View Single Post
Old June 22, 2009, 01:07 PM
AngelicaDeAlquezar's Avatar
AngelicaDeAlquezar AngelicaDeAlquezar is offline
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Mexico City
Posts: 8,314
Native Language: Mexican Spanish
AngelicaDeAlquezar is on a distinguished road
Originally Posted by brute View Post

In English there is a "rule" of syntax that few native English speakers have ever been taught. Foreign students, however, need to learn it.
This concerns the order of adjectives attached to a single noun in a sentence. [...]
Do Spanish adjectives follow a similar sequence?

I'm late for replying to this topic, but I've been meditating on what determines the place of adjectives in Spanish. As it's been said, there is no rule; order and place of adjectives rather respond to euphonic and rhetorical criteria.

—> El perro hambriento, flaco y pulgoso
—> Un juego adictivo y peligroso
—> Un estado obeso, ineficiente y despilfarrador
—> Un gobierno depurado, eficaz y optimizador
—> El jardín enorme, soleado, colorido/El enorme jardín soleado y colorido/El colorido jardín, soleado, enorme
—> El soltero más guapo, rico y codiciado
—> Un amigo honesto, leal y generoso
—> Un feo departamento oscuro, húmedo y lúgubre/Un departamento feo, húmedo, oscuro y lúgubre/Un departamento lúgubre, oscuro, húmedo y feo
—> La mesa roja, grande pesada y apolillada/La gran mesa roja, pesada y apolillada/La mesa grande, roja, pesada y apolillada.
—> Un poderoso dictador sanguinario, arbitrario y corrupto

—> Un pájaro con un plumaje negro azulado tornasol brillante.
(No commas here, because "azulado", "tornasol" and "brillante" modify another adjective, so they work together like one.)

Just a couple of notes:

● Many times, a rhetoric progression or escalation determines the order of adjectives:

—> Una enfermedad incurable, progresiva y mortal (It wouldn't make much sense "progresiva" or "incurable" after "mortal")
—> Un anciano débil, enfermo, indefenso ("débil" and "enfermo" pave the way to "indefenso")

● There are some adjectives that usually sound better when placed right beside the noun, like those that express personal appreciation ("bonito", "feo", "nuevo", etc.), size ("grande", "chico", "enorme", etc.), colour ("rojo", "azul", "amarillo", etc.):

—> Un viejo baúl herrumbroso/Un baúl viejo y herrumbroso
—> Una gruesa carpeta roja/Una carpeta roja gruesa
(Btw, colours tend to be placed right beside the noun)

● Adjectives on which depends an essential characteristic of the noun aren't separated from it:

—> Un disco flexible azul
—> Las serpientes venenosas tropicales
—> Un cuadro renacentista restaurado
("Cuadro renacentista", "serpientes venenosas" and "disco flexible" should stay together, because both adjective and noun are like a noun only)

● When there are several adjectives in one sentence, we tend to place at least one of them before the noun, to avoid a long chain of adjectives afterwards.

—> "La célebre conferencista ciega" is preferred to "la conferencista ciega célebre"
—> "El talentoso actor venezolano" is preferred to "el actor venezolano talentoso"

(Also, the adjective placed before a noun emphasizes one quality over the others; in this case, "célebre" and "talentoso". If one says "la ciega conferencista célebre", one would be stressing that she's blind rather than her fame.)

● Sometimes, a substantive placed before an adjective charges the sentence with an ironic sense, but the context will provide the meaning:

—> "El famoso doctor no ha llegado" could either mean that a non-famous doctor has kept us waiting or that we're expecting a really famous one to arrive (to a conference, perhaps).

● Nationalities are always placed immediately after the noun:

—> El genial artista africano
—> Una nueva montaña rusa enorme
—> La implacable policía soviética/la policía soviética, implacable
—> El fino casimir inglés
—> El desorientado turista alemán/el turista alemán, desorientado
Ain't it wonderful to be alive when the Rock'n'Roll plays...

Last edited by AngelicaDeAlquezar; April 23, 2018 at 07:38 PM. Reason: Corrected vocabulary
Reply With Quote