In Spanish, adjectives sometimes become nouns. This happens when someone refers to a noun using an adjective that describes it.

For example:

Ahí hay varios chicos. El alto me gusta.There are some guys there. I like the tall one.

-¿Te gustan esas gorras? -Sí, pero prefiero la roja.-Do you like those hats? -Yes, but I prefer the red one.

Recoge los juguetes. Pon los grandes aquí y los pequeños allí.Put away the toys. Put the big ones here and the small ones there.

Voy a comprar las baratas, porque las otras gafas son demasiado caras.I am going to buy the cheap ones, because the other pair of glasses are too expensive.

Notice how the noun is omitted (el chico alto me gusta). When we know what we are referring to we just need the definite article + the adjective. Remember that the adjective agrees (masculine, feminine, singular, plural) with the noun it is referring to.

el/la/los/las + adjective 

the + adjective + one/ones

Remember that some colour adjectives have the same form for masculine and feminine, e.g. el verde / la verde.  Here is a list of common colours.

In Spanish some descriptive adjectives take the form of de + noun, to describe patterns or material, for example. In this case the rule is the same as above. We place the definite article in front of the adjectival form. 

La de rayas es más bonita.The stripy one is nicer. (referring to a feminine noun, e.g. t-shirt, camiseta)

El de madera es más caro.The wooden one is more expensive. (referring to a masculine noun, e.g. an object, objeto)

If we are referring to an idea, something neutral, something abstract, rather than something physical, then we use the article "lo":

Lo genial de mi trabajo es la flexibilidad del horario.The great thing about my job is the flexible hours.

Lo ideal es esperar.The ideal thing is to wait.

 

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Examples and resources

Voy a comprar las baratas, porque las otras gafas son demasiado caras.I am going to buy the cheap ones, because the other pair of glasses are too expensive.
La de rayas es más bonita.The stripy one is nicer. (referring to a feminine noun, e.g. t-shirt, camiseta)
Ahí hay varios chicos. El alto me gusta.There are some guys there. I like the tall one.
Lo ideal es esperar.The ideal thing is to wait.
-¿Te gustan esas gorras? -Sí, pero prefiero la roja.-Do you like those hats? -Yes, but I prefer the red one.
Lo genial de mi trabajo es la flexibilidad del horario.The great thing about my job is the flexible hours.
Recoge los juguetes. Pon los grandes aquí y los pequeños allí.Put away the toys. Put the big ones here and the small ones there.
El de madera es más caro.The wooden one is more expensive. (referring to a masculine noun, e.g. an object, objeto)
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