Spanish is quickly becoming one of the most commonly spoken languages, both globally and within the United States of America. As this new wave of popularity continues, many people are beginning to learn Spanish, and having to use it in their daily work life or personal life. One of the most common pitfalls of learning a new language is assuming certain grammatical structures function the same way as they do in English.
When learning Spanish, it is important to realize that rules governing things such as pluralizing nouns are far more complicated, and abide by many more grammatical rules than in English. For example, in English when a noun shifts from being singular to being plural, in English we would simply add an ”s”. For example: “one book” becomes “two books”. Simply adding an “s” to nouns in Spanish works sometimes, for instance “one book”, “un libro” and “two books”, “dos libros”. However, depending on the noun, pluralizing it can be as complicated as adding an “e”, dropping accents, and even changing letters altogether.
To help you sort through the potentially complicated grammar rules when it comes to plural forms of nouns in the Spanish language, here are 7 tricks to help you ensure you are using the correct plural form of any Spanish noun.
- Nouns that end in vowels need an “S”
This one is the easiest rule to remember, as it works in a similar way to how plural forms of nouns are constructed in English. If a noun ends in any vowel, “a”, “e”, “i”, “o” or “u”, then simply adding an “s” to the end of the word will suffice. For example, “un gato” (a cat) becomes “dos gatos” (two cats), and “un manzana“ (one apple) becomes “dos manzanas“ (two apples).
- Nouns that don’t end in vowels become plural by adding an “es”
Now that we’ve covered words that end in vowels, what about words that don’t end in vowels? Simple, words that end in consonants need to gain not only an “s” but an “e” as well, ending in “es”. For example, “el árbol” (the tree) becomes “los árboles” (the trees).
It may seem that as we’ve covered nouns ending in both consonants and vowels that we’ve covered everything. This is not the case, and there are a few other rule to look out for.
- For nouns that end in “ión”, lose the accent on the ó, and gain “es”
Words that end in “ión” don’t follow quite the same rules as other nouns that just end in consonants. In this case, you would still add the “es”, but you would also drop the accent on the “ó”. For example, “Ostión” (oyster) becomes “Ostiones” (oysters).
- When nouns end in “z”, the “z” becomes “c”, and “es” is added
Another exception to simply adding an “es” to nouns ending in consonants is when there is a “z” involved. In this case, the “z” is dropped completely, and is replaced by a “c”, at which time the “es” can be added. For example, “nariz” (nose) becomes “narices” (noses).
- Nouns that end in “s” or “x” with an unstressed last syllable, the article and not the noun needs to be changed to the plural
When a noun ends in “s” or “x”, the word remains unchanged, and only the article changes to demonstrate the noun should be plural. The most notable example of these are the days of the week, “el lunes” “el martes” “el miércoles” “el jueves” and “el viernes” become “los lunes” “los martes” “los miércoles” “los jueves” and “los viernes” respectively, while both Saturday and Sunday, “sabado” and “domingo” follow the rules for nouns that end in vowels, “los sabados” and “los domingos”.
One more aspect to consider in addition to the endings of nouns, is the noun’s gender. This can be confusing to many English speakers hoping to learn Spanish, as the English language does not classify nouns by gender. This brings us to our next trick to using the correct plural form of nouns in the Spanish language:
- Nouns must agree with gender as well as number of articles
Gender is an important factor to take into consideration when using the plural form of any noun, as it must agree with the article in both gender and number. There are several different articles used in Spanish depending on whether we are referring to something in the plural, singular, or if the noun is masculine or feminine.
While in English we simply utilize the article “the” for definite articles and “a” or “an” for indefinite articles, Spanish employs “el” (singular, masculine), “los” (plural, masculine), “la” (singular, feminine) and “las” (plural, feminine) for definite articles and “un” (singular, masculine), “unos” (plural, masculine), “una” (singular, feminine) and “unas” (plural, feminine) for indefinite articles. This may seem complicated, but consider as a general rule feminine nouns often end in “a” and masculine nouns often end in ”o”. Keep that in mind and you’re off to a good start!
- When referring to more than one gender, opt for the masculine plural form of a noun.
The final factor to consider is if you are discussing a group of mixed gendered nouns. For example, if you are discussing your nieces and nephews, “sobrinas” and “sobrinos”, you would default to the masculine gender. For example, if you were to say “the nieces and nephews”, you would instead say “los sobrinos”.
As you can see, the seemingly simple act of changing a noun from the singular to the plural is guided by a fairly complex set of guidelines, and there are plenty of opportunities to make mistakes. This is why it is so important to use a professional spanish language translation and copy editing service such as Spanish with Style for any translation needs. Our staff are highly trained Spanish language experts who will ensure your texts are translated accurately and professionally, guaranteeing that your message is being delivered in the way in which it was intended.