Tuesday, 15 April 2014

What Are Your Parents Like?


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.


Imagine you talking to a relative or a work colleague. You are talking about family/ relatives. The other person doesn't know your parents and says: "what are your parents like?".

In Spanish, the other person could choose to be less formal and say:
¿Cómo son tus padres?

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


The answer to this question is quite straightforward. You should pay particular attention to noun-adjective agreement -see grammar notes below*.

Perhaps you want to describe your parents in the following terms:
  • Age.
  • Profession/ occupation.
  • Nationality.
  • Their appearance.
  • Other characteristics

Here are some sample replies:
  • Mis padres son todavía jóvenes* (my parents are still young);
  • Mis padres son ya bastante mayores* (my parents are already quite old);
  • Mis padres están jubilados* (my parents are retired);
  • Mis padres son maestros* (my parents are teachers);
  • Mis padres son altos* y delgados* (my parents are tall and thin);
  • Mis padres son muy guapos* (my parents are very good looking);
  • Mis padres son mexicanos* (my parents are Mexican)
  • Mis padres son bajos*, y un poco gordos* (my parents are short and a little fat);
  • Mis padres llevan gafas (my parents wear glasses);
  • Mis padres son inteligentes*, trabajadores* y simpáticos* (my parents are intelligent, hard working and pleasant/ likeable);


The word “padres” (plural) means fathers (more than one father).

However, the same word “padres” is also used to refer to parents (mother and father). 

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

*NB See Grammar below


Noun-Adjective Agreement

See notes below on Noun-Adjective agreement

Noun-Adjective Agreement
In Spanish describing words/ adjectives have to agree in gender and number with the noun(s) they describe.

Adjectives -Gender
Many Spanish describing words/ adjectives have similar but different forms for each of the two genders (for example, alto/ alta). A few, however have one single form for both masculine and feminine (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
Spanish describing words/ adjectives have also singular and plural* forms. When referring to a single person, the singular form of describing words/ adjectives must be used. When referring to more than one person, the plural form of professions/ occupations words must be used.

Furthermore, when referring to more than one person who are not all females, the masculine/ plural form of a describing word/ adjective is used.

*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 person, padres (mother and father). Consequently, they require the masculine/ plural form of a describing word/ adjective, for example, jubilados.

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