All Spanish nouns have one of two grammatical genders: masculine and feminine. The gender of each noun is arbitrarily assigned, which means we must memorize them! Most adjectives (words that describe) indicate the gender of the noun they describe.
Masculine vs. Feminine
El hombre es muy alto.
The man is very tall.
Mi maestra es alta.
My (female) teacher is tall .
La niña adolescente es lista.
The teenage girl is smart.
Mi amigo es listo.
My [male] friend is smart.
El carro es pequeño.
The car is small.
La ventana es pequeña.
The window is small.
Note the gender of the words given below. Also remember that nouns ending in -ción, -dad, -umbre, -ie, and -sis are typically feminine (la nación, la cualidad, la pesadumbre, la barbarie, la crisis).
el clima - climate, weather el cometa - comet; kite el día - day el problema - problem el programa - program el sistema - system el mapa - map la gente - people (singular!) la parte - part la mano - hand el/la artista - artist
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Nouns in Spanish can be masculine or feminine.
el baño - the bathroom la mesa - the table
They can also be singular or plural.
las flores - the flowers los libros - the books
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
Singular vs. Plural
1. If a word ends in a vowel2 in Spanish, we'll usually add "s" to make it plural.3
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
2. If a word ends in a consonant4 in Spanish, we'll usually add "es" to make it plural.5
el cojín→los cojines6
the cushion → the cushions la flor→las flores
the flower → the flowers el televisor→los televisores7
the television (set) → the television (sets) el ratón→los ratones6
the mouse → the mice el reloj→los relojes
the watch → the watches
Masculine vs. Feminine8
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
People with adjectives:
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.
Other nouns with adjectives:
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.
Las flores son bonitas.
The flowers are pretty. La hamburguesa es pequeña.
The hamburger is small. El cuaderno es verde.13
The notebook is green. La camisa es roja.
The shirt is red. Los lápices son baratos.14
The pencils are cheap.
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)