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I was translating something from English into Spanish and hesitated a moment as I contemplated how best to do it. The phrase was

Lists of Taiwanese counties and cities

I hesitated because I wasn't sure if I could write

Listas de condados y ciudades taiwaneses

using the masculine plural form for "taiwanés" to cover both nouns, somewhat similar to the practice of assigning masculine gender to a group of people even if only one male is in that group. I was about to just try to get on with it and simply write

Listas de condados y ciudades de Taiwán

which is what I consider a form of "writing around it," but then I thought better of it knowing that taking the easy way out is not a good way to increase one's knowledge of a foreign language (or anything else for that matter).

I did try to search for an answer for this using a number of different methods, but nothing I tried definitively answered this for me. At one point I was hopeful that the thread

Adjectives that modify more than one noun

might answer the question. Though the title was promising, the discussion that followed from that question didn't really answer this one here.

Thanks in advance if you know the answer to this.

  • Listas de condados y ciudades taiwanesas suena mucho más natural y es usado en esa forma, pero no sé si es estrictamente correcto. Una forma segura es "Listas de ciudades y condados taiwaneses" – user1420303 Jul 23 '16 at 22:46
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Your answer can be found in section 3.2 on the Diccionario panhispánico de dudas. Below is a translation of the original text:

3.2. One adjective postposed to several nouns. When one adjective qualifies two or more coordinated nouns and is postposed to them, it is advisable to inflect it in plural and masculine if the two adjectives are of different gender: «Tiene el pelo y la barba enmarañados»1 (Matos Noche [Cuba 2002]); «Apareció [...] vestida con traje y mantilla blancos»2 (Hernández Secreter [Esp. 1995]). If the adjective agreed only with the second noun, there could arise some ambiguity because it would be possible to interpret that the adjective only applies to the nearest noun: vestida con traje y mantilla blanca (where both the suit and the mantille white or just the latter?). However, when both nouns are considered to form a unit of which each is only a part, the adjective can agree with the nearest one: «La gente de origen y habla francesa predomina en la provincia de Quebec»3 (Tiempo [Col.] 1.7.98).

To answer your question, taiwaneses is the right choice. If you are concerned about the cacophony of an adjective following a noun with which it doesn't agree, you can always change the order of the nouns so the masculine goes at the end, as proposed in the comments. That isn't necessary, though -- to me, taiwaneses sounds just fine in your sentence!

Interestingly, the rules change if the adjective is preposed to the nouns; in that case, the adjective must agree in gender and number with the first noun (La indispensable vigilancia y control nocturnos), except when qualifying people (los simpáticos Paco y Toni). When the conjunction used is o instead of y, the rules are similar to the ones mentioned for y:

Cada vez que mueren un hombre o una mujer viejos [...],toda una biblioteca muere con ellos4

When the conjunction o is used to establish an equivalence, however, the adjective is inflected in singular and agrees in gender with the first noun:

El aerógrafo o pistola usado debe ser adecuado al compresor5


1: His hair and beard are tangled.
2: She showed up dressed in a white suit and mantille.
3: People of French origin and language are predominant in the province of Quebec.
4: Every time an elderly man or woman dies, a whole library dies with them.
5: The airbrush or spray gun used must be adequate to the compressor.

  • Brilliant! I wasn't aware of what you describe about what is explained with the example 4. I would have said Cada vez que muere un hombre o una mujer viejos.... Out of curiosity, do you have a reference for this? – fedorqui Jul 24 '16 at 12:57
  • @fedorqui I would have said muere too, but I guess both options are acceptable. It's all part of the same article on the DPD, where you can also find several examples from the Spanish literature. – Yay Jul 24 '16 at 13:06
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    Indeed, that was a brilliant answer, @Yay! You definitely went above and beyond, so muchas, muchas gracias. The RAE appears to be a magic lamp of enlightenment for many a good answer and one I hope to use more often in the future when my Spanish is a bit better. In the meantime, I hope you don't tire of my questions. – Lisa Beck Jul 24 '16 at 23:56
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    @LisaBeck ¡De nada! Indeed, not even most Spanish speakers are aware of the huge amount of useful information that the RAE provides through its many online services (and some out there could really use reading it from time to time!). Anyway, keep asking such interesting questions, the nerd within me never gets tired of talking about grammar. – Yay Jul 25 '16 at 0:20

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