Language is the amber in which a thousand precious and subtle thoughts have been safely embedded and preserved.

Richard Chevenix Trench (1807–86)

Chapter 3   --   Modifiers

We often describe things by using words such as big, small, easy, and so on.   Words which describe nouns are called adjectives.
There are three types of adjectives, namely factual (which state a fact), judgmental (which give an opinion), and numerical (which give a quantity or number).
In Spanish, adjectives which are factual follow the nouns they modify.   As in English, adjectives which are judgmental or numerical precede the nouns they modify.

examples:              the white house                         -->la casa blanca (the house is, in fact, white)

                             the ugly house                          -->la fea casa (It is my opinion that the house is ugly)

                             She has so many ideas.             -->Ella tiene tantas ideas. (the expression 'so many' refers to quantity)

                             He has ten books.                     -->El tiene diez libros. (there is a number, ten)

                             The note is on the fifth page.    -->La nota está en la quinta página. (fifth is a number)

Nouns cannot be used as adjectives .   If a noun is used to describe another noun, the two words are connected by de.

          examples :    a steel tank = un tanque de fierro      a gold ring   = un anillo de oro         a wooden table = una mesa de madera

                   The plural forms will be tanques de fierro, anillos de oro, mesas de madera. Notice that that the noun which follows de is not pluralized.

Articles and adjectives must agree in number and gender with the word that is modified.

          examples :    la casa blanca   -->   las casas blancas                 el toro negro      -->   los toros negros

A few adjectives have a shortened form when they are used BEFORE a masculine, singular noun.   Those adjectives are:

uno, one, a, an un carro, a cart
bueno, good un buen auto, a good car
malo, bad un mal mes, a bad month
primero, first el primer año, the first year
tercero, third el tercer toro, the third bull
alguno, some algún día, some day
ninguno, none ningún vehículo, no vehicle

If there is a preposition between the adjective and the noun, then the full form is used.

            example: one of the four men              uno de los cuatro hombres


The adjective grande, when used before a singular noun, is shortened to gran.

          examples:    una gran doña, a great lady     un gran evento, a great event

The word for the number 100 is cien, which becomes ciento when used in combination with any other number.

          examples :    cien dólares (100 dollars)        cien muchachas (100 girls)        cientodiez libras (110 pounds)        cientoveinteycinco dólares ($125)

Other than one hundred, the hundreds are adjectives, and agree with the noun they modify.

examples :    doscientas tres flores (203 flowers)    cuatrocientos hombres (400 men)


If an adjective ends with a vowel, its plural is made by adding an s.

          examples :    fea   --->    feas          verde  -->   verdes          rojo  -->    rojos

If an adjective ends with a consonant, its plural is made by adding - es.

          examples:    critical   -->    criticales        popular   -->      populares


The position of an adjective can change the meaning of the word.

example :      Lincoln fue un gran presidente.         Lincoln was a great president.       ( Lincoln is regarded as a very good president.)

                   El Hulk es un hombre grande .            The Hulk is a big man.                   (He is physically a large person.)

The use of an adjective with the verbs ser or estar might have a different meaning.

example :      La fruta es verde.                                The fruit is green (in color).

                   La fruta está verde.                             The fruit is green (not ripe).


Common adjectives used to express quantity are:

alguna -as -o -os, some cada, each or every
cuanta -as -o -os, as much más, more
menos, less mucha -as -o -os, much or many
ninguna -as -o -os, none numerosas -os, numerous
poca -as -o -os, little or few tanta -as -o -os, so much or so many
unas -os, some or a few varias -os, several or various

As with the nouns, many similarities exist between the two languages, and a summary follows.

English ending Spanish ending examples
-able -able abominable, deplorable, perdonable
-al -al final, total, usual
-an -ana, -ano americano, colombiana, peruano
-ant -ante importante, ignorante
-ed -ado, ido importado, complicado, unido
-ent -ente
competente, diferente
-enta, ento contento
-ible -ible comprensible, imposible, permisible
-ical -ica, ico lógico, económico
-ic esotérico, público
-ive -iva, ivo deportivo, depresiva, instructivo
-ous -osa, -oso ambicioso, deliciosa, famoso
-ure -ura, -uro madura, impuro


All about the - ly forms

Words which modify verbs are called adverbs.   In Spanish, all verb modifiers (the - ly words in English) are formed by using a feminine adjective and adding the suffix -mente.

examples:   honesta (honest)   -->  honestamente (honestly)     franca (frank)   -->   francamente (frankly)     vertical (vertical)  -->  verticalmente (vertically)


If a series of adverbs is used, the ending -mente is placed on the last word.

            example : José habl ó clara, rápida y facilmente. (Joseph spoke clearly, rapidly, and easily.)


