Spanish Nouns: Explained In Simple Language (+ Examples)
- Jada LòpezSpanish teacher, translator🎓 B.A., Translation and Interpreting English and Spanish, Universidad de Granada🎓 M.A., Formación de Profesores de Español como Lengua Extranjera (ELE), Universidad Pablo de Olavide
Passionate language teacher and translator. Wife, mother of 3 and amateur surfer.
Spanish nouns are obviously critical to understanding the language.
They take time to acquire.
There are so many to keep in your memory, and you’ve also got to know about masculine and feminine, and singular and plural nouns. The good news is that this guide covers these topics.
Keep reading, as I’ve also outlined key categories of Spanish nouns that you should know.
What is a Spanish noun?
Spanish nouns also called sustantivos in Spanish, are parts of speech that refer to particular objects, feelings and things.
Some examples of some frequently used Spanish nouns include:
- La mesa
- El pan
- La casa
- El ordenador
- El día
- El año
- El hombre
Masculine and feminine Spanish nouns: how can you tell the difference?
All Spanish nouns are either masculine or feminine, and you can tell the difference by looking at which article is used, and which letter the Spanish noun ends with.
So, although English speakers are used to identifying all nouns with the article “the”, when you’re talking about a noun in Spanish and want to identify it, you should use either el or la to refer to it.
One tip for memorizing masculine and feminine nouns is to always learn them with their article.
What I mean by that is to use a Spanish dictionary or an accurate translator that helps you identify whether the noun is masculine or feminine.
If the noun is masculine it should follow the article el.
For instance, el libro is a masculine noun (meaning “the book”), whereas la casa is a feminine noun (meaning “the house”).
The other tip for identifying the gender of a Spanish noun is to check whether it ends in an -o or an -a.
Most masculine nouns end in an -o, and most feminine nouns end in an -a. There are some exceptions, though.
You might expect the noun mano to be a masculine noun, but it’s la mano.
Singular and plural: how do you pluralize a Spanish noun?
Singular Spanish nouns are used when there is only one item or object or person being described.
Plural Spanish nouns are used when there is more than one item, object or person being described.
Now that we know the difference, let’s explore how Spanish nouns are pluralized.
How do you pluralize a Spanish noun that ends in -o, -a or -e?
If the noun ends in an -o, an -a, or an -e, all that’s required is for you to add an -s to the end of the word and the article to pluralize the noun. For example, la mano ends in an -o, so what would the plural of this Spanish noun be?
Yes, it would be las manos!
How do you pluralize a Spanish noun that ends in a consonant?
If the Spanish noun ends in any consonant (except for -s, -x and z), you just add an -es to the end of the noun to make it plural. For example, how would we pluralize the noun la canción?
Yup, it would be las canciones!
Now, you might be wondering about the Spanish nouns that end in -s, -x and -z. Let’s take a look at the unique pluralization rules for these Spanish nouns.
How should you pluralize Spanish nouns that end in -s and -x?
Some Spanish nouns that end in -s fall into the aguda category, meaning that when you pronounce these words, the stress of the word lies on the final syllable. In these cases, you create the plural by just adding an -es suffix.
For instance, to pluralize the Spanish noun el estrés just add -es to the end to pluralize it. Los estreses.
For other nouns that don’t classify as aguda nouns, no changes are required to pluralize them except for the article. For instance, the plural of viernes (which means Friday), would be los viernes.
How should you pluralize Spanish nouns that end in -z?
For Spanish nouns that end in -z, you pluralize them by removing the -z and adding -ces. For example, the plural form of the Spanish noun la voz would be las voces.
Give it a try - what is the plural version of the Spanish noun el lápiz?
That’s right. Los lápices.
What are some exceptions to Spanish noun pluralization?
Two exceptions to the rule of Spanish noun pluralization is that some do not have a plural form.
One example of this is the Spanish noun for “health”, which is la salud.
If you wanted to say “the health centres”, you would pluralize the word “centres” and not “health”, giving you los centros de salud.
Adjective agreement: how should adjectives be used with Spanish nouns?
To use adjectives with Spanish nouns, remember two key rules:
- Spanish adjectives should complement the gender of the noun in most cases (if the noun is masculine, the adjective should also be masculine; if the noun is feminine, the adjective should also be feminine).
