Nouns are words we use to express people, animals, things or concepts. Examples of nouns are: apple, teacher, car, hapiness or elephant. Nouns in Spanish are called “sustantivos”. In English, nouns may be either singular or plural: cat-cats, child-children, fish-fish. In Spanish, nouns may also be singular or plural but they also may be masculine or feminine:
Silla (Feminine, Singular – Chair)
Espejo (Masculine, Singular – Mirror)
Libros (Masculine, Plural – Books)
Casas (Feminine, Plural – Houses)
Even though you may find certain criteria like, “if the word ends in letter “O” is masculine but if it ends in “A” is feminine”, the truth is that there are nouns ending in “E”, “I”, “U” and “consonants” and pointing out that there are plenty of exceptions. The only way to be absolutely sure and to play safe is to go to the Dictionary – that one never lies, does it?
The reason why you should know if a noun is singular or plural, masculine or feminine, is because the noun must agree with the article or pronoun before them, which also have a masculine, feminine, singular and plural form.
For example, let’s take a look at the article “The” in Spanish, which you say: EL, LA, LOS, LAS
El carro – The car (EL – masculine, singular)
La medicina – The medicine (LA– feminine, singular)
Los muchachos – The boys (LOS – masculine, plural)
Las muchachas – The girls (LAS – feminine, plural)
Notice that there is an agreement between the article and a noun. An agreement that it is almost perfect. I said almost because there are a few cases where, because of phonetic reasons, a feminine noun is preceeded by a masculine article:
El agua – The water (“EL” -masculine, singular) (“AGUA” – feminine, singular)
El águila – The eagle (“EL – masculine, singular) (“EAGLE” – feminine, singular)
The good news is that articles and pronouns are already predetermined and never change. You will always know if an article or a pronoun is singular or plural, masculine or feminine. See the chart below:
So we may conclude that if you don’t want to sound funny, you must practice the number and gender of nouns in Spanish and make sure they agree with the article or pronoun that preceeds them. The best way to learn this is to do a lot of reading, watching videos with subtitles in Spanish, and listening to songs as you read the lyrics. You may want to take a look at our videos and resources published in this blog. Soon you will be using them correctly. And remember, you are still learning, so if you make a mistake let others correct you. We do that with children all the time… and with a few adults once in a while.