Most adjectives usually come after a noun but the singular masculine adjectives bueno (good) and malo (bad) have special short forms - buen and mal - which can be used before the noun. They have a slightly stronger meaning when used like this.
See and listen to these examples:
Mi padre es un hombre bueno.My dad is a good man.
Mi padre es un buen hombre.My dad is a good man.
He tenido un día malo.I have had a bad day.
He tenido un mal día.I have had a bad day.
Similarly, grande (big), has a short-form gran which can also be used before the noun. Unlike buen and mal, gran can also be used with feminine nouns.
Gran has a more figurative meaning of great or fantastic when used like this.
Nueva York es una ciudad grande.New York is a big city.
Nueva York es una gran ciudad.New York is a great/fantastic city.
Silvia tiene un gran corazón.Silvia has a big/generous heart.
Note: The general term for short forms like these is "apócope".
NB: The plural forms stay the same even if used before the noun. For example:
Tengo buenos recuerdos de mi infancia.I have good memories of my childhood.
Lucía y Raquel son chicas buenas.Lucía and Raquel are good girls.
En Oxford y Salamanca hay muy buenas universidades.Oxford and Salamanca have very good universities.
See also Position of adjectives in Spanish.
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