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Proper Adjectives, Part 1

Ask a Teacher: Proper Adjectives Part 1
Ask a Teacher: Proper Adjectives Part 1
Proper Adjectives Part 1
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Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we will answer a question from Gustavo in Brazil about using proper adjectives to describe someone.


Hello, my name is Gustavo, from Brazil.

I have been learning English with you for many years. Thank you for all of the stories!

I have a question. I want to say, "my Spanish teacher" meaning "my teacher from Spain". Then I realized that it could also mean "my teacher that teaches Spanish language classes.”

So, which is it? Does it mean both

Thank you very much for reading my message!



Thanks for your question and for reading our website so often.

In English, we have a limited number of adjectives to describe what language someone speaks or teaches, or where they are from. However, we can use proper adjectives and prepositions as well as other structures to help our understanding.

Using proper adjectives

Let us start with proper adjectives. Proper adjectives come from proper nouns, which are words or groups of words that name a specific person, place or thing. Proper nouns and adjectives begin with a capital letter, so they are easy to spot.

Proper adjectives that describe a country of origin or language come from their proper nouns. These adjectives mean “of or relating to the country, its people, language or culture.”

“Spanish” means relating to Spain. So we can talk about “Spanish people” and “Spanish culture.” “Spanish” is also the proper adjective to describe the language of Spain.

Generally, when we talk about teaching or learning a language, we use the proper adjective of the language to describe the teacher or student. For example,

I am an English teacher.

I teach English, but I am not from England; I am from the U.S.

In your question, the proper adjective of “Spanish” is modifying the noun “teacher.” Therefore, a “Spanish teacher” means someone who teaches the Spanish language.

Using “from”

We can use the preposition “from” to describe where our language teachers are originally from.

My Russian teacher is from the country of Georgia.

Her French teacher is from Canada.

Using the preposition “from” makes the sentence clearer by providing more information.

Next week, we will continue talking about proper adjectives and other ways to describe your teacher!

Please let us know if these examples and explanations have helped you, Gustavo!

What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at

And that’s Ask a Teacher.

I’m Faith Pirlo.

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

realizev. to understand or become aware of something

origin – n. the cause of something or where something comes from


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