Learning Spanish Grammar Lesson
Adjectives Part II:
Adjectives of Nationality
As the name suggests, adjectives of nationality tell what
country a person, food, product, etc. comes from. Like almost
all Spanish adjectives, adjectives of nationality follow and
complement the noun they modify. Observe:
las muchachas americanas
the American girls
It would not make sense in English to say “The girls Americans,”
because English is a different system--our adjectives come
before our nouns, and the adjectives have only one form
regardless of gender or whether the noun is masculine or
feminine. In the same way, it would not make sense in
Spanish to say “Las americano muchachas.”
Here is a quick list to get you started on adjectives of
nationality, followed by rules:
español Spanish (from
panameño Panamanian (from
puertorriqueño Puerto Rican
Notice that adjectives of nationality may
also be used as nouns:
la cubana the Cuban girl/woman
el italiano the Italian
los panameños the people of Panama
Notice, too, that Spanish adjectives of
nationality are NOT capitalized. Capitalization rules
vary from language to language (in German, for example, all
nouns are capitalized!)--and so students must be aware of their
own “mother tongue interference,” the tendency to expect their
second language to use all the same rules as their native
Adjectives of Nationality ending in -o
Many adjectives of nationality end in -o and have the
same four forms as other adjectives ending in -o:
masculine and feminine forms in the singular and plural.
el autor mexicano los
las familias mexicanas
Adjectives of Nationality ending in consonants
Other adjectives of nationality end in consonants. Unlike other
adjectives that end in consonants, adjectives of nationality
have four forms, not two:
el autor español los
española las familias
Adjectives of nationality that end in -s or -n are
spelled with a written accent mark in the masculine singular:
el autor alemán los
la cultura alemana
las familias alemanas
Americans in particular have a tendency to
lump all Spanish speakers as “Spanish people.” This term is
inaccurate (a person from Spain is a Spaniard), and it makes
English speakers appear ignorant. Students must be aware that
at least 18 countries on three continents list Spanish (called
Castillian or castellano in many countries) as a
primary language, and must be able to recognize that there are
differences between Dominicans and Venezuelans, between
Argentinians and Costa Ricans. In addition, many Spanish
speakers find the term Hispanic offensive--while many
prefer the term Latino (referring to Latin America), some
are offended by any term other than a specific adjective of
nationality. Many Latin Americans refer to themselves
collectively as la raza (literally the race) as an
expression of pride and solidiarity; the term is not often used
Fill in the blanks with the correct form of the adjective in
parentheses. For extra credit, translate the exercise.
--Teresita, tú eres __________________ , ¿verdad?
--No, soy una mezcla. Mi papá es ____________________ y
____________________, y mami es pura ____________________.
(puertorriqueño, cubano, hondureño)
--Mis abuelos también son ____________________. (hondureño)
--¿Sí? ¿Los padres de tu papá?
--Sí, y mi mamá es una mezcla como tú. Ella es
__________________ y ____________________ por el lado de
abuelito, y su mamá es ____________________. Mis abuelos se
conocieron de vacaciones en Colombia. (alemán, argentino,
--Qué familias tenemos--¡viva la raza!
puertorriqueño, cubano, hondureña
alemana, argentina, venezolana
--Teresita, you’re Dominican, right?
--No, I’m mixed. My father is Puerto Rican and Cuban, and mom
is completely Honduran.
--My grandparents are Honduran, too.
--Oh yeah? Your dad’s parents?
--Yes, and my mom’s mixed like you. She is German and
Argentinian on Grandpop’s side, and her mother is Venezuelan.
My grandparents met on vacation in Columbia.
--What families we have--viva
la raza! *
*I would leave this phrase in Spanish, because it really isn’t
used in other languages. It would translate as, “Long live the
race!” but the meaning is closer to, “Hooray for Latinos!” or
We hope that you enjoyed this online Spanish
lesson. You can learn more about
Learning Spanish Like Crazy
Level 1 by
clicking here. Or
click here for
Learning Spanish Like Crazy Nivel Dos.