How to use genders and articles in Spanish

Nouns in Spanish

A noun is a person, place or thing.

All nouns in Spanish have a gender. That means they are either masculine or feminine.

As in English, some nouns already have a clear gender.

For example:

  • hermano (brother) is masculine

  • hermana (sister) is feminine

Although it might seem strange at first that nouns have a gender in Spanish, there are luckily lots of patterns and clues to help you to remember if a noun is masculine or feminine.

Masculine nouns

Most nouns that end in -o are masculine.

For example:

  • el teléfono - telephone

  • el perro - dog

Male family members are always masculine.

For example:

  • hermano - brother

  • padre - father

Days of the week and months are also masculine.

For example:

  • lunes - Monday

  • diciembre - December

Remember that days of the week and months are not written with a capital letter in Spanish.

'El chico'. All nouns for male family members are masculine.

Feminine nouns

Most nouns that end in -a are feminine.

For example:

  • la casa - house

  • la pierna - leg

Female family members are always feminine.

For example:

  • hermana - sister

  • madre - mother

There are also some groups of endings that are always feminine.

For example:

  • -ión - estación - station

  • -dad - universidad - university

  • -tad - dificultad - difficulty

There are some exceptions to the rule that you will need to remember

Some nouns that end in -a are masculine, typically those ending in -ma and -pa.

For example:

  • tema - topic

  • problema - problem

  • mapa - map

Some nouns that end in -o are feminine.

For example:

  • radio - radio

  • mano - hand

'El mapa'. Although 'mapa' ends in 'a', it is a masculine noun.

Plural nouns

Nouns in Spanish can also be either singular or plural.

For example:

  • perro - dog

  • perros - dogs

  • caramelo - sweet

  • caramelos - sweets

There are different ways of making a noun plural.

If a noun ends in a vowel, add -s.

For example:

  • un chico - one boy

  • dos chicos - two boys

If a noun ends in a consonant, add -es.

For example:

  • un jardín - one garden

  • dos jardines - two gardens

If a noun ends in -z, change the z to c and add -es.

For example:

  • un lápiz - one pencil

  • dos lápices - two pencils

If a noun ends in -ión, add -es and drop the written accent.

For example:

  • una estación - one station

  • dos estaciones - two stations

Now look again at the information above. Both the words jardín and estación lose their written accents when you make them plural.

This is because any word in Spanish that has a written accent on its last vowel and ends in -n, -s or a vowel loses the accent when you make it plural.

The definite article

The definite article is the word for ‘the’.

There are four different definite articles in Spanish.

masculine singular

  • el - el chico - the boy

feminine singular

  • la - la chica - the girl

masculine plural

  • los - los chicos - the boys

feminine plural

  • las - las chicas - the girls

If the plural noun refers to a mixed group, use the masculine version of the word.

For example:

  • los padres - the parents

  • los hermanos - the siblings (brothers and sisters)

The indefinite article

The indefinite article is the word for ‘a’ (or ‘an’) or ’some’.

There are four different indefinite articles in Spanish.

masculine singular

  • un - un hermano - a brother

feminine singular

  • una - una tía - an aunt

masculine plural

  • unos - unos coches - some cars

feminine plural

  • unas - unas camas - some beds

If the plural noun refers to a mixed group, use the masculine version of the word.

For example:

  • unos hermanos can mean both ‘some brothers and sisters’ (siblings) or ‘some brothers’.

Have a go at this activity and see how much you know about genders and articles in Spanish.

Quiz

Find out how much you know about genders and articles in Spanish with this short quiz!

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