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Saying I am... with adjectives

On this page, we'll look at some simple sentences such as I'm tired, I'm ready.

Saying I'm or I am in Spanish

In Spanish, the equivalent of I am (or I'm) is generally a single word. On this page, we'll use the following word:

estoy I am, I'm

In English, it's generally common to use the contracted form I'm instead of I am in everyday speech. There isn't such a distinction in Spanish, so it's just estoy*.

* In actual fact, there are cases where English must use the form I am, and where Spanish would need a different translation to have the same effect. (For example, you'd always say "he's not tired but I am", and not "*he's not tired but I'm".) But these sentences are beyond the scope of this tutorial, and we'll just stick to estoy as the translation for both I'm and I am.

Using estoy with an adjective

We can generally follow the Spanish word estoy with an adjective to make sentences such as I'm tired just as in English. For now, we're going to practise with the following adjectives:

enfadado*angry, mad
enfermoill, poorly
muertodead, dead-tired

* enfadado is a word mainly used in Spain; in Latin America, the word enojado is used. In this tutorial, if you choose to practise with Mexican Spanish, you'll get the latter word instead.

So, for example:

estoy enfermo
I'm ill
estoy listo
I'm ready
estoy ocupado
I'm busy
estoy muerto
I'm dead(-tired)

Why is it only one word to mean I am?

In case you're wondering why there's only one word in Spanish but two in English, this is because Spanish is a so-called pro-drop language. This means that normally, the subject pronoun (which here is "I" in English) is "dropped" (not pronounced) in Spanish. So estoy, a simple verb form, is sufficient to mean I am ... and an extra pronoun would not normally be inserted in Spanish.

Be careful about statements such as "subject pronouns are optional in Spanish". It is often ungrammatical to use a subject pronoun in a pro-drop language such as Spanish: in general, they are only used in specific circumstances, such as to mark a contrast or emphasis.

What favours pro-drop in Spanish, but not English, is that the ending of a verb generally indicates the person. For example, those verb forms ending in -oy such as estoy are first person singular ("I") forms of the present tense.

Agreement with a female subject

Now, there's a slight complication we need to consider. If the subject (the person referred to by "I") is female, then we need to change the ending of the adjective:

If the subject is female and the adjective ends in -o, then we need to change -o to -a.

Generally speaking in Spanish:

When we use an adjective to describe a person, we have to make sure it has the appropriate ending. It is conventional to list the masculine form, generally ending in -o, as the "basic" form. So the forms above– cansado, listo etc– are already in the right form to describe a masculine subject.

But as we just mentioned, if the subject is female or feminine, we usually need to change the adjective. So here are the forms of some of the above adjectives for referring male and female subjects (masculine and feminine):

Masculine form, for referring to a male subject How to make the feminine form Feminine form, for referring to a female subject
cansadoChange -o to -acansada
listoChange -o to -alista
enfermoChange -o to -aenferma
tristeDo NOTHINGtriste

Note that triste doesn't end in -o, so it doesn't need to change. In general, -e is "neither masculine nor feminine", and an adjective ending in -e doesn't change according to the gender.

So, here are some examples of sentences using the masculine/feminine forms:

estoy cansado
I'm tired (where the person speaking is male)
estoy cansada
I'm tired (where the person speaking is female)
estoy lista
I'm ready (where the person speaking is also female)
estoy triste
I'm sad (the person could be male or female: the -e ending doesn't distinguish in this case)

The word agreement

This selection of the right form of a word to match something– in this case gender– is sometimes called agreement. Here, the adjective "agrees" with the subject. As you learn more Spanish, you'll see that there are various places where words must "agree" with one another. And they may have to agree in terms of things other than gender. In this case, choosing the right form of an adjective is sometimes called adjective agreement.

Exercise: make sentences with estoy and an adjective

Now it's your turn to practise making some sentences with estoy. You can practise with either Castillian Spanish (the Spanish of northern Spain) or Mexican Spanish. Press the appropriate button below to begin practising.

If you don't see the two buttons, click here


On the next page, you'll learn and practise making Spanish sentences that mean he is ... and she is ....

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