In this blog post, I will talk about how to use Spanish nouns as adjectives.
After I sent a recent email to my newsletter subscribers, one customer emailed me and wrote:
Start of Customer’s Email
I think you may have an error in your last email because you wrote:
1. Lagañoso – Alguien que tiene lagañas (someone who has sleep in their eyes). That is, “sleep” as
in “the dried particles often found in the corners of the eyes after sleeping.”
Lagaña – secretions from the eyes
(In some Spanish speaking countries they use the word “legaña” instead of “lagaña.”)
Patrick, as example of how to use the word “lagañoso” in Spanish, you then wrote the following
Le dije al doctor “mis ojos están muy lagañosos.”
I told the doctor “my eyes have a lot sleep in them.”
Patrick, in the definition that you used for “lagañoso” you suggested that it was a noun. But in the sentence where you gave an example with “lagañoso” you used it as an adjective.
So which one is it Patrick? A noun? Or an adjective? Surely it cannot be both.
End of Customer’s Email
A strange as it may sound the word “lagañoso” is actually both a noun and an adjective. In fact, many Spanish words are both nouns and adjectives.
This is something that I have never seen covered in any of the learning-Spanish grammar books that I used to learn the language. This is actually something that I discovered on my own from years of conversing in Spanish with native Spanish speakers.
Unlike in English, in Spanish very often you can use the exact same word as a noun and an adjective to refer to a person. Normally, we are not able to do this in English.
For example, in English you call someone a “liar” but you cannot take that noun “liar” and then use the exact same word as an adjective and say that someone is “very liar.” It would not make sense in English. You would have to use the adjective “lying.” But the Spanish language would allow you to use the same Spanish word both as a noun and adjective to refer to a person.
Here’s another example . . .
In English you can call someone a “dummy” but you cannot take that same noun (dummy) and then use the exact same word as an adjective and say that someone is “very dummy.” It would not make sense in English. You would have to use the adjective “dumb.” But the Spanish language would allow you to use the exact same Spanish word both as a noun and adjective to refer to a person in this case.
And, in English you can describe someone as “dirty” but you cannot take that same adjective (dirty) and then say that same person is “a dirty.”
It would not make sense in English. But the Spanish language, in this case, would allow you to use the same Spanish word both as a noun and adjective to refer to a person.
Let me give you 3 examples so that you understand exactly what I mean.
1. Here’s an example with “mentiroso” (liar/lying).
La mujer dijo “mi esposo es un mentiroso.”
The woman said “my her husband is a liar.”
El hombre dijo “mi amante es muy mentirosa.”
The man said “my lover is very lying/untruthful.”
2. Here’s an example with “bobo” (dummy/dumb)
Mi vecino es tan bobo que sembró unas monedas pensando que nacerá un árbol de dinero.
My neighbor is so dumb that he planted coins thinking that a money tree will grow.
No te burles de mi. No soy un bobo.
Don’t make fun of me. I am not a dummy.
3. Here’s an example with “cochino” (pig/dirty).
Hay un cochino muy grande en la granja.
There’s a very large pig on the farm.
“No seas cochino y deja meterte el dedo en la nariz,” me reganó mi abuelita.
“Don’t be dirty/nasty/filthy and stop sticking your finger in your nose,” my grandmother scolded me.
Just to make sure that it wasn’t just me, I looked up the words “mentiroso,” “bobo,” and “cochino” in one of my Spanish-English dictionaries and noticed that the dictionary had the abbreviations “adj” (adjective) and “n” (noun) next to all three words.