Spanish Adjective Placement

There are different types of Spanish adjectives, but the majority are descriptive. Unlike English, where adjectives typically precede the nouns they describe, in Spanish adjectives usually follow the nouns. Consider the following examples.
English
Spanish
She likes yellow flowers.
A ella le gustan las flores amarillas.
My sister is a short women.
Mi hermana es una mujer baja.
He prefers fresh fruit.
Él prefiere fruta fresca.

Adjective Placement Exceptions

While adjectives usually precede the nouns they describe, in some instances an adjective is placed before the noun it describes.

1. Descriptive adjectives that emphasize an inherent quality
When an adjective emphasizes or speaks to an inherent or implicitly obvious quality, it is placed before the noun it describes.

The white snow.
La blanca nieve.
Sweet honey is tasty.
La dulce miel es sabrosa.
The brave lioness protects her cubs.
La valiente leona protege a sus cachorros.


2. Limiting adjectives that define amount or number.
When an adjective is used to define the number or amount of something, even if the number is not specified, then the adjective precedes the noun it describes.

The children want only a few books.
Los niños quieren unos pocos libros.
He has enough time to finish the job.
Tiene suficiente tiempo para terminar el trabajo.
They want ten ice creams.
Ellos quieren diez helados.


The following is a list of the most common limiting adjectives in the Spanish language (other than all numbers which are limiting adjectives as well.)

sufficient
suficiente
enough
bastante
as much
cuanto
some
alguno
too much
demasiado
no, none
ninguno
a lot
mucho
a little
poco
various, a few
varios


3. Possessive adjectives (mi, tu, su, etc.) and demonstrative adjectives (ese, este, aquél).
Both possessive and demonstrative adjectives are placed directly before the noun they describe.

That tree is very tall.
Aquél árbol es muy alto.
My brother is nice.
Mi hermano es simpático.
Our cat bites.
Nuestro gato muerde.


4. Meaning-changing adjectives.
Some adjectives have different meanings depending on if they're placed before or after the noun they describe. When meaning-changing adjectives are placed after they noun they describe, they take on an objective, descriptive meaning. When they're placed before the noun, they have a more subjective, opinionated meaning. Read and listen to the following examples, then repeat each out loud.

Veronica is a long-time friend.
Veronica es una vieja amiga.
Veronica is an elderly friend.
Veronica es una amiga vieja.
The bible is a great book.
La biblia es un gran libro.
The bible is a big book.
La biblia es un libro grande.


The following is a list of some of the most common meaning-changing adjectives in the Spanish language. Each adjective has a different meaning depending on if it is placed before or after the noun it describes.

    alto
    before: top, high-class
    after: tall

    bueno
    before: simple, good
    after: good, gentle, generous

    cierto
    before: certain
    after: true, right

    antiguo
    before: old/former/ancient
    after: antique

    bajo
    before: low quality
    after: short

    diferente
    before: various
    after: different

    cualquier
    before: any (of those available)
    after: any (type doesn't matter)

    mismo
    before: same
    after: himself, herself

    grande
    before: great
    after: big

    nuevo
    before: another, newly acquired
    after: new, newlymade

    dulce
    before: good, nice
    after: sweet

    pobre
    before: unfortunate
    after: poor

    raro
    before: rare
    after: strange

    propio
    before: his own, her own
    after: especially for someone

    simple
    before: mere
    after: simple, modest

    puro
    before: sheer, nothing but
    after: pure

    viejo
    before: former, long-time
    after: old, elderly

    único
    before: only
    after: unique

    varios
    before: several
    after: different

    triste
    before: dreadful
    after: sad

    sólo
    before: one
    after: lonely