Use Adjectives as Nouns in Spanish with 5 Simple Techniques
Did you know there are words in Spanish that can transform into a different part of speech?
This post will teach you how to take a Spanish adjective and turn it into a noun.
Thanks to these five techniques, you can do it pretty effortlessly—all you need is an extra word!
Read on to find out how it’s done.
- How to Turn Spanish Adjectives into Nouns
- The Difference Between Adjectives and Nouns
How to Turn Spanish Adjectives into Nouns
The most common way to transform Spanish adjectives into nouns is to add a definite or indefinite article before the adjective, such as el/la, los/las, uno/una or unas/unos. For example, nuevo is a Spanish adjective that means “new,” but if you turn it into el nuevo, it becomes a noun meaning “the new one.”
Other ways include using demonstrative adjectives, the article lo, and the personal a.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these techniques below:
1. Using the Definite Article
This is probably the easiest method. Just add a definite article to an adjective, and there you go! You now have a noun.
The only thing you have to bear in mind is that the article and adjective, now a noun, have to agree in gender and number. In Spanish, there are two genders (masculine and feminine) and two amount indicators (singular and plural):
El rojo (the red one) — masculine singular
La roja (the red one) — feminine singular
Los rojos (the red ones) — masculine plural
Las rojas (the red ones) — feminine plural
Here are some complete examples:
Compré la roja y la azul. (I bought the red one and the blue one.)
Mi hermano perdió las grandes. (My brother lost the big ones.)
Vinimos en el rápido. (We came in the fast one.)
2. Using the Indefinite Article
This second magic trick is practically the same as the one above except it uses indefinite articles instead of definite ones.
The rules, however, are the same. Add an adjective to an indefinite article, make sure they agree in gender and number and you have your new noun:
Uno negro (a black one) — masculine singular
Una negra (a black one) — feminine singular
Unos negros (some black ones) — masculine plural
Unas negras (some black ones) — feminine plural
Check it out in action here:
Tenía unos negros. (He had some black ones.)
Encontramos una negra y una amarilla. (We found a black one and a yellow one.)
The difference between techniques one and two is that the first one deals with definite, specific nouns, while the second one refers to indefinite, non-specific ones:
He comprado la roja. (I have bought the red one.)
He comprado una roja. (I have bought a red one.)
3. Using Demonstrative Adjectives
Demonstrative adjectives “demonstrate” a quality about the noun they modify: the distance between the speaker and the noun.
English has two distances: close (this, these) and far (that, those).
Spanish, on the other hand, has three distances: close (este, esta, estos, estas), far (aquel, aquella, aquellos, aquellas) and somewhere in between (ese, esa, esos, esas).
Demonstrative adjectives can also be used to transform adjectives into nouns. Just take an adjective and modify it with a demonstrative adjective with the same gender and number and you will be making a noun:
Aquel pequeño (that small one over there) — masculine singular
Esa pequeña (that small one) — feminine singular
Estos pequeños (these small ones) — masculine plural
Aquellas pequeñas (those small ones over there) — feminine plural
Let’s see these little fellas in full sentences:
Papá quiere aquel pequeño. (Dad wants that small one over there.)
Compraré esa pequeña. (I will buy that small one.)
Necesitamos estos pequeños. (We need these small ones.)
4. Using the Neutral Article Lo
Spanish has a very magical article with the power of being neutral and that article is lo, which can be broadly translated as “what.”
This article can also be used with adjectives to transform into nouns. You can then translate it as “what is + adjective” or “the + adjective + thing”:
Lo bonito (what is beautiful)
Lo peor (what is worse)
Lo interesante (what is interesting)
Lo mejor (what is best)
Since lo is a neutral article, gender and number have little say here. The adjectives following lo can only be masculine and singular.
Here are some examples:
Lo peor es que se olvidó de cerrar la puerta. (What is worse is he forgot to close the door.)
Lo interesante es que no me gusta el café. (What is interesting is I do not like coffee.)
Ser feliz es lo mejor del mundo. (Being happy is the best thing in the world.)
5. Using the Personal A
Sometimes, we can transform adjectives into nouns while referring to people instead of things.
If that is the case, we will need to use the personal a together with an article and an adjective:
Al (a + el) guapo (the handsome one) — masculine singular
A la pequeña (the little one) — feminine singular
A los altos (the tall ones) — masculine plural
A las jóvenes (the young ones) — feminine plural
This kind of construction will normally be the object of the verb. As with every Spanish personal object, it needs the personal a to be grammatically correct:
He visto al guapo. (I have seen the handsome one.)
Les hemos comprado sillas a los altos. (We have bought chairs for the tall ones.)
Veo a las jóvenes, pero no veo a los otros. (I see the young ones, but I do not see the other ones.)
So there you have it—five easy ways to turn Spanish adjectives into nouns!
To get the hang of these, you can practice with online resources. This podcast explains adjective transformation in more detail, while the Clozemaster app gives you grammar drills based on finding the missing word in sentences. There’s also the language learning program FluentU for authentic Spanish videos that show you how native speakers use these words, with interactive subtitles for learners.
The Difference Between Adjectives and Nouns
Here’s one last clarifying point. A Spanish noun is a word that names people, things, places, ideas… Practically everything around you is a noun: el ordenador (the computer), el aire (the air), la mamá (the mom), el amor (the love), etc. If you can add “the” before a word and it makes sense, it is probably a noun.
On the other hand, a Spanish adjective is a word that describes or modifies a noun. Every noun can be described or modified somehow. For example, you can add an adjective to the nouns mentioned in the last paragraph:
El ordenador rápido (the fast computer)
El aire fresco (the fresh air)
La mamá amable (the nice mum)
El amor incondicional (the unconditional love)
While nouns and adjectives in Spanish both have gender and number, they ultimately serve different functions.
And here ends the magic show, my friends.
The five techniques presented in this post are all you need to know if you ever want to do a nice grammar magic trick and change a Spanish adjective into a noun.
Now you know how to help noun wannabes make their dreams come true. So get out there and start transforming adjectives like there is no tomorrow!
Stay curious and, as always, happy learning!