Word order with adjectives in Spanish is quite different from English. Spanish adjectives usually go after the noun they are describing, although sometime you can find them before. In that case, the meaning can change depending on their position in the sentence. Notice that in general, Spanish is more flexible than English with word placement.
Position of adjectives in a sentence
1. When adjectives and nouns are next to each other, the adjective usually goes after the noun: Un ruido sorprendente (surprising noise), los precios altos (high prices). But it is not always like this.
2. Most of the adjectives always go after the noun:
- Colour: un gato negro (a black cat), los vinos tintos (red wines)…
- Shape: una mesa redonda (a round table), un pastel cuadrado (a square cake)…
- Nationality: la cocina española (Spanish cooking), la bandera americana (the American flag)…
- An adjective with an adverb: un lugar muy tranquilo (a very quite place), una casa bastante pequeña (a fairly small house)…
3. A few adjectives always go before the noun:
- Numbers: cuatro naranjas (four oranges), el primer piso (first floor)…
- Other adjectives relating to quantity such as ambos (both), bastante (enough), demasiado (too much), mucho (much/many), poco (little/few), tanto (so much/so many), todo (each/every/all): tengo bastante patatas (I have enough potatoes), la sopa tiene demasiada sal (the soup has too much salt)…
- Possessive and demonstrative adjectives: mi madre (my mother), nuestro libro (our book), esta chaqueta (this jacket)…
4. Adjectives which normally go after the noun can be put before it for emphasis:
- El sorprendente ruido (the surprising noise).
- El horrible animal (the horrible animal).
- Los altos precious (the high prices).
5. Some adjectives actually change their meaning depending on whether they go before or after the noun:
- Un antiguo hospital (a former hospital). / Un hospital antiguo (an ancient hospital).
- Un gran hombre (a great man). / Un hombre grande (a big man).
- Media hora (half an hour). / El estudiante medio (the average student).
- La misma cosa (the same thing). / La cosa misma (the thing itself).
- Una nueva casa (a new house). / Una casa nueva (a brand new house).
- Un país pobre (a por country). / ¡Pobre Juan! (Poor Juan!).
- La pura verdad (the plain truth). / El aire puro (clean air).
- Un viejo amigo (an old friend). / Un amigo viejo (an elder friend).
Order of adjectives in Spanish activities and exercises
Now, it is time to practice word order with adjectives with these quizzes and remember to contact your tutor with any question you have about word order with adjectives in Spanish. Don’t you have a Spanish personal tutor yet?
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