- Adjectives should complement the quantity of the noun used (if it’s a singular noun, the adjective should be singular, it’s a plural noun, the adjective should be plural).
Take the following example:
En la calle, había muchos coches rojos y mucho tráfico.
In this example, the adjective muchos is masculine (ending in an -o) and plural (ending in an -s) and must take this form because it complements the masculine, plural noun coches.
What are the key categories of Spanish nouns?
There are several categories of Spanish nouns to be aware of.
The main categories are proper and common nouns, concrete and abstract nouns, and countable and uncountable nouns and compound nouns.
We’ll explore each of these categories in the following sections.
What are proper and common nouns in Spanish?
Although these might all be capitalised in English, of these examples, only Spanish nouns that are geographical locations are capitalised.
Here are some specific examples of proper nouns in Spanish:
Common nouns in Spanish are nouns that describe particular objects, and things.
They can also be used to label members of the family (like el hermano).
Some examples of common nouns in Spanish include:
- La oveja
- El pollo
- La araña
- El escritorio
- El ordenador
- La ventana
What are concrete and abstract nouns in Spanish?
Concrete nouns in Spanish are nouns that you can sense and perceive as opposed to abstract nouns that are intangible, that cannot be sensed.
Some examples of concrete nouns in Spanish include:
- La mariposa
- El gusano
- La oruga
Concrete nouns are different to proper nouns in that they name the actual object that you can sense as opposed to a brand or nickname.
For instance, el ordenador is a concrete Spanish noun that you can see and touch, whereas Apple or Windows is a proper noun.
Now, let’s take a look at some examples of abstract nouns in Spanish:
- La libertad
- La fraternidad
- La compassion
- La idea
- El amor
So, although all of these concepts exist in our lives, we cannot touch them; they’re not tangible and you cannot identify them physically.
What are countable and uncountable nouns in Spanish?
Countable nouns in Spanish refer to Spanish objects, things that you can count.
This category of nouns includes animals, people and items, but not abstract concepts or objects that are unquantifiable in terms of the ability to count them or assign them a number.
This latter group is referred to as an uncountable noun.
Here are some examples of countable nouns in Spanish:
- Una finca
- Una radio
- Un coche
- Un armario
Each of these nouns can be assigned a higher quantity and you would be able to count several radios in Spanish.
Now let’s look at some examples of uncountable nouns in Spanish:
- El agua
- La arena
- El azúcar
- La sal
- La harina
These examples cannot be assigned a number.
Instead, you have to give them a certain unit to count them and maintain grammatical correctness.
For example, you could say un litro de agua, or dos cucharadas de azúcar, or medio kilo de harina, but it is not grammatically correct to say dos harinas, or tres aguas or dos azucares.
What are compound nouns in Spanish?
Compound nouns in Spanish are nouns that combine two separate concepts — like an adjective, verb, or phrase, with a noun.
A couple of examples of Spanish compound nouns include:
So, cortaúñas combines the verb cortar and the noun Spanish uñas, which translates to English as “nail clipper”.
Cortacesped combines the verb cortar and the noun cesped to give you “lawnmower”. Paraguas combines para and the noun agua, to give you “umbrella”.
Abrebotellas combines the verb abrir and the noun botellas to give you “bottle opener”.
Can you guess the meaning of the final Spanish noun on the list?
What do you think abrelatas means? Find out at the end of the article!
How to memorize Spanish nouns
Spanish nouns are obviously essential.
They’re a vital part of your vocabulary and you’ll need to remember them.
I mentioned that learning the masculine and feminine article alongside every Spanish noun can help, but also try to:
- Use a tool like Memrise to memorise new nouns
- Acquire new nouns in full sentences to learn how they’re used
- Complete fill-in-the-blank grammar exercises to perfect your pluralization knowledge
- Listen to audio recordings to learn how they’re pronounced
This will consolidate what you know and take your Spanish to the next level.
Continue building your vocabulary and you’ll soon increase your understanding and Spanish proficiency.
Oh, and abrelatas? It means “can/tin opener”! Did you get it right? 😊
What are your top tips for learning Spanish nouns?
Share your input below!
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