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New Spanish learner here. When translating

"The dog is ours",

I came up with

"El perro es nuestros".

Can someone please explain why it is incorrect? The correct answer is "El perro es nuestro."

I'm clearly missing something about possessive agreement.

  • It is "nuestro" (singular) because the agreemente is with "perro" (singular). It would be nuestros (plural) if you were referring to a plural noun, like in Los perros son nuestros – user19118 Apr 7 '18 at 18:29
  • How did you come up with your phrase? Were you trying to translate word for word with a dictionary, or what? – aparente001 Apr 7 '18 at 20:31
  • I'm retracting my vote to close, because I can't find a basic Q&A about noun-adjective agreement. Apparently we don't have one yet; the site should have one, and this question lends itself to this. – aparente001 Apr 7 '18 at 20:59
  • @aparente001 you may also vote up the question. It's a good short question with a nice simple and defined example that gives way to useful answers in the same vein. We need more questions like this. – hlecuanda Apr 7 '18 at 22:24
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It's good that you're aware of the concept of agreement.

Agreement of noun and adjective means that a noun and the adjective modifying it have to match, in both gender and in number. Since "perro" is masculine and singular, the adjective must match and also be masculine and singular: "nuestro."

I think what may have been confusing you was the S at the end of "ours." Perhaps if the English sentence had been "Bobby is our dog," then you would have been able to go directly and correctly to "Bobby es nuestro perro." So I'll explain that "ours" with an S on the end is a possessive pronoun, whereas "our without the S is a possessive adjective. In Spanish, for the first person plural, the same word works for both types of possessive. Here's the table in English (the possessive adjective is listed first, followed by the possessive pronoun):

my, mine

your, yours

her, hers

his, his (there's no change because the first one already has an S)

its, its (")

our, ours

your, yours

their, theirs

In Spanish we will need two such tables, one for singular:

mi, mío/mía

tu, tuyo/tuya

su, suyo/suya

nuestro/nuestra, nuestro/nuestra

[vuestro/vuestra, vuestro/vuestra, if you are in a vosotros country]

su, suyo/suya

and one for plural:

mis, míos/mías

tus, tuyos/tuyas

sus, suyos/suyas

nuestros/nuestras, nuestros/nuestras

[vuestros/vuestras, vuestros/vuestras, if you are in a vosotros country]

sus, suyos/suyas

You didn't ask about this, but since I've gone this far I better finish the story about possessives. In "El perro es nuestro," strictly speaking nuestro is still an adjective. However, possessive adjectives used in that way in a sentence will follow the table I gave you anyway. Thus, in "El perro es mío," mío is an adjective, but we do need to pull the second entry from the table, because the possessive is stressed in that sentence.

Perhaps more information that you needed. Back to the main point. I'm guessing that the S on the end of "ours" threw you off and led you to think you needed to add an S to "nuestro." However, the thought process should be, first check if the noun is singular, and whether it's masculine or feminine; also check whether your possessive is stressed or unstressed; then pull the entry that agrees in number, gender and stress status out of the table.

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  • I would only add that for pronoun and noun to agree the correct forms are: "El perro es nuestro" and "Los perros son nuestros" in this case the verb is irregular, hence it's change from second person singular to second person plural. – hlecuanda Apr 7 '18 at 22:06
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    What do you mean "not up on the Spanish 'you'"? – user0721090601 Apr 7 '18 at 23:45
  • He may be referring to the complexity introduced by the second person plural "vosotros" which is very much in use in Europe, while only certain countries in america use it. In Mexico it's even considered an archaic form. So you'd have to use 2 subtables for this inflection one for the modern ustedes and another one for the classic vosotros – hlecuanda Apr 8 '18 at 1:00
  • @hlecuanda - Thanks for explaining. I'm guessing it would be vuestro, vuestro but I never really learned those forms. // Note, I don't use gendered pronouns on SE. – aparente001 Apr 8 '18 at 1:18
  • @aparente001 My pleasure! you are correct, the form would be "vuestro/vuestra" (classic) and (su/su) modern. Side note: Spanish is a deeply inflected language, avoiding gendered declinations leads to strange and contorted constructs in order to reach a gender-neutral form. Such "syntactic gymnastics" often render ambiguous statements where a simple gendered statement would be clear and elegant. I'm all for gender equality, and sexual identity freedom, but placing clear and concise communication between individuals in jeopardy for the cause's sake, would be a disservice to everyone involved. – hlecuanda Apr 8 '18 at 1:32

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