Friday, 10 January 2014

Where Are Your Friends From?

Introduction
This post is about the use of describing words/ adjectives in general, and more specifically about the use of masculine/ plural form of a describing word/ adjective.




SCENARIO



Imagine you and a group of friends meet someone else who doesn't know your friends. At some point the other person asks you: "where are your friends from?".


In Spanish, the other person could choose to be less formal and ask you:
¿De dónde son tus amigos*?

Alternatively, he/ she could choose to be a little bit more formal and say:
¿De dónde son sus amigos*?


*NB The use of the word amigos (masculine/ plural) in the question implies that at least one individual in the group is a male. You need to choose the word “amigas” when all the friends in question are female.

OUR TIP
This is a straightforward question about your your friends (a third person). When saying something about a third person (that are, neither you nor the person asking the question) you DO NOT need be concerned about the degree of formality in the original question. You can just concentrate on answering the question.

Questions like this one are usually answered by indicating:
  • The nationality of your friends
  • The country your friends come from
  • The city/ town your friends come from

Here are some sample replies:
  • Mis amigos son ingleses* (my friends are English).
  • Mis amigos son italianos* (my friends are Italian).
  • Mis amigos son estadounidenses* (my friends are American).
  • Mis amigos son vietnamitas* (my friends are Vietnamese).
  • Mis amigos son de Inglaterra (my friends are from England).
  • Mis amigos son de Londres (my friends are from London).
  • Mis amigos son ingleses*, de Londres (my friends are English, they are from London).


Now you should practise answering the question:
¿De dónde son tus amigos?

*NB See Grammar below

*Grammar-Adjectives


Gender
Number
Adjective
amigo
masculine
singular
inglés
amigos
masculine/ mixed
plural
ingleses
amiga
feminine
singular
inglesa
amigas
feminine
plural
inglesas
Noun-Adjective Agreement


See notes below on Noun-Adjective agreement

Noun-Adjective Agreement
As you can see above, in Spanish you can also use a describing word/ adjective to indicate where someone comes from. Below follow some notes on how to choose the correct form of the adjective for a given noun.

Adjectives -Gender
When you use Spanish describing words/ adjectives, you need to bear in mind that for each describing word in English, there are often two related but different describing words/ adjectives in Spanish. The reason being that Spanish describing words/ adjectives have to 'agree' with the gender (masculine or feminine) of the noun they describe. Most Spanish describing words have similar but separate words for each of the two genders (for example, americano/ americana). A few, however have one single form (for example, canadiense).

Thus when you come to use a describing word to indicate where someone comes from, you need to check whether the corresponding Spanish describing word/ adjective has:
  • One single form (for example , estadounidense)
  • Two separate forms (for example, inglés/ inglesa).- If the describing word/ adjective has two separate forms, then you need to choose the form which matches the gender (masculine/ feminine) of the noun it describes.

Adjectives -Number
When you use Spanish describing words/ adjectives, you also need to bear in mind that Spanish describing words/ adjectives have singular and plural* forms the same as nouns. A Spanish describing word/ adjective must also to 'agree' with the number (singular/ plural) of the noun it describes. For example, amigo inglés (English friend -male) or amigos ingleses (English friends -males).

Thus when you come to use a describing word/ adjective to indicate where someone comes from, you need to choose the form of the Spanish describing word/ adjective which matches the noun's number (singular/ plural).

*NB View posts with details about the plural of Spanish words here.

Adjectives -Use
All the practical examples in this post refer to several friends, amigos. Consequently, they require the masculine/ plural form of a describing word/ adjective, for example, ingleses.

Spelling
Please note that in Spanish, the names of countries, towns, cities, etc. (for example, “Inglaterra” or “Londres”) are capitalised. However, the nationality describing words/ adjectives (for example “italiana”) are not.

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