Before we get too far into Spanish nouns. Let’s quickly recap what a noun is.
According to Wikipedia, a noun is described as follows: A noun (from Latin nomen, literally meaning "name") is a word that functions as the name of some specific thing or set of things, such as living creatures, objects, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas.
So, a noun is a “naming” word. Words like: dog, man, woman, house, table, London, joy, sadness
; these are all examples of nouns.
As we’ve already learnt from previous blog entries: Nouns in Spanish are considered either masculine
, and other types of words, such as adjectives
, must agree with this fact. This is known as the gender
In Spanish, even things or inanimate objects have a gender.
Articles are words such as: a, an, the, some
etc... these typically precede a noun.
We won’t spend too much time on articles
today, as we will cover these in more detail another time. However, when learning new nouns, it can be helpful to also learn the appropriate article at the same time, as this will help us remember the gender of the noun.
Sadly, it is not always possible to tell the gender of a noun by it’s spelling alone.
|el jardín (masculine) ||the garden |
|la casa (feminine) ||the house |
We will continue to show nouns with articles, as this helps us reinforce gender learning at the same time.
"el" and "la" both mean "the" and are the respective masculine and feminine forms of the article. Nouns that refer to people and animals
Some nouns can only be one gender by the very nature of what they are naming:
|el hombre ||the man |
|la mujer ||the woman |
|el rey ||the king |
|la reina ||the queen ||el toro ||the bull |
|la vaca ||the cow |
Other nouns change form depending if we are referring to the masculine or the feminine:
|el niño ||the (male) child, the boy |
|la niña ||the (female) child, the girl |
|el tio ||the uncle |
|la tia ||the aunt |
|el amigo ||the (male) friend |
|la amiga ||the (female) friend |
|el camarero ||the waiter |
|la camarera ||the waitress |
|el inglés ||the Englishman |
|la inglesa ||the Englishwoman |
|el compañero ||the (male) companion |
|la compañera ||the (female) companion |
|el gato ||the (male) cat |
|la gata ||the (female) cat |
|el perro ||the (male) dog |
|la perra ||the (female) dog, the bitch |
Whilst other nouns have a common form, regardless of being masculine or feminine.
Nouns that refer to “things”
|el estudiante ||the (male) student |
|la estudiante ||the (female) student |
|el músico ||the (male) musician |
|la músico ||the (female) musician |
Unlike people or animals, where we can refer to them with either he
in English: “things” are not usually considered to have a gender, and we refer to them with it.
However, in Spanish, almost everything including inanimate objects still have a gender.
Sadly, there is no fool-proof way to learn the gender of nouns in Spanish. There are enough exceptions to rules and special cases, that the only sure way to learn the gender is to remember it along with new the vocabulary. This is why it is especially useful to see an article
when we learn a new noun.
This said, there are some rules we can learn regarding word endings, that will give us a clue to the gender of the noun. So long as we realise these rules are not always correct and there are exceptions. It should give us a good chance of guessing the gender of a new noun if we can not see an article to help us.
The following table gives some examples of likely noun gender, based on the word ending. Showing examples, and exceptions where appropriate.
Plural forms of nouns
|Noun ending in ||Likely gender ||Examples: ||Exception examples: |
|-o || ||el libro (the book) |
el periódico (the newspaper)
el sapo (the toad)
|la radio (the radio) |
la mano (the hand)
la moto (the motobike)
|-a || ||la puerta (the door) |
la casa (the house)
|el problema (the problem) |
el día (the day)
|-ción || ||la estación (the station) ||- |
|-sión || ||la expresión (the expression) ||- |
|-dad || ||la ciudad (the city) ||- |
|-tad || ||la amistad (the friendship) ||- |
In English, when we want to make a noun plural, we normally append an -s
. So, bed
and so on…
Of course, in English there are exceptions too. For example: cactus
. But generally speaking, in most cases we can simply add an -s
to a noun to make it plural.
Furthermore, in English, we append -es
when the noun already ends in -s
. So, business
Spanish is somewhat similar to English. To make a noun plural, we add -s
to a noun ending in a vowel, or add -es
to a noun ending a consonant.
The following table gives some examples:
|el gato (the male cat) ||los gatos (the male cats) |
|la gata (the female cat) ||las gatas (the female cats) |
|el árbol (the tree) ||los árboles (the trees) |
|la luz (the light) ||las luces (the lights) |
|la casa (the house) ||las casas (the houses) |
Notice that, as in the case of "la luz", words ending in -z
change to end in -ces
when plural So the -z
becomes a -c
Also notice that in the above examples, not only the noun changes when plural, but so do the articles. "el"
Articles are consistent with adjectives in regards to agreement. That is to say: Articles and adjectives must agree with the noun in both gender and plurality. Conclusion | En conclusión
Spanish nouns in general are quite an easy grammatical concept to understand.
They behave rather as they do in English, and beyond having to remember the additional property of gender for each noun, they are in themselves quite simple.
Today, we’ve only scratched the surface of nouns. Clearly, like in English, there are many thousands of nouns to learn, and this in itself will take time. But we already understand the concept of gender
, so after this, it really is just a case of remembering new vocabulary.