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Spanish adjectives: Nuevo, menos, muerto, vivo

Let’s learn some essential Spanish adjectives, such as nuevo, menos, muerto, and vivo. We’ll get lots of practice with these, including the nuances of when to use adjectives with Ser versus with Estar.

Full Podcast Episode


Ten estas nuevas cosas.

Intro: Join us on a rigorous, step-by-step journey to fluency. I’m Timothy and this is LearnCraft Spanish.

Let’s learn a few new adjectives and then use them to help us keep practicing the verb Querer.

Let’s begin with the word menos, which means “less” or “fewer”. We’ve already learned más, which can be used as an adjective in situations such as “more things”, or más cosas. The word menos simply means the opposite. For example:

But we would have less time.

Pero tendríamos menos tiempo.

The word menos doesn’t change based on what it’s describing. This was true of más as well. So even if you’re describing something feminine and plural, the word doesn’t change; for example:

There are fewer houses here.

Hay menos casas aquí.

Our next adjective is the word nuevo, which means “new”. This adjective is very easy to use, and it’s pretty conventional in that it does change based on the number and gender of the thing it describes. For example:

Here are the new things.

Aquí están las nuevas cosas.

This word sometimes occurs before a noun and sometimes after; “new things” is sometimes translated as nuevas cosas and sometimes as cosas nuevas. In general, we put it before the noun to clarify “which” of something we’re talking about; for example, if someone has had multiple houses, you might indicate that one house is her nueva casa as opposed to one of her previous houses. But to describe a house as a casa nueva implies that it’s a new house, maybe recently built.

Our next word is único, spelled u-n-i-c-o, but with an accent mark on the first letter. Único. This word can mean a couple of things. First of all, you might want to describe something as “unique”. For example:

His house is unique.

Su casa es única.

But what do we mean by unique? Typically what we’re saying is that it’s the only one of its kind. And the word único can mean “only” in this specific sense, as an adjective. For example:

This is the only house here.

Esta es la única casa aquí.

Of course, we already learned that the word sólo can mean “only”, but it specifically means that when “only” is being used as an adverb in Spanish; for example, “I only want to do this”, or sólo quiero hacer esto. In English, we also use “only” as an adjective to describe something as unique, and in Spanish, the word for that is único.

Let’s practice único, nuevo, and menos.

The new house is unique.

La nueva casa es única.

I hope they want fewer gifts.

I hope que quieran menos gifts.

Espero que quieran menos regalos.

He wants new projects(m) with fewer problems.

Quiere nuevos projects con menos problemas.

Quiere nuevos proyectos con menos problemas.

If he wanted something unique, he would buy it.

Si quisiera algo único, lo he would buy.

Si quisiera algo único, lo compraría.

Incidentally, menos can also be used as an adverb in the same way that más is. Here are a couple of examples:

We have done it less.

Lo hemos hecho menos.

This house was less new.

Esta casa era menos nueva.

Now let’s learn two adjectives that are associated with the verb Estar, to describe how someone is. These two words are the words for “alive” and “dead”: vivo and muerto. For example:

The girl isn’t dead, she’s alive!

¡La chica no está muerta, está viva!

Incidentally, this is a good debunking of the idea that Estar is used for temporary states. That just isn’t true. When someone is dead, of course that’s not simply a temporary state. But it’s still considered how they are, not who they are as a part of their identity! In other words, in Spanish to say that someone is dead, you never say that someone es muerto, you always say está muerto.

There’s also something else that’s kind of funny about going between Ser and Estar: Some adjectives actually change meaning when you use them with Ser versus Estar. And the adjective vivo is a great example. Vivo actually has two meanings: It can mean “alive”, to describe how someone is (they’re alive), or you can use it to refer to an event or an inanimate object to mean “lively” or “energetic”. In all such cases, you’ll use Ser rather than Estar. For example:

The party was very lively.

La fiesta fue muy viva.

But it’s not very frequent to use the word vivo to describe a person along with the verb Ser; you’re more likely to say es vivo or era vivo when describing a non-human thing as lively.

Let’s practice using the words muerto and vivo.

He wants to have lively parties.

Quiere tener fiestas vivas.

My friend(m) isn’t dead, he is alive.

Mi amigo no está muerto, está vivo.

If she wanted them(f) to be dead, they would be dead and not alive.

Si las quisiera muertas, estarían muertas y no vivas.

I hope they want their event(m) to be lively.

I hope que quieran que su event sea vivo.

Espero que quieran que su evento sea vivo.

Let’s learn a couple more adjectives that you can use along with Ser to describe what something is like, or what someone is like, as a part of their identity.

One aspect that fits squarely into this category is size. The word grande means “big”. For example:

Her house is big.

Su casa es grande.

These are big things.

Estas son cosas muy grandes.

