Adjectives in Spanish Grammar

What is an adjective?

Adjectives (los adjetivos) are words that describe nouns and pronouns. They explain how something or someone is and can provide details about qualities, relations, quantities, time and places.

Spanish adjectives generally come after the noun they describe and in some special cases they precede the noun. Learn more about adjective placement with Lingolia.

Adjectives always agree in gender and number with the noun they are describing. Read more about adjective endings and learn about the masculine, feminine, singular and plural forms of Spanish adjectives.

Types of adjectives in Spanish

We can classify Spanish adjectives into four types: descriptive, relational, adverbial and adjectives that serve as nouns. The type of adjective dictates its placement in the sentence and determines whether it can be used in a comparative or superlative structure or not.

Descriptive adjectives

Descriptive adjectives refer to qualities. These can be physical (colour, size etc.) as well as abstract (state of being, characteristics etc.)

ojos verdes y grandesbig green eyes
persona feliza happy person

Only descriptive adverbs can be used in comparative and superlative structures.

Relational adjectives

These adjectives allow us to classify the nouns they describe into a certain group or category.

una cuchara sopera → relational adjectivea soup spoon
type of spoon: to eat soup
una cuchara brillante → descriptive adjectivea shiny spoon
description of the spoon: shiny

Adverbial adjectives

Adverbial adjectives have a similar meaning to adverbs; they don’t describe a noun but rather they express concepts of time (actual, presente, futuro, frecuente etc.current, present, future, frequent) or manner (probable, seguro, presunto, supuesto etc.probable, certain, supposed).

La actual ministra de hacienda.The current minister for finance.

These adjectives always come before the noun and cannot be used in comparative forms; for example, it is not possible to say «esta ministra es más actual que esa»This minister is more current than that one..

Adjectives acting as nouns

In certain phrases adjectives can act as nouns. We can use an adjective in place of a noun when the adjective indicates a defining feature; that is to say, the noun can be identified solely by the adjective. These adjectives are usually accompanied by the article.

—¿Cuál es tu coche?Which is your car?
—El amarillo.The yellow one.

Adjectives in a sentence

Adjectives can be the subject or the object of a sentence as long as they describe a noun. Normally, the noun is attached to the adjective, however it is also possible that an adjective appears as the predicate (after a verb) when it describes a noun that is the subject of the sentence.

Adjectives that follow the verbs ser, estar and parecer (verbos copulativos) are known as attributes (atributos). After all other verbs they are known as adjetivos predicativos. In both cases, the adjective agrees with the noun it describes.

Los ojos verdes son poco comunes en España.
Los ojos de tu hermana son verdes.

Adjective or adverb?

When an adjective follows a verb rather than a noun it is difficult to tell whether it is an adjective or an adverb. However, there is a simple trick to tell the difference between adjectives and adverbs in Spanish: if the word in question agrees with the noun it is an adjective; if the word does not agree it is an adverb. This is because adjectives must agree in gender and number with the noun they describe, while adverbs only have one form and never refer to a noun.

Madre e hija se ríen felices. → adjectiveMother and daughter laugh happily.
Madre e hija se ríen alto. → adverbMother and daughter laugh loudly.

Such adjectives are best expressed by adverbs in the English translation.

Read our page on adjective or adverb to master the difference between the two and test your knowledge in the exercises.