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I was reading Revelation 19:15 today, which says, in part:

Y de su boca sale una aguda espada larga

In English, the "aguda espada larga" portion of this sentence is "sharp long sword."

Why in Spanish is it "sharp sword long"?

Is this the norm - when there are two adjectives modifying a noun, they are split, one before the noun, and one after?

If so, would "larga espada aguda" be just as acceptable?

Could both adjectives trail the noun, such as "espada aguda larga" or "espada larga aguda"?

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The only rule is that adjectives that are assigned some subjective value by the speaker will tend to appear before the noun, while those that have a more objective value will tend to come after it.

There is also another rule which sets forth that, whenever there is more than one adjective either before or after the noun, they will tend to be separated by commas or by a conjunction such as "and" (although some other might be used).

Since this separation of adjectives by commas or a conjunction can be either stylistically poor or heavy, the speaker may decide to place the adjective(s) he considers more subjective in front position and leave the one(s) he deems to be more objective in end position. This might be the case with the noun phrase "aguda espada larga". However, all these would be equally correct:

  • aguda y larga espada
  • larga y aguda espada
  • aguda, larga espada
  • espada aguda y larga
  • espada larga y aguda

The comma alone will generally not be used to separate adjectives in end position, and a conjunction will usually be required to separate the last two members of any series of adjectives appearing after a noun. In front position, commas without a final conjunction will be allowed, but a poetic effect will ensue.

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    I didnt know about the adjective subjectivity. That must be the case of "viejo amigo" and "amigo viejo". The first is used for a friend met a long time ago, while the second is used for a friend which is old in age – Theia Jul 18 '17 at 19:24
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    @Theia it's partly for subjectivity, and as you've seen with some adjectives it can affect their connotations (consider also "nuevo carro" vs "carro nuevo"). Another use of the prepositioning adjectives is to emphasize an inherent/identifying/contrastive quality. It's a pretty complex topic, actually. – user0721090601 Jul 18 '17 at 20:25
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    We can also say that preposed adjectives tend to be non-definining while postposed ones tend to be defining. Sometimes, as you say, there is a change of meaning: moral when preposed, physical when postposed. Other times, it's just a question of style. – Gustavson Jul 18 '17 at 20:56
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    It could also be the case that the translator thought "long sword" meant not a sword that was long but "longsword", or espada larga in Spanish, which is an additional confirmation of what Gustavson says: an aguda espada larga is different from a larga y aguda espada, as an espada larga is a kind of sword and not just a sword that is long. – JMVanPelt Jul 18 '17 at 21:25

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