How to Form Spanish Adjectives According to Gender and Number

If you’re a language lover, you know that each language brings its own set of challenges to the learner. For instance, English, with its idiosyncratic spelling-to-sound correspondences, often leaves foreign students bewildered, with vowels like A having different pronunciations in words like apple, name and ball. Contrastingly, Spanish pronunciation tends to be more straightforward, with each vowel having a relatively consistent sound. However, when it comes to grammar things are totally different. While English adjectives remain unchanged regardless of the noun’s gender or number—meaning “a tall girl,” “a tall boy,” “tall girls,” and “tall boys” all use “tall” as the adjective—Spanish adjectives can have four possible forms depending on whether the subject is masculine, feminine, singular, or plural!

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In this blog, we’ll tell you how to form adjectives so your Spanish grammar is always spotless.

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How Spanish Adjectives Change According to Gender

In Spanish, adjectives agree with the nouns they modify in gender. Typically, Spanish adjecti es that describe masculine nouns end in “-o”, while those describing feminine nouns end in “-a”:

Un chico muy alto

A very tall boy

Una chica muy alta

A very tall girl

This rule helps to maintain grammatical harmony within the sentence, ensuring that both the noun and its adjective share the same gender and number characteristics.

However, the concept of gender in Spanish extends beyond the biological differences between men and women or how specific speakers may feel about their gender. In Spanish, grammatical gender is a feature that applies to all nouns, including inanimate objects, places, and abstract concepts. For instance, “el libro” (the book) is masculine, while “la novela” (the novel) is feminine.

Un libro aburrido
A boring book

Una novela aburrida
A boring novel

This gender agreement is crucial in Spanish, affecting not only Spanish adjectives but also articles (el/la for “the”, un/una for “a”) and pronouns, thereby influencing a significant portion of sentence construction in the language.

A mug with the words "La vida bonita" on it.

Genderless Spanish adjectives

However, not all Spanish adjectives strictly adhere to the gender distinction outlined above. Some adjectives are considered genderless and can be used with nouns of any gender without changing their form. These Spanish adjectives typically end in “-e” and maintain the same shape whether they are describing masculine or feminine nouns, eliminating the need to adjust the adjective’s ending based on the noun’s gender.

Examples of such genderless adjectives include “caliente” (hot), “potente” (powerful), “valiente” (brave), and “interesante” (interesting). For example:

Una película interesante
An interesting movie

Un director interesante
An interesting director

Exceptionally, a few genderless Spanish adjectives can also end in other letters such as -a, which is usually reserved for feminine words, and even with a consonant. These adjectives can be categorized as follows:

Ending in a vowel:

Ending in –ista: optimista (optimistic), pesimista (pessimistic).

Ending in -ícola: For example, agrícola (agricultural), avícola (poultry).

Ending in –i: For example, sefaradí (Sephardic), israelí (Israeli).

Ending in –u: For example, hindú (Hindu), tisú (tissue).

Ending in a consonant:

Ending in -al/-il: For example, final (final), ágil (agile).

Ending in –ar/-or: For example, popular (popular), superior (superior).

Ending in -z: For example, audaz (bold), infeliz (unhappy), precoz (precocious).

Ending in -s: For example, gratis (free), dos (two).

Cardinals: For example, cinco (five), nueve (nine).

Colors: For example, verde (green), naranja (orange).

How Spanish Adjectives Change According to Number

In addition to gender, Spanish adjectives also change their endings according to the number of the nouns they describe, reflecting whether the noun is singular or plural. The rule is straightforward: for most adjectives, to form the plural, simply add an “-s” if the adjective ends in a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) and “-es” if it ends in a consonant:

Pequeños (small)

Ágiles (agile)

So, going back to previous examples, this is how they would change from singular to plural:

Dos chicos muy altos
Very tall boys

Chicas muy altas
Very tall girls

Libros aburridos
Boring books

Novelas aburridas
Boring novels

Películas interesantes
An interesting movie

Directores interesantes
Interesting directors

Gratis: An Unvariable Spanish Adjective

Gratis, meaning ‘free’ (as in ‘you don’t have to pay for it’) is the only Spanish adjective that never changes, regardless of gender or number distinctions:

Un viaje gratis (singular, masculine)
A free trip

Viajes gratis (singular, masculine)
Free trips

Una cena gratis (singular, feminine)
A free dinner

Cenas gratis (singular, plural)
Free dinners

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Learn Spanish with Language Trainers

Learning how to use Spanish adjectives is like polishing a gem; you don’t necessarily need to unearth more vocabulary. Instead, by refining how you use the words you already know, you make your speech shimmer with a native-like quality. This understanding not only boosts your grammatical correctness but also enriches your communication, allowing you to express nuances and details with precision.

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