Nouns and Articles

A noun, or a sustantivo, is a person place or thing. In Spanish, nouns are either masculine or feminine. In this lesson we will study the gender of nouns, the plural forms of nouns and articles used with nouns.

Gender Rules

Nouns that end in -o are masculine, and nouns that end in -a are feminine. By interchanging these ending you can change the gender and meaning of the noun. This rule, of course, has exceptions.

MasculineFeminineEnglish Translation
el hermanola hermanabrother/sister
el suegrola suegrafather-in-law/mother-in-law
el tíola tíauncle/aunt

Nouns that end in -n, -r, -l are masculine, and can be changed to feminine by adding -a to the end of the noun.

MasculineFeminineEnglish Translation
el autorla autoraauthor
el escritorla escritorawriter
el doctorla doctoradoctor

Some nouns are identical in both masculine and feminine forms. You can determine noun gender by the article beside it.

MasculineFeminineEnglish Translation
al artistala artistaartist
el atletala atletaathlete
el espíala espíaspy

Some nouns have special forms for each gender. Below are some examples, however there are too many to list, and this is one of the grammatical areas in the Spanish language that is support by the old adage, “Practice makes perfect!”.

MasculineFeminineEnglish Translation
el yernola nuerason-in-law/daughter-in-law
el padrela madrefather/mother
el príncipela princesaprince/princess

Nouns with Arbitrary Referents

Nouns are feminine if they end in -a, -d, -is, -sión, coin and -z. For example: la vida, la realidad, la síntesis, la decisión, la canción and la luz.

All other nouns are masculine if they end in -o, -e, an accented vowel, and a consonant that are neither -d or -z. For example: el perro, el perfume, el colibrí, al árbol, el cojín and el motor.

Nouns that are Greek in origin generally end in -ma and are masculine.

el problema (the problem)el systema (the system)
el tema (the theme)el drama (the drama)
el teorema (the theorem)el enigma (the enigma)

Some nouns change meaning depending on the gender of the article used. This is also something that you will learn with practice and experience. Below is a list of such nouns.

SpanishEnglish
MasculineFeminineMasculineFeminine
el capitalla capitalcapital (money)capital (city)
el modelola modelomodel (example)fashion model
el papala papapopepotato

The Plural Forms of Nouns

The Spanish language uses the los and las articles for plural nouns. Apart from the articles changing, the ending of the nouns change as well. Please refer to the table below to see some examples.

el librolos librosbook/books
la casalas casashouse/houses
la madrelas madresmother/mothers

In the examples above, you will notice that masculine plural nouns use los and add an -s to the end of the noun. Feminine nouns use las and also add -s to the end.

Rules

  • When the noun ends in a consonant or a -y, you add -es to the end. For example, el árbol becomes los árboles.
  • When the noun ends in -z, the singular form becomes a -c- before the -es in the plural. For example, el pez becomes los peces.
  • When the noun ends in -s, the singular remains the same in the plural unless the last syllable is stressed. For example, el martes becomes los martes.

Note: There are some nouns that are only used in the plural form. Some of these nouns are: las esposas, las gafas, las tijeras and los calzoncillos.

Articles (Basics)

The article is the word that is placed a noun or an adjective. The two types of articles are definite and indefinite. Below is a table that organizing the different articles the Spanish language uses.

MasculineFeminine
SingularPluralSingularPlural
Indefiniteununosunaunas
Definiteelloslalas

Definite Agreement Rules

  • The singular article el agrees with singular masculine words.
  • The plural article los agrees with plural masculine words.
  • The singular article la agrees with singular feminine words.
  • The plural article las agrees with plural feminine words.

TIP: a + el = al, and de + el = del

Indefinite Agreement Rules

  • The article un agrees with singular masculine words.
  • The article unos agrees with plural masculine words.
  • The article una agrees with singular feminine words.
  • The article unas agrees with plural feminine words.

Conclusion

Nouns and their respective genders/articles are tricky to master, however if you practice and listen to audible Spanish you will find yourself catching and remembering the proper genders with ease.


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