Sunday, 16 March 2014

What Are Your Female Friends Like?


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


Imagine you talking to a relative or a work colleague. You are talking about a couple of female friends of yours. The other person wants you to tell him/ her a little bit about those friends and says to you: "what are your female friends like?".

In Spanish, the other person could choose to be less formal and ask you:
¿Cómo son tus amigas?

Alternatively, he/ she could choose to be a little bit more formal and say:
¿Cómo son sus amigas?

This is a straightforward question about some female friends of yours. 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 female friend in the following terms:
  • Marital status.
  • Profession/ occupation.
  • Nationality.
  • Her appearance.
  • Other characteristics

Here are some sample replies:
  • Mis amigas están solteras* (my female friends are single);
  • Mis amigas son maestras* (my female friends are a teachers);
  • Mis amigas no tienen hijos (my female friends don't have any children);
  • Mis amigas son altas* y delgadas* (my female friends are tall and thin);
  • Mis amigas son muy guapas* (my female friends are very good looking);
  • Mis amigas son mexicanas* (my female friends are Mexican)
  • Mis amigas son bajas*, un poco gordas* y llevan gafas (my female friends are short and a little fat and wear glasses)
  • Mis amigas son inteligentes*, trabajadoras* y simpáticas* (my female friends are intelligent, hard working and pleasant/ likeable);

The use of the word amigas (feminine/ plural) in the question implies that all individuals are females. You need to choose the word “amigos” when one or more of the friends in question are males.

See further practical examples of describing places/ people/ etc.

Now you should practise answering the question:
¿Cómo son tus amigas?

*NB See Grammar below


masculine/ mixed

Noun-Adjective Agreement

See notes below on Noun-Adjective agreement

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.

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 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.

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 person it describes. For example, amiga soltera (unmarried female friend) or amigas solteras (unmarried female friends).

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

Adjectives -Use
All the practical examples in this post refer to more than one friend, amigas. Consequently, they require the feminine/ plural form of a describing word/ adjective, for example, solteras.

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