Spanish adjectives don't have to be difficult.
Below, I'll list 50 of the most common and useful Spanish adjectives – like the words for common and useful. But first, a brief overview of how adjectives work with Spanish sentence structure.
What is an Adjective Anyway?
An adjective is a word that describes a noun. Examples in English:
- I'm reading an interesting book
- Elephants are big
- I bought a red car
Spanish adjectives work the same way, with just a couple differences to English. Here's what you need to remember:
How Spanish Adjectives Work With Gendered Nouns
As you probably know, every noun in Spanish has a gender – either masculine or feminine. When describing a noun with an adjective, the adjective must agree with the noun in number and gender.
“Agreement” means that the ending of the adjective must be altered depending on the noun's gender, and on whether the noun is singular or plural. For example:
- El libro rojo – the red book (masculine)
- Los libros rojos – the red books (masculine plural)
- La pared roja – the red wall (feminine)
- Las paredes rojas – the red walls (feminine plural)
Notice how the ending of rojo – “red” – changes to match the gender and number of the noun it describes. Let's briefly cover the ways in which an adjective ending might change.
(As for remembering which gender the noun has, remember the cardinal rule: it's the words that have the genders, not the objects they describe.)
In Spanish dictionaries, adjectives are usually given in their masculine singular form. In the above example, that's rojo. So when you see me talking about “adjectives which end in o“, for example, I mean adjectives whose masculine singular form ends in “o”.
Most Spanish adjectives end in o, and follow the above pattern (pequeño means “small”):
- masculine singular: -o (pequeño)
- feminine singular: -a (pequeña)
- masculine plural: -os (pequeños)
- feminine plural: -as (pequeñas)
If a Spanish adjective ends with e or ista, then it's the same for both genders. But it still needs an “s” in the plural. Excelente means “excellent” and realista means “realistic”:
- masculine singular: excelente, realista
- feminine singular: excelente, realista
- masculine plural: excelentes, realistas
- feminine plural: excelentes, realistas
If it ends with a consonant, then you add “-es” in the plural. If that consonant is z, you must change it to a c.
Débil means “weak” and feliz means “happy”:
- masculine singular: débil, feliz
- feminine singular: débil, feliz
- masculine plural: débiles, felices
- feminine plural: débiles, felices
|-e and -ista
(examples: excelente and realista)
|ends in any consonant but Z
|ends in Z
|masculine singular||pequeño||excelente, realista||débil||feliz|
|feminine singular||pequeña||excelente, realista||débil||feliz|
|mascular plural||pequeños||excelentes, realistas||débiles||felices|
|feminine plural||pequeñas||excelentes, realistas||débiles||felices|
Where Should You Put Spanish Adjectives in a Spanish Sentence?
In English, the adjective almost always goes before the noun. We say “a red car”, not “a car red”. (Two notable exceptions to this rule: a “court martial” and the “surgeon general”.)
In Spanish adjectives usually go after the noun:
- Estoy leyendo un libro interesante
- Los elefantes son grandes
- Compré una coche roja
There are some exceptions, as we'll see in the examples below. But generally: if in doubt, put the adjective after the noun.
Ser vs. Estar: These Can Change the Meanings of a Spanish Adjective
Remember that Spanish has two words for to be. Ser is used for permanent qualities while estar is used for temporary states.
It's usually obvious whether to use ser or estar with a given adjective. For example, you'd say soy inglés (“I am English”) but estoy enfadado (“I am angry”).
However, some adjectives change their meaning depending on whether they're used with ser or estar:
- Ella está aburrida – she's bored
- Ella es aburrida – she's boring
- Él está orgulloso – he's proud
- Él es orgulloso – he's arrogant
I'll give some more examples of words like this below.
50 of the Most Useful Spanish Adjectives
Here are some of the most useful Spanish adjectives to know:
1. & 2. Bueno and Malo (Good and Bad)
Bueno and malo mean “good” and “bad” respectively:
- El libro es bueno – “The book is good”
- La película es mala – “The film is bad”
There are a couple things to keep in mind about these two adjectives.
First of all, when they come before a masculine singular noun, they drop the final “o”. (A few other adjectives do this as well, as you'll see later in this article).
- Un buen libro – “a good book”
- Un mal libro – “a bad book”
Secondly, the meaning changes slightly depending on whether you use these adjectives with ser or estar.
With people, if you use bueno and malo with ser, it means “good” or “bad” in the sense of their moral character. If you use estar, you're talking about their appearance.
- Él es bueno/malo – “he's a good/bad person”
- Él está bueno/malo – “he's good-looking/unattractive”
With food, ser bueno/malo means that the food is good quality and healthy. Estar bueno/malo means that it tastes good – although it might not be healthy!
