Spanish Nouns are quite difficult for English speakers. Why?
Nouns “ sustantivos, nombres “ are words used to name persons, animals, things, places or abstract concepts.
As we will see, nouns have gender. They can be classified as masculine, feminine and neuter. As in English language, some nouns will have natural gender such as boy or girl. But, in Spanish (or French) all nouns have gender, even if it is and abstract concept. This is called grammatical gender.
The concepts of gender and number are important, especially in relation to the noun. We will see in the following sections all this with more detail.
Nouns natural gender
As we said, in Spanish all nouns have gender, including those that name object or abstract concepts.
It might sound strange for you because nouns in English only have natural gender, for instance: man or woman. Note that in Spanish, casa (house) is a feminine word and libro (book) is masculine. This feature often causes frustration to the second language learners. So, this is a good moment to note this difference between English and Spanish.
The words around the verb in a sentence have to agree with the noun in terms of gender, which make this important. For instance, el chico bajo (the short boy) and la chica baja. The article and the adjetive agree with the noun (gender and number).
In this case, we use natural gender to name people and animals depending on whether the person or animal is male or female:
El padre (the father)
El niño (the boy)
El abuelo (the grandfather)
El médico (the doctor-male)
El gato (the male cat)
La madre (the mother)
La niña (the girl)
La abuela (the grandmother)
La médica (the doctor-female)
La gata (the female cat)
The most common masculine ending is o or e, and the most common ending in feminine us a, unfortunately, this is not a rule, and there are many others and exceptions.
In Spanish, it is quite frequent that nouns used to name people or animals can be used in both genders by changing the ending of the word.
-Masculine nouns ending in –o change to feminine replacing –o by an –a
El cartero (the postman) / La cartera (the postwoman)
-Nouns ending in –d, -l, -n, -r, -s, -z became feminine by adding an –a
El director (male director) / La directora (female director)
El ingles (the English man) / La inglesa (the English woman)
-Nouns ending in –ón or –in change to –ona or –ina to make the femenine form, respectively
El campeón (the male champion) / La campeona (the female champion)
-Nouns ending in –e can be feminine and masculine. Sometimes the –e is replaced by an –a but in many other cases the ending remains the same.
El cliente (the male client) /La clienta (the female client)
El cantante (the male singer) / La cantante (the female singer)
-Some nouns ending in –a, ista, – i or –u remain the same for instance:
El dentista (the male dentist) / La dentista (the female dentist)
El hindú (The male Hindu) / La hindú (The female Hindu)
Nouns’ grammatical gender
Grammatical gender is a system of some languages in which nouns are classified, as belonging to a certain gender – often masculine, feminine- and other parts of connected to the noun, such as adjectives or articles, must agree.
In Spanish, every noun is either masculine or feminine, so things that would seem not to have gender to an English speaker are assigned to one of these two classes.
A general rule is that masculine nouns end in –o and feminine nouns end in –a
La casa (house)
La mesa (table)
La guitarra (guitar)
La cama (bed)
El libro (book)
El pueblo (village)
El metro (the tube)
El zapato (shoe)
La puerta (door)
But there are many exceptions:
El idioma (language)
El sofa (sofa)
El día (day)
El mapa (map)
La mano (hand)
La foto (picture)
La moto (motorbike)
La modelo (model)
There are other endings:
Nouns ending in –dad, -tad, -ez, -sis, -itis, -ie, -ión are usually feminine:
La universidad (university)
La libertad (freedom)
La estupidez (stupidity)
La brillantez (brightness)
La crisis (crisis)
La síntesis (synthesis)
La serie (series)
La absolución (absolution)
La discussion (dicussion)
Nouns ending in –ón, -or, -aje, days, months, numbers, colours, rivers, seas, oceans and languages:
El camion (truck)
El amor (love)
Elmaquillaje (make up)
El sábado (saturday)
El mes de mayo (month of may)
El número diez (number ten)
El azul (blue)
El río Tajo (the river Tajo)
El ingles (English language)
Nouns ending in –e
The gender of nouns that end in –e is very difficult to predict because there is no rule for that. The best tip in this case is to learn new vocabulary with the gender of the words at the same time. To do this, you should learn the word with its article. For instance:
El coche (the car)
El café (the coffe)
La noche (the night)
El té (the tea)
La tele (the telly)
Sometimes you will find nouns that exists in masculine and feminine but with different meanings depending on the gender:
El bolso (the handbag) / La bolsa (the bag)
El capital (the money) / La capital (tha capital city)
Number of the nouns
The number is the way to indicate whether a word is singular or plural. A noun is singular when name only one person, animal or thing. Otherwise, if the noun name several it is a plural noun.
