Short-Form Adjectives in Spanish: “buen, gran…”

Welcome to our grammar lesson about short-form adjectives in Spanish.

There are several adjectives in Spanish that have a shortened form, which we need to use in some circumstances instead of the normal form.

These shortened forms are called “apócopes”.

Example in Spanish: in some cases, the short-form "buen" replaces "bueno"
Example: “buen” is the shortened form of “bueno”


In this lesson we will learn how to use Spanish short-form adjectives, with example sentences.

At the end you’ll find a Quiz and an Exercise for practice.

Adjectives with a shortened form

The following table show the most important Spanish adjectives that have a shortened form:

AdjectiveShort FormMeaning
grandegranbig, great
buenobuengood
malomalbad
unounone, a
algunoalgúnsome, any
ningunoningúnnon, any
cualquieracualquierany one, any
primeroprimerfirst
decimoprimerodecimoprimereleventh
tercerotercerthird
decimotercerodecimotercerthirteenth

When do we use the short forms?

Not all adjectives with a shortened form behave in the same way:

  • Some adjectives are shortened only before masculine singular nouns.
  • Other adjectives are shortened before all singular nouns, regardless of gender.


To illustrate this point, let’s take the adjective “bueno”.  “Bueno” is only shortened when placed before a masculine singular noun:

Este es un buen coche.
This is a good car.

The shortening doesn’t happen before a feminine singular noun:

Es una buena chica.
She’s a good girl.

And of course, it doesn’t happen before a plural noun:

Son buenos chicos.
They are good kids.


Adjectives we shorten before masculine singular nouns

bueno → buen

Es un buen coche.
It is a good car.


malo → mal

Es un mal libro.
It is a bad book.


uno → un

Tenemos un gato.
We have a cat.


primero → primer 

Vivo en el primer piso.
I live on the 1st floor.


decimoprimero → decimoprimer

Vivo en el decimoprimer piso.
I live on the 11th floor.


tercero → tercer

Vivo en el tercer piso.
I live on the 3rd floor.


decimotercero → decimotercer

Vivo en el decimotercer piso.
I live on the 13th floor.


alguno → algún

¿Tienes algún consejo?
Do you have any advice?


ninguno → ningún

No conozco ningún parque en esta ciudad.
I don’t know any park in this town.


Adjectives we shorten before all singular nouns, regardless of gender

grande → gran

Mi primo tiene un gran barco.
My cousin has a big ship. (before a masculine singular noun)

Es una gran casa.
It is a big house. (before a feminine singular noun)


cualquiera → cualquier

Leería cualquier libro.
I would read any book. (before a masculine singular noun)

Dame cualquier revista.
Give me any magazine. (before a feminine singular noun)

Practice

Quiz

Take this short Quiz to test your knowledge about short-form adjectives:


Exercise

Fill the gaps with adjectives to complete the sentences. In each case, consider whether you need a short form.

Click on the gray spaces to see the solutions:

1) Este ordenador es bueno.
This computer is good.

2) Es un buen ordenador.
It’s a good computer.

3) Tu primo es un gran tipo.
Your cousin is a great guy.

4) El barco es muy grande.
The ship is very big.

5) Son grandes barcos.
They are big/great ships.

6) Esta es la tercera vez que cuento la historia.
This is the third time I tell the story.

7) El tercer día de nuestro viaje, visitamos Madrid.
On the third day of our trip, we visit Madrid.

8) El primer hombre en la Luna fue Neil Armstrong.
The first man on the Moon was Neil Armstrong.

9) La primera mujer en el espacio fue Valentina Tereshkova.
The first woman in space was Valentina Tereshkova.

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