Gender & Number


Spanish, like English, has singular and plural forms for its nouns. The good news is that the two languages are similar in that “-s” denotes the plural.

 

Algunos ejemplos:

  • amigo (friend) – amigos (friends)
  • silla (seat) – sillas (seats)
  • padre (father) – padres (fathers)
  • madre (mother) – madres (mothers)

There are rules to be aware of. As with English, they are mostly about changes in spelling due to a word’s ending. Don’t worry about writing everything here down. They are something best learned through practice and repetition, the two pillars of language study.


If the Spanish word ends in a consonant…

Algunos ejemplos:

  • pared (wall) – paredes (walls)
  • tenedor (fork) – tenedores (forks)
  • reloj (watch) – relojes (watches)
  • jamón (ham) – jamones (hams)

… or a stressed (accented) vowel other than ““.

Click here to learn more

  • jabalí (wild boar) – jabalíes (wild boars)
  • bambú (bamboo) – bambúes (bamboos)
  • tabú (taboo) – tabúes (taboos)

Exceptions!

¡Toma nota!

  • champú (shampoo) – champús (shampoos)
  • mamá (mom) – mamás (moms)
  • menú (menu) – menús (menus)
  • sofá (couch) – sofás (couches)

If the last consonant is “-z,” then you need to change it to a “-c” before adding “-es“.

Examples

  • pez (fish) – peces (fishes)
  • vez (time) – veces (times)
  • lápiz (pencil) – lápices (pencils)
  • voz (voice) – voces (voices)

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¡Ábrelo!

Remember. The “-z” and “-c” are both pronounced like a /zeta/.

¡Atención, peligro! No te tropieces.

LA GENTE (the people). In English, it’s a collection of individuals and plural. In Spanish, we, the people, IS a singular entity.

Pulsa aquí para ver ejemplos:

  • En general, la gente en España es muy simpática y amable. (In general, the people in Spain are nice and friendly
  • La gente en el norte es un poco más seria. (The people in the north are a little more serious)
  • La gente del sur es un poco más fiestera. (The people in the south are a little bit more partiers)
  • Eso es lo que dice la gente en España. (That’s what the people in Spain say)

 

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The next part deals with an area, where English and Spanish differ completely: Gender

A book, the table, the capital, can be either masculine or feminine, sometimes both.


Knowing the gender of a noun is fundamental to speaking and understanding Spanish, because the related adjective, determiner and most pronouns will alter their forms to agree.

To tell the gender of a noun, look at the article (the or a[n]) for the word.

El, un (masculino)

  • el menú
  • el servicio
  • un cuchillo
  • un aperitivo

La, una (femenina)

  • la carta
  • la cuenta
  • una bebida
  • una servilleta

If the word is plural, the article changes.

Los, unos (masculino)

  • los menús (the menus of the day)
  • los servicios (the toilets)
  • unos cuchillos (some knives)
  • unos aperitivos (some snacks)

Las, unas (femenina)

  • las cartas (the menus)
  • las cuentas (the checks)
  • unas servilletas (some napkins)
  • unas bebidas (some drinks)

Exceptions . Feminine words, beginning with a stressed “a-” or “ha-” syllable, use the “el” instead of “la” (“unporuna“), in the singular.

But in plural, it’s back to normal

¡Pulsa aquí y toma nota!

  • el agua, un agua (the water, a water)
  • el alma, un alma (the soul, a soul)
  • el ara, un ara (the alter, an alter)
  • el alba, un alba (the dawn, a dawn)

Haz click para ver

  • las aguas (the waters)
  • las almas (the souls)
  • las aras (the alters)
  • las albas (the dawns)

 

The rule of thumb to determine gender is: femenina nouns end in “-a”, while masculino words end in “-o”. Pero ten cuidado y no te tropieces…

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¡Más excepciones! And some biggies..

Ends in '-o', pero femenina

  • la foto; las fotos (the photo[s])
  • la mano; las manos (the hand[s])
  • la moto; las motos (the motorcycle[s], scooter[s])

Ends in '-a', pero masculino

      • el día (the day)
      • el problema (the problem)
      • el tranvía (tram)
      • el idioma (language)
      • el sofá (the sofa)
      • el pijama (the pyjamas[singular, like people, in Spanish])

Other nouns ending in -a” are masculine if they have Greek origins (-ma” / “-ta” / “pa“)

Pulsa aquí para ver las palabras de origen griego

  • el clima (the climate)
  • el planeta (the planet)
  • el mapa (the map)

There are exceptions to the exceptions, such la dieta (the diet). In fact, many words ending in “-ta” don’t seem to have Greek origins. Maybe Latin or Arabic, Spanish’s other main influences? Whatever these words beginnings, they’re…

Femenina

  • la carta (the menu [not of the day])
  • la cuenta (the check, bill)
  • la puerta (the door)

Nouns that don’t end in “-a” can also be feminine.

  • la estación (the station)
  • la televisión (the television)
  • la región (the region)
  • la pared (the wall)
  • la sed (the thirst)
  • la salud (the health)
  • la luz (the light)
  • la vez (the time [ie number of “times”, not the “hour”])
  • la raíz (the root)
      • la leche (the milk)
      • la noche (the night)
      • la tarde (the afternoon)
      • la carne (the meat)

Haz click para más EXCEPCIONES:

El hombre (the man) and el pez (the fish, when alive)

Then there are words which can be either masculine or feminine, with the gender determining their meaning.

Pulsa aquí para ver ejemplos:

gender changes meaning

gender changes meaning

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Información importante

You might want to re-read this list. We’d hate for you to order “the Pope” with your meal or “The Court of Ham” at the market.

 

Certain nouns change their articles, depending on if a man (un hombre) or woman (una mujer)

Ejemplos:

  • el, la guía – guide (m, f)
  • el, la idiota – idiot (m, f)
  • el, la artista – artist (m, f)

The waiter, meanwhile, can be either: el camarero or la camarera.

Lo mismo con:

  • un cocinero, una cocinera (a cook),
  • los amigos, las amigas (friends & those who are girls [not romantic])
  • And increasingly el médico, la médica ( the doctor).

Although the last example isn’t universally accepted.


paco_gordito

Una sugerencia de Paco. Make sure to look up to see how many of these exceptions fit into the world of food and add them to you favorites’ list. As you read through these lessons, pay attention to the articles used in the sentences and how gender influences Spanish in everything, in a completely non-sexual way.

Take a minute to review the grammar point

Have a question on this topic, let us know in the comment section.

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