Noun-Adjective Agreement
(La concordancia entre sustantivo y adjetivo)


In Spanish, unlike in English, adjectives must agree in both gender and number with the nouns they modify. For example, in English the adjective "red" remains the same in the phrases "one red shoe", "two red shoes", "one red shirt" and "two red shirts". Compare the Spanish equivalents of these phrases:
un zapato rojo
dos zapatos rojos
una camisa roja
dos camisas rojas

This remains true even when the adjective is separated from the noun, sometimes in another sentence:

Estas camisas de seda son exquisitas. El único problema es que salen muy caras.

Most Spanish adjectives, like rojo, caro, and exquisito, have four different forms: masculine singular and plural and feminine singular and plural. However, some adjectives have plural forms, but not different masculine and feminine forms. One example is azul:
un zapato azul
dos zapatos azules
una camisa azul
dos camisas azules

Other adjectives with the same form in both masculine and feminine include verde, gris, marrón, inteligente, interesante, fácil, difícil, útil. As you can see, many adjectives of this type end in -l or -e.

Most adjectives have the same form whether they go before or after the noun that they modify, like exquisitas: exquistas camisas / camisas exquisitas. However, there are a few adjectives that have different forms when they are used before nouns. Many of the most commonly used adjectives in Spanish, such as bueno, malo, and grande, fall into this category, so it is important to be aware of this. The other tricky thing about these adjectives is that for some of them, the form only changes in the masculine! The examples below should illustrate all of the different forms:

GRAN/GRANDE/GRANDES: gran is used when the adjective comes before the noun, in both the masculine and feminine singular forms. The plural is always grandes.
Esta es una gran universidad.
Esta es una universidad grande.
Este es un gran libro.
Este es un libro grande.
Tenemos dos grandes problemas.
Tenemos dos problemas grandes.

BUEN/BUENO/BUENA/BUENOS/BUENAS: buen is used before masculine nouns only; before a feminine noun, buena is used and is not shortened. The plural forms are always buenos and buenas.
Roberta es una buena amiga.
Roberto es un buen amigo.
Roberta y Emilia son buenas amigas.
Roberto y Emilio son buenos amigos.
Roberto es un hombre bueno.

MAL/MALO/MALA/MALOS/MALAS: These work like buen/bueno; the shortened form mal is only used before masculine singular nouns.
Es una mala idea.
Es un mal consejo.
Son malas ideas.
Son malos consejos.
Roberto es un hombre malo.

PRIMER/PRIMERO/PRIMERA/PRIMEROS/PRIMERAS: Again, like buen/bueno, the shortened form primer is only used before masculine singular nouns. The word for "third", tercer/o/a/os/as, works the same way.
Hoy es el primer día de la semana.
Esta es la primera semana del semestre.
Estos son los primeros días de la semana.
Estas son las primeras semanas del semestre.

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