Spanish nouns

(How to use nouns in Spanish grammar)

Table of contents – nouns

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Spanish nouns
  2. Gender of Spanish nouns
  3. Particularities in the sentence
  4. Further explanations and exercises

How are nouns used in Spanish?

Basically, Spanish nouns (in Spanish: sustantivos) are similar to English ones. They can have the same grammatical number; thus, they can be singular or plural. Regarding their spelling in sentences, they are also written lowercase, except for proper nouns. Details:

  • Spanish nouns have singular and plural forms (compare the details of the plural formation). You can usually recognize the plural by the ‘-s’ at the end of the word:
    • Singular: bicicleta (bicycle), papel (paper), bolso (bag)
    • Plural: bicicletas (bicycles), papeles (papers), bolsos (bags)
  • Examples of using nouns in sentences:
    • “Todas estas casas son nuevas.” (All these houses are new.)
      • According to Spanish spelling rules, the noun ‘casas’ (houses) is plural and lowercase.
    • “El frigorífico está estropeado.” (The fridge is broken.)
      • For most nouns, the form without ‘-s’ signifies that it is a singular noun, here ‘frigorífico’ (fridge).

What grammatical gender can Spanish nouns have?

In contrast to English, Spanish nouns have a grammatical gender, which can be masculine or feminineneuter nouns do not exist. Compare:

Information: A typical difficulty for learners is that there is no definite rule on how to determine the gender of a Spanish noun; it should be learned right from the beginning, together with a noun’s meaning. However, the natural gender (sex) of people usually corresponds to the grammatical gender. Also, the accompanying article ‘el’ or ‘la’ (if used) gives you a relatively good indication in numerous instances.

  • You can frequently assign the grammatical gender of nouns based on their endings. Examples showing the different genders:
    • Masculine: armario (cupboard), sol (sun), taller (workshop)
    • Feminine: televisión (television), lámpara (lamp), habitación (room)
  • If a natural gender (sex) exists, it often coincides with the grammatical one. Examples:
    • el hombrethe man
      • The sex is male, and the gender is masculine.
    • la mujerthe woman
      • The sex is female, and the gender is feminine.

What are the particularities of Spanish nouns in sentences?

In Spanish grammar, all determiners and possibly additional elements in the sentence must agree in gender and number with the respective noun (antecedent)—in contrast to English, where only the number is relevant. Compare:

  • All determiners of Spanish nouns in a sentence must be adapted according to masculine/feminine and singular/plural. Examples:
    • Todas las cosas son de Carmen.” (All the things belong to Carmen.)
      • All three words, the pronoun ‘todas’, the article ‘las’, and the noun ‘cosas’ end in ‘-as’.

Information: This system of required adaption of clause elements is called grammatical agreement. Follow the link for the detailed usage and rules.

Further explanations referring to the ‘Nouns in Spanish’

The following explanations are related to the topic ‘Using nouns in Spanish grammar’ and could be interesting too:

  • Nominalization in Spanish grammar
  • The diminutive in Spanish
  • The grammatical case in the linguistic dictionary
  • The grammatical gender in the linguistic dictionary
  • Exercise 1: nouns