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Adjectives in Spanish Sentences: Does the Order Matter?

Let’s chat about where you are supposed to place your adjectives in the sentence because, indeed, the order matters.

Adjectives generally follow nouns

In Spanish, you’ll generally place adjectives in sentences after the noun. However, this would depend on the type of adjective you’re using.

In the case of descriptive adjectives, you place the adjective after the noun it describes. For example, you never say el ruidoso teléfono; instead, you’d say el teléfono ruidoso (the loud phone). This doesn’t change depending on the country, region, or dialect: the rule is the same for all Spanish-speaking countries.

What happens when we need to use more than one adjective to describe a noun? Well, the same rule applies: adjectives will generally go after the noun they describe. Let’s look at some examples:

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City life!
Image by Kddzphoto from Pixabay

When word order affects meaning

With that said, there are some descriptive adjectives that can be placed before or after the noun. Depending on where you place them, the sense of the sentence will change. 

Consider the following example:

Here, we can see that the adjective pobre (poor) appears before the noun hombre (man). We’re talking about a man who inspires empathy, who’s probably going through a difficult situation. Now check what happens if we place the adjective after the noun:

In this new example, by placing the adjective after the noun, the meaning changes completely. Now we’re talking about a man who doesn’t have any money.

Adjectives that go before the noun

There are some types of adjectives that we would want to place before the noun, as these do not describe a characteristic. For instance, let’s take possessive adjectives, which indicate who or what possesses or owns the noun. For example:

Here, we need to place the adjective mi (my) before the noun perro (dog) for the sentence to make sense. 

Note: The above example is in the imperative. Such sentences normally only include the predicate (composed of verb + direct object, indirect object, etc.) The subject is often omitted, which is why it is known as the tacit subject.

Great work! You’re now ready to start using adjectives in your Spanish sentences.

Written by Humberto Aparicio

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