Saturday, 25 January 2014

Where Is Your Mother From?


Introduction
This post is about the use of describing words/ adjectives in general, and more specifically about the use of feminine/ singular form of describing words/ adjectives.

SCENARIO



Imagine you are talking to someone else who doesn't know your mother. At some point the other person asks you: "where is your mother from?".





In Spanish, the other person could choose to be less formal and ask you:
¿De dónde es tu madre?

Alternatively, he/ she could choose to be a little bit more formal and say:
¿De dónde es su madre?


OUR TIP
This is a straightforward question about your your mother (a third person). When saying something about a third person (that is, 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 mother
  • The country your mother comes from
  • The city/ town your mother comes from

Here are some sample replies:
  • Mi madre es inglesa* (my mother is English).
  • Mi madre es italiana* (my mother is Italian).
  • Mi madre es estadounidense* (my mother is American).
  • Mi madre es vietnamita* (my mother is vietnamese).
  • Mi madre es de Inglaterra (my mother is from England).
  • Mi madre es de Londres (my mother is from London).
  • Mi madre es inglesa*, de Londres (my mother is English, she is from London).

Now you should practise answering the question:
¿De dónde es tu madre?

*NB See Grammar below

*Grammar-Adjectives


Gender
Number
Adjective
padre
masculine
singular
inglés
padres
masculine/ mixed
plural
ingleses
madre
feminine
singular
inglesa
madres
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, madre inglesa (English mother) or madres inglesas (English mothers).

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 include the noun madre which is a feminine/ singular noun. Consequently, they require the feminine/ singular form of a describing word/ adjective, for example, inglesa.

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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