Spanish Nouns - Gender & Number
In both Spanish and English, nouns (or noun phrases) have one of the following six "functions" in an action/event: subject, predicate noun, direct object, indirect object, object of a preposition, or comparative term.
SUBJECT Mi padre trabaja en una oficina. = 'My father works in an office.'
In many cases the subject is clearly the "doer of the action" [Mi padre escribió una carta. = 'My father wrote a letter.']. But not always; it can be the "receiver of the action" [Mi padre recibió una carta. = 'My father received a letter.' ].
Unlike English, the Spanish subject may follow the verb, but the focus of meaning changes:
Dos hombres se fueron. = 'Two men left.' [What happened? / focus = action]
Se fueron dos hombres. = 'Two men left.' [Who left? / focus = subject]
English always requires the subject position to be filled. The subject is omitted in Spanish sentences whenever the context is clear, because the verb ending maintains reference [Saben la verdad. = 'They know the truth.']. And there are subjectless sentences in Spanish [Llueve. = 'It is raining.']
PREDICATE NOUN El hombre alto es mi padre. = 'The tall man is my father.'
The predicate noun follows the verb ser = 'be' and serves to identify or classify the subject. English predicate noun sentences, the verb 'to be' always agrees with the subject.
In Spanish predicate noun sentences, the verb ser agrees with the plural noun form [El problema son los exámenes. = 'The problem is the tests.' // Los exámenes son el problema. = 'The tests are the problem.'].
DIRECT OBJECT Buscamos a mi padre. = 'We are seeking (looking for) my father.'
The direct object is typically the noun that "receives the action of the verb".
Unlike English, human direct objects require connector called "the personal a", as in the example above. Compare with: Buscamos un restaurante. = 'We are looking for a restaurant.'].
INDIRECT OBJECT Dimos un libro a mi padre. = 'We gave a book to my father.'
The English indirect object is identified by sentence pairs ['I wrote the letter to Susan.' = 'I wrote Susan a letter.' // 'I baked a cake for Susan.' = I baked Susan a cake.']. The English indirect object is almost always the "receiver (of the direct object) or "beneficiary" (of what happens to the direct object); that is, the person "to whom" or "for whom" the direct object is affected.
The Spanish indirect object is identified by the presence of an indirect object pronoun and/or the a + noun phrase, and it has several possible meanings:
Receiver: Le escribimos una carta a Jorge. 'We wrote a letter to George.'
Source/loser: Le robaron $100 a Jorge. 'They stole $100 from George.'
Beneficiary: Le lavaron el carro a Jorge. 'They washed the car for George.'
'They washed George's car.'
Victim: Le destruyeron el jardín a Jorge. 'They wrecked the garden on George.'
'They wrecked George's garden.'
PREPOSITIONAL OBJECT Hablé con mi padre. = 'I talked with my father.'
In both Spanish and English, any noun other than the subject, predicate noun and direct object must be introduced by a preposition (con = 'with', above). A preposition is a word that is "pre-posed" (put in front of ) the noun and gives information about the role of the additional noun in the action or event. The noun is called an "oblique object" or "object of the preposition".
OBJECT OF COMPARISON Soy más alto que mi padre. = 'I am taller than my father.'
Noun (phrases) used in comparative expressions are called comparative terms. There are comparisons of equality [ tan…(adj/adv)…como = ' as…(adj/adv)…as'] and comparisons of inequality [más/menos…(adj/adv)…que = 'more/less…(adj/adv)…than']. Other examples:
No soy tan gordo como mi padre. = 'I 'm not as fat as my father.'
Yo soy menos trabajador que mi padre.' = 'I am less hard-working than my father.'
THE INFINITIVE AS A NOUN It is important to recognize noun functions, because the function of the noun in a sentence determines what can replace it. Second, the English the present participle (-ing form) can function as a noun. The Spanish present participle (-ando/-iendo form) may not. A specific noun, or the Spanish infinitive is required.
'Fishing is great fun'. = La pesca es muy divertido. // Pescar es muy divertido.
Pescando es muy divertido. = [no good]
Furthermore, specific sets of pronouns replace a noun according to its function in the sentence [next section].