- Esta hamburguesa está muy buena, pero no es buena – This burger tastes good, but it's not good-quality/healthy
One more thing: bueno is also commonly used as a filler word, similar to how we say “well” or “so” in English.
Don't worry! Not all Spanish adjectives are as complicated as bueno or malo. Let's continue:
3. Grande (Big)
Grande means “big”:
- Tu casa es muy grande – “your house is very big”
Like bueno and malo, this adjective has a slightly different meaning when it’s placed before or after a noun. When placed after the noun, grande means “big” in the physical sense. When before the noun, it means “big” in terms of status or significance – a better translation might be “great” or, well, “grand”.
Also note that before a noun of either gender, grande gets shortened to gran.
- Un hombre grande – “a big man”
- Un gran hombre – “a great man”
This may seem complex, but there’s one great thing about grande: It’s the same for both masculine and feminine nouns!
- Una caja grande – “a big box”
- Un perro grande – “a big dog”
4. Pequeño (Small)
Pequeño means “small”:
- Vive en una casa pequeña – “He/she lives in a small house”
- Una manzana pequeña – “A small apple”
5. Rápido (Fast)
Be rapid! this word means “fast” or “quick”:
- Usain Bolt es la persona más rápido del mundo – “Usain Bolt is the fastest person in the world”
- ¿Tienes un carro rápido? – “Do you have a fast car?”
6. Lento (Slow)
Are you as slow as a lentil? Lento (“slow”) is the opposite of rápido.
- Sea paciente, es un proceso lento – “Be patient, it's a slow process”
- Las tortugas son lentas – “Tortoises are slow”
7. Caro (Expensive)
- Lo compraría si no fuera tan caro – “I'd buy it if it wasn't so expensive”
- ¿Vives en una casa cara? – “Do you live in an expensive house?”
8. Barato (Cheap)
- Me gusta mucho el precio. ¡Qué barato! – “I like the price a lot. How cheap!”
- Una botella de su vino más barato, por favor – “A bottle of your cheapest wine, please”
9. Seco (Dry)
Seco means “dry”. You can see a trace of it in the English word desiccated.
- Será un verano seco – “It'll be a dry summer”
- Ponte esta ropa seca – “Put these dry clothes on”
10. Mojado (Wet)
- Mis zapatos están mojados – “My shoes are wet”
- La sala aún está mojada – “The room is still wet”
11. Fácil (Easy)
This is an easy word to remember – fácil means “easy”. It's a cousin of English words like “facile” and “facility”.
- ¡Español es fácil! – “Spanish is easy!”
- No hay soluciones fáciles – “There aren't easy answers”
12. Difícil (Difficult)
It's not difícil to guess what this word means – it's “difficult”:
- ¡Español no es difícil! – “Spanish isn't difficult”
- Es difícil dar otro ejemplo – “It's difficult to give another example”
Remember that accent: unlike the English word “difficult”, the stress in difícil falls on the second syllable, not the first.
13. Joven (Young)
Joven means “young”. In the plural form, you need to add an accent on the o:
- Ella es muy joven – “She's very young”
- Ellos son muy jóvenes – “They're very young”
14. Viejo (Old)
Viejo means “old”. Use it for people or things:
- Soy un hombre viejo – “I'm an old man”
- Tengo que comprar un nuevo ordenador; el mío es demasiado viejo. – “I have to buy a new computer; mine is too old”
Viejo can subtly change its meaning depending on whether it goes before or after the noun:
- un viejo amigo – “an old friend” (you've known each other for a long time)
- un amigo viejo – “an old friend” (he or she is advanced in age)
15. Nuevo (New)
Nuevo means new. Like viejo, its meaning changes subtly depending on the word order. When it goes after the noun, it means “new” in the sense of “brand new” – it's just been made. When it's before the noun, it means “new” in the sense of “newly acquired”:
- Ella compró un nuevo carro – “She bought a new car” (The car may be used, but it's newly in her possession)
- El carro nuevo tiene aire acondicionado – “The new car has air-conditioning (The car is brand new)
16. Alto (High/Tall)
Alto means “high” or “tall”:
- Un edificio alto – “A tall building”
- Una tasa alta – “A high rate”
- Es un hombre alto – “He's a tall man”
- Subir una montaña alta – “To climb a high mountain”
Bonus fact: alto is written on stop signs in Mexico and most other Spanish-speaking countries in Central America. It comes from the German word halt, which means “stop” (or “halt”, obviously!) in English.
17. Bajo (Low)
- Los Países Bajos – “The Low Countries (i.e. the Netherlands)”
- Tocar las notas bajas – “To play the low notes”
It also means “short”, in the sense of someone’s height:
- Bruno Mars es muy bajo – “Bruno Mars is very short”
18. Corto (Short)
Corto is the more general word for “short”. While bajo is used when talking about height, corto is used for distances.