To form the plural in Spanish:
- Singular nouns ending in vowel turn to the plural form by adding an –s.
La puerta (door) / Las puertas (doors)
El diente (tooth) / Los dientes (teeth)
El perro (dog) / Los perros (dogs)
Singular nouns ending in consonant change to plural by adding –es.
El profesor (teacher) / Los profesores (teachers)
La canción (song) / Las canciones (songs)
- There are masculine plural nouns that include males and females:
It might seem strange for the students but in Spanish, the plural form of a masculine noun referred to a group of people, especially family, includes males and females. For instance, padre (father) in the plural form, padres could men fathers but also parents. Here we have a few more examples:
El abuelo (grandfather) / La abuela (grandmother) / Los abuelos (grandparents)
El hermano (brother) / La hermana (sister) / Los hermanos (siblings)
El hijo (son) / La hija (daughter) / Los hijos (sons and daughters)
- Nouns that keep the same form in plural
All the singular nouns that end in a no stressed vowel plus “s” do not change in the plural, for instance: El martes (Tuesday)/Los martes (Tuesdays), El virus (virus)/Los virus (virus).
- Nouns that came from a foreign language
There are many words that came from foreign language. We make the plural form by adding “s” regardless of their ending:
El póster/ Los posters, El cede (cd)/ Los cedes (cd’s)
Collective nouns are those nouns that name a group of people, animals or things. In English there are collective nouns as in Spanish. For example, “family”, “community”, “people”, “reptiles”, etc. One remarkable difference between Spanish and English in this matter is that collective nouns in Spanish are singular unlike in English.
La gente es inteligente (People are smart).
These are some of the most common collective nouns in Spanish:
La gente (people)
La familia (the family)
La policia (police)
La orquesta (orchestra)
El profesorado (Teachers)
These collective are used in the singular form in Spanish and only in plural when we refer to a several groups.
El bosque más grande de España (The biggest forest inSpain)
Los bosques más grandesdelmundo (The biggest forest in the world)
The use of augmentatives, diminutives and pejorative suffixes
In Spanish is possible to add suffixes to nouns to get an augmentation, diminution or pejorative meaning. It conveys connotation of smallness, largeness or negativity, respectively. The use of suffixes, especially diminutives is more extended in South America than inSpain. This system of meaning modification make the language more free and increasing the wealth and complexity of the language.
-ón/-ona (connontations of large size):
cabeza (head)/ cabezón (bighead)
taza (cup) / tazón (big cup)
nariz (nose) / narizón (big nose)
-azo/aza (connotations of large size or greatness):
perro (dog) / perrazo (big dog)
pelo (hair) / pelazo (nice hair)
coche (car) / cochazo (great car)
-ote/-ota (connotations of large size):
libro (book) / librote (big book)
macho (male) / machote (cocky, brave)
capa (layer) / capote (big layer)
grande (big) / grandote (very big)
-ito/ita (connotation of small size or little amount):
guapo (handsome)/ guapito
cerdo (pig) / cerdito (small pig)
perro (dog) / perrito (small dog)
casa (house) / casita (small house)
-cito/cita (connotation of small size):
coche (car) / cochecito (small car)
trozo (piece) / trocito (small piece)
monte (mount) / montecito (small mount)
taza (cup) / tacita (small cup)
-ecito/ecita (connotacion of small size or little amount):
pie (foot) / piececito (small foot)
pez (fish) / pececito (small fish)
pueblo (village) / pueblecito (small village)
pieza (piece) / piececita (small piece)
-illo/illa (connotation of small size or little amount):
mesa (table)/ mesilla (small table)
ventana (window) / ventanilla (small window/car window)
hilo(thread) / hilillo (small thread)
agujero (hole) / agujerillo (small hole)
-ucho/ ucha: (connotation of ugliness or smallness):
casa (house) /casucha (ugly and/or small house)
cuarto (room) / cuartucho (ugly and/or small room)
aguila (eagle) / aguilucho (ugly eagle)
sierra (saw) / serrucho (bad saw)
We hope we helped with the Spanish Lessons – Spanish Nouns. (Spanish info)