Grammatical Apocopes

Apócopes gramaticales

Spanish apocopes
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A dozen Spanish adjectives have special shortened forms called apócopes. Unlike apocopes like cine and info, which are optional and generally informal, grammatical apocopes are required in specific constructions.

Good and Bad

adjectiveapocope meaning
buenobuen good
malomal bad

Bueno and malo can either precede masculine nouns (in their shortened form) or follow the noun (in their original form); the latter gives them a slight emphasis.

Por ejemplo…

Pablo es un buen hombre. Pablo is a good man.
Pablo es un hombre bueno. Pablo is a (truly) good man.

Numbers

Four numbers have apocopes.

adjectiveapocope meaning
primeroprimer first
tercerotercer third
unoun one, a
cientocien a hundred

The first three must be used when they precede a masculine singular noun.

Por ejemplo…

Este es mi primer coche. This is my first car.
Tengo un hermano. I have one brother.

When the number does not precede a noun but rather stands alone as a pronoun, it maintains its original form:

Este es el primero. This is the first one.
Sí, tengo uno. Yes, I have one.

The above adjectives are not shortened when used with feminine or plural nouns.

una hermana  one woman
los primeros coches the first cars

Ciento is a special case: it shortens to cien when it precedes a plural noun or when it multiplies the number that follows.

cien euros 100 euros
cien mil 100,000

But not when it’s part of a larger number.

ciento cuarenta 140
dos cientos 200

Indefinite Adjectives

adjectiveapocope meaning
algunoalgún some
ningunoningún no, none

These follow the exact same rules as primer and tercer.

Por ejemplo…

¿Hay algún baño aquí? Is there a bathroom here?
No hay ningún problema. There’s no problem.

 Note that algún and ningún require the addition of an accent in order to maintain the proper word stress.

Masculine and Feminine

Two Spanish adjectives are shortened before a noun of either gender:

adjectiveapocope meaning
grandegran big / great
cualquieracualquier any

Por ejemplo…

un gran proyecto a great project
una gran idea a great idea

 The meaning of gran is more figative than grande; it means “big” as in “great.”

Santo

The titular adjective Santo is shortened to San when it precedes most masculine saints’ names:

  • San Diego
  • San José
  • San Juan
  • San Luís
  • San Miguel
  • San Tobías
    etc.

Exceptions

  • Santo Domingo
  • Santo Tomás
  • Santo Tomé
  • Santo Toribio

 Many other Spanish words have shortened forms that tend to be informal and/or regional and are optional, unlike the required apócopes explained in this lesson.

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Apócopes - Spanish grammar