- Un viaje corto – “A short trip “
- Una historia corta – “A short story”
19. Largo (Long)
Watch out – this word is a false cognate. It doesn't mean “large”, it means “long”! It can be used for lengths of measurement, time or distance:
- Ese es un cuchillo largo – “That is a long knife”
- La reunión fue demasiado larga – “The meeting was too long”
- La Carretera Transcanadiense es una de las autopistas más largas del mundo – “The Trans-Canada Highway is one of the longest highways in the world”
20. Aburrido (Bored/Boring)
I hope you're not aburrido with this list. This adjective means bored – or it can mean boring, depending on whether you use ser or estar.
- Juan es una persona muy aburrida – “Juan is a very boring person”
- Estoy muy aburrido – “I'm very bored”
21. Vivo (alive)
Vivo can mean “alive” or “living”:
- El rey está vivo – “The king is alive”
- Ella es la persona viva más vieja del mundo – “She is the oldest living person in the world”
Use the term en vivo to refer to a TV programme being broadcast “live”.
22. Muerto (Dead)
Muerto means “dead”:
- Zed está muerto, chica – “Zed's dead, baby”
Notice that I didn’t write Zed es muerto. This adjective uses estar, not ser. Estar is supposed to be used for temporary states, but if you ask me, being dead is pretty permanent! I’m afraid that this is just one of those exceptions to the ser/estar rule that you’ll have to learn. A good way to remember it is to note that both vivo and muerto use the same verb – and vivo (alive) is definitely a temporary state, so it uses estar. Meaning muerto does too.
23. Listo (Ready/Smart)
Listo is another example of an adjective that changes its meaning when you use ser vs estar. With estar, it means ready:
- Estoy listo para firmar el contrato – “I'm ready to sign the contract”
But with ser, it means “smart”:
- Ella es muy lista – “She's very smart!”
24. Inteligente (Intelligent)
If you're inteligente, you can figure out that this word means “intelligent”. It's an alternative to listo.
- Eres la persona más inteligente que he conocido – “You're the smartest person I've ever met”
25. Pobre (poor)
Pobre means “poor”. When it's after the noun, it means “financially poor”. When it's before the noun, it means unfortunate or disadvantaged, such as in the English sentence “you poor thing!”:
- Bolivia es un país pobre – “Bolivia is a poor country”
- ¡Deja de asustar a este pobre niño! – “Stop scaring this poor child!”
26. Rico (Rich)
- Bill Gates es muy rico – “Bill Gates is very rich”
You can also use it to describe food:
- ¡Que rica es esta comida! – “This food is so rich/tasty/great!”
27. Común (Common)
Can you guess what this común word means? That's right: “common”. It can also mean “shared”.
- Es una enfermedad común – “It's a common illness”
- Tenemos una responsabilidad común – “We have a common/shared responsibility”
In the plural form, drop the accent from the “u”:
- Tenemos valores comunes – “We have shared/common values”
28. Raro (Rare)
This word means what you'd guess it means: “rare”. It can also mean “strange” or “weird”.
- En raras ocasiones – “On rare occasions”
- Es raro conducir por la izquierda – “It's weird to drive on the left”
29. Útil (Useful)
This word has some útil-ity – it means “useful”:
- Es una herramienta útil – “It's a useful tool”
- Esta opción es útil – “This option is useful”
30. Guapo (Beautiful)
An important word if you want to flirt! This adjective means “beautiful” or “good-looking”, and can be applied to men or women.
- Podría ser muy guapo si quisiera – “He/she could be very beautiful if he/she wanted”
- ¡Qué guapa estás! – “You're so beautiful!”
31. Feo (Ugly)
The opposite of guapo, this word means “ugly”.
- Él es feo – “He's ugly”
- Cinderella tiene dos hermanastras feas – “Cinderella has two ugly step-sisters”
32. Feliz (Happy)
Feliz is related to the English word (and girl's name) “Felicity”.
- Tú me haces feliz – “You make me happy”
- Los animales no parecen felices – “The animals don't look happy”
33. Triste (Sad)
- Cuando estoy triste, lloro – “When I'm sad, I cry”
- Estaba pensando de cosas tristes – “I was thinking about sad things.”
34. Pesado (Heavy)
Pesado means “heavy”. If you're talking about weight, it's more common to use the verb pesar, “to weigh”:
- El piano pesa mucho – “The piano weighs a lot”
- El piano es pesado – “The piano is heavy” (not wrong, but uncommon)
You can also describe a person as pesado. This means the person is boring, gloomy, or annoying. Think of Marvin the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
- Marvin es pesado – “Marvin is gloomy/a downer.”
