Updated: Apr 4
In this lesson, we'll introduce the vocabulary and basic expressions for making physical and personal descriptions in Spanish. You will learn how to ask or tell who someone is and describe yourself or someone else. We've included many examples and some exercises on this topic at the end of the lesson so you can practice.
What is and adjective?
A word that describes a noun is an adjective. The words in red from the following sentences are adjectives. Basic sentences for physical and personal descriptions follow the following structure: subject + verb+ adjective. The image below presents some common adjectives and verbs to talk about physical appearance in Spanish.
In Spanish, most adjectives come after the noun.
Some adjectives that describe number or quantity come before the noun.
But the tricky part is that Spanish adjectives are different from English adjectives, in English adjectives are found before the noun they modify, while in Spanish usually they're found after the noun they modify. And also because in Spanish the adjectives agree in gender and number with the noun they modify.
When they precede the noun, such adjectives change meaning, acquiring a less literal sense:
See how the position can define the meaning intended in the sentence. The first “pobre” means someone who deserve pity, and has nothing to do with money, but the second “pobre” means someone who doesn’t have money.
In Spanish, adjectives must agree with the noun (or pronoun) they describe in gender and in number. This means that if the noun an adjective describes is masculine, the adjective must be masculine, and if that same noun is also plural, the adjective will be masculine and plural as well.
a) The noun el niño (the boy) is singular and masculine, so any adjectives used to describe it most also be singular and masculine feliz (happy)
b) The noun niños (boys) is plural and masculine, so any adjectives used to describe it most also be plural and masculine felices (happy).
Spanish adjectives are usually listed in their masculine singular form in dictionaries, so it is important to know how to match these masculine singular adjectives to whatever noun you happen to be describing. Most adjectives end in o, e, or a consonant in their singular masculine forms. Below you will find the rules for matching these adjectives to their respective nouns in gender and number. Let's see this general rules.
1. Adjectives that end in o drop the final o and add an a after a feminine noun.
To make an o adjective plural in the masculine or feminine form, add an s to the singular ending.
2. When the adjective ends in (-a) or (-e), no difference will be made between the masculine and feminine form, and the plural is created by adding (–s).
- pobre ( for both masc & fem singular) - pobres ( for both masc & fem plural)
- egoísta ( for both masc & fem singular) - egoístas ( both genders in plural)
Adjectives of nationality that end in a consonant add an a in the feminine form. Adjectives that en in án, ón, ín, or or add an a or -as to the masculine singular form and delete the written accent if necessary.
Ways to ask about physical appearance in Spanish.
The verb SER is one of the most useful verbs to ask about the physical appearance in Spanish. SER will be commonly used in its forms es and son in this way: What is he/she like? and how are they/you?.
Another important verb for this topic is lucir, which is a little more formal, and will be used as "luce" for one person and lucen for several, e.g. "What does it look like + him / she / that / this?" and "How do they look + them / you / you / those?"
Some questions about physical descriptions in Spanish also use definite articles (la, el, las, los), indefinite articles (un, una...) or possessive determinants (su, tu, mi … ...), e.g. "How is the thief?" where "EL" is a definite article.
Another way to ask is by adding direct object pronouns like la, lo, los, les right after the verb describe, like this: "¿Puedes describirla (a ella)?" and "Puedo describirlos (a ellos). Let's see some example:
Physical description Activity No. 1:
Observe the following physical descriptions and photographs and locate the adjectives and mark it/s. Write your answer in the comments
Listening Activity No. 2: The description of personality in Spanish
In this video you will see how to describe personality in Spanish. Take notes of the information you consider important and listen carefully to identify the phrases presented above plus a few new ones. Press PLAY when you are ready.
Adjective Spelling Quiz Activity No. 3:
Circle the adjective that is spelled correctly
4. Listening Activity No. 4: Entradas para la opera.
In this video you will see how to describe personality in Spanish in a real context. Take notes of the information you consider important and listen carefully to identify the phrases presented above plus a few new ones. Press PLAY when you are ready.More fun activities in this video. Watch and practice.
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¡Hasta la vista!
The Español Latino Team.