Gender & Number
Nouns in Spanish can be masculine or feminine.
They can also be singular or plural.
Adjectives usually agree in gender and number with the nouns they describe.
- el joven alto - the tall young man
- los baños sucios - the dirty bathrooms
- la muñeca linda - the pretty doll
- las chicas bellas - the beautiful girls
el chico → los chicos
the boy → the boys
la chica → las chicas
the girl → the girls
el hombre → los hombres
los hombres → the men
el libro → los libros
the book → the books
la botella → las botellas
the bottle → the bottles
1. A noun is usually feminine in Spanish if it:
- refers to a female person (or some animals)
la mujer – the woman
la niña – the (girl) child
las gatas – the (female) cats
- ends in: –a, -ión, -dad, -tad, -tud, -triz, -ez, -umbre
la canción – the song
la television – the television7
la actriz – the actress
la costumbre – the custom
2. A noun is usually masculine in Spanish if it:
- refers to a male person (or some animals)9
el hombre – the man
los niños – the children
el perro – the (male) dog
- ends in: -o, -or, -en
el libro – the book
el examen – the test
el secador – the (hair) dryer
It makes sense that in Spanish, people would have gender. But notice the adjectives that describe the people below.
El chico es muy alto.
The boy is very tall.
La chica es alta.
The girl is tall.
Los chicos son altos.
The boys are tall. / The boys and girls are tall.10
Las chicas son altas.
The girls are tall.11
Let's look at a couple more examples with different people and adjectives. Notice how the adjectives match the information of how many and what gender the people are.
El niño es bajo.
The boy is short.
Mi abuelita es muy baja.
My darling grandmother is very short.
Nosotras no somos rubias.
We are not blonde [haired].
Ella es rubia.
She is blonde [haired].
La maestra es delgada.
The teacher is thin.
Esas mujeres son más delgadas que éstas.12
Those women are thinner than these [women].
As we can see in the examples above, the adjectives usually agree in gender and number with the nouns they describe.
In Spanish, all nouns have gender. When describing those nouns, the adjectives will usually need to match their gender and number like they did above when describing people.
1. Spanish comes from Latin. In Latin, nouns are also masculine and feminine as well as the nouns in the other languages that came from Latin: Portuguese, Italian, & French.
2. The vowels are: a, e, i, o, u
3. Exception: words ending in stresses vowels: (el tisú → los tisúes)
4. Consonants are any letter that is not a vowel (see footnote 2).
a. words from other languages: (el robot → los robots) (los jeans)
b. words that are combination of multiple words. (el paraguas → los paraguas); (el rompecabezas → los rompecabezas)
6. If the last syllable has an accent mark before the consonant, we do not need the accent mark when we add –es. (cojín → cojines); (ratón → ratones)
7. la televisión is used more for the networks and programming while the actual physical television you buy is el televisor.
8. To see a well organized list of the different endings of nouns in Spanish, click here
9. some more common animals like dog (el perro) or cat (el gato) also have female versions (la perra; la gata). Others like ant (hormiga) and snake (la serpiente) might be feminine words but they could refer to male ants or snakes.
10. If we have a mixed group of males and females, in Spanish we can use the plural male form usually (chicos - boys / boys and girls)
11. In Spanish, even the word for "tall" can have four different forms (alto, alta, altos, altas) depending on who it describes.
12. Notice that the plural of 'mujer' (woman) is 'mujeres' (women) because mujer ends in a consonant.
13. If an adjective ends in ‘e’, it stays ‘e’ for both masculine and feminine words. It will go to ‘es’ for plural words. (el libro verde → los libros verdes)
14. If the word ends in 'z', notice how we change the plural to -ces. (lápiz → lápices)