35. Tranquilo (Calm)
Are you in a tranquil situation? This word means calm or quiet:
- Estaba tranquilo en la casa – “It was quiet in the house”
Tranquilo can also be used as an interjection. It's like saying “calm down!” or “don't worry” in English.
- Tranquilo, todo irá bien – “Don't worry, everything will be okay”
36. Importante (Important)
- No lo hice porque no parecía importante – “I didn't do it because it didn't seem important”
- Olvidé los partes importantes – “I forgot the important parts”
37. Fuerte (Strong)
This adjective has a faint resemblance to the English word “force” – or “forte”, as in, “Speaking Spanish is one of my fortes”. So it should be easy to remember that it means “strong”.
- Arnold es fuerte – “Arnold is strong”
- El chile ha tenido una fuerte influencia en la cocina del Sudeste Asiático – “The chili pepper has had a strong influence on Southeast Asian cuisine”
38. Débil (Weak)
If you're debilitated, you're “weak” – and that's what débil means:
- Mi doctor me dijo que tengo una corazón débil – “My doctor told me I have a weak heat”
- Él es muy débil – “he's very weak”
39. Abierto (Open)
Abierto means “open”:
- La puerta está abierta – “The door is open”
You can use abierto to describe a person, which is just like calling someone “open” in English – it means they're sociable, friendly, agreeable:
- Ana es una persona muy abierta – “Ana is a very open person”
40. Cerrado (Closed)
- Está cerrado porque olvidé abrirlo – “It's closed because I forgot to open it”
- Perdona, pero la cocina está cerrada – “Sorry, but the kitchen is closed”
41. Cansado (Tired)
I hope that all these adjectives aren't making you cansado – “tired”:
- Estoy cansada, he trabajado mucho – “I'm tired, I've been working hard”
- Está cansado de luchar – “He's tired of fighting”
42. Despierto (Awake)
- Si no estoy despierta, despiértame – “If I'm not awake, wake me up”
- Los dos están despiertos – “Both of them are awake”
43. Loco (Crazy)
You might recognise this word from the title of the song Livin' La Vida Loca – it means “crazy”:
- Cree en cosas locas – “He/she believes in crazy things”
- El mundo se está volviendo loco – “The world's going crazy”
(P.S. did you hear about the Mexican train killer? He had loco-motives. I'll show myself out…)
44. Limpio (Clean)
- No tengo una camisa limpia – “I don't have a clean shirt”
- Quiero dejarlo todo limpio – “I want to leave it all clean”
45. Sucio (Dirty)
- Su pañal está sucio – “His/her diaper is dirty”
- Tienes una mente sucia – “You have a dirty mind”
46. Rojo (Red)
Let's wrap it up with some of the most common adjectives you'll need to describe colours. First of all, rojo, which means “red”:
- Mi coche es roja – “My car is red”
- El árbitro está mostrando una tarjeta roja – “The referee is showing a red card”
If you speak Portuguese, beware of the false friend! The Portuguese word roxo means not “red” but “purple.” (The correct translation of rojo into Portuguese is vermelho.)
47. Azul (Blue)
Like the English word “azure”, azul means “blue”:
- Tengo ojos azules – “I have blue eyes”
- ¿Por qué es el cielo azul? – “Why is the sky blue?”
48. Verde (Green)
Verde resembles the English word “verdure”, which means “lush green vegetation”. So of course, verde means “green”:
- El césped es verde – “The grass (or lawn) is green”
- No compres esas manzanas, aún están verdes – “Don't buy those apples, they're still unripe”
Like in English, you can say that someone is verde de envidia – “green with envy”. A chiste verde – literally, “green joke” – means a “dirty joke”.
49. Amarillo (Yellow)
[Is this the way to Amarillo? This word means “yellow”:
- Me puse una camiseta amarilla – “I put a yellow shirt on”
- Veo un letrero amarillo – “I see a yellow sign”
50. Naranja (Orange)
Just like in English, naranja can be both a noun and an adjective in Spanish. The noun “una naranja” refers to the fruit.
Fun fact: in English, the colour “orange” was named after the fruit, not the other way around. (Previously, the colour was called “reddish-yellow” or “yellowish-red”, or something like that). The same is true for the word naranja in Spanish.
Note that, thanks to this adjective's weird origins, it doesn't change its ending for number or gender. Masculine or feminine, singular or plural, it's always “naranja”:
- Zanahorias son naranja – “Carrots are orange”
- Esta es una caja naranja – “This is an orange box”
- El libro naranja – “The orange book”
Another fun fact: while the noun naranja means the fruit, the noun naranjo means the tree on which naranjas grow.
Whew! Those were a lot of adjectives. What other ones are the most important to learn? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.