Position of Adjectives in Spanish Grammar

Introduction

The position of adjectives in Spanish grammar varies. Generally, adjectives are placed after the noun they describe. However, in certain situations, an adjective can be placed before a noun. Be careful, because some adjectives change their meaning when they are placed before a noun.

Learn about the position of adjectives in Spanish sentences with Lingolia. In the exercises, you can practise what you have learnt.

General

  • Usually, an adjective comes after a noun in Spanish.
    Example:
    la mesa negrathe black table
  • Sometimes adjectives are also placed before a noun. This is done to emphasise the adjective or to give the phrase a literally or poetic tone. Be careful not to overuse this literary device as it is not the natural word order in Spanish and can sound clumsy when used incorrectly.
    Example:
    la bonita florthe beautiful flower
  • Numerical adjectives are usually placed before a noun, but they can also be placed after a noun.
Example:
el primer capítulo/el capítulo primerothe first chapter
  • Some adjectives change their meaning when placed before a noun.
    Example:
    una mujer grandea tall woman
    physical quality
    una gran mujera great woman
    personal quality

Info

The adjectives primero, tercero, bueno, malo and grande drop their ending when placed before a noun: primer/tercer/beun/mal/gran + noun. However, this change does not occur when the adjective is feminine or plural.

Example:
el primer libro/el libro primerothe first book
la primera novela/la novela primerathe first novel
las primeras palabra/las palabras primerasthe first words

With the exception of grande which changes in the masculine and feminine singular forms.

Example:
la gran violinista the great violinist
el gran pianistathe great pianist
los grandes músicosthe great musicians

Change of Meaning

Some adjectives change their meaning depending on their position in a sentence. Some of the most frequent examples are listed in the table below.

adjective meaning before a noun meaning after a noun examples
antiguo former old
  • mi antigua casamy former/old house
    the house where I used to live
  • una casa antiguaan old house
cierto certain sure
  • una cierta edada certain age
  • una cosa ciertaa sure thing
curioso strange curious (intrigued)
  • una curiosa historiaa strange story
  • un niño curiosoa curious child
grande tall great, cool
  • un hombre grandea tall man
  • un gran hombrea great man
pobre poor (pitiful) poor (financially)
  • el pobre hombrea poor (pitiful) man
  • un hombre pobrea poor (penniless) man
próximo next (in order) next (soon, coming)
  • la próxima vezthe next time
  • la semana próximathe next (coming) week
puro just, simply pure, fresh
  • una pura formailidada pure formality
  • el aire purofresh air
solo single, only alone, lonely
  • una sola vezonly one time
  • un hombre solo a lonely man
simple humble, modest simple
  • un simple poetaa humble poet
  • un poema simplea simple poem
único one, single unique
  • una única mujerone single woman
  • una mujer únicaa unique woman
verdadero real (for emphasis) true
  • un verdadero problemaa real problem
  • una historia verdaderaa true story