Being an English speaker you’re probably not familiar with this classification of nouns into masculine and feminine forms.
When nouns refer to living creatures, it’s pretty easy to choose the correct masculine or feminine form of the noun, based on the gender of the creature. Usually, nouns ending in “o” are masculine and nouns ending in “a” are feminine. See below:
|English word||Spanish word (Masculine)||Spanish word (Feminine)|
|The dog||El perro (The male dog)||La perra (The female dog)|
|The cousin||El primo (The male cousin)||La prima (The female cousin)|
|The teacher||El maestro (The male teacher)||La maestra (The female teacher)|
However, other nouns referring to places, things, etc. are also feminine or masculine.
Below are some common Spanish nouns and their gender:
|English word||Spanish word (M=masculine / F=Feminine)|
|The shoe||El zapato (M)|
|The guitar||La guitarra (F)|
|The accordion||El bandoneón (M)|
|The woman||La mujer (F)|
|The man||El hombre (M)|
|The CD||El disco compacto (M)|
|The coffee||El café (M)|
|The pizza||La pizza (F)|
|The meal||La comida (F)|
As you can see, as a general rule words that end in “o” are masculine and words that end in “a” are feminine. There are many exceptions to this rule, but, to get started, taking this into account might help you a lot! Words ending in a consonant or in other vowels may be feminine or masculine (you’ll have to memorize them at first!)
Some exceptions to this rule:
|English word||Spanish word|
|The problem||El problema|
|The language||El idioma|
|The hand||La mano|
|The libido||La libido|
Other exceptions are words that end in “a” and whose ending cannot be changed. As the noun does not change according to gender it is very important to pay attention to the preceding article to see if the noun is masculine or feminine.
|English word||Spanish form (masculine)||Spanish form (feminine)|
|The gymnast||El gimnasta||La gimnasta|
|The journalist||El periodista||La periodista|
|The artist||El artista||La artista|
In our previous section we described how words change depending on their gender. In this section we will explain how to change a noun depending on whether the word is singular or plural.
As a general rule, when a word ends in a vowel, its plural form will have an “s” by the end.
|English word||Singular form||Plural form|
|(Male) The dog(s)||El perro||Los perros|
|The artist(s)||El artista||Los artistas|
|The house(s)||La casa||Las casas|
|The coffee(s)||El café||Los cafés|
|The mum(s)||La mamá||Las mamás|
There are exceptions to this rule. Nouns ending in “í” or “ú” usually have two accepted plural forms. One in which only the “s” is added, and another one that ends in “es”.
|English word||Singular form||Plural forms|
|The scalpel(s)||El bisturí||Los bisturís / Los bisturíes|
|The hummingbird(s)||El colibrí||Los colibrís / Los colibríes|
|The hindu(s)||El hindú||Los hindús / Los hindúes|
|The rhea(s)||El ñandú||Los ñandús / Los ñandúes|
When a word ends in a consonant, we need to add “es” to the noun to make it plural.
See the examples below:
|English word||Singular form||Plural form|
|The city(s)||La ciudad||Las ciudades|
|The accordion(s)||El bandoneón*||Los bandoneones|
|The Paper(s)||El papel||Los papeles|
|The sun(s)||El sol||Los soles|
|The lemon(s)||El limón*||Los limones|
As you can see in “bandoneón” and “limón”, the written accent marks are lost in the plural form. The reason is that by adding these letters and forming a new syllable, the stress of the word changes place.
If a word ends in “z”, the “z” is replaced by a “c” and then the ending “es” is added.
The pencil(s) → El lápiz → Los lápices
The partridge(s) → La perdiz → Las perdices
There are words that remain the same in the singular and plural form. The only way of knowing whether it’s singular or plural is by paying attention to the article that precedes it:
Nouns ending in “s” in the singular form
The analysis → El análisis → Los análisis
The ecstasy → El éxtasis → Los éxtasis
The can-opener → El abrelatas → Los abrelatas
“Abre” comes from “abrir” (to open) and “latas” means cans.
The lavatory → El lavamanos → Los lavamanos
“Lava” comes from “lavar” (to wash) and “manos” means hands.
For many foreign nouns, only an “s” is added after the last consonant in the plural forms.
|English word||Singular Spanish word||Plural Spanish word|
|The ticket(s)||El ticket||Los tickets|
|The film(s)||El film||Los films|
|The surplus||El superávit||Los superávits|
We hope this lesson has helped you to understand more about gender and number in Spanish. For more help, book a class with one of our private tutors