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Proper Adjectives, Part 2

Ask a Teacher: Proper Adjectives Part 2
Ask a Teacher: Proper Adjectives Part 2
Proper Adjectives 2
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Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we will continue to answer a question from Gustavo in Brazil about describing his teacher using the linking verb “be” and other adjectives.


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 once again, Gustavo, for the question.

Last week we looked at two ways to describe your teacher. The first way was with proper adjectives. We use the proper adjective of a language, like “Spanish,” to describe teachers or students of a language. The second way we can describe your teacher is to talk about where they are from, using the preposition “from.” This can be useful if you want to be exact about where they were born or are “from.”

So, if your teacher does not teach Spanish, then using “from” is a better choice. You can say,

My teacher is from Spain.

We also have two other ways we can describe your teacher in a bit more detail.

The linking verb “be”

We can also use the linking verb “be.” For example,

My teacher is Spanish.

Here we use the linking verb “be” and the proper adjective of “Spanish” after the verb. This means that the teacher is of Spanish heritage or culture. But, be careful. This does not always mean that the teacher is “from” Spain. They could have been born somewhere else but have Spanish parents. Heritage and culture are not always the same as a person’s nationality or where they were born.

In the US, we commonly use this kind of expression when we talk about where our families or ancestors come from since many Americans consider their heritage to be from other parts of the world. For example,

My friend Pedro is Puerto Rican.

Lena’s family is Polish, but she is American.

Using other adjectives

We can use an additional adjective to describe what kind of teacher you have if they do not teach a language. We can then combine this with the linking verb “be” and say where they are from. For example,

My economics teacher is from India.

Their French teacher is from Canada.

Remember, it is sometimes small details that ensure your meaning is understood and mistakes are avoided.

Please let us know if these new explanations and examples this week 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

heritage n. the traditions, beliefs, and important things that were done that are part of the history of a group or nation


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