Well, having spent some time talking about adjectives and how they agree with nouns, it would perhaps be nice to learn a few more of them. Here are some more adjectives that generally describe people:
‘alto’ – tall
‘ajo’ – short
‘gordo’ – fat
‘delgado’ – thin
‘guapo/guapa’ – handsome/pretty
‘feo’ – ugly
‘listo’ – clever
‘tonto’ – silly
‘simpático’ – nice
‘antipático’ – not nice
‘cariñoso’ – affectionate
‘viejo’ – old
‘joven’ – young
‘mayor’ – elderly
‘tranquilo’ – calm
‘tímido’ – shy
‘abierto’ – outgoing
‘gracioso’ – funny
‘serio’ – serious
Remember that those which end in ‘o’ will change to ‘a’ in the feminine, and they will all take an ‘s’ for plural.
Something that is very interesting, but rather difficult to explain, is that adjectives that describe people contain all sorts of cultural nuances and personality types which mean that they are not absolutely identical in meaning. Take for example the last word in the list ‘serio’ which translates as ‘serious’. This word also contains the idea of reliability and trustworthiness. I remember once slightly taking offence at someone who said that the English were ‘serios’ and started to insist that we did in fact have a sense of humour, until it was explained to me that this was a compliment meaning that the English were reliable and trustworthy!
My favourite adjective is ‘antipático’. It is a word that doesn’t exist in English, but perfectly describes certain individuals. Be careful with its opposite ‘simpatico’. It does not mean ‘sympathetic’, but ‘nice’, which isn’t quite the same thing. The word ‘mayor’ has a range of meanings including ‘greater’, ‘elder’ and what we would call ‘over the age of consent’. When describing a person though, it is simply a more polite way of saying ‘old’.
Another tricky, but interesting, point is to realize that these adjectives alter slightly in meaning in a sentence depending on which verb ‘to be’ is used with them – either ‘ser’ or ‘estar’.
Without complicating life too much, I’ll try and illustrate this with the word ‘tranquilo’:
If I say of a person ‘es tranquilo’, I mean he is a calm person; that is, he has a calm personality. However, if I say ‘está tranquilo’, I am not describing a personality, but just how someone is at the moment; he is in a quiet state of mind right now.
Here’s another example:
You may say of a woman ‘es guapa’ – she is pretty. However, if someone just happens to be looking good one day, you can say ‘está guapa’. We would in fact say in English ‘she’s looking good’; that is, on this particular occasion.
As you may imagine, there are lots of details and finer points to understand. If you find it too complicated, don’t worry about it for now. Put it on the backburner for later on in your studies. However, if you can grasp this point about the use of adjectives with ‘ser’ and ‘estar’, you will find that it opens up all sorts of interesting new ideas and ways of saying things!
Jane Cronin’s “Step by Step Spanish” articles are now available as e-books at www.janecronin.eu where you can also obtain Jane’s brand new “Step by Step Internet Spanish” course.