There’s something unusual about this word, and that is that if you put it right before a singular noun, you actually shorten it to simply gran. Remember that we kind of did this with bueno, shortening it to buen specifically if it occurs before a singular masculine noun, such as buen lugar (not bueno lugar). The word grande goes even further; you shorten it even before a feminine noun. For example, “a big house” is una gran casa. Also, when this word is placed before a noun, it changes meaning slightly to mean something more like “great” rather than “big”. For example:

What a great house!

¡Qué gran casa!

Another way you might describe something or someone is “quick”. The word rápido can be used to describe a person, a car, or even a process as being quick. For example:

It’s a quick job.

Es un trabajo rápido.

The girl is very fast.

La chica es muy rápida.

Let’s practice grande and rápido.

She did it in order that we want a great house.

Lo hizo para que queramos una gran casa.

They(f) have to be quick if they want something big.

Tienen que ser rápidas si quieren algo grande.

I hoped that you wanted a fast car.

I hoped que quisieras un car rápido.

Esperaba que quisieras un auto rápido.

Our last two adjectives are also used along with Ser, but they tend to be used in a more abstract way. One of these is serio, which means “serious”. For example:

This problem was very serious.

Este problema fue muy serio.

But you can also use this word to describe a person as being “serious”; for example:

She’s a very serious woman.

Es una mujer muy seria.

Our last word is cierto, which means “certain”. If you describe something as “certain”, what you mean is that it’s definitely the case. The most common way to do this is to say “It is certain that something is the case.” For example:

It’s certain that we won’t be there on time.

Es cierto que no estaremos ahí a tiempo.

You might notice that this is very similar to another word we learned last week, the word claro. For example:

It’s clear that we won’t be there on time.

Está claro que no estaremos ahí a tiempo.

So what’s the difference between es cierto and está claro? They mean basically the same thing. But remember that when you use the word cierto, you always use Ser, and when you use claro, you always use Estar. The reason for this is simply idiomatic; it’s just one of those things where the language has decided that cierto belongs with Ser and claro belongs with Estar. So we just need to practice this to get used to it.

It’s certain that you are right.

Es cierto que tienes razón.

That wasn’t clear.

Eso no estaba claro.

Yes, it was certain that the boy was my friend.

Sí, era cierto que el chico era mi amigo.

At that moment it was clear that we were wrong.

En ese momento estuvo claro que no teníamos razón.

Remember that you can drill down and get more practice with any of this at LCSPodcast.com/73. Now if you’re ready, let’s go on to today’s final quiz.

They wanted him to be alive.

Querían que él estuviera vivo.

They would do it if they wanted a great party.

Lo harían si quisieran una gran fiesta.

This show(m) is less lively.

Este show es menos vivo.

Este show es menos vivo.

We meant for the car(m) to be fast.

Quisimos que el car fuera rápido.

Quisimos que el auto fuera rápido.

I hope he wants a great party.

I hope que quiera una gran fiesta.

Espero que quiera una gran fiesta.

That girl is not dead and is unique.

Esa chica no está muerta y es única.

I would like you to be serious(m) for once.

Quisiera que fueras serio una vez.

He wanted us to love him.

Él quería que lo quisiéramos.

If I wanted to be serious(m), I would be.

Si quisiera ser serio, lo sería.

We didn’t want to do that.

No queríamos hacer eso.

You wanted a new house that time, but I didn’t want it.

Quisiste una casa nueva esa vez, pero yo no la quise.

They don’t want to do what he meant to do.

No quieren hacer lo que él quiso hacer.

I want a new phone(m).

Quiero un nuevo phone.

Quiero un nuevo teléfono.

It’s certain that they meant to do it.

Es cierto que lo quisieron hacer.

I hope you don’t want it.

Espero que no lo quieras.

If you wanted it, it would be a problem.

Si lo quisieras, sería un problema.

We want what we have always wanted.

Queremos lo que siempre hemos querido.

They are going to want it when I want it.

Lo van a querer cuando yo lo quiera.

I’d want a unique house.

Quisiera una casa única.

You wanted it to be less big.

Querías que fuera menos grande.

The big man is not dead, he is alive.

El hombre grande no está muerto, está vivo.

It was certain that he wanted the party to be more lively.

Era cierto que quería que la fiesta fuera más viva.

For more practice with all of this, go to LCSPodcast.com/73.

In tomorrow’s episode, we’ll learn a few new handy nouns, including the words for “name”, “story”, and “a little bit”.

This show is brought to you by LearnCraftSpanish.com. The Spanish voice in this episode was our coach Ximena Lama-Rondón. Our music was performed by the Seattle Marimba Quartet, and I’m Timothy, encouraging you to do the hard work of learning Spanish. Acquiring a second language is one of the most fulfilling things you can do, so start your fluency journey today at LCSPodcast.com.

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