Proper adjectives, part 1

Good morning! This week on Ask a teacherwe’ll be answering 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. Thanks for all the stories!

I have a question. I mean “my Spanish teacher” meaning “my teacher from Spain”. Then I realized that it could also mean “my teacher who gives Spanish lessons”.

So which one is it? Does it mean both

Thank you very much for reading my message!



Thank you 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 come from. However, we can use appropriate adjectives and prepositions as well as other structures to help our understanding.

Use the right adjectives

Let’s start with proper adjectives. Proper adjectives come from proper nouns, which are words or phrases that refer to a specific person, place, or thing. Proper nouns and adjectives start with a capital letter, so they’re easy to spot.

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

“Spanish” means relating to Spain. We can therefore speak of “Spanish people” and “Spanish culture“. “Spanish” is also the appropriate adjective to describe the language of Spain.

Generally, when we talk about teaching or learning a language, we use the appropriate adjective of the language to describe the teacher or learner. For instance,

I am an English teacher.

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

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

Use of “since”

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

My Russian teacher is from the country of Georgia.

Her French teacher is from Canada.

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

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

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

What question to do you do you have on american english? Email us at [email protected]

And it’s Ask a teacher.

I am Faith Pirlo.

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


words in this story

realizev. to understand or become aware of something

origin – nm the cause of something or where something comes from


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