Wednesday, 26 March 2014

What Is Your Mother Like?

Introduction


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




SCENARIO


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 mother and says to you: "what is your mother like?".

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

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


OUR TIP
This is a straightforward question about your mother. 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 mother in the following terms:
  • Name.
  • Age.
  • Marital status.
  • Profession/ occupation.
  • Nationality.
  • Her appearance.
  • Other characteristics

Here are some sample replies:
  • Mi madre se llama María (my mother's name is Maria);
  • Mi madre está casada* (my mother is married);
  • Mi madre tiene sesenta años (my mother is 60 years old);
  • Mi madre es maestra* (my mother is a teacher);
  • Mi madre no tiene hermanos (my mother doesn't have any brothers);
  • Mi madre es alta* y delgada* (my mother is tall and thin);
  • Mi madre es muy guapa* (my mother is very good looking);
  • Mi madre es mexicana* (my mother is Mexican)
  • Mi madre es baja*, un poco gorda* y lleva gafas (my mother is short, a little fat and wears glasses)
  • Mi madre es inteligente*, trabajadora* y simpática* (my mother is intelligent, hard working and pleasant/ likeable);

Notes


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





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

*NB See Grammar below

*Grammar-Adjectives


Gender
Number
Adjective
padre
masculine
singular
casado
padres
masculine/
mixed
plural
casados
madre
feminine
singular
casada
madres
feminine
plural
casadas

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 'agree' with the number (singular/ plural) of the person it describes. For example, madre casada (married mother) or madres casadas (married mothers).

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

Adjectives -Use
All the practical examples in this post refer to one mother, madre. Consequently, they require the feminine/ singular form of a describing word/ adjective, for example, casada.

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