I'm learning Spanish (along with English, but I'm more advanced in English), and I try to read a lot of discussions on the sentences forums to improve my grammar. I was a bit confused about the Spanish adjectives, and get some readings about it. This is the sum up. I post it here to help other learners , and to get corrected by natives.
High, Tall, Short
I'm high = (talking about a person: slang) I'm very euphoric. (I don't know the Spanish translation for this slang)
I'm tall = Soy alto (normal) (http://growthmax.com/wp-images/short_man_tall_man.jpg)
High = "Situated above the ground or some base; elevated: a high platform" or tall with the meaning I think that you are far from the ground when you reach the top: a high wall = http://www.wordreference.com/es/translation.asp?tranword=high Spanish: una pared alta.
High used with a unit of measurement: la altura =The wall is 6 meters high. The man is 175 centimeters high; Example: http://www.lifeisajoke.com/news35.htm
A thing I don't understand, I read, that in correct English, you have to say "a tall building" instead of "a high building" (or you can say a high-rise building), but why "high wall" is more correct than "tall wall"? Source: http://www.englishforums.com/English/HighBuildingTallBuilding/dnzzh/post.htm and
BAJO CORTO ALTO LARGO...
Bajo/Alto: opposite. And Corto./Largo: opposite. Corto= short in length or duration., Bajo= short in stature.
La camisa corta/larga: the short/long shirt La camisa grande/pequeña: the large/small shirt. La mujer baja/alta.
La pelicula es corta (short in duration) La cuchara es corta. (short in length) él es corto (= stupid) él es bajo. (= he's short in stature) El avión vola bajo (here: adverb, not an adjective)= low altitude.
Corto = "short" horizontally (like a river, and for clothing) "Bajo= "short" vertically (like a person)
Quote: "Actually depending in the region you are, different words can be used for the same purpouse. But, at least here, it's kind of weird hear the word "corto" to refer about how tall a person is. Of course you can hear it some time but, it doesn't mean that it's the most common expression."
GRAN OR GRANDE
*Gran (feminine and masculine, before the noun)= great: important, famous. ex: el gran mundo =the upper social class, una gran película. Dijo que Reagan fue un gran presidente.
*Grande (feminine and masculine, after the noun)= big/tall: size, volume, quantity, etc. ex: la familia grande, el hombre grande = tall. el tamaño grande de su cabeza. El río grande.
PLACE OF THE SPANISH ADJECTIVES
Adjectives of quantity always precedes the noun, but if they are "determinative" adjectives, not "qualificative" adjectives. There are also said "non-descriptive adjectives". Deteminative adjectives =alguno/mucho/tanto.
Qualificative adjectives (often only said "adjectives") = grande/rojo/hermoso/peligroso/americano, etc All the (qualficative) adjectives describes a quality. (they qualify) They can come before or after the noun. (but most are placed after.
For colors, nationalities or a membership in a group (ex: americano, católico...) , and adjectives used with an adverb (ex: "muy interesante") : Always after.
Adjective used in an emphatic way (reinforced adjectives): they go before.
Changing the place: If you change the place of some adjectives, you can insist on the emotion, and change the meaning. Compare: Mi amigo viejo (normal use)=my elderly friend. Mi viejo amigo (emotionnaly changed use)=my longtime friend;
Emphasis: La noche oscura, can be "la oscura noche" is you insist on "oscura" and the connotations of "oscura", (fear, insecurity...) La música buena (normal use); La buena música (emphasis)
I hope a native will see this text, maybe there are things to fix?
High, stoned, baked, blazed, toasted, faded, wasted, gone...
Literally translated, these words would be "alto, empedrado, cocido, ardido, tostado, descolorido, perdido, desaparecido..." But does this express the same thing???
Probably not. Each culture has its own taboos and usually has its own choice of "normal" words through which they can safely discuss these taboos. So you cannot really ask "how do you say I'm high in Spanish?" and expect to get one answer; each location, each subculture, will have their own choice of "normal" words that they use to express that idea. Por ejemplo, en Chile se dicen "estoy volado" ("I'm flown" or "I'm blown") pero en España se usan "fumado" ("smoked") y "flipado" ("blown away" or "smashed").
It's a very interesting subject though. I had fun researching it. Thank you for bringing it up. :-)
Alto: "tall" or "high"
This one is a little tricky because neither answer is completely wrong in most cases. You could say that a building is 12 floors tall or 12 floors high. Some people might say one of the two sounds a little weird, but different people will often disagree about which one sounds more normal.
To help clear this up, I would like to talk about two different definitions for the word "alta": grande y elevado. The height of something (La altura de algo) can be its height tall (altura grande) or its height high (altura elevado). When something is tall, it is very large from bottom to top. When something is high, the object is elevated off the ground.
Translate: "Dos metros de altura"
"Two meters in height": Correct, but not very informative. In America, this phrase will normally be used to say that something is tall (grande), but not always.
"Two meters tall": This will always say that something (or someone) measures two meters from its bottom to its top. Es grande. O es un elefante pequeño. ;-) The word "tall" will never be used to say that something is elevated.
"Two meters high": This will usually mean that something is elevated to a position two meters above the ground. Es elevado. Sometimes, the word "high" is used to describe a large object (never a living thing), but you can use "tall" for this as well and it will never be wrong.
"The high wall" - I can't really explain this one. It is not wrong to say "a tall wall" but native speakers definitely say "a high wall" far more often. Again, I'm not completely sure why. I think it is just an idiomatic exception to the general rule.