This post is about the use of describing words/ adjectives in general, and more specifically about the use of the masculine/ singular form of a describing word/ adjective.
Imagine you talking to a friend or a work colleague. You are talking about your family. The other person wants you to tell him/ her a little bit about your father and says to you: "what is your father like?".
In Spanish, the other person could choose to be less formal and ask you:
¿Cómo es tu padre?
Alternatively, he/ she could choose to be a little bit more formal and say:
¿Cómo es su padre?
This is a straightforward question about your father. If your answer does not include a reference to 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.
Perhaps you want to describe your father in the following terms:
- Marital status.
- Profession/ occupation.
- His appearance.
- Other characteristics
Here are some sample replies:
- Mi padre se llama Pedro (my father's name is Pedro);
- Mi padre está casado* (my father is married);
- Mi padre tiene sesenta años (my father is 60 years old);
- Mi padre es maestro* (my father is a teacher);
- Mi padre no tiene hermanos (my father doesn't have any brothers);
- Mi padre es alto* y delgado* (my father is tall and thin);
- Mi padre es muy guapo* (my father is very good looking);
- Mi padre es mexicano* (my father is Mexican)
- Mi padre es bajo*, un poco gordo* y lleva gafas (my father is short and a little fat and wears glasses)
- Mi padre es inteligente*, trabajador* y simpático* (my father is intelligent, hard working and pleasant/ likeable);
See further practical examples of describing places/ people/ etc.
Now you should practise answering the question:
¿Cómo es tu padre?
*NB See Grammar below
- GenderNumberAdjectivepadremasculinesingularcasadopadresmasculine/ mixedpluralcasadosmadrefemininesingularcasadamadresfemininepluralcasadas
See notes below on Noun-Adjective agreement
As you can see above, in Spanish you can use describing words/ adjectives when describing people. Below follow some notes on how to choose the correct form of the adjective to describe a given person.
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 person they describe. Most Spanish describing words have similar but separate words for each of the two genders (for example, alto/ alta). A few, however have one single form (for example, inteligente).
Thus when you come to use a describing word to describe a person, you need to check whether the corresponding Spanish describing word/ adjective has:
- One single form to describe both a male and female persons (for example , inteligente)
- Two separate forms (for example, alto/ alta).- If the describing word/ adjective has two separate forms, then you need to choose the form which matches the gender (masculine/ feminine) of the person to describe.
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 'agree' with the number (singular/ plural) of the person it describes. For example, padre casado (married father) or padres casados (married fathers/ parents).
*NB View posts with details about the plural of Spanish words here.
All the practical examples in this post refer to one father, padre. Consequently, they require the masculine/ singular form of a describing word/ adjective, for example, casado.