Where do you put adjectives in Spanish? Before or after nouns?

When you first start learning Spanish you are normally told that adjectives, (descriptive words) should be placed after the noun. As you become more advanced you realise that this is not always the case. You do sometimes see adjectives before nouns. The truth is that there are some cases when it is better to put the adjective before the noun and how it can sometimes change the meaning. Here we will look at where to place adjectives in different contexts:

Place adjectives AFTER the noun in the following cases:

• Most descriptive adjectives; colour, nationality or classification of nouns:

la casa blanca (the white house), el coche rojo (the red car), la bicicleta verde (the green bike)
el hombre chileno (the Chilean man), la chica inglesa (the English girl), el niño español (the Spanish boy)
el bar irlandés (the Irish bar), la tienda china (the Chinese shop), el puente romano (the Roman bridge)

• If the adjective is modified by a noun:

un libro muy interesante – a very interesting book
una película tan emocionante – such an exciting film
un apartamento bastante barato – quite a cheap apartment

• When using two adjectives, they both go after the noun:

una mujer fuerte e inteligente – a strong and intelligent woman
un restaurante caro y moderno – an expensive and modern restaurant

When you can put adjectives BEFORE the noun:

• To emphasise or add appreciation to the noun:

el hombre grandethe big man
el gran hombrethe great man
(“grande” becomes “gran” before a masculine, singular noun)

un profesor buenoa good teacher
un buen profesora really good teacher
(“bueno” becomes “buen” before a masculine, singular noun)

• Adjectives that normally go with that particular noun:

la blanca nievethe white snow (snow is normally white)
las altas montañasthe high mountains (mountains are normally high)

• Non-descriptive adjectives such as describing quantity go before nouns:

poca gentefew people
muchos niñosmany children
algunas tiendassome shops

• Possessive adjectives (describing who things belong to) go before nouns:

mi trabajomy work
tu madreyour mother
nuestros vecinosour neighbours

When certain adjectives can CHANGE the meaning depending on whether they are before or after the noun:

el pobre hombrethe poor man (he is in a bad situation)
el hombre pobrethe poor man (he has very little money)

el nuevo coche – the new car (a different one but not necessarily completely new)
el coche nuevo
the new car (a completely new car)

mi vieja amigamy friend (who you have been friends with for a long time)
mi amiga viejamy friend (who is elderly)

la misma tiendathe same shop
la tienda mismathe shop itself

mi propio libromy own book
el libro propiothe correct/appropriate book

un solo perroa single dog
un perro soloa lonely dog

la única personathe only person
una persona únicaa unique person

 
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