Nouns and articles
Nouns identify people, animals, places, and things. In Spanish, all nouns have gender (masculine or feminine), and number (singular or plural).
Nouns referring to people who are males or females are easy to categorize by gender:
Some nouns referring to people have identical masculine and feminine forms. The article indicates the gender of these words:
Some nouns referring to animals by default will use either the masculine or feminine definite article ("el" or "la"). In this case, to specify whether we are referring to a male or female "animal", we need to use the words "macho" (male), and "hembra" (female):
|el canguro macho; el canguro hembra; los canguros machos; los canguros hembras
|la ballena macho; la ballena hembra; las ballenas machos; las ballenas hembras
It is harder to understand nouns that refer to places and things. Here are some guidelines that may help, but they do not apply to all of the nouns, they all have exceptions. Because of this, it is best to always learn the noun with its corresponding article to remember whether it is masculine or feminine.
General guidelines for nouns referring to places and things
In the following list of examples, the endings of nouns are in bold.
- Most nouns that end in -o, -ma, -pa, -ta, -l, -n, -r and -s, are masculine.
- Most nouns that end in -a, -ción, -sión, -dad, -tad, -sis, -itis, and -z are feminine.
- Nouns that end in -e can be either masculine or feminine.
Some nouns have a different meaning depending on whether they are masculine or feminine:
|court (judicial; king's/queen's)
|hill or slope
|radio (some say 'el radio')
As mentioned above, it is best to learn the nouns with its corresponding article. There are four forms that are equivalent to the English definite article "the". The same goes for the indefinite article: a, an, or some.
Definite Articles: Indefinite Articles:
Plural of nouns
To form the plural of a noun that ends in a vowel by simply adding "-s".
For nouns ending in a consonant, add "-es". If the consonant is the letter "z", change the "z" to "c" before adding "-es".
In general, the accent mark of a singular noun must be also used when forming into a plural noun unless the accent mark is on the last syllable of the singular noun.
The masculine plural form is also used when the group there is a masculine noun is a mixed-gender group:
1 muchacho + 2 muchachas = 3 muchachos OR los muchachos
Spanish has always been viewed as a highly gendered language because it is a "Romance Language" (mostly derived from Latin). This is not to say that it denies the existence of gender-neutral identities rather the nature of the language itself makes it hard to adapt systematically to account them. While there is a movement to use terms such as Latinx, the “x” is not currently used in sentence structures and is not yet widely used outside of the United States. Some Spanish-speaking communities have also adopted the use of –e endings instead of –o or –a endings on gendered nouns, articles, and adjectives but this is not a unanimously accepted solution since this would mean a total change for the language itself. This is an ongoing conversation, therefore if you identify yourself as a gender-neutral individual, it would be beneficial for you to initiate a conversation with your instructor to discuss ways that you can use the language to best describe yourself.