Note:   When only is used to modify a noun, its Spanish forms are sola, -as, -o, - os; when only is used to modify a verb, its Spanish form is sólo, or solamente , with solamente preferred.

          examples:    His only dream was to have money.     Su solo sueño era tener dinero. (Here, the word solo modifies sueño; no accent is used)

                             I only want to see the book.               Sólo quiero ver el libro. (here, the word sólo modifies quiero; an accent is used)

                             We only have five dollars.                 Tenemos solamente cinco dolares. (When modifying verbs, solamente is the preferred form.)

As in English, a phrase can be used.

          example:      He spoke with clarity (clearly).   Él habló con claridad (claramente).

                             They climbed without effort.     Ellos subieron sin esfuerzo.

                             Please, speak slowly.                Por favor, hable con despacio.


A few verb modifiers have fixed forms; the ending - mente is not used.   A summary follows.

abajo, down, below algo, somewhat apenas, hardly
aprisa, fast arriba, up, above bién, well
demasiado,too much despacio, slowly1 después, later
jamás, not ever mal, badly2 más, more
menos, less muy, very nada, nothing
nunca, never pronto, soon siempre, always
tan, so tanto, a lot

            * the word despaciosamente, regarded as formal speech, is only used in Latin America

            ** the word malamente exists, but its usage is less frequent than mal


Taking descriptions to a higher level

Both English and Spanish use two methods to take descriptions to a higher level

          Method one --> add helping words

He spoke more quickly. Hablaba más rápidamente.
He is the better speaker. Él es el mejor orador.
That film was the worst. Esa película era la peor.
It was the most difficult work. Era el más difícil trabajo.
This music is the most intricate. Esta música es la más intrincada.
That train runs less rapidly. Ese tren corre menos rápidamente.
There are fewer persons. Hay menos personas.
We sell it at a very low price. Lo vendemos por un precio muy barato.

Thus,           Good           bella -as -o - os                                        beautiful

                   Better          más bella -as -o - os                                  more beautiful

                   Best             la, las, el, los más bella -as -o - os            the most beautiful

Thus,           Bad              mala -as -o - os                          bad

                   Worse          peor -es                                       worse

                   Worst         la, las, el, los peor -es                   worst

Four adjectives have irregular forms, namely

                   buena -as -o -os              mejor -es      la, las, el, los óptimo -s

                   grande -s                         mayor -es     la, las, el, los grande -s

                   mala -as -o -os                peor -es        la, las, el, los peor -es

                   pequeña -as -o -os          menor -es     la, las, el, los menor -es

          Method two --> add an ending

                   It was the biggest house.                              Era la casa grandísima.

                   This is the slowest horse.                             Este es el caballo lentísimo.

Final vowels are dropped before adding any form of the suffix - ísimo (example: lento, lentísimo).  
Spelling changes occur in words which end in -co, -go, or -z; the -co is changed to - qu; the -go is changed to - gu; the -z is changed to -c.

examples :         fresco -   fresquísimo                largo -  larguísimo                    feroz -  ferocísimo


In the case of adverbs, the final vowel of the adjective is dropped, and the suffix - ísimamente is added.

          example:      lento --> lentísimamente = most slowly

The expression very much is translated as muchísima -as, -o – os.


To compare two things, the following expressions are used:

          tan + an adjective or an adverb + como = as + adjective or adverb + as

          Ella no es tan rica como él .                         She is not as rich as he is.

          Él no es tan alto como Michael Jordan.       He is not as tall as Michael Jordan.

          tanta -as -o - os + noun + como = as much (as many) as

          Él recibió tantas votas como pensó. He received as many votes as he expected.


The expressions the more or the less are translated as follows.

          cuanta -as -o -os más ..., tanta -as -o -os más = the more ... the more

Cuanto más canta tanto más me gusta .       The more he sings, the more I like it.

          cuanta -as -o -os menos ..., tanta -as -o -os menos = the less ... the less

Cuanto menos canta tanto menos me gusta .   The less he sings, the less I like it.

          cuanta -as -o -os menos ..., tanta -as -o -os más = the less ... the more

Cuanto menos canta tanto más me gusta .   The less he sings, the more I like it.

          cuanta -as -o -os más ..., tanta -as -o -os menos = the more ... the less

          Cuanto más canta tanto menos me gusta.   The more he sings, the less I like it.


This book is available from under item number 3352644. Books purchased from Lulu are accompanied by a complete list of irregular verbs and all of their forms.

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