Adverbio o Adjetivo

Identifying Adverbs and Adjectives in Spanish

Woman in chair
"Comfortable" is an adjective to describe this chair. Found Image Holdings Inc / Contributor / Getty Images

Like in English, Spanish relies on the use of adjectives (adjetivos) and adverbs (adverbios) to describe nouns, verbs and other adjectives and adverbs, but knowing which one to use can be tricky.

Fortunately, these parts of speech are the same in both English and Spanish, so whether you're learning Spanish as an Alternative Language (SAL) or learning your first language, following common rules will help you achieve grammatical accuracy.

Adjectives are always used to describe nouns and adverbs are always used to describe verbs, adjectives or other adverbs — but sentence structure and placement in Spanish can be a bit tricky. Check out the examples in the sections below for a better understanding of proper Spanish grammar.

Adjectives Describe Nouns

In Spanish, adjetivos can be used to describe a person place or thing, and are most often found immediately before the noun. For example, the sentence "Tom is an excellent singer / Tom es un excelente cantante," the adjective excellent/excelente describes the noun singer/cantante.

Adjectives are also used in simple sentences with the verb "to be," and in this case, the adjective describes the subject of the sentence. Such is the case in the following examples:

  • "Jack is happy / Jack es feliz" — happy/feliz describe Jack.
  • "Peter was very tired / Peter estaba muy cansado" — tired/cansado describe Peter.
  • "Mary will be excited / Mary  estará emocionada" — excited/emocionada describe Mary.

It's important to note in the above examples that the modifier describing tired and excited — very — are in fact adverbs. 

Adverbs Modify Verbs, Adjectives and Other Adverbs

In English, adverbs are easily recognized as they end in "-ly" — with a few exceptions — and oftentimes appear next to the verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs they are describing.

These words often appear as adjectives when they drop the "-ly" — such is the case with the adverb carefully and the adjective careful or the adverb quickly and the adjective quick; however, in Spanish adverbs typically end with the letters "-mente" such as "Cuidadosamente" and "rápidamente" for carefully and quickly.

Additionally, adverbs are usually used at the end of a sentence to modify the verb:

  • Jack drove carelessly / Jack condujo descuidadamente.

  • Tom played the match intelligently / Tom jugó el partido con inteligencia.

  • Paul talks incessantly / Paul habla incesantemente.

Oftentimes, you'll naturally use the right part of speech when forming Spanish sentences, but be careful not to use adjectives that share root words of adverbs interchangably.