • The emphasis.

In some cases, when there are more adjectives describing a noun, and for this reason, there way that we place them depends on the type of adjectives that we use. Possessive adjectives, along with demonstrative adjectives, and adjectives that describe the quantity, are usually placed before the noun, while descriptive adjectives are placed after the noun.

Adjectives that are placed after the noun

In Spanish, the majority of descriptive adjectives are usually placed after the noun that they describe. Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • Una casa azul (= a blue house)
  • Dos perros feos (= two ugly dogs)
  • Algunas historias especiales (= some special stories).

Adjectives that are placed before the noun

In this category we have adjectives that are used to impose limits, such as: numbers, adjectives of quantity, possessive adjectives, and demonstrative adjectives. In the examples from below, you can see that the possessive adjective su (= his) and the number una (= one) are placed before the noun:

  • Su amiga peruana (= his Peruvian friend)
  • Una manzana roja (= a red apple)

The same happens with descriptive adjectives that are used for describing an inherent characteristic or that are used to emphasize a quality:

  • Tenemos buenos recuerdos de las vacaciones (= We have good memories of the holidays).

Now let’s take a look at how some adjectives are shortened in a couple of situations. These adjectives drop the last –o when placed before a masculine, singular noun. In addition, the words alguno and ninguno, when dropping the final –o, they receive an accent on the u.

  • Uno (one) – un libro (= a book)
  • Bueno (good) – un buen vino (= a good wine)
  • Malo (bad) – un mal hijo (= a bad son)
  • Primero (first) – el primer paso (= the first step)
  • Tercero (third) – el tercer viaje (= the third trip)
  • Alguno (some)- algún momento (= some moment)
  • Ninguno (no) – ningún hombre (= no man)

When you have a preposition between the adjective and the noun, the original form of the adjective is used instead of dropping the –o.

  • Uno de tus amigos (=one of your friends).

Grande becomes gran ( great, important) when placed in front of singular masculine or feminine noun:

  • un gran maestro (= a great master)
  • una gran mujer (= a great woman).

However, it remaind grande when placed after a noun:

  • un hombre grande (= a big man)
  • una casa grande (= a big house).

This is the information that you need to know about shortening and positioning adjectives in Spanish. If you need help with Spanish else, do not hesitate to contact me.

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