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Turning Adjectives Into Nouns

Nearly All Adjectives Can Function as Other Part of Speech

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In Spanish, almost any descriptive adjective (and a few others) can be used to function as a noun.

Typically, adjectives made into nouns are the equivalent of the English "____ one" or "____ person" as in the following examples:

  • azul (blue), el azul, la azul (the blue one)
  • pobre (poor), los pobres (the poor people)
  • nuevo (new), el nuevo, la nueva (the new one)
  • mexicano (Mexican), el mexicano, la mexicana (the Mexican)
The gender and number will depend on what's being referred to:
  • ¿Qué casa prefieres? —La blanca. ("Which house do you prefer?" "The white one.")
  • Había muchas fresas. Compré las más frescas. (There were many strawberries. I bought the freshest ones.)
  • Había muchos plátanos. Compré los más frescos. (There were many bananas. I bought the freshest ones.)
Sometimes, nouns made from adjectives take on meanings of their own, at least in certain contexts:
  • roto (torn), el roto (the tear)
  • mal (bad), el mal (evil, wrongful act, sickness)
  • perdido (lost), el perdido, la perdida (the reprobate, the lost soul)
  • decolorante (causing something to lose its color), el decolorante (bleach)
  • semejante (similar), los semejantes (fellow human beings)
The adjective-turned-noun is in the neuter gender when the adjective is turned into an abstract noun or when the adjective-turned-noun is not referring to a specific person or thing. The singular neuter definite article is lo; in plural, the neuter is the same form as the masculine, with a definite article of los. Such neuter nouns are translated in a variety of ways, depending on the context:
  • Fuera lo viejo, venga lo nuevo. (Out with the old, in with the new.)
  • Lo importante es que tenemos la oportunidad. (The important thing is that we have the opportunity.)
  • Los interesantes son los intangibles. (What are interesting are the intangibles.)
  • Te regalo lo tuyo. (I am giving you what's yours.)
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