Thursday, 6 March 2014

What Are Your Friends Like?

Introduction

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





SCENARIO


Imagine you talking to a relative or a work colleague. You are talking about some 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 friends like?".

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

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


OUR TIP
This is a straightforward question about some of your friends. 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 friends in the following terms:
  • Marital status.
  • Profession/ occupation.
  • Nationality.
  • Their appearance.
  • Other characteristics

Here are some sample replies:
  • Mis amigos están solteros* (my friends are single);
  • Mis amigos son maestros* (my friends are teachers);
  • Mis amigos no tienen hijos (my friends don't have any children);
  • Mis amigos son altos* y delgados* (my friends are tall and thin);
  • Mis amigos son muy guapos* (my friends are very good looking);
  • Mis amigos son mexicanos* (my friends are Mexican)
  • Mis amigos son bajos*, un poco gordos* y llevan gafas (my friends are short and a little fat and wear glasses)
  • Mis amigos son inteligentes*, trabajadores* y simpáticos* (my friends are intelligent, hard working and pleasant/ likeable);

Notes

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

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


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

*NB See Grammar below

*Grammar-Adjectives


Gender
Number
Adjective
amigo
masculine
one
soltero
amigos
masculine/ mixed
more than one
solteros
amiga
feminine
one
soltera
amigas
feminine
more than one
solteras

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, amigo soltero (unmarried friend) or amigos solteros (unmarried 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, amigos. Consequently, they require the masculine/ plural form of a describing word/ adjective, for example, solteros.

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