Adjective or Adverb in Spanish Grammar

Introduction

It’s not always easy to distinguish between adjectives and adverbs in Spanish grammar. Adjectives describe nouns while adverbs describe verbs, adjectives and other adverbs.

Learn when to use adjectives and when to use adverbs with Lingolia’s simple overview and examples. In the exercises, you can practise what you have learnt.

Example

Los tres ratones Parchís, Bolita y Bellota ordenan rápidamente las carpetas. Parchís y Bolita son más rápidos que Bellota.

Los ratones están felices y nos miran riéndose. Han hecho un buen trabajo. Incluso Bellota, que siempre trabaja más despacio, ha trabajado realmente bien.

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Adjective or Adverb

Adjectives describe nouns (What is someone/something one like?) They agree with their corresponding noun in number and gender.

Example:
Los ratones están felices y nos miran riéndose.The mice are happy and look at smiling.

What are the mice like? – happy

Han hecho un buen trabajo. They’ve done good work.

How is their work? – good
bueno loses the o before a masculine noun in the singular.

Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, or entire clauses (How does someone do something? How good/bad/… is someone/something?). We can form adverbs in Spanish by adding the ending -mente.

Example:
Han trabajado felizmente.They worked happily.

How did they work? – happily
feliz → felizmente

Han trabajado bien.They worked well.

How did they work? – well
bueno → bien

To Note

The following adjectives often come before the noun and in that case they drop their masculine ending o in the singular: primer(o), mal(o), buen(o), tercer(o).

Example:
Tengo un mal día.I’m having a bad day. (adjective)
El ejercicio está mal hecho.The exercise is done badly. (adverb)

Adverbs that look like adjectives

Some Spanish adjectives are used as adverbs with certain verbs. These are known as adverbios adjetivales and can be recognised by their -o ending, which never changes – no matter whether the noun is masculine or feminine, singular or plural. The table below lists the most commonly occurring verbs + adverbs that look like adjectives.

Example:
Ella corre rápido/lento.She runs fast/slowly.
Ellos hablan alto/bajo.They speak loudly/softly.
Las chicas se levantan temprano.The girls get up early.
verb adverbio adjetival example
arrojar, colocar, poner, subir, volarthrow, place, put, go up, fly alto, bajohigh, low La avioneta vuela muy alto.The small plane is flying very high.
cantar, conversar, decir, hablar, llamar, pronunciarsing, chat, say, talk, call, pronounce alto, bajo, fuerte, recio, claroloudly, softly, hard, harshly, clearly Mi vecina canta muy alto.My neighbour sings very loudly
comprar, venderbuy, sell barato, carocheaply/affordably, expensively Nunca he comprado tan barato.I’ve never shopped so affordably.
ir (a uno), pasar(lo), sentirsespend time, feel bárbaro, fenomenal/fenómenogreat, fantastically Nos lo hemos pasado fenomenal.We had a fantastic time.
lavarwash (más) blancowhite(r) Esta lejía lava más blanco que esta otra.This bleach washes whiter than the other one.
oír, verhear, see claroclearly Yo lo veo claro.I see it clearly.
caminar, continuar, ir, salir, seguir, venirwalk, go on, go, leave, keep, come derecho, recto, rápido, despaciodirectly, straight, quickly, slowly Después de trabajar iré derecho a casa.After work, I’m going straight home.
pensar, opinarthink, believe distintodifferently Ya sabes que en ese tema él piensa distinto.You know that he thinks differently about this topic.
trabajarwork duro, fuertehard, intensively Los empleados trabajan muy duro.The employees work very hard.
dar, pegarstrike, hit duroviolently, hard El policía le dió duro al ladrón.The policeman struck the thief hard.
ir, pasar, oírgo, hear fatalbadly Mis abuelos oyen fatal.My grandparents hear very badly.
mirarlook fijointently, carefully Hay que mirar muy fijo para poder ver una estrella fugaz.You have to look very carefully to be able to see a shooting star.
pisarstep fuerte, firmehard, firmly, securely Pisa tan fuerte como puedas para no resbalarte.Step as solidly as you can, so you don’t slip.
granizar, llover, nevar, tronarhail, rain, snow, thunder fuerteheavily, a lot Hoy nieva muy fuerte.Today it’s snowing heavily.
calar, clavar, enterrar, penetrar, respirar, herirmake an impression, nail, bury, penetrate, breathe, injure hondodeeply, intensely Esa película me ha calado muy hondo.This film touched me deeply.
conversar, hablarchat, talk largo (y tendido)extensively, at great length He hablado largo y tendido con mi jefe.I spoke at great length with my boss.
abrir, conocer, enterarse (de), escribir, hablar, levantarse, llegar, pensar, poseer, trabajar, subiropen, know, find out, write, talk, get up, arrive, own, work, go up primero, rápido, pronto, tempranofirst, quickly, early, soon Hay que enterarse primero de dónde tenemos que ir.We have to figure out where we’re going first.