pequeño coche rojo (adjective order)

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by Perrito, Oct 14, 2007.

  1. Perrito

    Perrito Senior Member

    Estats Units
    Estats Units, anglès

    I was presented with the following question: She has a small red car. I've only studied nouns that have one adjective, which is all my book does to describe it, but in reality that's not real life, because we are constantly using many adjectives in a row to describe one single noun. (Or at least in English we do)

    For instance, un coche rojo. Fine, but what if I want to say: a big red car. I was told I could not say: Ella tiene un coche rojo pequeño or tiene un rojo carro pequeño? I was informed it must be: Ella tiene un pequeño coche rojo. What are the exact rules? What about: There was a short fat man at my door. Había un bajo hombre gordo, hombre bajo gordo, bajo gordo hombre, gordo bajo hombre. It could go on forever....As I recognized, English has similar rules too: I couldn't say: She's got a red little car, it must be: little first then red car.

    So, how are the rules in Spanish for this? Thanks for the explanation de antemano!

  2. Moritzchen Senior Member

    Los Angeles, CA
    Spanish, USA
    Usually the adjectives go after the noun.
  3. Brandee Senior Member

    Concepcion, Chile
    United States, English
    Hola Gregorio!

    Bueno, no soy hablante nativa, pero una cosa que puedes hacer cuando quieres colocar una serie de adjetivos es poner un "y" por entremedio.

    Ej: Ella tiene un auto pequeño y rojo. Es una mujer alta y delgada.

    Es un hombre gordo, bajo y calvo. (a short, fat, bald man)

  4. Perrito

    Perrito Senior Member

    Estats Units
    Estats Units, anglès
    Thanks for the reply. Yes I know that. But when there are two adjectives how does it work was my real question. Es un coche rojo pequeño. It doesn't make sense thus. So what are the general rules given that it must be: ella tiene un pequeño coche rojo.


    Thanks, I like the "y" idea...
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 4, 2017
  5. gotasdeoro Senior Member

    España. Español
    El adjetivo, cuando va delante, resalta la cualidad: "Un pequeño coche..." resalta su tamaño. "Un coche pequeño", sólo decimos cómo es el coche, sin resaltar la cualidad. No es correcta ninguna de las opciones para "hombre bajo gordo". Lo normal es: "Un hombre bajo y gordo".
    Lamento no poder escribir en inglés¡SORRY!, aunque espero haberte ayudado.
  6. Moritzchen Senior Member

    Los Angeles, CA
    Spanish, USA
    Pequeño coche rojo and coche rojo pequeño are fine. Now it doesn´t work with grande: un grande coche rojo sounds extremely funny. They may say Well! you can say un gran coche rojo, but it has a different meaning. It would be un coche rojo grande. And yes, you can use y to add more adjectives.
  7. How to Cook Everything! New Member

    English - USA
    I have the same question. I would really like to know the rule for the ordering adjectives in Spanish.

    Here is the rule for order of adjectives in English, if you break this order when using adjectives, it's like nails on a chalk board to a native english speaker.

    Multiple adjectives describing a single noun, must follow this order:
    opinion (lovely), size (big), shape (round), condition (clean), age (new), colour (blue), pattern (spotted), origin (French), material (wooden), purpose (gardening).

    The lovely big round clean new blue spotted French wooden gardening bucket.

    This is an unusual sentence but the order would sound appropriate to an English speaker.

    So is there a rule in Spanish like this? Thanks!!
  8. S.V. Senior Member

    Nva. Vizc. Xicuahua
    Español / México
    La cubeta de jardín francesa, grande y bonita, de madera, redonda con manchas, nueva y muy limpia.

    It sounds normal to me, unlike the original sentence. Bonito (lovely) is also, as pequeño, common before compound nouns: la bonita cubeta azul. But otherwise it's different things that matter (some adjectives are only used before, some only after the noun). The problem with Perrito's sentence is that we don't build nouns the same way. Un carro rojo y grande or Un carro grande y rojo are both OK. Because we normally build from left to right.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2017
  9. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    The Butt & Benjamin grammar (Sec. 4.11—if you follow the link, click the third snippet) says
    ("Restrictive" and "nonrestrictive" meaning approximately the same as when they are applied to clauses.)
    Color adjectives are usually restrictive, which makes for the strong tendency for them to follow the noun.
  10. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    In English, an adjective normally modifies something immediately following it. For example, a "large red automobile" is a red automobile distinguished by being large, and a "dark red automobile" is an automobile whose color is a variety of red that is dark.

    But "big", "little", and "old" sometimes have special meanings and their own rules.

    For example, "a big old spider" usually does not mean an old spider, in the literal sense, that is big: it means "una araña grandote" (old = "-ote"), and "a red little car" means "un carro rojito" (litttle = "-ito"), not necessarily a small car that is red. Old and little used this way usually follow the adjective they give emphasis to and often, though not always, have an especially relaxed pronunciation ("ole" for old, "li'l" for little).

    Small does not have the same special use as little, so it can be used wherever it makes good literal sense: "a red small car" = "a red compact car".

    A "big bad wolf" is not just a bad wolf that happens to be big. It means something like a wolf that is so bad that we exaggerate its size in our minds.

    We now have slang versions of "big old spider" and "big bad wolf": "big-ass spider" and "bad-ass wolf". I think Spanish has other suffixes for the same purpose.

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